Marylou Laughlin, D-12418, started skydiving in 1988 and soon became heavily involved in competition, first as a competitor, then as a judge. During her time as a competitor, she won five gold, seven silver and seven bronze medals in para-ski and the classic events of style and accuracy at the USPA Nationals, earning a spot on eight U.S. Parachute Teams (three para-ski and five style and accuracy). Laughlin is also an accomplished formation skydiver and canopy formation skydiver who has set several state records. She joined the USPA Board as Northeast Regional Director in 1999 and served through 2012, part of that time as the chair of the Competition Committee and delegate to the International Parachuting Commission. Currently, she continues to give back to the sport as an Accuracy Landing and Canopy Piloting Judge Examiner; an Accuracy Landing, Canopy Formation, Canopy Piloting, Formation Skydiving and Style National Judge; and a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale Canopy Piloting Judge, as well as by serving as a trustee of the International Skydiving Museum.
Marital Status: Divorced
Pets: Two Abyssinian cats, Simah and Lubaya
Occupation: Reiki teacher, photographer
Education: Miss Porter’s School in Connecticut and Parson School of Design in New York City
Pet Peeves: People saying, “I’ll try.”
Life Philosophy: Live every day to its fullest.
Did you start out as an AFF, static-line or tandem student? Two tandem jumps, because they were required at Connecticut Parachutists Inc. in Ellington, and then I went on to AFF.
Would you rather swoop or land on an accuracy tuffet? Land on an accuracy tuffet for a dead center and judge swooping
Sponsor: Parachute Systems
Container: Parachute Systems Vortex
Main Canopy: Parachute Systems Hurricane
Reserve Canopy: Precision Aerodynamics Micro Raven
AAD: Airtec CYPRES 2
Disciplines: Formation skydiving, canopy formation, style and accuracy, para-ski
Home Drop Zone: The world is my DZ, but I learned to skydive at Connecticut Parachutists Inc., so I call it my home.
First Jump: July 17, 1988 (and I don’t remember dates)
Licenses: A-10137, B-13738, C-19660, D-12418
Total Number of Jumps: 4,375
Accuracy: 2,500 FS: 1,500 CF: 200 Helicopter: 100 Freefly: 20 Demos: 30 Tandems: Six Balloon: Four Biplane: One BASE: One
Largest Completed Formation: Two-point 128-way formation skydive
Total Number of Cutaways: Two, one at about 100 jumps and one at about 200 jumps
Most people don’t know this about me:
I have always had a passion for animals. Twenty years ago, I learned to be a reiki practitioner and teacher for animals, as well as people. I am also the founder of a 501(c)(3) charity, Reiki Wildlife International. The mission of RWI is to teach, educate and share reiki with animal sanctuaries, conservation groups, rescues, caregivers and communities around the world.
Who have been your skydiving mentors?
Brenda Reid and Larry Bagley. I was extremely lucky to have both amazing individuals take me under their wings and freely share their vast knowledge with me.
What safety item do you think is most important?
Automatic activation devices, absolutely!
If you could do a fantasy jump with anybody, whom would it be with?
My dream jump is a 4-way with B.J. Worth, Roger Ponce de Leon and Louis Tommaso with Andrey Veselov doing video. We attempted to do this jump for three days at [Skydive] DeLand [in Florida] following the 2018 International Skydiving Hall of Fame Celebration, and it just never happened for numerous reasons. My dream is that one day we will all be in the air together.
Were you a hard child to raise?
Not really, because I lived in a convent for school from the 4th through 8th grades, because my parents were getting divorced. The experience taught me how to get along with many different people, and that has helped me in life.
If you could make everyone do something to make Earth better, what would it be?
Make decisions from their hearts.
The toughest thing to do in the sport of skydiving is:
Turn a clean style set. (Reminder: a style set is a dive to gain speed, pull up into a tuck and turn, turn, turn, back loop, turn, turn, back loop.)
What do you consider your most significant life achievements?
Receiving the FAI’s Leonardo Da Vinci Parachuting Diploma and being named an Honorary Golden Knight.
Do you have any suggestions for USPA?
Keep making the tough decisions. Being a USPA Board member is not easy.
What was your best skydiving moment?
Being the super floater [during a big-way] and stepping off the tailgate before everyone else and looking up at all the other skydivers falling out of the planes like confetti. Then flying to join up with everyone else and docking on the formation. That is truly flying like a bird.
What was your best competition moment?
Finishing eighth in accuracy in Japan at the World Parachuting Championships. I was absolutely in the zone, and nothing existed except that incredible place. My world was perfect!
What was your motivation for being on the USPA Board for as long as you did?
I felt like I was a positive part of the process and that the board as a whole group made a difference.
What was your road to becoming an FAI Judge?
I was told back when I first started competing that competition is a game and the rules are part of the game. Learn them and use them. I was still competing and decided to become a judge to be a better competitor. I started judging at the Collegiate Nationals. I did that for years and enjoyed the entire Collegiates experience, especially the competitors! I got my FAI Accuracy Judge rating to learn even more, and I was invited by the Golden Knights to be their judge at CISM (the military world championships). Since I have stopped competing, I now judge at international competitions, as well as for world records. I also teach national and international judging courses and love to open the judging side of competition to competitors, as well as others who want to learn.
Explain Marylou Laughlin in five words or fewer:
Energetic, fun, positive and loving life.