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The Lunatic Fringe Podcast

The Lunatic Fringe Podcast

Author: The Pilot

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The Freakin‘ Pilot from Blue Skies Mag talks to some of the worlds premiere as well as unknown skydivers and extreme air sports athletes to get their take on living life to the fullest, their paths to the Lunatic Fringe and how they fit into the mainstream world while living life on the dark side.It’s as much if not more about why we skydive, parachute and BASE jump as how, and it’s endlessly entertaining to climb inside the minds of those living a life less ordinary.
226 Episodes
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Having made his way through school and started his career as an electrical engineer, skydiving hadn't been much more than a one time experience with a static line jump in college; yet as the real world started to exert itself on him, Mark "Trunk" Kirschenbaum decided to give jumping another go. This time around he could afford to pursue skydiving properly, and quickly found himself not just jumping but filming as well. Back then and especially for a talented electrical engineer, the shortcomings of freefall photography made themselves crystal clear. Luckily for the majority of camera flyers, Trunk had a real knack for exactly this type of problem solving, and the beginnings of his company Hypoxic began to take shape. Now providing camera solutions while still traveling the country and enjoying the boogie life (although a slightly more mellow version) Mark "Trunk" Kirschenbaum and Hypoxic continue to help capture our Lunatic Fringe on video.
Attempting to jump off his roof as a kid into his fathers arms may have been a good indication of what was to come. Although Jeff Provenzano didn't come from parents that lived an extreme lifestyle, he did come from artistic stock, which could explain a lot. Even though his beginnings in skydiving were modest and even what might be considered by many to be ordinary, where he's taken his career is anything but. From the beginnings of the swoop revolution in the States and then competitions worldwide, to an anything but ordinary career as one of the top performing RedBull Athletes, Jeff Provenzano has shown us time and time again that the sport of skydiving, and canopy piloting specifically can be incredibly artistic, and it's his flair for the dramatic that helps to keep him at the forefront of the Lunatic Fringe.
Tribute Episode 2 Jim Mathews who always made us laugh. Jim Mathews who use to call me "Skipper". Jim Mathews who liked to swap costumes on Halloween. Jim Mathews who rode the airport beacon. Jim Mathews who could break more bones in one landing than most people will in a lifetime. Jim Mathews who always had a smile for people, no matter what was going on with him. Jim Mathews who would never pass up the opportunity to tell a story, help a friend or make sunset load if he could. Jim Mathews who was everyone's best cheerleader and who always let you know that you were loved. Jim Mathews who still makes us smile, even though we're heartbroken that he's gone. Way too soon Brother. You were suppose to fall apart getting old and laughing right along with the rest of us, but you can be damn sure everyone who loved you will take a piece of you along for the rest of the ride, right till the end.
Jim Mathews who always made us laugh. Jim Mathews who use to call me "Skipper". Jim Mathews who liked to swap costumes on Halloween. Jim Mathews who rode the airport beacon. Jim Mathews who could break more bones in one landing than most people will in a lifetime. Jim Mathews who always had a smile for people, no matter what was going on with him. Jim Mathews who would never pass up the opportunity to tell a story, help a friend or make sunset load if he could. Jim Mathews who was everyone's best cheerleader and who always let you know that you were loved. Jim Mathews who still makes us smile, even though we're heartbroken that he's gone. Way too soon Brother. You were suppose to fall apart getting old and laughing right along with the rest of us, but you can be damn sure everyone who loved you will take a piece of you along for the rest of the ride, right till the end.
You could almost call it a storybook beginning. Groomed for a competition team before he’d even begun jumping, Shannon Pilcher was offered opportunities in skydiving that jumpers these days could only dream of. That’s not to say he didn’t he put in the work or earn his place because he most certainly did; but as he will be the first to say, it was the accomplishments of his team as a whole that helped carry them all to the levels they have achieved. From PD’s initial FS team to its iconic team canopy piloting dynasty, Shannon took the incredible lessons he’s learned through his years in our Lunatic Fringe sport and cultivated a successful career in corporate America coaching its leaders. Join us  now in this insightful and thought provoking conversation.
She hadn't even known it was a thing. It all came about from just a casual invitation to go make a skydive one evening. Less than two weeks after that fateful jump, Jenna Gygi had signed up for her AFF course, setting her on a completey different path than the professional one she had been on; and perhaps it was because she was coming from a professional world that she aimed herself toward earning her tandem rating, knowing that if you intended to earn a living in this sport it was the best path. But it was wingsuit flying that was her true passion, and one that led her to discover a better way for her, that of a professional coach. It was her extensive time in the then very new cutting edge wingsuit tunnel that finally convinced Jenna to take her hard earned skills to the mountains where she knew she belonged. Now, hundreds of BASE jumps in and having become one of the most prominent wingsuit BASE jumpers out there, Jenna takes the time to share her experiences and lessons learned both in the sky and mountains as well as with her family at home and family in our community . It's these experiences as well as what's to come that solidifies her place deep within the Lunatic Fringe.
