Get to know Royal Navy skydiver, Emma Reynolds
Name – Emma Reynolds
Birthplace – Headcorn
Home DZ – Netheravon
Jump Numbers – 1,187
Sponsors – My current team is Royal Navy Kraken, a two-way VFS team. I haven’t thought about sponsorship – maybe I should! I’m a dealer for Vertex Sky Sports because I love the suits they make, the customer service and their development process.
Container – Javelin Odyssey
Main Canopy – Katana 107, primary; Storm 120, backup; Sabre 2 150/170, for demos
Reserve Canopy – Optimum 113
AAD – CYPRES
- Where, when and why did you make your very first jump?
My first jump was my AFF L1 at Peterlee in 2014. I’d always wanted to learn to skydive. I grew up near Headcorn and worked at the airfield cleaning planes whilst I was at school, but my parents weren’t keen. So, as soon as I went to uni (at Durham), I started saving up. Once I had enough money and exams were over, I phoned up the AFF school there and booked myself in for the next day. Within days, I had my licence!
- What are your three favourite things to do when you’re not jumping?
Reading books. I’m a huge Harry Potter fan.
Thinking about food and planning my next meal. I love food so much! I spend hours thinking about what to eat next.
Rugby. I can’t play anymore – too many injuries – but I love to support my team, the Harlequins (and, of course, England).
- What philosophy guides your life in general? If different, what philosophy guides your life in skydiving?
Live every day like it’s your last. Regret nothing.
- What items on your “skydiving CV” are you proudest of?
I’m most proud of anything photography-related, because photography is something I basically taught myself. I’m still constantly surprised when people want high-res copies of my photos, and I love it!
I’m also proud of my Nationals medals. Each one represented hard work and dedication by a group of us, as well as some really fun times training!
Finally, I’m proud of the way the Royal Navy club has gone from being about four people just a few years ago to regularly having 25 people attending our monthly development weekends. It has taken a lot of work and time, but it’s totally worth it when the guys land smiling.
- Who have been your mentors in the sport, and what was the most important lesson each of them taught you?
That’d be Ewan Cowie, my AFF instructor and subsequent tunnel coach for everything up to head down. His teaching style just clicked with me. Apart from teaching me AFF, FS, FF, packing, and just about everything else on a foundational level, he showed me that even if you’re a world-level athlete ninja, you can still have time for everyone.
Dave Lee, my display team leader and VFS teammate, mentored me in the “grown-up” side of jumping, and display skydiving. A few years ago, I was essentially tasked with rebuilding skydiving within the Royal Navy, which was pretty daunting to someone who’s never written a risk assessment, had to liaise with sports boards, write Safety Management Plans, etc. Dave’s extensive experience with this stuff (through the Navy display team) was essential, and he always makes time to answer my questions, proofread and/or give an extra opinion.
- What would you like every new skydiver to know?
Never be afraid to ask! Whether it’s how to fly an exit, what the spot actually means, how your RSL works, how to carry your parachute back, how to close your container, hook up a canopy – you’re not the first to ask the question and you certainly won’t be the last, so don’t be shy.
- What about the sport would you most like to change, and why?
Accessibility to the tunnel. At the moment, UK prices are too high for most skydivers. When I was learning, it was about £400 an hour. Now, it can be almost three times that amount. I couldn’t have got to where I am now without the tunnel, be it learning to freefly or training four-way.
- What has been your most challenging moment in the sport, and why?
It’s not really a moment, as such, but a constant challenge: remembering to balance my flying career with skydiving. Back in 2017, I’d had a super-successful year in skydiving: medalling at four-way and Wingsuit Nationals, doing my first demos, getting 500 jumps, getting FF2 etc. There was the chance to do some intensive four-way training, as well as the possibility of attending a world meet in other disciplines.
Ironically, this was the same time that my military pilot training started, and my boss advised me to pick one or the other, with the reasoning that skydiving was too dangerous to do as a trainee pilot. Right after that, I suffered a spinal injury on a military course (not skydiving-related!), which took the decision right out of my hands.
When I recovered, I returned to a new boss who was supportive of both – but even now, I’ve got to remind myself to make sure I’m gone from the DZ by a sensible time on Sunday so I’m fully rested to fly my helicopter safely on Monday morning.
- What’s the next challenge you’ve set for yourself?
A few! I’m currently busy planning regular development weekends for the Royal Navy club. We’ve taken so many people up through FS1 and B licence, and I’d now like to focus their jumping a bit more so that they can safely build some shapes in the sky when I ask them to.
Personally, my next goals are to compete again (freefly, four-way, wingsuit acro and speed skydiving are all on the table) and to take up flocking and CP. I did a day of one-on-one flocking with Brian Vacher last summer, and it was the most enjoyable jumping I’ve done for years!
- What does it mean to you to be a British skydiver?
It means everything! Skydiving is my life, my social scene and support group. I grew up around aviation, I’ve been flying aircraft for over half my life, and I can tell you that the attitude of British skydivers—in the sense of both inclusivity and safety systems—is what sets it apart, in my opinion. Sure, I’ve had great times jumping away in the States, in Europe, etc.…but a UK dropzone is where I’m at home.