You are an accomplished skydiver and BASE jumper. We would like to know how you started the journey and the inspiration behind it to pursue this, particularly because the resources are often limited in a country like ours.
My journey started in 2012. Of course as an adventure sports enthusiast, I was always aware of skydiving as a sport and also very interested in it but the specific tipping point came during a demonstration jump, when one of the skydiver landed right in front of the crowd. I remember that moment to date and it was that one thing that drove and inspired me to take up the sport and go for it.
The next step after this was a Basic Skydiving Course in the Army which gave me the initial exposure of Accelerated FreeFall (AFF) jumps. There was no stopping after that, I just knew that I wanted to build on it seriously. I followed with some intense research to find the best skydiving training destination and went onto acquire the United States Parachute Association (USPA) A licence from Dubai. The A licence, given as a first step, allowed after 25 jumps, makes one eligible to jump solo anywhere in the world. At that time there were fewer places offering the USPA A licence course apart from the USA but things have changed now with countries like Russia and Thailand following suit.
BASE jumping and skydiving are high-risk sports that demand exceptional physical and mental fitness. Tell us about your training days and how you went about acquiring and honing these skills. What is the single most quality that helped you reach where you are today?
Yes, the fitness levels required are very high, there is no denying that but what is most important are these 5 skills, what I like to refer to as the 5 P’s - Patience, Perseverance, Planning, Practice and Passion. With any one of these missing, it is very difficult to evolve and grow in the sport. Since I have been part of the NSG’s Elite Black Cat commando unit, intense training and focus were not new to me, these were things I was used to. That said, if there is one P that I had to pick out if the five, I would say – Perseverance. Consistency is critical and one has to keep at it. Building and growing continually without giving up is the key to success.
You hold various records including Asia Book of Records and Limca Book of Records, among others. What is the kind of preparation that you have to do every time you go for a jump/ dive? How does a typical day look like before a jump/dive?
While there is no hard and fast pattern to training day or the day before the jump, a lot of it is based on how an individual prefers to train but a few ground rules are- stay focused, be clear and leave the clutter back on the ground. Once one is up in the air, in the case of a skydive/Wingsuit flight or on an object, in the case of a BASE jump, it’s important to be mentally free and light headed with all of one’s energy, physical and mental, channelized towards the jump. On a tactical level, equipment needs to be checked and made jump ready before hand and meticulous and detailed inspection needs to be conducted to make sure there is no snag. Other than that, the mantra is simple- Plan the jump and jump the plan / get out there and enjoy the jump. For a Skydiver/BASE jumper, the thrill and the excitement of the jump supersedes everything and that is the biggest motivation, inspiration and driving force.
You are one of the very few Indians who are certified from USPA as an instructor. In all skydiving progression methods, what are the key requirements one needs to fulfil to become a skydiving instructor.
There are various progression methods to learn skydiving, the most common namely Static Line / IAD, Tandem and AFF. For each of these progression methods in one needs to be rated as an instructor in that specific method. The most commonly used method of progression is AFF (Accelerated FreeFall) wherein in the initial jumps two instructors hold the student during the freefall part of the jump and subsequently one instructor holds while the student is falling through the air.
To be eligible for an AFF instructor rating, one needs to have minimum 500 skydives and a Coach rating. To be certified one has to pass in-air examinations in multiple jumps wherein one is rigorously tested during freefall for ones capability to handle a student during a skydive. This rating is the most difficult rating to get in skydiving.
You have travelled the world both as part of your training and demonstration jumps. What are some of your memorable experiences? What can India learn from its global peers in terms of resources and infrastructure to promote these sports?
The thing in India is that not enough people skydive. The most important part is to build numbers so that the skydiving community becomes bigger and stronger. Currently, the sport is considered quite niche. India as a country needs to promote individual skydivers as torch bearers and there needs to be more commitment and investment in opening and supporting drop zones and building infrastructure so there is an increase in the skydiver base and this leads to the sport becoming more common and accessible.