Catching up with… Melissa Nelson Lowe

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Melissa made her first tandem jump at the age of 5 and now has over 11,000 jumps. She is an AFF Instructor S&TA, Demo Jumper and World Record organizer – 3-times National Champion in Freestyle, has a total of 23 World Records, is a keynote speaker, yoga teacher and has published 3 books.

Melissa Nelson Lowe
Image by Cyllia Lynn Photography

What jobs have you held and what knowledge has that given you? 

  • Manifest Office & Manifest Office Manager
  • AFF Instructor
  • Competitor (freestyle, freefly, 10-way)
  • Load Organizer
  • World Record Organizer
  • Event Producer (have created, hosted, and/or organized over 200 events)
  • World Competition Sponsorship Laison 
  • Marketing
  • Demo Team (Highlight Skydiving)
  • Dropzone Kid, Dropzone Owner, Dropzone Manager, Dropzone Owner’s Wife 
  • Speaker at PIA, AFP, TEDx
  • Sponsored Athlete
  • Currently Content Manager for Dropzone Marketing 

I feel every single aspect of my career has helped me understand the sport as a whole from behind the scenes to on the front lines. This perspective helps me see a bigger picture and direction. 

Of all your amazing achievements in skydiving, which are you most proud of? 

I’m not sure I’d classify this as an achievement, but I have incredible memories: On the 164-way in 2015 I was on the world record with two of my skydiving students who were women!! But the topper is being on a jump with my husband taking our 4-year old son on his first two skydives!! 

The 164-way head-down World Record, Skydive Chicago, 2015
Photo by Gustavo Cabana

Is there anything you haven’t yet done in skydiving but would like to?  

Jump over the pyramids. Land on an aircraft carrier. 

You are standing for USPA National Director, what does that entail? … Is it voluntary or paid? 

Yes! Very excited about this opportunity! Even though I have nearly three decades experience, I’m still relatively young and have a lot more to give. 

The USPA Board as a whole has specific responsibilities to maintain integrity and relevancy of policies, finances, managing programs, etc. The position is voluntary. The National Director has two very distinct roles:

  • to represent the interests of the members
  • consider interests of the association as a whole

I feel over time, and I speak from my own experience, that USPA and the Board has become a mystery (unless you’re involved as a judge, competitor, world record organizer, USPA event host, etc), and the decision-making on how things evolve is also seemingly a mystery. 

My main running points are to bring the membership’s voice to the board. Being a USPA National Director will allow my the opportunity to connect with the membership – from newbies, to DZO’s/DZM’s, to instructors, examiners, fun jumpers, competitors, and more – on a greater level.  Here’s a link about what the ND does, and what our board currently looks like.

Why did you choose now, after all these years in the sport, to stand?  

I’ve been wanting to run for a few years and debated it, because work, family life, business ventures have taken all my time. Although many people say a National Director just shows up, I know myself and when I give myself to a project, I give more than just showing up. I also debated because I know I’m entering the world of politics and sometimes it seems intimidating. After much consideration and the closing of my previous business venture, I decided to pursue it with the support of my family. 

The Lowe Family – Melissa, Benjamin & Ben

What do you want to achieve in the role? 

I’d love to get more members involved. Not in the politics, but in the discussions. I want them to be heard and acknowledged. In order to have a quorum in the General Membership Meeting, it’s stated that 10% of the membership need to be present to have any official business. THAT HAS NEVER HAPPENED. 10% of our current membership is approximately 3,500-4,000 people. I think it’ll be a miracle, but I’d love to see that through (meaning – more are getting involved, USPA becomes less of a mystery AND I hope it inspires more people to run for a Board position to add diversity, skill, disciplines, and new perspectives). 

I’ve already started a Facebook Group for USPA Members to discuss topics, and a place for me to report and garner feedback to represent the members.

I feel strongly that Melissa Nelson Lowe is uniquely qualified to serve as a USPA National Director. Melissa has been deeply involved in every aspect of our sport for her entire life. She knows very well where we came from and has helped lead us to where we are today”

Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld

Do you feel any disciplines are currently under-represented on the Board?  

Most definitely! There’s only 2 wingsuiters, no freeflyers in MFS, VFS, or Vertical WR categories, angle flyers, CrW or canopy pilots! How can a board represent the members when they only represent a portion of the community?!  I’m standing to represent the vertical disciplines as there is no current representation on the Board and from my knowledge, there never has been.

How do you feel you can best represent the freefly community? 

I’d love to think that I already have been supporting the freefly community in this manner, but I hope to be a voice on a broader scale now.

Fifteen years ago I presented to the Board to have 4-Way VFS become a competitive discipline. I had a lot of educating to do on how that would work, how to create judges that’d understand the discipline, and explaining the rules and how the moves were interpreted. Just last year, my VSWR co-organizer, Matt Fry and I presented to the Board to update the VSWR rules because they were inhibiting our discipline AGAIN – but this time Matt did the legwork. (The rules were originally copied from belly and pasted in vertical, which left us a very limited number of formations, when vertical has unlimited potential, it just needed new rules). This took A LOT of time, email exchanges, educating, and finally, not having felt supported at all, changed. 

Nothing like sharing the sky with friends
Photo by Jessie Vander Schauw Brownlow

What’s the biggest problem USPA faces right now?  And what can be done about it?

