Up Close & Personal
name: Dawn English
education: Less than high school.
family & marital staus: Unmarried.
number of jumps: 3,300
years in Sport: 35
teams: DeLand Debris, Team FX 95, 96, 97, 98, 00
slot(s): Outside center and point.
favorite competition: FAI World Cup 1998
funniest moment in skydiving: We laughed a lot on FX - on the ground and in the air. I can remember getting side cramps during a dive from laughing so hard that I wasn't able to continue. My ribs seemed to lock up and I just kind'a rolled onto my side and fell out of the formation. Of course, that provided further entertainment for the rest of the team. We must've sounded like a bunch of hyenas. It's a wonder any of us were capable of pulling.
skydiving mentor(s): Dan Thompson - Joey Jones
hobbies: Work. I'm a workaholic.
favorite book(s): It's impossible to choose just one, but the first that comes to mind is As A Man Thinketh by James Allen.
favorite music: Everything - I like variety. Depends on what mood I want to be in.
favorite movie(s): Comedies are usually my favorite.
favorite place: In a jump plane of a competition
Where will you be ten years from now? I really have no idea. It's a big world out there and I'd like to see and experience as much of it as possible. Hmmm, I'll probably need to get out of the office to make that happen.
best kept secret: The way to keep a secret is to not publish it online...
"One of my favorites for life is "Excellence is not an act, but a habit. - Aristotle. Also, "You only live once, but if you work it right, once is enough.""
- Joe E. Lewis
Dawn English was the first female 4-way competitor who proved to the skydiving world that women can be just as successful in the sport, which is dominated by male athletes. There have been other female 4-way competitors in the history of Formation Skydiving competition, as the French all-female Coca Cola team in the late 80's. However, Dawn English was the first woman who made it to the very top of the 4-way world in 1998.
She began her skydiving career with the first jump in California City, CA, in the beginning of 1988. Her scuba diving buddy bought her a jump for her 18th birthday. She was hooked immediately and moved onto the drop zone after her third jump. She did not give the dz operators any notice. "I just showed up with my stuff", Dawn English remembers.
Favorite competition:I hate to admit this, but I put up with training to get to the competitions. That's what I'm there for, so I've loved them all, but my favorite would have to be World Cup '98 in Portugal. 11th round jump-off, taking off in the Otter with just us and the French team on board and watching the crowd running down the runway carrying the U.S. flag. How do you forget something like that?
Skydiving student Dawn English
It was a small weekend only drop zone out in the middle of the Mohave desert, there was literally nothing but sand to the horizon. "They didn't know what to do with me, so they let me sleep in the hangar and gave me a job at manifest. I was one of three people living there. Crazy now that I look back on it, but great memories. I'd do it all over again."
When Dawn had a hundred jumps, she visited Zephyrhills in Florida for the Christmas Boogie in December 1988 and never went back to the west coast. She lived on the drop zone in a tent for a year and got to jump with skydiving greats like Jerry Bird, Mike Michigan, Peter Gannaw, Pete Allum. "I was in heaven, and I've been living in Florida ever since."
Most important skydiving mentor/hero: Wow. I have lots of heroes in this sport - some mentioned earlier. I've had great mentors too - I've been really blessed. On the ground my mentor has been my business partner of nearly fifteen years; Dan Thompson. I wouldn't be where I am today without him. In the air I'd have to say my piece partner, Joey Jones, has had the largest influence on my skydiving. I can't imagine having flown with someone else.
Large formation with Dawn English in Zephyrhills
Dawn English never did anything else than 4-way: "Formation Skydiving, or Relative Work, was pretty much all there was at the time. DC3's were flying in Zephyrhills, and we were doing 2-ways to 40-ways every day. Mike Michigan was just introducing Freestyle to the world, but I was never very bendy..."
Her serious interest in 4-way competition came when she was offered the position of the general manager at Skydive DeLand in 1990. She saw it as a great opportunity and moved to DeLand: "Bob Hallett treated me well, and Tom Piras took me under his wing a bit."
Favorite place: In a meet of course. At altitude the door opens, the wind roars in, transmitter on, cameraman out, climb into slot, pick up grips, and pause. You can feel your teammates breathing.. the prop seems to be in slow motion.. the view of the horizon is awesome.. you are completely in the moment. Your skin tingles and your brain is focused in a very primal way. When the launch comes, the air will feel like ice in your nostrils and you'll find balance between the two extremes of your body's instinct for making the moves and your mind's intellect for managing them. At its best it's all of your power and aggression with all of your ability to control it. For a few moments we get to simultaneously experience our sophisticated intellectual evolutionand the basic aggressive animal that made it to the top of the food chain. How can you not love that? Just thinking about it makes me grin!! The rest of my life is great, but competition will always hold a special place in my heart and in my memories. By the way, I have to say that it was best back when we had live air to ground transmition by Omniskore.
DC3 10-way exit with Dawn English
DeLand was already a big 4-way training center, and Dawn was now really exposed to it: "I remember doing 4-ways with Rickster Powell before he started filming video, and also with Olav Zipser before he rotated onto his head. I guess that was a long time ago, huh?"
Ironically, Dawn's very first team was Jerry Bird's 40-way: "I spent all season hoping and trying to get on it. Looking back, that was really a golden time."
The next step on her competition career was 10-way. Dawn English attended her first USPA Nationals with team Excalibur, which was captained by Carl Daugherty. She was now 19 years old and had just under 200 jumps. The 10-way competition was from DC3's: "They stuck me last because I was so small, I guess."
Dawn English and three big guys in DeLand...
That was her first trip to USPA Nationals, and she came back with her first gold medal: "I couldn't even believe I was there. Fortunately, Carl is still a friend. I didn't think he would ever talk to me again after we agreed to car pool to Muskogee together. He showed up in his brand new BMW and when it was my turn to drive six hours later, I confessed that I didn't know how to drive a stick shift. We practiced in the Burger King parking lot. If you know Carl then you can definitely hear him yelling at me, while I ground the gears. Love 'ya Carl..."
It took Dawn a while to actually get on a 4-way team. She remembers the obstacles: "At that time women weren't seriously considered for 4-way. Also, I'm small and that was a further hindrance; most of the 4-way people in DeLand were pretty big guys."
DeLand Debris with Rob Larsen, Mario Mauro, Rambo and Dawn English
She was grateful that Billy Weber was patient enough to do a bunch of 2-way drill dives with her, which helped her to progress technically. Eventually, she got onto a team called DeLand Debris with Rob Larsen, Richard "Rambo" Calledare and
Mario Mauro. It was still physically challenging for Dawn:
"I was so much smaller than them that I wore 26 pounds in competition. I didn't have to stop a move - I'd just go until I ran into one of them. I remember one dive we were spinning donut-360-donut and two of us collided. I left the screen so fast you had to play it in slow motion to see where I went. That year was a huge learning experience for me. We took 5th at the Nationals."
Her competition career leading to the top of the world with team FX began 1995 in Arizona. Dawn went there looking for new teammates without success. As she was leaving to head back to Florida, with her car running in Eloy's parking lot, someone ran up to her and asked if she wanted to do a fun 4-way. She unpacked all her stuff and made the jump.
Space Center FX with Fin Malloy, Doug Park, Christopher Irwin, Dawn English, Joey Jones
Joey Jones was one of the jumpers, and that is how the future teammates met. They formed FX that year with Marshall Clark and Vo Von Hoffman. Dawn commuted to Arizona for team training, and it was worth the effort for her: "It was a great group. We took 4th place at the USPA Nationals with only 200 training jumps. We were as surprised as everyone else."
Dawn and Joey Jones then accepted a player coach position for Dr. Joel Shugar's first team and competed with Eyes on Florida at the USPA Nationals in 1997. The next year would bring the highlight of her 4-way career for Dawn. Together with Joey Jones she formed Space Center FX, which was fully sponsored by the Skydive Space Center in Titusville, Florida. Space Center FX with Christopher Irvin and Doug Park in the line-up trained hard, traveled to Portugal for the World Cup 1998 and won the gold medals after a jump-off with France Maubeuge.
Dawn English landing
The same line-up lost the USPA Nationals 1998 against Arizona Airspeed a month later. Dawm English left the FX team and was replaced by Neal Houston in 1999. The new FX line-up ended up once again behind Airspeed. David Timko took Neal Houston's slot in 2000, and Dawn English came back for another year. This time, FX ended up six points behind Airspeed with a 20.7 average and USPA silver medals. It was the last competition for Dawn English so far.
Dawn remembers the entire FX experience as a tremendous one: "Skydiving tends to attract strong personalities. Put four of them together on a team and it gets interesting. I still have a strong personality, but years of being on teams has been very, very good for me. I'll be able to use those lessons for the rest of my life."
Dawn English with Wesley Snipes during production for the movie 'Drop Zone'
She does not know if she will ever compete again: "I haven't decided on that yet. I'm taking a few years off to focus on Mirage and then we'll see. I try to follow God's plan for my life, which doesn't always lead in the directions I expect. Mirage is my current team. I love the rig and I work with an amazingly talented group of people. It's a labor of love for all of us, and I think it really shows in the product. FX has become DeLand Majik now, and obviously they're doing great. I'll always be rooting for my old teammates and especially my piece partner."
Dawn English feels that all the efforts were very much worthwhile, and she knows what it takes to get to the very top: "Persistence. You're never out of the game until you quit." Asked whether she would do it all over again she did not hesitate with her answer: "Definitely. I'm a better person because of my skydiving experiences."
Check additional related NSL News stories on 22 September 2005, 30 September 2005, 4 October 2005. Go to the NSL Archives of 2005 if the links to the stories are outdated.