Local Legends… Fiona Jansen

I can’t actually remember when I first met Fiona but she’s now one of my best skydiving buddies and it’s been awesome to watch her progress through the sport and pursue her passion for wingsuiting.

Fiona’s been jumping for around 4 1/2 years and recently completed the LTBJ course (with what looked like an entire army of aussies) with Douggs over in Europe. Fiona has her wingsuit coach rating and recently sported the green and gold representing Australia in Wingsuit Performance in the 2022 World Champs over in Skydive Arizona.

Fiona’s home DZ is Skydive Oz. She jumps a kraken 139 and has over 1,500 jumps to her name. Aside from all of that she’s just a deadset legend, so let’s get into it and meet this week’s local legend, Fiona Jansen!

How did you first become interested in skydiving?

My holiday plans fell through last minute in the summer of 2019 so I had to quickly come up with a fun way to spend my university break. The idea of doing a skydiving course had crossed my mind years earlier, but whenever time became available, I prioritised overseas travel. Before my first jump, I had never met a skydiver. I assumed there was not much more to skydiving than doing solo jumps and throwing shakas at a camera. Little did I know that my mind was about to be blown and my entire world was about to change… 

What was your first jump like?

I must admit that I don’t remember much of my first jump. According to my instructors, I forgot to breathe for the entire thing, so that may be part of the reason why! I do however very clearly remember the evening of my first jump. I couldn’t stop smiling, singing and dancing all over the place and while I was utterly terrified, the feeling of accomplishment was so worth it! I have not been able to recreate this feeling since…until my first terminal BASE jump, which magnified those feelings tenfold! 

What motivates you to keep skydiving?

I have three massive goals that keep pulling me back to the DZ every single weekend.

I started competing in Wingsuit Performance very early on in my skydiving career. Through a lot of repetition and training, I have managed to work my way up from placing towards the bottom of the pack in the Inter category, to flying a race suit in the Open category, to making the Australian Wingsuit team, to setting national records in all Wingsuit Performance tasks and placing 1st female at the world championships. I have a long way to go and many steps on the ladder left to climb. 

When I first started wingsuiting, I quickly noticed a serious lack of females in the discipline and I have made it my mission ever since to promote females in wingsuiting and grow the flock around the country. I am already seeing a very positive change and am incredibly honoured to have had the pleasure of introducing so many females to wingsuiting. I will continue to aggressively pave the way for others until one day I get to wingsuit in a large flock of Aussie female wingsuit coaches that have not had to fight the battles and jump the hurdles that I have had to.    

Finally, the sky is a training ground for the BASE environment, a safe space to try a new aerial or test out a different body position for a better track. The ultimate dream is to fly my wingsuit in the mountains. The more experience I can collect in the sky, the more prepared I will be when the day comes!

What is the most memorable skydiving/BASE experiences you’ve had to date?  What made it so special?

This is a hard one to answer. I very rarely land from a jump and am not completely stoked about it! But one definitely stands out for me…my last ever jump at Skydive Nagambie! Skydive Nagambie was my home away from home when I first started skydiving. It was the location of my first skydiving competition, where I first tried on a wingsuit, where I did my wingsuit coach rating and where I made incredible lifelong friends! We were all utterly devastated to hear that Skydive Nagambie was shutting its doors but we didn’t let that happen without one more incredible weekend of flying wingsuits over this magical place! The last ever jump was perfect – a full plane load of my best friends flying a tight flock, beautiful puffy white clouds and the most heartfelt post- jump hugs ever! Every one of my 53 BASE jumps to date has blown my mind and I remember every single one of them clearly! The most insane moment of my life so far though has got to be throwing myself off a cliff in the Norwegian fjords with 19 of the craziest people on the planet and somehow we did so without any chaos! I can’t quite believe that I was a part of that yet…

How has skydiving/BASE impacted your life outside of the sport?

My life completely changed after my first jump but in a sense it’s weirdly the same! Before I started skydiving, I worked to travel to new countries, went on a lot of runs to keep sane between trips and felt a little bit lost, always wanting to go somewhere else for the next adventure! Now I work to travel to my next skydiving/BASE boogie, do  weight training so I can do 10 jumps per day and plank for 80+ seconds in my wingsuit and already have the next 10 overseas jumping adventures planned out in my head! While previously I was doing a lot of these things on my own, skydiving and BASE has brought me the most incredible group of human beings to do it all with!

Have you ever participated in any skydiving competitions?  What is competition like?  Is it worth the effort?

Last year I had the honour of competing at the World Parachuting Championships in Eloy, USA as part of the Australian Wingsuit Team. Before committing to the trip, I questioned whether I was ready and whether I wanted to participate in a competition that I was likely going to come last, worried I would embarrass myself a little bit. I never expected that 10 days of dedicated on-site training, the advice and help of the world’s best wingsuiters and the pressure of competition that I love so much would lead to what it did! I was incredible proud to walk away with the top female score, mid-field overall ranking and 3 new Australian records! If you are considering going to a skydiving competition (big or small) – do it! You will learn more than you think is possible about your discipline and be more motivated than ever to take that knowledge back home with you and share it with others! In my opinion, skydiving competitions and the people within them are what continue to push and develop our sport!

How has your attitude towards skydiving changed over the years?

When I first started jumping, I assumed people went skydiving a handful of times at most and did so purely for fun! I was amazed to find out about all the different disciplines within the sport, bigway records and global competitions. I wanted to try it all as quickly as possible and impress everyone along the way! I chose quantity of jumps over quality and while that may not have been the most direct path to what I do today, I do not regret all the amazing people I got to meet and the understanding I was able to gain of the incredible skills required to excel in any skydiving discipline. Today I focus entirely on wingsuiting, wingsuit coaching and preparing for wingsuit BASE. I now understand that we are all on our own journey in the sport and there is no point whatsoever in trying to impress anyone but yourself!

What’s your number 1 safety tip?

I believe that the biggest danger in extreme sports is complacency. Something that once felt so terrifying to do quickly becomes a fun hobby. While we may not need to actively remember to fly symmetrically for stability, point our toes to speed up or do a two staged flare on landing, some things are incredibly important to repeat over and over again – on jump 1 and jump 10,000. Gear checking myself and others on the packing matts, in the plane and in the door is one of those essential tasks for me that has allowed me to save lives and has saved my life! It is important to remember that while skydiving and BASE are A LOT of fun, we are only one innocent mistake away from risking our lives and the lives of others!

What’s your favourite bit of kit?

No doubt about it – my Squirrel Freak wingsuit. I have acquired quite the collection of wingsuits over the years, and while my CR+ makes me feel like I’m driving a race car and my Havok Carve is super fun to do tricks in, the Freak has the perfect combination of power and agility to do it all and can be flown with tiny and massive suits! I have heard amazing things about the Squirrel Creature and while I have not had a chance to fly one yet, I am ready to be proven wrong that maybe there is a better bit of kit out there!

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to yourself at the outset of your skydiving career?

I believe my start in the sport was the perfect start to set me up for a long and exciting skydiving career. I did my AFF course at Skydive Oz, Moruya, a dropzone that cares more about student safety and retention than anywhere else I’ve jumped! I was able to complete my AFF in a couple of days due to instructor availability (and of course by luck, good weather), jumped as much as I possibly could over the coming months and signed up for every camp and boogie that was available to me. Money was a very scarce resource for me but I do not regret spending it all on doing what I love! Some advice I would like to give to anyone that is about to start their skydiving journey…Pick the right dropzone that prioritises students over tandems, go hard from day 1 and get involved in camps and boogies early so that if and when you do decide to step back from the sport for a while, instead of being discouraged by having to start from scratch, you will have a good skill base and supportive group of friends to come back to and pick up right where you left off!

Thank Fi, it’s always awesome flying with you and I can’t wait to catch up at Skydive Oz soon!

I’m always on the lookout for willing victims for the local legends.

I didn’t realise skydivers were so shy when it came to talking about themselves! So either get in touch or dob in a mate and let’s find out a bit more about our skydiving brother and sisters 🙂

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