Catching up with… Sharon Har-Noy Pilcher

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Hey Sharon, what do you do for a living?

I teach people how to stretch their legs to go faster while falling through the sky. But more importantly I like to figure out together with them, how that learning process can benefit their everyday life.

How many jumps, what type, how long in the sport, how long tunnel flying?

I have been jumping for 18 years and have roughly 6,500-7,000 jumps. In recent years I’ve mostly been freeflying and angle flying (which is the same thing btw, and also includes belly flying). But in the past, I used to film tandems and a bit of AFF. My first time in the tunnel was in an open-air tunnel in Israel, 20+ years ago, and that was actually what made me decide I want to go skydiving one day.

Coaching at Angle Week – by Shannon Seyb

What equipment do you jump/fly, and why?

Valkyrie 79 from PD

Vector 3 from UPT

Viso II+ and Quattro and Optima II from L&B

G3 Cookie helmet

Liquid sky suits (my favorite being the Comet shortie)

Vigil AAD

Safety is naturally my main concern when it comes to choosing gear. I also like to know that my gear manufacturers have ‘their fingers on their pulse’ and are constantly adjusting to the changing demands of our rapidly growing sport. Luckily, I live in Deland, where some of these companies are located, and I can see first-hand how these manufacturers constantly test, improve and innovate.

Nationality, where you live and why?

I was born and raised in Israel. Currently I live in Deland, FL. So I guess I don’t really need to explain why… But other than being the epicenter for Skydiving and gear manufactures, it’s also where my husband has lived for the past 20+ years. So moving here allowed me to kill two birds with one stone.

What’s the double barrelled ‘Har-Noy’ all about then?

Well…I’m not sure it’s such a good story. In Hebrew Har means mountain and Noy means beauty. Growing up we had a very long, complicated last name, and eventually my parents changed it to something simpler that was close enough. That’s how we ended up with Har-Noy. Today it’s Har-Noy Pilcher which you can imagine is a real pain when you need to spell it out to operators and customer service agents over the phone, especially when you have a foreign accent.

What do you get out of being an organizer at world record events?

I was invited to join the organizing team for the Woman’s world record in 2016 by Amy Chmelecki, and that was a huge learning experience for me. It’s not often in our small community that we see an event with that level of professionalism. Amy, Sarah and the rest of the crew have got it down to a T. There is so much work involved in an event like this that I never would have thought of.  So being able to see ‘behind the scene’ was a great opportunity.  Of course, I have learned a lot about the logistical level of organizing an event with multiple plane formation and over 100 participants. And there was a lot to learn when it came to the flying, and things like recognizing the abilities of all the girls and knowing where to place them in the formation. But what impressed me most was how much thought and effort went towards managing the energy level and the vibe of the group. Skydiving is a mental game, and when you want to build a big-way you need everyone on the same page at the same time. Seeing how good the organizers were at looking at the big picture, and planning their moves in a way that will maximize the potential of the group was very impressive, and I’ve learned a lot from it. 

Sharon briefing a group, by Pierre Rénié

Skydiving achievements, claims to fame?

Different achievements would include things like winning the Israeli Freefly championships and representing Israel in world meets for several years. Or being a part of numerous world records. But if you ask me about a “claim to fame” I would say my passion for flying and for teaching and sharing it. This is what allows me to travel the world doing what I love, and get invited to be a part of different events and other peoples’ lives.

The Joyriders – Sharon, Amy, Anna, Domi – Image by Zach Lewis

Tell me about being with the Joyriders

What’s funny is that as I’m sitting here and answering these questions, I’m also in the midst of a very heated Facebook chat with the girls- volleying ideas around, planning some events and putting pieces together for different projects. This is not uncommon for us, and that’s what I love about this group. We are all in different parts of the world, each with her own personal path, but we constantly communicate, lean on each other, push each other, and create together.

I have been asked many time what the ‘JoyRiders’ is. It seems hard for people to conceptualize the idea of a team that does not compete together. (Which we actually have done in previous years. But that’s not the essence of the JoyRiders.)

