WOULD YOU JUMP OUT OF AN AIRPLANE?

VOLKER HAAG DOES ALMOST EVERY DAY. THE LOCAL BUSINESS OWNER RECENTLY COMPETED IN THE NATIONAL SKYDIVING CHAMPIONSHIP IN ARIZONA, AND HIS TEAM TOOK THE GOLD MEDAL.
BY JOEL HERSCH

It’s no easy task coordinating body movements, synchronized circular spins, hand grabs and body links with your friends while plummeting toward earth at about 120 miles per hour. But that was the goal for completing teams at the U.S. Parachute Association National Skydiving Championship in Eloy, AZ two weeks ago, where nearly 500 athletes from all over the country gathered for 12 days of parachuting.
Competing at the event, in partnership with the Northern California skydiving team “Motiv8 XP,” was Santa Cruz’s Volker Haag, owner of “Skydive Surfcity” in Watsonville.
The goal for each team is to rapidly join together in a series of grabs during free-fall, creating shapes of six geometric formations within 60 seconds—the fastest to make the connecting shapes takes the most points.
Haag’s eight-jumper team, whose other members are from the surrounding Bay Area, were behind on points through the first portion of the competition, Haag says, but they made a pretty crazy comeback at the end. In a final tie-breaking jump, team “Motiv8 XP” excelled into the lead, winning them the Gold Medal.
“We caught up and then remained tied for the last three rounds, then went into a tie-breaker, doing an 11th jump, in which the finalist teams had to race on who could complete all six formations in the shortest amount of time,” explains Haag, who has done more than 11,000 jumps. “It was a pretty intense thing—very nerve racking.”
For the past few years Haag has not being competing, opting instead to focus on his work as a tandem jumping instructor at Skydive Surf City.
Haag, who is originally from Germany, and lived in New Zealand for five years before moving to Santa Cruz in 2009, says that after so many years of jumping out of planes, the fall itself doesn’t quite give him the adrenaline rush that it used to, but tandem jumps with first-timers is another story.
“I really feed off that energy. You kind of feel what they’re feeling,” he says. “You’re witnessing someone’s first jump, which is a really crazy experience. For some people it’s a rush. And for some it’s a life changing experience.”
Monterey resident Samantha Melendy made her first tandem skydive last week with Skydive Monterey
Monterey resident Samantha Melendy made her first tandem skydive last week with Skydive Monterey
Last week, Samantha Melendy made her first tandem jump with Skydive Monterey and describes the experience as unreal.
“It was life-changing, mind-altering, just a whirlwind of emotions,” she says. “I literally blacked out—not unconscious, (but with joy)—for nearly 45 seconds. Totally a natural high.”
Melendy plans to jump again soon and eventually wants to qualify for solo skydiving.
Haag says Skydive Surfcity is a great place for first time jumpers.
“You don’t need any experience,” he says. “You just show up and within half an hour you’re going to be in a plane and then jumping out of it with one of our crew. It’s an introduction to the sport, and there are some incredibly beautiful views over the Monterey Bay.”
Check out this video of Volker Haag and his team “Motiv8 XP” free-falling at the U.S. Parachute Association National Skydiving Championship.

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