Flying high and winning gold

November 20, 2017

Other News

Hearing Wes Sandler describe skydiving is much like listening to Brad Pitt’s character describe fly fishing in the film, A River Run’s Through It; equal parts science, art, adventure, and passion—and for the lucky listener, the excitement of gaining a glimpse into a world generally only seen on TV or in magazines.

At one of Tidewater’s local Jewish treasures, Rt. 58 Deli, over some pastrami and pickles, Sandler chatted about skydiving—and it was an incredible picture he painted. The science that goes behind the fancy parachutes and wingsuits, the process of falling thousands of feet through the air while using air currents, altitude, and angles to chart the course, perform acrobatics and more; and of course, the beauty of it. Not just in the freedom and grace of flying through the air, but in the location. Whether jumping over Virginia Beach, the Outer Banks, or the Teton Mountains; much like fly fishing, skydiving offers a perfect excuse to seek adventure in the most amazing natural settings.

What stands out most is Sandler’s passion for skydiving (otherwise known as jumping out of airplanes), which is really just to say his passion for living life to its fullest, for pursuing the boundaries of what is possible.

That kind of passion leads people to do great things, and earlier this month, it led Sandler to Las Vegas where he represented the United States as a member of the Team USA in the FAI World Championships of Wingsuit Sky Diving.

In only his third year of flying in a wingsuit (ie. one step more daring than a parachute), Sandler was a member of a three-man team competing against the world’s best skydivers from USA, Britain, Norway, and Russia. The competition lasted three days, battled tough weather, and required seven competitive jumps by Sandler and his team. In each jump, the team had a 65 second window where they were judged—while hurling to the ground at hundreds of miles an hour—on their drifts, style, and camera ability. Two members preformed the acrobatics, and one member filmed them. The team was scored on their performance in these three areas.

In the drama that comes with highlevel competition, and in the great spirit of eternal rivalries, Sandler and his team found themselves in first place on their final jump, with the Russian team a hair’s breath behind them.

Anyone who has competed at a high level knows that the greatest pressure is always on the person or team with the most to lose. But Sandler and Team USA met the challenge, completed their final jump with their highest score of the competition, and found themselves world champions!

It is always a matter of pride when a local excels on a national or world stage. It’s an even bigger treat when that person is a member of the Jewish community, and it is even a bigger, bigger kavod when that person is making a great name for Jews everywhere by being a champion in such a daring and tough sport. Jews are known as the people of the book, but apparently are also the people who can jump out of a plane and win gold medals. Congratulations to Sandler on representing the community, bringing home the gold, and inspiring others to seek adventure and live life to its fullest.

- Dusty Heist-Levine

Letter to the Editor