I read a definition of the word ‘team’ by professor Leigh Thompson of the Kellogg School of Management (isn’t wikipedia the best? 😉  ). He defined a team as “a group of individuals working together to achieve their goal”. That’s so simple and fits perfectly with us. We all have similar goals when it comes to our personal progression and achievements, as well as how we would like to see our sport continue to evolve. We work together to achieve those goals, each bringing her experience and personality to the table. And although we are not physically together through every step, our team is the platform that allows us to get support, bounce ideas off each other, plan together and get each other fired up. Joy being the back bone of it all. So when Amy organizes a world record, Anna has a new project idea, or Domi leads the D4W organization, we call on each other to help make it happen.

In short I would say that the JoyRiders is not just a team, it’s a lifestyle, and I love being a part of it.  

The Joyriders with newest recruits Jenny & Shayni – Image by Andreas Mosling

You have been to a lot of female events, how do they differ from mixed events?

I was recently part of a super special event called the RedBull FlyGirls, organized by Amy Chemelecki. The event focused on education, networking and competition, all with an undertone of raising the bar for female athletes.

These kind of events always bring up the question in me – if women want to be equal or “integrate”, why create events that put them apart from men?

I have heard women in the sport say that sometimes they feel singled out, as a ‘woman in a man’s sport’. So for me, being a part of opportunities that allow females to hang out together, share and strengthen each other is very valuable. But I do wish for a time where that won’t be necessary. Where gender won’t be as much of a factor, and females won’t feel a need to ‘get together’, because:

a) There will be enough females around DZs to where getting together with other women won’t be so much of an issue.

b) We would live in a society where we don’t dictate gender definitions to our kids from a very young age (and now that I have a kid it makes me realize how much we do that without even noticing). In Skydiving there isn’t an objective physical advantage for males. If anything, the main difference I see generally speaking (and only generally speaking), is in the confidence that some men have over women, which helps them push themselves harder. I think that confidence is something that is built in a very young age.

This doesn’t resonate with everyone, possibly, because some believe there is an inherit difference between male and female. But also, because some people grew up in environment that gave them more choice, and didn’t limit their thoughts and self-image. So as far as they are concerned there is no ‘problem to fix’. Which shows we have come a long way with this over the years, but we still have ways to go. And if we bring this rant back around to your question, that is what’s unique about the female events in our sport, their purpose is to build people up, and you feel that in the strong positive energy of coming together and supporting each other.  

The Joyriders flying their printed PD wings – Image by Richard Scheurich

What events stand out for you as special and why?

I’ve been working in the Fly4Life flight camps from the very beginning, and hope to continue to do so as much as I possibly can.  I think these guys built up something very special, and have raised the bar of freefly coaching and camps. But more than that, they have been able to create and maintain a very special vibe through the years, which I believe comes from their true passion and stoke to be doing what they are doing.

Angle week in Nasinge (Sweden) also holds a very special place in my heart. Going back every year is like going home and reuniting with family. Losing some people that were very much related to me with that place is probably part of why I feel this way. I am grateful for My-Anni, Tim and the rest of the crew that took over Nina’s massive shoes and continued her legacy.

The leading workshops that I run together with Luis Prinetto are special in a different way. They were created to answer a need that we feel is vital to our community. And the format is very different than what either of us has seen in skydiving so far. The very small group creates an intimate environment and allows us to dig deeper into the issues we are talking about. The focus in this program is not on the quantity of jumps we make, but on the discussion and conclusions those jumps bring.  It’s also a great opportunity to get to know people a little better, since we are sitting together for two days, and talking, not just running around between the plane and the packing area. I feel like I have personally learned something new from every workshop we have done so far. 

And last but not least – The Joydays! An event that follows each of our teammate’s skydiving monuments. Our first edition was in Soulac, France, where Domi started skydiving. And we are excitingly working on our next one.

Is it true you’re teaching husby Shannon to freefly? How’s that going?

I’ll refer you to an instructional video we made with PD for Tip Tuesday on Facebook: #Howtogetcoachedbyyourpartner   #dont

Sharon and baby Arya – Image by Emily Charabowski

How have things changed now you have a child?

