David “Junior” Ludvik, D-25148, started skydiving in 1999 at Skydive Tecumseh in Michigan. Since that time, he’s made more than 18,000 skydives, become a rigger, earned several ratings, trained thousands of students, won the first world championships for swoop freestyle and set several Guinness World Records. His peers and his students see him as both accomplished and down-to-earth, a nice guy who is always willing to help someone in need.
Birthplace: Queens, New York
Marital Status: Married to my beautiful wife, Nicole
Children: None, but I do drive a little slower through certain neighborhoods
Pets: Lilly, the greatest dog in the world for almost 14 years and counting
Occupation: Professional skydiver but let’s be honest, I get paid to have fun!
Education: Studied aviation management at Eastern Michigan University
Pet Peeves: Not checking your handles before every jump and jumpers with a skygod attitude.
Pre-Jump Superstitions: I’m not superstitious. I always hold my main deployment handle getting into an aircraft, and I have a specific gear check I do just before every jump, but that’s just good safety.
Jump Philosophy: Have fun! Be humble! No one knows it all, so continue to push yourself and continue to learn.
Sponsors: Larsen & Brusgaard, Liquid Sky Sports, NZ Aerosports, Velocity Sports Equipment
Container: Velocity Sports Equipment Infinity
Main Canopies: NZ Aerosports Petra 57 and 66 Petra, Leia 74, JVX 79
Reserve Canopy: Performance Designs Optimum 126
AAD: Airtec CYPRES 2 Speed
Disciplines: Canopy piloting, freeflying, XRW
Home Drop Zone: Currently at Skydive Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, but Skydive Tecumseh in Michigan will always be my home DZ
First Jump: Static-line jump in 1999
Licenses and Ratings: A-36734, B-24450, C-31830, D-25148; Static-Line Instructor; AFF and Tandem Instructor Examiner; Coach Examiner; PRO
Championships and Records: Féderátion Aéronautique Internationale World Champion of Swoop Freestyle (2017); two FAI World Records for Largest Head-Down Formation Skydive (69-way and 108-way); Guinness World Records for Most Jumpers from a Hot-Air Balloon, Largest Formation in a Wind Tunnel, Largest Flag Flown while Skydiving (under canopy) and Largest Flag Flown while Skydiving (freefall)
Total Number of Jumps: 18,000-plus Tandem: 6,000 AFF/Coach: 5,000 Freefly: 3,000-plus FS: 1,000 Tandem (front): 500-plus CF: 300 Demos: 150 Wingsuit: 100 Balloon: Three BASE: 200
Largest Completed Formation: 108-way
Total Number of Cutaways: 37
Does one jump stand out most?
There are two. Number one was taking my mom for her first tandem. My dad came in and docked on her arm. I’ll never forget the smile on his face. Number two was the day I proposed to my wife. She took me for a tandem to get her instructor rating current. I proposed to her under canopy at the same DZ where I had taken her for her first tandem, exactly nine years before to the day.
Who has been your skydiving mentor?
Kip Lohmiller. He took me under his wing at a time in my life when I needed some guidance. He really helped me become the instructor and instructor examiner I am today. Among other things, he taught me to always put safety and the student first.
How did you become interested in skydiving?
I went to do a static-line jump with a few friends in college. We had bad weather and couldn’t jump the day of the course. When I told my dad about it that night, he was so excited that the next day I bought him the ground school and first jump as a present for his 55th birthday. Our first 250-300 jumps were together.
Do you have any suggestions for students?
Take your time! No one becomes a ninja overnight. Enjoy the journey and remember that skydiving is supposed to be fun. Ask lots of questions and know when the answers are from a reliable source. The instructors and experts at your drop zone are there to help. Oh, and for f***’s sake ... do your handle touches, in the correct order, before every jump!
If you could do a fantasy 2-way with anybody, whom would it be with and where would it take place?
I would do a jump over Everest with my Dad.
What do you consider your most significant life achievement?
Getting married to my best friend.
What was your best skydiving moment?
Winning the first-ever FAI Swoop Freestyle World Championships in 2017.
What was your worst skydiving moment?
Losing my dad to a low cutaway at the World Freefall Convention in 2003.
How were you able to continue—and excel in—the sport after losing your father?
My father was my best friend and my hero growing up. Anyone who saw us together could tell the close bond we shared. My mom is always saying that I got my adventurous side from him. After his accident, I almost stopped jumping, but I felt a need to get back in the air. I know how much he loved jumping and how disappointed he would have been if I stopped because of his accident. Knowing that has helped drive me to do all the things I’ve wanted to in this sport. I feel closer to him in the sky.
What was it like to fly a 4,886.65-square meter flag while under canopy to set the Guinness World Record?
Every jump was filled with a level of danger and uncertainty that required 100-percent focus. We had three unsuccessful attempts that could easily have cost me my life had certain safety measures not been in place. We were constantly modifying and testing the system all the way up until the final jump. There was an entire team of people assembled to help, from the 15 guys helping to fold the flag, the cameramen, safety crew, pilots, spotters, riggers and my teammates who helped keep me from falling out of the helicopter before I was ready to exit. It was amazing and like nothing else I’ve experienced in skydiving before.
How did you become interested in canopy piloting?
I remember standing next to my dad at the small swoop pond at the World Freefall Convention around 2001. We watched the original Team Extreme—J.C. [Colclasure], Luigi [Cani], Jim [Slaton], and Clint [Clawson]—put on a small demonstration for everyone. When I saw the speed of their canopies as they dragged the water, I looked at my dad and told him I wanted to learn to do that, too.
Explain Junior Ludvik in five words or fewer:
Loving, adventurous, passionate, humble.