by Brian Giboney
John Bull’s love for the sport and the community is contagious. Bull made his first jump in 1978, and in 1981 he became a member of the Air Trash brotherhood of skydivers, to which he still belongs. Bull simply loves formation skydiving and is happy to jump with anyone on the DZ, from a newly A-licensed jumper to the most experienced of load organizers. He is an ambassador for the sport and the kind of guy you can’t help but love.
Birthplace: Newport Beach, California
Marital Status: Married for 28 years to Lori
Children: Two: Jimmy, 25, and Danny, 21
Occupation: Retired in 2009. Worked 35 years for the City of Costa Mesa Public Works Department
Education: Graduated from Costa Mesa High School. Community college certificate in public works construction inspection.
Hobby: Collecting 45 RPM vinyl records (mostly 1950s through the 1970s)
Life Philosophy: What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.
Jump Philosophy: Jump from dawn ’til dusk. Legal sunlight is a terrible thing to waste.
Container: Aerodyne Research Icon
Main Canopy: Performance Designs Spectre 210
Reserve Canopy: Aerodyne Research Smart Reserve 220
AAD: Advanced Aerospace Designs Vigil
Discipline: RW (relative work, now called “formation skydiving”)
Home Drop Zone: Skydive Perris in California
Year of First Jump: 1978
Memberships: Member of the Air Trash brotherhood since 1981
Total Number of Jumps: 4,600-plus FS: 4,600-plus Camera: Six Demos: Six Balloon: Three BASE: One
Largest completed formation: It was many years ago; I think it was a 26-way. I prefer small dives, 4-way through about 12-way sequential RW.
Total Number of Cutaways: Three
What was your canopy progression?
In those days, we were required to make 100 jumps on round canopies before we could transition to squares. My progression went as follows: 28-foot military surplus canopy with double-L modification and a belly-mounted reserve. My first piggyback system (aka “hog back”) had a Para-Commander. My first square jump was on a five-cell Strato Star. After that, I jumped various 220- to 230-square-foot seven cells.
Most people don't know this about me:
For the better part of 40 years, I raised green iguanas from hatchlings through adulthood and kept them as pets. (Lori still married me anyway.)
Of all your jumps, does one stand out most?
Yes, the legal BASE jump I made from El Capitan cliff in Yosemite, California, on August 11, 1980. My cliff jump number is 173. It was my 300th jump but my one and only BASE jump.
How long do you plan on skydiving?
Until Dan B.C. [Skydive Perris DZ Manager Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld] or the Conatser family [the DZOs] kick me off the drop zone.
Who have been your skydiving mentors?
My good friend and Air Trash member Mike Owens, D-5476, who is now retired from jumping. When I was on student status, Mike took an interest in me and gave me tons of encouragement. After I graduated, he took me under his wing and got me on some loads with experienced jumpers. Once I was ready, he organized my SCR & SCS [Star Crest Recipient and Star Crest Soloist] jumps. He taught me the ropes inside Perris’ Bombshelter Bar and also taught me about Saturday afternoon and evening “safety meetings” in the parking lot. Mike was best man at my wedding, too.
In recent years, the Perris RW load organizers have become my mentors. I can’t say enough about their enthusiasm for our sport and their dedication to helping us become better skydivers. Each of them has tried their best to bring me into the 21st century of skydiving by helping me unlearn many years of bad flying habits (admittedly with mixed results). Mark Brown (aka the “Green Hornet”) even recently convinced me to finally purchase a true fast-fall jumpsuit! All our beloved RW load organizers have the patience of saints. Them! Them! …
What do you want people who have never heard of Air Trash to know about it?
We are probably the sort of people that your parents cautioned you about as a child to avoid at all costs!
What are your future skydiving goals?
To continue skydiving for as many years as I can. I’m also looking forward to making jump number 5,000 this year.
What safety item do you think is most important or neglected?
The self gear check. Over the years during the climb to altitude, I’ve discovered several people who hadn’t fastened their chest straps correctly.
How did you become interested in skydiving?
When I was a kid, there was a skydiving series on TV called “Ripcord” (1961-1962). I’d never seen visual images of people in freefall before. It really captured my imagination, and I told myself, “Someday, I want to experience that.” I didn’t get around to it until a few days after my 24th birthday.
I skydive because …
I love the freedom and exhilaration of being in freefall and doing sequential RW, living in the moment and the special bond it creates for all of us.
Do you have any suggestions for students?
Jump as often as you can!
What's the most bad-ass thing you can do in the air?
Dock softly on a formation without disturbing it at all.
If you could do a fantasy 2-way with anybody, whom would it be with and where would it take place?
At Perris with my father. RIP Dad.
The toughest thing to do in the sport of skydiving is:
To not get discouraged when you’re going through a slump and not performing up to your own expectations.
Of your thousands of skydives, is there one jump you would like to do again?
Any formation I’ve gone low on, with the following words of wisdom from the Green Hornet ringing in my ears: “If you don’t want to go low, then don’t fly there.”
What do you consider your most significant life achievement?
That would be bamboozling Lori into marrying me and, a few years later, the birth of my boys.
What has been your best skydiving moment?
I don’t remember … I’m old.
What has been your worst skydiving moment?
The time I suffered a broken femur.
What drives your competitive spirit?
I've never been a competitor. I’ve always been a social jumper … that’s my niche.
Why do you think others describe your love of skydiving as pure?
I truly do love the sport and enjoy jumping with everybody: load organizers, newbies, experienced, etc.
I try to be a good ambassador for our sport and the Perris drop zone.
Do you have any closing comments?
Andy Keech said it best: Man small. Why fall? Skies call. That’s all.