Catching up with… Alex Dand

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Alex Dand – Rad Lady

Meet Alex Dand, Rad Lady

Interviewed by Alethia Austin

Meet Alex – Rad Lady – skydiver, tunnel flyer, competitor, national freestyle champion, FF coach and tunnel instructor. Originally from England, Alex has lived in Paris, France for 2 years now. She is the chief instructor at iFLY in Paris. Killing it!


How did you land your Dream Job?  

I started at iFLY Paris just over 2 years ago as a temporary receptionist (with very rusty French!) to help over the busy Christmas period. After staying for an additional 3 months in that role after having expressed an interest in becoming an instructor, I passed my FITP (flight instructor training program) and worked extremely hard and make my way up to where I am now. I couldn’t be happier with my job and my fantastic team! Alongside this, I do my own separate coaching at iFLY in Paris and an increasing amount of coaching and load organising in the sky.

How did you get into skydiving?

It was my dad who first got me to jump, around ten years ago. He and my mother were both skydivers who started jumping in 1980 with just very interesting a questionable skydiving gear! My dad all but forced me into my first static line jump at Black Knights parachute centre, I wasn’t so keen at the time! This changed after the first few seconds and I was instantly hooked and went straight back up to do another, and another, and another… much to my dad’s horror due to the effect on his bank accounts! After around 5 jumps I got deployed to Afghanistan with the military for the first time and had a 2-year break from jumping. My next course was funded by the Army. After getting my A licence I was unstoppable, I poured all my money into the sport and spent every weekend at Skydive Netheravon.

Alex Dand, UK nationals, over Skydive Hibaldstow as Freestyle Euphoria
Image by Andy Godwin, freestyle teammate

What’s been your line of progression?

I started with the good old-fashioned static line progression, you don’t hear of many people going all the way through static line anymore! After getting my B-licence I went onto compete in freefly B (head up only) with my team mate Muz Sutcliff. We competed for a couple of years and had a great time progressing together. This is how I met Andy Godwin, our camera guy. Andy and I went onto form a freestyle team, Freestyle Euphoria. We did better than we could have ever imagined, we won British nationals twice and did very well in international competitions also. We were a team for around 4 years. I learnt such a lot during this time. After my Freestyle Euphoria days, I went onto doing a 2WD team for the world challenge. Aside from competition I had the privilege of being on the first European head-up record.

Alex, flying with Will Penny – Image by FF Racoon

Who has inspired you? 

I have many people in mind, there have been so many amazing influential people I have met along my skydiving journey, far too many to mention everyone. I would need about ten years to write it all down! During my freestyle competition days, Pixie and Al were a huge inspiration and lovely people who were more than happy to share their knowledge with others. It was a pleasure to have had the opportunity to compete against them at the British nationals when we first got started and they were the team that I really looked up to when I was starting out.

Another notable mention must be Domi Kiger, what a fine example of someone who is leading the way for women in our sport, showing us all what we can achieve by working hard and believing in ourselves. A true inspiration to myself and many others.

And finally, my incredibly supportive partner in life, Will Penny. By far the most disciplined and focused person I have met in skydiving. He has a way of sharing his knowledge with others. Always open-minded and honest, aware that he’s still learning as we all are but delivered in his very specific, true to himself style. I very much admire his confidence and willingness invest his time in others who are wanting to learn from him.

Will Penny & Alex Dand – Image by Roy Wimmer Jaglom

What is the magic in our sport?

100 percent, without a doubt, it’s the wonderful people that make the sport. It really is one big sky-family. You can go anywhere in the world and you will have instant friends, great local guides and most likely even a place to stay. This community is inspiring and for me it’s what makes skydiving so magic. Aside from the obvious freedom of falling from a plane and flying of course!

What are your goals in skydiving and tunnel flying? 

My goal is to share my knowledge with others and try to encourage as many people as possible to get out there and get what they want out of this sport, both professionally and personally. Especially for those who are lacking in confidence or don’t believe in themselves as they should. I believe if you work hard and go after your goals, anything is possible! I would also like to get back into competition. That is the side of me which has taken a back seat for a few years but that I miss a huge amount.

Do you have a team? 

There might be something on the horizon! We are looking to get a team together from iFly Paris to do some indoor competition, but nothing set in stone yet. It’s tricky to find time sometimes!

Alex ready for action, by Benoît Alziary

Who are your sponsors?

