Travis Mills still remembers the moment he knew he wanted to be a skydiver.
It was the summer of 2001 and it was all thanks to his brother.
“He came over and popped in a videotape,” said Mills, an El Mirage native and 2000 graduate of Dysart High School. “It was of him making his first jump. I immediately got on the phone, and the following week, I did my first skydive and have been hooked ever since.”
Mills has been a dedicated skydiver for more than a decade.
Earlier this month, that dedication paid off.
Mills and his partner, Tiffany Lamb, won a gold medal at the 2011 U.S. Parachute Association National Skydiving Championships, completed Nov. 7 at Skydive Arizona, an expansive skydiving resort in Eloy. Mills and Lamb competed in the freestyle event.
“In freestyle, the teams consist of two people: the performer (Lamb) and the videographer (me) and is best described as aerial gymnastics,” he said. “It’s my job as the videographer to capture all of Tiffany’s 45-second routine and accent it by flying all around her on all axes, keeping her perfectly centered and in frame. Then, once I land, I turn the footage of our jump in to the panel of judges and we are scored on our performance.”
Mills and Lamb rose above the competition, capturing a gold medal that Mills said was intensely satisfying.
“Winning the gold medal has to be the one of the most rewarding moments in my life,” he said. “Winning nationals this year qualified us to represent the United States in 2012 in Dubai for the world championships of skydiving.”
Mills and Lamb would not be strangers to that level of competition.
“The last world championships were held in Russia two years ago,” he said. “Tiffany and I won a bronze medal.”
Accolades are great, he said, but in the end, the appeal of skydiving is about much more.
“The thing that keeps me coming back besides the total, absolute freedom you feel when you leap from the plane and fly your body at speeds as fast as 180 miles per hour would have to be the people,” he said.
“You meet so many different people from so many different walks of life, all there for the same thing: adrenaline-filled fun,” Mills said.
Mills now lives in Arizona City and works as a skydiving photographer and instructor. He said he would encourage anyone curious about skydiving to give it a try.
“I would totally recommend skydiving to everyone, even if it’s only once. Words can’t describe the feeling you get when you jump from a plane at 13,000 feet.”
Jeff Dempsey may be reached at 623-876-2531 or firstname.lastname@example.org.