The latest entry in our SunPathlete Spotlight competition – to profile a Sun Path sponsored athlete with the chance to Win a Javelin.
JJ Ashcraft interviewed Melanie Curtis, you can watch the video or read the text…
All right, so my name is JJ Ashcraft and this interview is for SkydiveMag. We are talking with somebody who most of you may know, but some of you may not. This is Melanie Curtis: 11,000+ jumps, world-record holder, national champion, author, speaker, entrepreneur. The list could go on for the whole 30 minutes here, so we’re going to lead with that…
Can you tell us a little bit about your secret skydiving club that’s growing?
Haha it’s funny, JJ saying it’s a secret club because I stink at telling people about it. So The VSC is The Virtual Skydiving Center. It was a brainchild I had when I was taking a break from jumping actively and I still wanted to help people and coach young jumpers. It felt like this great travesty that I couldn’t help people unless I was actually physically at a dropzone. And then it just hit me between the eyes, duh, modern technology. So The VSC basically was born and I think it’s almost four years now, maybe more. I’d have to look at when it started, but it’s been awesome. I love it and I love you all for being a part of it and I’m just happy it actually helps people. (To learn more or join: http://thevsc.life/ )
As a fairly well known skydiver and someone who regularly meets and jumps with brand new people all over the world. What do you think separates true friends from acquaintances you meet along the way?
Yeah, good question. The life coach in me is like, I got this. Hahaha.. True friends and acquaintances, I mean it’s interesting… Skydiving is a very bonding activity in itself but really and truly, I think what connects us is when we are willing to be vulnerable with each other and actually show and share our real selves. Now, I don’t mean this in terms of oversharing as a quick jump to connect because that’s not actually connecting. That’s sort of trying to manufacture connection when we go too quickly. So it’s really about, over time and experience with people, being willing to share our actual selves, which can be either things that we care about deeply or it can be things that we’re afraid of. It can be things that we’re working to heal. With my work as a life coach, I am honored..deeply honored.. to be allowed into people’s lives and selves and stories to the level and depth that I’m allowed to be in there because I personally hugely honor that level of sharing.
Do you have any rituals that you have in the past for competitions or even just fun jumps?
Ooh, yeah rituals. Rituals for jumping? I always breathe like a weirdo and it’s something that I’ve talked about before in interviews, but it started in my competitive days when I was first doing 4-way competition. I would feel the tension and anxiety coming up in my body. I would feel it tensing up my muscles and clouding my mind. And this is obviously something that can happen to us in a conversation that we’re afraid of, in a social anxiety setting, in a performance anxiety setting, in a mortal danger setting… that’s the thing, we touch a lot of those in skydiving and so how I help diffuse that is I go back to my physiology and I really exhale the tension from my body as a first step. I basically do it automatically now, so now when my body feels tension or starts to tense up, I almost automatically without even thinking, do a big breath, which is why I say I sound like a weirdo. Hahaa.. Other than gear checks and stuff, of course I do that as ritual and I have some handshakes with my peeps that are personalized because I’m a fan of that.
If you could have a billboard at the DZ and if it had anything on it, what would it say?
Yeah and I love this question (it comes from The Tim Ferriss Show podcast)… the Tim Ferriss question is slightly different in that it’s a billboard on the highway and my answer would still be the same:
You are loved.
Now the spiritual part of me wants to go “you are love,” right? That you, we… are love.
I would want the billboard to say, “you are loved,” because usually that’s a starting point for people to begin to heal… it is a starting point to feel and begin to believe, okay I’m loved… I’m loved, truly and I feel that, and I believe that and I connect to that love from that other person. I feel that sentiment starts to allow people down a real and true, deeper path of healing and spiritual connection.
Out of the 100 plus chapters of your new book, do you have one chapter that you would recommend the most?
For people who don’t know what Josh is talking about, it’s my book How To Fly: Life Lessons From A Professional Skydiver, which is the collection of all of my columns from Blue Skies Magazine. That column is a skydiving and life coaching column where I share about my experiences and insights and all that good stuff. … One chapter to recommend the most? Oof that’s tough. It’s kind of like that conversation of “which kid is your favorite?” Hahaa Matil is my favorite by the way. She’s my cat. Totally, she’s famous in the Merit commercial and I ride her coattails on social media. Duh. Haha anyway, whatever… Ok, I’m just going to list a couple that I love. Granmma and Gandhi is one of my favorites because it was the one I wrote with my Gram in her hospital room when she was nearing the end of her life and it was wonderful to be with her. (tears welling in love at this memory) Hashtag vulnerability, God I was crying on the podcast a lot lately, but yeah, Grandma and Gandhi because that’s a real look at family and chosen family. … I think We were on a Break is also very good because it gives people insight into a really painful part of my life and how I was then coming out of it, how I worked through it and what I got from that painful period of my life, which I think is really powerful to have access to as an idea.. that when we’re in a painful period of our life, that A) We can get through it and B) There’s fucking excellent, amazing, deep, beautiful value that is a part of our rising on the other side. So that’s another one. They really are all personally meaningful to me. But those are two I would highlight.
