Shauna Finley is a U.S. Marine turned state trooper, turned skydiver, turned Federal Aviation Administration Master Rigger, USPA Regional Director and DZO. She recently stepped down from the USPA Board of Directors (due to moving from her region) and is taking the opportunity to focus all her energy on owning and managing her drop zone, Skydive Shenandoah in Virginia. She is consistently an asset to the sport and to those around her—regardless of whether she’s leading a seminar on gear and rigging, introducing students to the sky or making herself available to any skydiver in the hangar who asks.
“Shauna has been a pleasure to work with on the USPA Board. Her passion and contributions to skydiving are admirable and inspiring.” –Jeannie Bartholomew, Parachutist profilee #219
Nickname: Judy Hopps
Marital Status: Spoken for
Pets: Claire (chocolate lab)
Pet Peeves: Closed-minded people and elastic keepers with the binding tape toward any webbing.
Hobbies: Trail running, knitting
Favorite Food: Tacos
Life Philosophy: Never regret a decision you’ve made. Learn from it, whether it was a good or bad call.
Sponsors: Ouragan Suits, Performance Designs, Sun Path Products
Container: Sun Path Javelin
Main Canopy: Performance Designs Spectre 107
Reserve Canopy: PD Optimum 126
AAD: Advanced Aerospace Designs Vigil
Year of First Jump: 2013 in Sussex, New Jersey
Licenses/Ratings: A-68347, B-39673, C-42387, D-34907; AFF and IAD Instructor, Coach Examiner
Number of Jumps: 2,500-plus
Largest Completed Formation: 18-way
Number of Cutaways: 1
What are you most proud of from your time as a regional director?
Being a director gave me a way to give jumpers a voice. I didn’t speak with my own agenda, but with that of the jumpers I represented.
Most people don’t know this about me:
I’m afraid of the dark.
I skydive because …
It gives me freedom I can’t get on the ground and enables my independent nature. It’s quiet, too—the ground is noisy.
You’ve made an impact in terms of quality rigging and educating others. What about it do you enjoy most?
I love educating jumpers on their gear and how it works, and getting them comfortable with it. There’s nothing worse than gear fear, and it’s so preventable.
How did you become interested in skydiving?
A new drop zone opened in my patrol area, and I made contact with the owners as a wellness check on the new business. Two weeks later, I was in AFF, and then about a month later I had my license … 10 years later, here I am!
Is there one particular jump that stands out the most?
I spent most of my first 100 skydives jumping alone because I was very self-conscious. I thought I wasn’t good enough to jump with others until a group of Big SIS’s grabbed me up, and we did a 5-way girly-way. It was amazing and left such an impression on me.
What do you like most about the sport?
When a student has their “light-bulb moment” and you helped teach them that skill.
What do you like least about the sport?
How sometimes people’s “real-life” attitudes can permeate a DZ and destroy a culture. Leave it at the mailbox at the end of the driveway.
What safety item do you think is most often neglected?
A good-fitting jumpsuit. I see way too many fun jumpers wearing street clothes jumping and not doing it safely. Dress for success and safety.
Worst skydiving moment?
I witnessed a close friend die jumping, and it really was a very pivotal moment for me. It changed the way I viewed the sport and my friends that jump.
Any suggestions for students?
Ask a lot of questions but ask them to the right people: your instructors. Stay off of YouTube!
What is your favorite jump plane?
The old 182 that I jumped during AFF. It showed me a whole new world of being in the sky. And, of course, the Shark (Cessna 206) that flies now at Skydive Shenandoah.
If you could do a fantasy 2-way with anybody, whom would it be with and where would it take place?
Vincent van Gogh. I’d love to have him jump at Skydive Shenandoah and then paint his version of the mountains that surround our DZ.
Most embarrassing moment at a drop zone:
My parents had come to visit me at the DZ when we had a boogie one particular weekend. Well, my mom witnessed the guys doing a naked swoop-and-chug on last load. Needless to say, she giggled when she pointed out that they weren’t wearing anything, and I was mortified to say that this was pretty typical.
The toughest thing to do in skydiving is:
Being humble and willing to learn from even the most junior jumpers. There’s always something to learn from someone.
Is there one jump you would like to do over?
I was tired and hungry, but decided it was a good idea to push through and jump a tandem video. Fast forward to turning low, smacking in and getting a pretty awesome medivac helicopter ride to the trauma center. The takeaway: Keep hydrated, have snacks and food all day and, rest when you’re tired. Mental clarity is so important in this sport—not having it can be painful or deadly.
Your instructing methods are unique. How has being a Marine had an impact?
I feel like the fierceness that I learned in the Marines gives me the voice that I need to teach students and others. Yes, my “knife hands” may come out, but it’s just because I can get so passionate about what I’m talking about.
Weirdest skydiving moment?
When Rubellio the rubber chicken met his demise on a tandem jump.
What do you consider your most significant life achievement?
Walking across the parade deck, graduating Marine Corp boot camp.
Suggestions for USPA:
I think term limits is an important topic to revisit. It will keep regional directors from getting burnt out with disciplinary actions and decision-making and it will also help bring new blood into the organization. Our membership is ever-evolving, and our board should be too.
Explain Shauna Finley in five words or fewer:
Unfiltered, passionate, independent, stubborn.
What would you tell every skydiver if you could?
We all come from different backgrounds and paths in life, and sometimes we forget that this sport gives us so much. Always try and give something back to our sport and its community. Be a positive contributing member to your DZ, and your DZ will return it back to you tenfold.