Donagene Jones is a record breaker, plain and simple. For more than a decade, skydivers participating in record attempts have seen her skills as a gymnast translate to the sky, as well as (perhaps more importantly) her contagious smile and passion for the sport. She recently contributed her skills and leadership to Project 19, joining many of the most accomplished female skydivers in the world. Those who have shared the air with her know that Jones makes everyone on a skydive, record attempt or not, feel like family.
“Since the first time I met and jumped with Dona, she always brought great energy to skydiving. From organizing BIGZ events to being plane captain at record attempts, her enthusiasm for skydiving is infectious. Our sport, and sports in general, need more people like Dona.” –Larry Yount, Parachutist profilee #243
Nickname: Momma D
Height: 5’ 7”
Birthplace: Camden, New Jersey
Marital Status: Forever partnered with MX!
Pets: Mister Bigley & Blazey Girl
Occupation: Gymnastics choreographer
Education: B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, Montana State University (1992)
Pet Peeves: Mean people
Pre-jump Superstitions: Nada
Favorite Food: Sushi
Rock, Rap or Country? Rock
Life Philosophy: The pain you feel today is the strength you feel tomorrow. For every challenge encountered there is an opportunity for growth.
Team Name: Undercover Ninjas (from long ago)
Sponsors: Liquid Sky (Julio Ruiz) and Safeish (Tom Grayson)
Container: Velocity Sports Infinity
Main Canopy: Jyro Safire 139
Home Drop Zone: Skydive Spaceland-Houston in Rosharon, Texas
Year of First Jump: 1999 (Skydive Swakopmund in Namibia)
Records: Numerous state and vertical world records (Ladies, Co-ed, POPs)
Total Number of Jumps: 1,500-plus
Largest completed formation: 164-way vertical world record in 2015
Total Number of Cutaways: One. Scary!
What has been your canopy progression?
Not much! I have only downsized once in my career.
Most people don’t know this about me:
I was the technical consultant and choreographer for the Disney movie “Stick It” with my mom and Jeff Bridges in 2005.
Is there one particular jump that stands out the most?
Definitely the 2015 vertical-record jump. I was the plane captain, and things were not going well for our plane (language barriers can be tough). As a team, we pulled it together—along with Norman Kent, one of my favorite peeps—and made the magic happen!
What kind of student were you?
I was a gymnast and the sport had given me the opportunity to receive a full ride to uni. I believe that I was a natural because of gymnastics.
What do you like most about the sport?
What do you like least?
If you could do a fantasy 2-way with anybody, whom would it be with and where would it take place?
Bruce McElfish! Uncle Bruce was famous for doing 2-ways with no plan (“Brucing it”). The farm in Molalla, Oregon, would be our spot. Aunty Karen would be waiting to feed us the best lunch, knowing that we would both be starving!
Who have been your skydiving mentors?
MX, Mikey Knight and Robby Bigley.
What are your future skydiving goals?
To have fun!
What safety item do you think is most important and/or most often neglected?
Gear checks and ego checks.
How did you become interested in skydiving?
I was an avid rock climber and I had met a bunch of people that were BASE jumping. That sounded amazing, but I had to learn how to skydive first.
I skydive because …
I love my friends and the places we have been together. There is nothing better than bonding as a group when everyone has the same goal.
Any suggestions for students?
Learn to sit-fly really well before you fly head-down. Get in a tunnel and do 4-way training if you are interested in big-ways later.
Most embarrassing moment at a drop zone:
Landing off on my fourth jump at Lodi. Darn line twists!
The toughest thing to do in skydiving is:
Find your tribe! I was lucky to have been introduced to some of the best skydivers in the world when Lodi Sequentials was an exclusive event. As a “young” skydiver, it was incredible to witness such talent and dedication.
Is there one jump you would like to do over again?
I was fortunate to be a part of Project 19 and represented women in skydiving as a regional captain. Our one jump that went better than any other jump in my life was the 88-way all-female world record last year. One and done! That rarely presents itself, and this jump was incredibly special. Skydiving rarely feels “easy” and this jump went well for all of us.
What do you consider your most significant life achievement?
Mentoring young women in the sport of gymnastics and skydiving.
While in freefall, what has been your strangest thought?
“I wonder if I broke my leg … “ after hitting the tail of a plane during a stall. Ouch!
Suggestions for USPA:
They are doing a great job of integrating key players in our sport who have a strong voice.
Best skydiving moment?
My first successful head-down jump. I was so excited that I called my tunnel instructor and good friend, Kris Reynolds, to brag! He didn’t answer and I told the lady to tell Kris that it was urgent that he call. I didn’t realize at the time that it wasn’t the smartest thing to do when you are at a skydiving event. Oops!
What drives your competitive spirit?
My love for life!!!! (Notice all the exclamation points!)