Great. Where can we find this book?
You can find it at http://melaniecurtis.com/howtoflybook/ or you can find it on Amazon. Yeah or you can come to the Hall of Fame event. I’m doing a book signing and I get I am getting to sit next to legends, I’m so excited about that! It’s going to be nuts. I don’t even know what to do with myself. I still feel like a pre-teen in skydiving.
So you’ve recently gotten back into demo jumping. Can you tell us a little about your last demo job and what it was for?
Yeah, I’m psyched about this you guys! There’s been so much work behind the scenes. Amy Chmelecki and I are the co-founders and co-captains of the new Women’s Skydiving Network Pro demonstration jump team. And that is so, so cool to me because it’s not only committed to empowering women both in the sport, it’s committed to empowering women in the greater world to live a bold, brave life. Whether it’s joining us in the sport of skydiving or doing it in their own way where they are uniquely called. On top of that, there’s a tone of really elevating the conversation and action around gender equality and equality at large. For me, it feels like this amazing opportunity that I can barely wrap my brain around most days, with the best of my life experience and career experience coming together in this amazing opportunity to make positive impact in the world in a much bigger way. I am hugely grateful and motivated by what we are doing and what feels possible through our efforts.
Did you have your PRO rating before this?
Yeah, I definitely have my PRO rating and that’s part of the mission of our team down the line is to hopefully create education opportunities for people who are wanting to grow their skills in the sport, whether they have interest in being a part of this demo team and demos in general, what is the path to get there, what does one need to learn, what skills does one need to be able to potentially have that type of opportunity as well.
So the big question is why did you sign on with Sun Path? What drew you to that company?
Oh, Sun Path, the choice of champions! Sun Path supports the best athletes in our sport, obviously. Haha that sounds bad, everyone is awesome, you know. .. I will say this, before I jumped a Javelin, I jumped other stuff, then when I finally did jump a Javelin, and this is the straight-up truth, I just didn’t understand. When I jumped it, it was so much more comfortable and I felt really secure, solid and safe in the rig itself. This on top of the exceptional customer service and support Sun Path provides.
I was watching your commercial, your Jack Burgers commercial. Have you ever eaten food in freefall?
The answer is yes. In the days of my team that was called Monkey Business, we were committed to creating monkey business in the sport and in the sky. With that, we organized a 12-way banana jump. Everybody had bananas. We all jumped out and the whole goal was to eat the banana in freefall, which we all did. Hahaha it’s comical because I would recommend greener bananas. Bananas that are not that green kind of spray on you and all over your face. I had this banana residue on my helmet for like six months after that. It was totally worth it.
Alright, since your whole goal of advancing women in the sport of skydiving and overall at large to live bold lives, have you ever thought about forming a nonprofit around your objectives?
Yeah, I have and that probably will happen. It’s just not happened yet. So yeah, the answer to that is yes, but it’s unclear as to how that will form. The whole project feels like… I liken it to a snowballing freight train of awesomeness… there’s no way to actually describe what it is. It’s like this incredible force, which is very cool. With the people I have shared about it.. I talk about the super unsexy part, how I have to be really on top of my organizational system. Hahaha.. Ya know, the life coach and business person in me who is committed to delivering at a high level for any job or anything I say yes to. The only way to do it at this level of workload and action that is happening on this side at the moment, is to have a wildly functional and on-point organizational system. Period. Otherwise, shit falls through the cracks and then you start breaking down. You start breaking down and you start missing stuff, not delivering at the high level. And that to me is not something I’m willing to do in a sustained way because it erodes trust. So that is what I’m super, super committed to.. I’d rather learn through this process, be really super committed to that process to make sure I don’t say yes to too many things, so I don’t sustain the mini breakdowns that happen with increased workload.
Hey, one more thing. Can you post the link for The VSC t-shirts for me?
Yes, I love it. Jessica totally just dropped The VSC t-shirt! Hahaha.. yeah, team, I love it because we’re sharing this video! https://www.amazon.com/black-white-skydiving-Premium-T-shirt/dp/B07C42362M
So just to wrap up, can you tell us where people can find you and where they can find The VSC?
Thank you for supporting me as always. You can find me at melaniecurtis.com. The new WSN Pro team and more from the Women’s Skydiving Network is @womensskydiving on Instagram and HERE on Facebook. The VSC you can find at TheVSC.life.. this is where you would go to join us or just drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions. Thank you! Love.
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