No current sponsors although I have very kindly been supported by Airkix (now iFLY), L&B, Skydive Netheravon, the BPA and Frexer suits during my time as Freestyle Euphoria with my great friend and early mentor Andy Godwin.

What gear do you fly?

I jump a Crossfire 99 in a Vector container. My sky suit is a DEEM and my instructor suit is a Boogieman Skin.

Alex flying over Skydive Algarve, by Roy Wimmer Jaglom

How do you stay fit to fly? 

By mostly just flying in the tunnel and taking classes. It can be pretty physical work! Aside from that I do like to go to the gym and run. Although not as often as I’d like to!

What would you like to share with beginners that you wish you’d known?

Take responsibility for your own safety and don’t allow yourself just to be led by others. This is something I wish I had done a lot earlier on. I realised that I had managed to accumulate a fair number of jumps without having ever really taken responsibility for my own safety and was always putting my trust in someone else’s decisions. No matter how few jumps you have, you should always try to:– understand how spotting works, know your limits, and never blindly follow others – you will always have a different level of experience/skill and what is good for them might not be good for you and vice-versa.

Alex (second left), longboarding

What’s it like to be a female in the world of tunnel flying coaches?

I found it initially a little difficult to break into the industry. Partly through a lack of self-belief and confidence in the beginning but also because there was a general deficiency of female instructors. However, since having started working as an instructor, I have been given the same opportunity as everyone else and I have never been treated any differently. In my experience, if you work hard, get the job done and go the extra mile then you will go far in this business. There has never been a moment where I have felt not strong enough or that I was being held back. Nor have I ever felt that anyone else has had less confidence in me just through being a woman. There are so many more women killing it in this industry at every level now and it’s great to see!



Alex Dand in her current home town, Paris

Where can we find you this year?

I can mostly be found at iFLY Paris where I am working full time and doing my own personal coaching in my free time.

How do you think load organisers can best improve their coaching skills?

I was at a Tora Tora event as a load organiser in the Algarve last year. Though not my first time coaching, it was the biggest event I had done to date. At this event, there was a big mix of experience level in terms of coaches. Some of the more experienced LOs developed a presentation on how to load organise and we had a great discussion about it all together. I thought this was a great idea and an amazing opportunity to share information amongst each other to improve not only safety but also the quality of everyone’s coaching. One of the camera flyers/LOs joined me and my group for a jump and it was the jump I learnt the most from. I was able to have an outside opinion on how the jump went and how it could be improved. There is such a lot to think about already when you are leading a group that sometimes its hard to gauge how easy it was for the group to follow or if the jump suited the whole group – at least in the beginning!

That got me thinking, what if there was a camp in which everyone was being coached on the jump? The LO and the participants. Double the learning for the participants with having two coaches but also at the same time creating a higher quality of LO and safer group jumps for the future. There are such great coaches out there who have so much experience so why not create an environment to share this knowledge effectively with real-life situations with real participants. The summer just gone, myself and the lovely Joelle Kunz (The bananas) tried to run a camp using this concept however unfortunately due to several reasons we weren’t able to make it happen this time. Little did I know at the same time, genius Jasper Van de Meer (ToraTora) and his carefully selected team of big daddy LOs were working on a similar concept for this year’s Paradise Portugal. I had the privilege to take part in their first ever ToraTora Load Organisers course. It was a huge success and I could not have learnt more. It was well organised, well presented and exactly what our sport needs right now! I can’t thank all of them enough. I 100% recommend it to anyone wanting to get into the business or even anyone just wanting a more in-depth knowledge into what we are doing. Can’t wait for the next level and to see how they develop this for the future

Alex Dand

Do you have any final words for our readers? 

Take responsibility for your own safety, always ask questions if you are not sure and encourage others to do the same. Enjoy this beautiful sport and the wonderful people you will meet along the way.

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Meet: Alethia Austin

Alethia is a passionate skydiver whose love of flying has helped her dream world in skydiving.  As Marketing Director of Skydive Spain, Skydive Algarve and Skydive Hibaldstow, Alethia gets to work at three of the biggest DZs in Europe. Alethia created the popular LSD Bigway camps, focusing on vertical flying skill building in big groups as well as her latest spin off, LSD Get Sideways angle camps. With nearly 3k jumps in the past few years, Alethia is a coach and load organiser at events around the world, bringing her love of flying and learning to students and skydivers of all levels. 

Currently, she is training hard for the Women's Vertical World Record which is happening in July 2020. 

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