I wouldn’t consider anything a problem. I know people are frustrated with USPA, but that may be a feeling from many years. I hope to convey that this current Board has been very productive and many things have been updated and done for the sport. Most notably helping the dropzones in Hawaii buy one more year of time to operate before the airport lease expires (this is still an ongoing issue).

There are a lot of things to consider. The USPA needs better communications with its members (not just surveys), to better support its athletes that represent at world level competitions, more robust promotions in getting people into skydiving, etc. They do have a new Sport Promotions Director, Shannon Searls, but she is only one person. I feel having a committee dedicated to support her efforts will greatly improve all of these things, together with some out-of-the-box ideas I’m reserving to share with the community when I’m (hopefully) voted in!

Melissa training for the Highlight Pro Team, a branch of the Women’s Skydiving Network
Photo by DSquared

What’s the biggest single thing we could do to improve safety?

I feel that our culture is responsible for overall safety. How? We as a group need to stop accepting poor training advice, bad behaviors, and watching (instead of saying something) bad decisions – and instead start speaking up, getting educated, and caring about each other in a more robust way. 

For example – I have golden rules as an AFF-I that I set for myself. One is that I’ll never take students up on gear that I wouldn’t jump myself. Years ago I worked at a DZ that had less than ideal student gear. I took a student up on that gear and could feel myself cringe the entire way. The jump was uneventful but after I dropped off my gear, I went to the DZO and asked straight up, “would you jump your own student gear?” A week later their master rigger was asking me about new gear to purchase and they did. 

The point is that the evolution of safety happens over time – new technology and equipment development, training and techniques evolve, and we generally learn through incidents, fatalities and creative inventors in our sport. My single idea is simply to continue educating and finding creative ways to support a safety culture, and being a voice for changes to enhance safety. 

You talk about ‘giving back to skydiving’ – what has skydiving given to you?

It’s given me an incredible opportunity to travel the world, meet extraordinary people that have helped me grow and be challenged, it’s given me an opportunity to support myself and make a career out this sport, it’s given me a creative outlet as an entrepreneur to utilize my self-taught geeky talents in event organizing, marketing, keynote speaking, writing, business management, and it’s where I met my husband, Ben Lowe… From it I have an incredible life, a career, and an amazing family! 

Has having a son changed your attitude to the world and your sport?

Before having kids I told my husband, if I have to change my lifestyle I’d rather not have kids. He agreed and we’ve charged just as hard since. I will say though, I am more nervous on world records so I train more to be the safest and perform my best; and I have said no to jumps at camps because it’s too windy. Other than that, my son loves dirt diving with me, flying in the plane and hell, he’s made two jumps himself!

Melissa with her son
Photo by Jessie Vander Schauw Brownlow

You’ve done some exciting demos this year with the Highlight Pro Skydiving Team, does one stick in your mind and why? 

August in Nashville where we commemorated the 100th year of ratification of the 19th Amendment, the Women’s Right to Vote! The entire team was there and we trained all year to prepare a live show – and it went incredibly well! I hope that it helps inspire people to live their own brave and bold lives, and to use their voice and vote at this election! 

Melissa & Highlight Pro Skydiving Team training in Montana, 2020
Photo by DSquared

What are the goals of the team and why do they resonate with you? 

The mission of Highlight is to inspire women and girls to live brave, bold lives of their own design, and this is our first year together as a team. This year was incredibly successful and we are all so stoked to be collaborating on such a huge mission to also help bring awareness for equality. The team is a branch of the Women’s Skydiving Network.

As a third generation skydiver, I never thought anything of it that skydiving was always a male-dominated sport – it’s just the way it was. And having been in the sport of skydiving my entire life, it wasn’t until later that I discovered inequality in the workplace, and other professional sports. All of this combined resonated with the mission statement and has given me drive to continue to help inspire people inside of skydiving, but also outside of skydiving.

What’s your pet hate? Inside and outside the sport

Inside the sport: when participants show up to a world record as an ‘individual,’ not as a team player

Outside the sport: there’s never enough chocolate in the house when I want chocolate!

Do you have a motto?

My motto – I train skydiving students as if they’ll be the next skydiving world record holders or leaders in our sport. 

Epic human being… A teammate, mentor, leader, friend. Even more, she is a fierce and active advocate for skydiving and skydivers.

Melanie Curtis
Awesome photo of Melissa by Patrice Neil Photography

What’s one thing you own that you should throw out but probably ever will?

I’m not a pack rat! Everytime I buy something, I always get rid of something. Eventually I donate everything!  

How can our readers keep in touch?

Follow my Facebook Page. Also USPA Members Can Join my FB Group.

My Website for all the things is www.melissa-lowe.com.

Melissa is proudly sponsored by PD, UPT, Cookie, Cypres & L&B.

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Meet: Lesley Gale

Lesley has been in love with skydiving for 35 years. She is a multiple world and national record holder and a coach on 20 successful record events worldwide. She has over 100 competition medals spanning more than 25 years and has been on the British 8-way National team at World events. She started Skydive Mag to spread knowledge, information and passion about our amazing sport.
Lesley is delighted to be sponsored by Performance Designs, Sun Path, Cypres, Cookie, Symbiosis suits and Larsen & Brusgaard

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