Above: Jumpers at Skydive Perris come together for a special formation to celebrate Hill’s 12-year sobriety milestone.
My first skydive was back in 1996, a static-line jump out of a Cessna from 4,500 feet. I had gone with a group of 15 co-workers, and from the point of exiting that airplane I knew that one day I would be a skydiver. I wanted to conquer a fear that most humans battle every day but never overcome. But with plenty of busy, responsible life ahead of me at the age of 19, I had to put that dream on the back burner.
Fast forward to age 39, when my life seemed to be at its fullest. I had a great career, living in southern California but traveling the world. That’s what most people saw from the outside. But behind closed doors, my life was unraveling and my marriage was failing. That’s when a new group of people showed me another way of life.
I went down the rabbit hole of drugs with those people, and found myself homeless within two years, in and out jails. I couldn’t stop using. After six years of that life, I realized that I could either keep living like that or change, and on April 4, 2011, I made a decision to stop using.
After staying clean for six years, at the age of 51, I came back to the dream of skydiving. One of my dear friends was turning 50, and I suggested jumping. We went, and one week later I signed up for my first-jump course at Skydive Perris. In 2018, I received my A license.
At first, it was a lot of showing up to the DZ and doing solo skydives, and even finding myself getting bored. At one point, the late Mark Brown (and a few others from the load organizer program) stopped me at the DZ and told me, “You’re going to come on a 4-way with us.” And that’s where I really fell in love—skydiving with people. It was exactly like recovery: There’s always someone with fewer jumps than you and someone with more than you, helping each other skydive safely and experience the joy of it all.
So I found myself showing up to the DZ every weekend, sunup to sundown, and my confidence increased the more I jumped with others. It wasn’t just skydiving I fell in love with; it was the people who made me feel like family. I’ve also been able to share the experience with others, organizing tandems for friends, and throughout the years I’ve helped show the thrill of freefall to more than 75 people. It never gets old. On top of that, I met Rob Roberts, my sky brother.
Over the past three years, I’ve competed at USPA Nationals in the intermediate class of 4-way FS, and taken 6th place each year. I’ve branched out to 8-way FS as well (4th place at 2022 Nationals in intermediate), and it looks like in 2023 we’re going to give the advanced class a shot. It’s going to be an epic year.
So today, at 12 years clean and 57 years old, with just under 2,000 skydives, I get to share my experiences with others in recovery and skydivers of all kinds. We get to do things like this!
Jeff Hill | D-39749