Admittedly skydiving with something he knew he would enjoy. Being the little brother of the famous, or shall we say infamous Will Lajeunesse (and now husband to the one and only Katie Hansen) it was clearly in his blood. Heading out to Skydive CrossKeys for that first skydive, being the drop zone that both his brother and mother frequented was not a hard decision; yet it wasn't until his first AFF that he truly realized what his new sport was all about. It was the same for BASE. After reaching the required experience level set by his brother, BASE jumping became a true passion, and has been one that has driven Matt Lajeunesse quite literally to the extremes. Now, founder and owner of Tandem BASE Moab, he is bringing his years of experience in both sports to bear in a venture that is truly on the cutting edge, solidifying his place at the forefront of the Lunatic Fringe.
It was an easy choice. $300 for a tandem skydive, or $200 for a first jump course and a 3,500 foot instructor assisted jump. Not really a hard decision for a then 19 year old trying to pay for it all. Growing up in a small town in Western Canada, getting started in skydiving wasn't nearly as easy for Katelyn Escott as it has been for others, but from even before that first jump it was something she was drawn toward. From jumping in Canada to shooting video in Australia, it was a series of fortunate encounters that led her to both BASE, and wingsuits, and eventually the challenge of bringing those two together; but Katelyn is busy dealing with her largest challenge yet, and she's not shy about sharing the struggle. The struggle of recovering from an accident that very easily could have taken her life, and probably should have taken the use of her legs. Driven by the desire to once again get back in the air, there is simply nothing that will keep her on the ground even one minute longer than she must, solidifying both her amazing will and her place deep within the Lunatic Fringe.
    It was her grad school bachelorette party and a strong desire to stay away from the standard “hen night“ that sparked the decision to jump.  Vanessa Shirazi and a crew of 10 ladies headed to Skydive Chicago for a weekend, beginning an extraordinary and passionate career in skydiving. As a working neuroscientist, Vanessa has found a way to mix profession and passion in more ways than one, even blending the two together in a study aimed directly at skydivers abilities to handle stress. Now balancing work, skydiving events such as Project 19 and the busy life of a mother of two, she still holds tightly to her passion for the sport and all that the Lunatic Fringe has to offer.
One slight miscalculation and more than a dozen broken bones was the result. There was really no question about why Jason Russell decided to give up on Motocross and begin his skydiving career. Wait... what? Yes, that's right. Part of his motivation to begin his life in skydiving was a conscious attempt to get away from danger; That, and the realization quite early in his time in skydiving that competition was a solid part of the sport. through a series of fortuitous events in his life, Jason went from early dreams of competition and tunnel flying, to eventually spending a few years working as an elite tunnel instructor and eventually as the CEO of Skydive Dubai. Now, back not only in full jump mode not just for work but for competition, Mr. Russell finds himself busier than he's ever been, deep in the heart of the Lunatic Fringe. 
It’s yet another instance of skydiving saving a life. Fighting through difficult times and a past that wouldn’t let go, Dan Blakeley turned to skydiving with a doesn’t matter if I die attitude. Doesn’t matter, right up until he found himself in freefall wanting to live every second of life he could, having just literally fallen into his purpose. With luck in the sport that only a 90s skydiving newbie could appreciate, Dan was handed opportunities that allowed him to carve out a successful career as a camera flyer and instructor for many years. Now retired from the sport and on a different path, Dan looks back on a fulfilling career happily knowing that regardless of what the future holds, he is and will always be a member of the Lunatic Fringe for life.
As children, the desire to push back against what our parents do is as natural as breathing, even when what your parents do is cool as hell. Neither Anna Moxnes nor Hollie-Blue Allum were an exception to this almost steadfast rule. Both the children of prominent skydivers and having been raised on dropzones deep within our community, it was a completely normal atmosphere to them, and one that had them looking outside the bounds of nylon and prop blast for direction.  Yet as has happened with so many second and third generation skydivers, it didn't take either all that long to realize that their parents had been on to something all along. For Anna, it was a almost unintentional start as a load organizer that would eventually see her vying for world championships while still harboring a desire for more, and for Hollie it would be the skills she learned to perfect in her professional life outside our sport that she would bring to bear in their now successful co-venture, The EdgE Agency. Now jumping for fun and "taking the piss" while forging forward with an agency quickly picking up speed, this dynamic pair are pushing hard to keep their passions going strong deep within the Lunatic Fringe.
From the very start there was no doubt in his mind that there were two things he would achieve in his life. Scotty Milne would be a soldier, and he would jump out of airplanes; yet there was no way even in his wildest dreams that he could have imagined the amazing adventure he was undertaking. A standout in the sport from the very beginning, he became a championship member of the famed skydiving team The Red Devils so soon in his career that many wondered how he was advancing so fast; right up until they saw him perform. Now, more than fifty years deep into a sport that he still embraces whole heartedly and having been a sought after instructor for much of that time, his position as the Director of Active Skydive keeps him just as busy today as he was when he introduced AFF to the military. Straight from the Highlands of Scotland, Scotty Milne proves that the only thing age needs to change in skydiving is jump numbers, and that the Lunatic lifestyle and longevity go hand in hand.
