Raymond Adams, D-30158, is a talented vertical formation skydiver and camera flyer who started jumping in 1993. Adams can often be found at boogies and record events, participating both as an inside flyer and outside cameraman. His photos have graced numerous Parachutist covers and centerfolds. Despite his accomplishments, his friends describe him as “humble,” as well as “someone you can count on” and “an asset to skydiving.”
Age: I just made my 47th trip around the sun.
Birthplace: Not many people know this, but Connecticut. But I’m really a Texan.
Nationality: ‘Murican! My 12th great grandfather came over on the Mayflower or similar. Seriously.
Marital Status: Soon to be free (no regrets)
Occupation: Photographer and hairstylist (used to be in the other order)
Education: TONI&GUY Hairdressing Academy
Pet Peeves: Vertical video
Life Philosophy: Find something you love to do, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.
Jump Philosophy: Have fun, be safe and keep your head on a swivel.
Team Name: Gnarwhals
Sponsors: Larsen & Brusgaard, Peregrine Manufacturing, Performance Designs, TMO Jumpsuits
Container: Peregrine Manufacturing Glide #002. Dave [Singer] thought he was building it for himself. Sorry bro, that’s my rig!
Main Canopy: Performance Designs Valkyrie 79. Her name is Valerie.
Reserve Canopy: Performance Designs PDR 113
AAD: Left arm
Disciplines: Freefly camera flying. I used to swoop competitively in a previous life.
Home Drop Zones: Skydive the Farm and Skydive Georgia in Cedartown
First Jump: AFF in ’93, though I’ve not jumped consistently throughout
Licenses: A-21786, D-30158
Medals: I have some silver and bronze medals in 4-way VFS at Nationals and many others from smaller freefly competitions. My favorite one is the gold medal that Amy Chmelecki gave me from the first VRW [vertical relative work] 4-way event at Nationals with the picture I shot of Team Mandrin embossed on the front.
Total Number of Jumps: 7,000-ish
FS: It’s not my bag, baby! CF: I do lots of relative flying with small cross-braced canopies, but no official CF. Camera: That’s every jump lately. About 2,500-ish. Tandems: Two. I had more than 500 jumps before doing my first. Scary!
Accuracy: Three years competing in the Pro Swooping Tour. I’ll accurately swoop wherever.
Demos: Oddly enough, none. I should get my PRO Rating. Wingsuit: One “birdman” jump many years ago, but I’ve been considering it.
Balloon: Two BASE: No thanks! Other: 80 skysurf jumps
Largest Completed Formation: I was shooting the sequential head-down world record attempts in which two of three points were built of the 42-way. The largest I’ve actually been docked on is probably a head-down 20-way.
Total Number of Cutaways: 12 or so
Of all your skydives, does one stand out most?
Sunset [at Skydive Arizona] in Eloy. Last jump of ’99. I was just getting to the point in my freeflying that I was able to “be there.” We had a full Otter load, and I was second to last out. The base was 1,000 feet away. It was three people flying head down with tubes and three others filling the slots between them, including my freefly mentors, Chris Fiala and Dusty Smith of Team PIMP (People in Magical Positions) and Rook [Nelson]. He was last out and in the base. I’m diving with all my might to get down there, then throw on the brakes and get right on level. Stoked! About to go in for the dock when Omar [Alhegelan] in a stand starts carving around the thing. Sick! Later while watching the videos, he overheard me telling my friend about my experience and apologized if he had cut me off. Pfft! You go! It was an amazing thing to see right in front of my face.
Who have been your skydiving mentors?
Team PIMP, later joined by T.J. Landgren. I had so many opportunities in the early days of freefly on their coattails. As far as skydiving photography, it’s Craig O’Brien. I’ve always looked up to him, and when he likes or comments on one of my photos, I get a bit giddy. It’s like I’ve received an award.
How did you become interested in skydiving?
When I saw Patrick de Gayardon skysurfing on “The Extremists,” I knew that was for me.
Do you have any suggestions for students?
Take your time, be patient and get canopy coaching!
If you could do a fantasy 2-way, whom would it be with and where would it take place?
I can and get to all the time. I once did a 2-way with Roberta Mancino over Contadora Island in Panama and got some amazing pictures. Upon landing she was describing the jump in her cute little Italian accent to my friend Thereza: “He kicked me in the vagina!”
What has been your most embarrassing moment while in freefall?
Oh, anytime people see me fly. Let’s just say I’m better behind the camera. And that time I kicked Roberta in the vagina.
The toughest thing to do in the sport of skydiving is:
I guess it would be learning to freefly. I try to remind people who are struggling with the learning curve to not get stressed and just have fun.
What has been your best skydiving moment?
The best jump of 2017 was carving around an effing epic hybrid my friends built at the Independence Boogie at CSC [Chicagoland Skydiving Center in Rochelle, Illinois] after getting the perfect shot.
What has been your greatest competition moment?
Though swooping down a black-diamond ski slope in the Red Bull Blade Air Raid was pretty epic, I’d have to say the greatest single moment in competition was finally nailing a 2-way swoop with my teammate Marian Kramer.
What has been your worst skydiving moment?
When I smacked the pond in practice for a competition, bruising my ribs. Ouch! I learned so much from that. I had been looking at where I was going to put my foot down and have since looked ahead at the horizon.
What has been your weirdest skydiving moment?
Shooting video for 4-way VFS at Nationals and balling up as I went through the middle of the formation as the team members were doing 360s, not touching anyone then getting back to my slot in time to get the shot of them rebuilding. It turned out to be our best round in the competition, earning us a spot on the podium, so it was shown on the big screen.
What’s the best thing about being a camera flyer?
I get to go fly with my friends, who happen to be freaking ninjas, and I get paid for it.
How did you become interested in camera flying?
I started doing photography to take pictures of hairstyles. I had been skydiving for a while so decided to go jump with the camera. The first picture I sent to Parachutist was a cover shot. I couldn’t stop there.
Any advice for a new skydiver looking to get into camera flying?
The most important thing is flying. You have to be able to fly the camera to the position to get the shot. Start with a small entry-level camera and learn the basics. A fancy camera isn’t gonna give you fancy pictures if you don’t know how to use it. My first cover was with a cheap DSLR on sport mode.
What do you consider your most significant life achievement?
Being happy. I am so stoked and proud to make a living doing what I love and having a blast every day.
Explain Raymond Adams in five words or fewer: