How Skydiving Changed My Life - Reno Soverns


by Reno Soverns | A-57030 | Vallejo, California

It was, as they say, on my “bucket list.” I was 42 years old, at least 50 pounds overweight, and I’d just ended a 10-year relationship that had been anything but good. I needed some excitement in my life. When I walked onto the drop zone on August 8, 2009, I expected to put a check mark by that item on my list and never return.

The tandem jump was awful for me from the beginning. First, when I weighed in, I found out that I weighed 210 pounds, and I was mortified. On the jump itself, I was disoriented and extremely nauseated under canopy. I said to myself, “I’ll never do that again!” When I got home, I watched my video several times. I looked terrible—so overweight and unhealthy. I decided right then it was time for a change. Then I watched the video one more time, wondering why people chose to jump out of planes over and over again. What was the hook? I was curious, and if I was going to lose weight, I was also going to try another tandem.

One week and one Dramamine® later, I was back at the drop zone. I weighed in and had lost 12 pounds! The Dramamine® helped with the nausea, and my tandem experience was much better. I was also much more aware of my surroundings. I went back the next weekend—and the next and the next. By my fifth tandem, my tandem instructor, Randy Pacheco, asked if I wanted to learn to skydive. I did, but the thought of going alone terrified me—so much so that I made 25 more tandems before beginning AFF.

I started AFF on November 2, 2009. I think many people doubted that the “30-tandem wonder” would get through it. I was so scared on that first jump that I had a hard time following Randy’s hand signals. I almost quit on my second AFF jump, but I was determined to prove everyone wrong. I had to go somewhere that I had never been to, mentally, before I could even make that jump. I had never wanted anything that badly. I knew if I could make that second AFF, I would never be that scared, fat, sad, shy woman again. It was a leap of faith, and I took it.

Then, on AFF jump number six, I had my first cutaway. Pesky tension knot! The experience was empowering. I proved to myself and everyone else that I could handle myself in an emergency situation. I made my seventh jump an hour later.

I soon met Ed Pawlowski, Rob Seaton and Will Whittenburg, who took me under their wings and began coaching me toward my A license. I spent every spare minute at the drop zone, learning to pack on rainy days and doing coach jumps on sunny days. I continued to lose weight by eating right. On December 8, 2009, I earned my A license—four months to the day from my first tandem. It was the most important moment of my life, my biggest accomplishment. I also celebrated losing 50 pounds.

Skydiving has not been easy for me; I’m not a natural. I was very close to quitting between jumps 40 and 70. It was fear of having a malfunction, plain and simple. When the drop zone was weathered out and other jumpers were bummed, I would secretly rejoice. I could still hang out, but I didn’t have to worry about being in the air. I needed to learn to trust myself and my equipment. So I kept powering through it, because every time I landed, I realized that I loved skydiving more than anything, and I couldn’t not do it.

Now, 175 jumps later, I’m still struggling. But now my struggle is remembering the dirt dive when I get in the air! I just turned 43 years young, I have qualified for my B license, and I’ve fallen in love with formation skydiving.

Randy, Ed, Rob and Will continue to coach and mentor me. They are dear friends who always remind me when I owe beer. I am convinced that skydiving not only changed my life—it probably saved it, as well. Now, with a loss of more than 70 pounds, my health has never been better. I am fit, healthy, happy, and I have a wonderful DZ family. I don’t think I found skydiving. I’m pretty sure it found me.


Post new comment

Please provide your full name. We will not post responses from anonymous sources.
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
Type the characters you see in this picture. (verify using audio)
Type the characters you see in the picture above; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive.