Every good story starts somewhere. Especially our skydiving stories and there is nothing we love more than being inspired by your unique journeys. This month we put our spotlight on Swati Varshney, who during her 13 years of skydiving has both a great story to tell and some helpful advice to offer the newer skydivers out there. We hope you enjoy this Q&A session with Swati as much as we did!

How did you get into the sport?

I went on a tandem skydive in 2008 for the thrill of it. The instant I left the plane, I was enamored with the sensation of being in freefall. Two years later, I leapt at the opportunity to do another tandem skydive for a friend’s birthday party. I felt the exact same rush, and immediately after landing, I signed up to start working on my license. I trained all summer, but didn’t get my license before moving abroad for a Master’s degree program. To my surprise, though, there was a skydiving club at my university, and the UK had a strong collegiate skydiving culture. I finished my license there and fun-jumped all year long with my new British skydiving friends. When I moved back to the States, I carried that spirit forward into leading the MIT Skydiving Club while I continued working on my PhD.

Photo credit: D Squared Skydiving

What has your progression been like?

My skydiving progression has been slow and steady. Certainly slow during my first six years in the sport while I was in grad school and had to balance my time with studying. I was also at a small dropzone, and only got in a few fun jumps on weekends. Eventually, I started going to Sisters in Skydiving (SIS) events at nearby dropzones, and then started traveling around the country for boogies, which opened my eyes to the breadth of opportunities for advancement in skydiving. I also started making trips to various wind tunnels to learn to freefly. Since being out of school, I’ve had a lot more time to devote to skydiving, and my progression became steadier over the past five years. I trained for 2-way and 4-way Vertical Formation Skydiving (VFS). I still travel a lot for skydiving events, skills camps, and tunnel competitions. In 2019, I started training for Project 19 – I loved how accessible the camps were, and they inspired me to keep working on my head-down bigway flying skills.

Photo credit: D Squared Skydiving

How do you stay inspired and passionate?

As a lifelong learner, anything that exercises my brain keeps me interested and engaged. With skydiving, the possibilities for learning are endless. There’s always something new to try, like a more advanced skill, a different discipline, or training for competitions and records. Both in my career and in skydiving, I seek out new challenges and find it rewarding to tackle them. I’ve had to work hard and think hard about every flying skill I learn in skydiving, and the payoff is particularly sweet. Recently, I started organizing at the dropzone and wind tunnel, and it’s been a wonderful experience to delve into the teaching side of the equation and offer knowledge back to the community.

Photo credit: D Squared Skydiving

Have you had any challenges along the way? What is your advice to new skydivers?

My biggest challenge in skydiving was (and still is) finding gear that fits me properly as a petite and curvy woman. Just about every piece of equipment was a struggle to get right, a custom container being the hardest of them all. I suggest that new skydivers ask for help with gear from other jumpers who look like you. That way, you can learn from their experience, and you’re more likely to get advice that’s tailored to your specific needs.

What are your future goals and aims?

I’m training hard for Project 19 and hope to be on the Women’s Vertical World Record in 2022!

Photo credit: D Squared Skydiving