That might be the million-dollar question for me these days, since I’m still constantly learning about it. First of all, time management has been a big challenge for me. I have to take care of another human now, and that takes time. So it takes more effort to balance between my schedule, my husbands schedule and our desire to spend time with our kid, before she grows up and doesn’t want anything to do with us (and it’s true what they say, it happens super quick). When we take her on the road with us we have to take it a bit slower, and give ourselves more of a buffer for travel/ adjusting time when we get to a new place. All this definitely forces me to think twice before agreeing to take a job. The upside being that I really get to focus on the jobs that I enjoy the most and that I find the most challenging / fulfilling.

Other ways it has impacted me is that it made me more aware of the risks we are taking, I realize that it’s not only about me any more. I want to be able to be there for her, to provide and support her for as long as I can.

One thing that it didn’t change is my passion and my love for flying and for the community we have. If anything, it made it stronger. I love having Arya around the Dropzone, and when she points up at skydivers in the sky and says ‘mom’ (even when I’m right beside her) it fills my heart with joy.

What do you prefer, tunnel or sky?

Is this a trick question?!

Describe yourself in 5 words or less

Passionate, clumsy, a bit awkward

Who are your mentors?

How long do we have?! There are so many people who influenced me and my flying. It would be impossible to name them all.  To name a few (going chronologically), I would start with Mike Swanson, who was coaching my Freefly team over 10 years ago. He is a multi-time world champion, with numerous achievements and a long time in the sport. And whenever I get the rare opportunity of flying him with him, I see that same childlike enthusiasm and stoke when he is in the air. It’s inspiring to see how much he still enjoys it.

Fred and Vince from the Soul flyers, haven’t been my mentors per se, but have probably pushed me more than most. Whenever I would see them in events (back when they used to organize and coach, and didn’t just focus on creating some of the most epic s#!t imaginable), they would constantly put me in jumps and slots that challenged me, and they never doubted my ability of nailing it. So, it left me no choice but to do just that. It not only made me a better flyer, but made me realize what people are capable of doing, if you just believe in them and not make a fuss about it.

And of course, Luis Prinetto has been a major mentor for me. For some weird reason (which I still don’t completely understand) he agreed to be my team’s video man in 2010-2011. So naturally I learned a lot from having him around. Later on when I moved to FL and started working in the sport, he has also helped me a lot. The cool thing about it though, is that most of my learning from him happened in a very casual way, through random chats and time spent together. It taught me a key thing about learning – surround yourself in your everyday life with the people you would like to be influenced by.

Ippo Fabbi has also influenced my flying quite a bit. Definitely one of my favorite people to fly with.

Sharon by Aozora

What’s the biggest problem in the sport? 

We are luckier than we realize. We are so lucky that we get away with so many things that could have killed us or hurt us, without even realizing it. Too much luck can make us complacent, and luck can easily run out.

“The word ‘experienced’ often refers to someone who’s gotten away with doing the wrong thing more frequently than you have.” 

 Laurence Gonzales, Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why

And what can we do about it?

I think more than anything is being aware of it, and letting that lead some of our decision making.

Do you have a motto?

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see

Henry David Thoreau

This is a favorite of mine, so much of life is about perception, and what you decide to focus on is going to dictate how your life will look like. Being able to see the positive and ‘choose happy’ is easier said than done. But I constantly get reminders from my friends in the sport that it is possible.

“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”

Albert Einstein

Einstein’s quote speaks to me very deeply. We all have our strengths and weakness. I believe we are all part of the same thing and therefore it would not make any sense for all of us to be the same. We each can contribute to the whole in different ways. It’s disheartening to see people that are struggling with one aspect of their life, and to see them let that dictate their self-perception and self-worth. Modern society and modern education tend to put people on a linear scale of success. But I feel that can create a skewed way of looking at the world.

What was the biggest decision of your life?

Choosing to move to the states was a big turning point for me, because it ended up changing my direction in life. But it didn’t happen all at once, I didn’t just decide one day that that’s what I want to do. It was a series of small decision that got me here. And I feel like that’s how it often works for me.

What are your hopes and dreams for 2019?

Continuing to refine the balance in my life, learning better what’s important and good for me and letting go of the rest. Choosing to see the positive and working with it.

Anything you would like to add?

Nah, I’ve got diapers to change and planes to jump out of. Thanks for the chat.  

Sharon’s Edit – fun jumps with friends

Sharon Har-Noy Pilcher is proudly supported by UPT, Performance Designs, L&B, Liquid Sky, Vigil, Cookie

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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