The Start of Her Journey: Tamara Bartlett

I did my first tandem in 2013, with the same attitude as most tandem students; I expected to do one skydive, just to say I did it. I had gotten my first big-girl job, had some extra cash, and had moved to southern California (far enough away from my mother in Iowa that I could go on a skydive and keep it hush-hush from her, so as not to stress her out). So, I drove down to San Diego, Groupon in hand, to check skydiving off my bucket list. But, I just loved it, totally and completely. I’m fairly certain that I just screamed the entire duration of freefall and I was only stressed once we were under canopy. “How could those tiny strings be the only thing preventing me from falling a few thousand feet to my death? How could I trust those tiny little strings?” I remember worrying. After surviving my first tandem, my cousin and I went to the San Diego zoo to see the pandas.  I loved it so much, I had to try another tandem a couple months later, just to be sure I liked it. I absolutely did. I decided on the spot that I needed skydiving to be part of my life in a bigger way. 

So, in 2014, I consulted my cousin Sabrina who lived in SoCal who was already a skydiver; she sent me to Skydive Elsinore to get my A license. I spent six months working towards my A license. From April to October, I showed up at the DZ about every 3 weeks to stay current and do a couple more jumps. I wouldn’t have admitted it at the time, but skydiving scared the bejeezus out of me. I flew so stiff and stressed out; every single skydive, I basically imitated a potato chip. I started bringing leaves with me in the plane, with the goal of remembering to let them fly out of my clenched fists; I never felt a sense of relaxation or calm. 

After jump 25, I moved up to San Francisco, sold my car, and started renting a San Francisco-priced apartment. In the first 9 months of 2015, I did a total of about 5 skydives. I didn’t own gear. I didn’t know what dropzones to go to. I didn’t have a vehicle to get there. I didn’t have much money to throw at skydiving. I nearly washed out of the sport completely. But in October of 2015, about 1 year after I started I made a promise to myself that if I went skydiving 1 day a month for the next 3 months, I’d buy gear.

Photo by: Josh Reuck

Oh buddy. Did I buy a piece of gear? In early 2016, for $1700, I bought an ancient Javelin, a Raven reserve, a Sabre 2 main, and an AAD. That rig kept me in the sport. From there, it’s been a slow but steady progression. I started with Mad John zoo dives at Byron, to baby 4-way skydiving. I upgraded my gear. I moved to Colorado and started doing wahoo-freefly jumps. I got a coach rating. I started doing competitive 8-way and load organizing on my tum. Ever since, skydiving has been a dust devil whirling chaos through my life of new pursuits and adventures, and delivering destruction to my bank account. I’ve organized tunnel events, load organized at boogies, competed in belly and freefly, gotten my TI rating (and let it lapse), tried CRW, worked my way onto a handful of records- including the upcoming Women’s Vertical World Record (Project 19)!  What’s next? Hopefully everything, some day. In the near future, I’m going to get into wing suiting, do more competitive freeflying, and maybe even get my AFFI rating.  In the meantime, I’m just out here, enjoying my fun jumps.

Photo by: Josh Reuck

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