Back in the can to bring us up to speed on life deep within the USPA, Highlight Skydiving Team and her own new venture, the one and only Melissa Nelson gives us a bit of personal history along with insight on why she decided to climb deep inside the belly of the beast to try and initiate change, the challenges of trying to bust down the doors of the "Old Boy's Club", the groundbreaking work of the Highlight skydiving team and the amazing ideas she's bringing to the forefront in student training from the ground up. A lifelong member of the Lunatic Fringe, when Melissa Nelson talks it's because she's got something to say.
For this guy, skydiving made perfect sense. Getting a very early start for someone not born into the sport, Shawn Carter managed to make his first 3 jumps out of the coveted C-130 as a military cadet in Canada, so when it came time to hit the nylon in the civilian world a couple of years later he was all in. With his rigging ticket in his pocket and a desire to travel, Shawn managed to become one of the earliest crew members of Skydive Dubai gaining knowledge and experience along the way. After a potentially life altering accident on a bad landing and a fourteen month recovery, the drive to once again get in the air was a major part of his recovery strategy and he eventually not only overcame the injuries, but pushed on to coach and instruct. Now with his sights set on aviation as a profession and skydiving as a passion, Shawn fills us in on how he used he place in the Lunatic Fringe as a healing tool.
When you're born and raised in a place like Anchorage Alaska, "extreme sports" isn't really a thing; add to that being born to a big wall and alpine style climbing father and its pretty hard to give that title to much of anything as Ben Nelson can tell you. Working as a paramedic in one of the harshest environments on the planet, the initial drive to skydive just wasn't there simply because he hadn't yet seen the big picture, but after transferring to Houston for work and looking for more out of recreation than weekends at the bar he found Spaceland. It was there that he was exposed to all that skydiving and BASE had to offer, cranking out a thousand plus jumps a year, and there that he eventually made the move to work in the industry. Now partnered with Veterans groups aimed at helping in multiple areas, Ben and a crew of highly motivated people will soon embark on a 7 continent adventure hoping to use their experience to help understand and aid in suicide prevention. Yet another wonderful and inspiring member of the Lunatic Fringe Community.
Skydiving beginnings aren't always blue skies and sunshine as Jason Moledzki can tell you. Sometimes the drive to make that first jump can come from a truly dark place, but it was a place that Jason found the drive and determination to escape through his love of skydiving and BASE. A multiple world champion dozens of times over with world records and accomplishments in competition too long to list, he and his crew were a major driving force in the advancement not only of canopy piloting and its flight out of infancy, but in competition itself. As the co-founder and creative director of Flight-1, Jason has been instrumental in the complete overhaul of canopy instruction both in the civilian and military skydiving world with incredible student numbers going through their courses each year. on top of that, he is the co-creator/host of his own podcast called Trust the Journey with Melanie Curtis offering inspiration and insight along our journey deep within the Lunatic Fringe.  
Growing up in Australia in a very supportive environment, Emma Thomson had always been encouraged to explore her interests, and after the gift of a tandem skydive on her 18th birthday jumping had most certainly become one of them; yet it wasn't until she found herself at a destination skydiving center with her boyfriend wingsuit carving around her and her tandem instructor that she realized there may be more to skydiving than drogues and uncomfortable harnesses. With her career in education well underway, it didn't take long for her to put her skills as a teacher to work in the sport, completely changing the course of her professional life in a way that she never expected. Now, working around the world as a more and more sought after coach, she enjoys the benefits of an out of the box lifestyle while navigating social media, staying true to herself and continuing to push her own personal boundaries well within the Lunatic Fringe.
Aviation entered the life of Chris Kleinhenz at a very early age. having been aimed toward flight to focus his drive an attention, it was a series of fortuitous meetings, flight opportunities and the generosity of aircraft owners that helped him along the way. Add to that working hard to become a member of the US Air Force Academy skydiving team, and there was no doubt that airborne is where he preferred to be. Aviation and flying were his main focus for quite some time until he was in a position with flying to also put real energy into the jumping lifestyle by going full force at the Desert Campus of Skydive Dubai. From tandems to wing suits, he's got the chops to hang with the crew, but he's also taking on competition aerobatic flying while his real life gig is up front in the largest bird working, the 747. With his sights set skyward for the foreseeable future, there's no doubt that Chris will be with the Lunatic Fringe for some time to come.
Once again, a skydiving career wasn't born from the first exit, but the first freefall.  Argentina's static line course wasn't one that grabbed Juan Mayer, it was one that scared the hell out of him. Even after 52 jumps in a "kind of" AFF course and after freefall had shown him more of what our world may have to offer, it wasn't until a trip to Deland that he really saw the full picture.  Having now traveled the world, working in and helping to create incredible projects that have included everything from a world record balloon jump, flying over the pyramids, carving wing suits over The Palm Island in Dubai and publishing his own book of amazing images, Juan Mayer still has an incredible passion for skydiving and its community, and is another proud card carrying member of the Lunatic Fringe.
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