Brent Findlay is a laid-back Kiwi who started skydiving in 1982. Since then, he’s become an iconic member of the New Zealand skydiving scene. He met his wife skydiving and raised a family around the sport. (His son, Dale, is also a skydiver.) Today, Findlay is an active formation skydiver who continues to set records, the most recent the 2018 New Zealand Competition Record for Most Points on a 4-Way Formation Skydive. By all accounts, Findlay is just getting better with age!
Birthplace: Tuatapere, New Zealand
Marital Status: Married to Donna for 27 years, been together 35 years
Children: Dale (son, 32) and Whitney (daughter, 28).
Occupation: Tech communicator for Caterpillar New Zealand dealer
Education: Qualified diesel technician, heavy equipment
Pet Peeves: People who interrupt who possibly should be listening
Life Philosophy: Try to say “yes” more than “no” to opportunities, even if it sounds difficult.
Team Names: Method and Gravity Check (family indoor team)
Sponsors: Gravitycheck.co.nz, Icarus Canopies, New Zealand Aerosports, New Zealand Parachute Federation, Skydiving Kiwis
Container: Sun Path Javelin Odyssey
Main Canopy: Icarus Crossfire 3 109
Reserve Canopy: Aerodyne Research Smart 120
AAD: Airtec CYPRES
Disciplines: 4-way and big-way formation skydiving, canopy formation skydiving
Drop Zone: Skydiving Kiwis in Ashburton, New Zealand
First Jump: 1982, a static-line jump on army surplus equipment (T-10 roundy)
Memberships, Licenses and Ratings: USPA #244231. Australian Parachute Association F license. New Zealand Parachute Federation D license; AFF, Static-Line and Tandem Instructor; and AFF Instructor Examiner
Championships, Medals and Records: New Zealand Nationals: three-time gold medalist in 4-way FS open; silver 4-way CF rotations. North Queensland State Championships: three-time gold, eight-time silver and two-time bronze medalist in 4-way FS open. New Zealand record for most points on a 4-way. Australian 116-way record for largest formation skydive. New Zealand 35-way record for largest formation skydive.
Total Number of Jumps: 5,480
Largest Completed Formation: 119-way
Total Number of Cutaways: Five
Most people don’t know this about me: I traveled 460 kilometers [approximately 285 miles] round trip every weekend when I first started. There were constant poor weather conditions and I made very few jumps (wind limit was about 8 knots for students under round canopies). It was a Saturday, and I probably had about six or seven jumps at the time. I started to drive back home early and give skydiving away instead of going to the club rooms for the night. I got to the intersection to turn right toward home but instead made the decision to turn left and back toward the club rooms to persevere and continue the sport. And here we are. Just about gave it all away.
Does one jump stand out? Narrowed it down to three: doing AFF with our son, Dale (16 at the time, 32 now); completing Arizona Airspeed’s logo at the 2018 AZ Challenge; and the New Zealand 4-way FS record jump with Method at the 2018 world meet.
Who has been your skydiving mentor? I’ve loved the Arizona Airspeed model from day one, which is still very successful after all these years. There’s no speed like Airspeed.
What safety item do you think is most often neglected? Putting yourself in the hanging harness to practice emergency drills at least once, maybe twice, a year and also whenever you purchase a new container.
Do you have any suggestions for students? Spend time on the ground practicing new skills correctly before going for a skydive. There is so much useful information available, for example, the Rhythm 101 and new 401 apps and, of course, all the great articles for all levels by Lesley Gale on skydivemag.com.
If you could do a fantasy 2-way, whom would it be with? My daughter, Whitney. She has never skydived and has no interest or intention to. She hates plane rides. We have done a couple of 4-way tunnel competitions together with the rest of the family, which makes up for it.
What was your most embarrassing skydiving moment? Doing a demo in about 1992 in Dunedin, New Zealand, when the All Blacks, a New Zealand rugby team, were playing Australia. I was landing as the cheerleaders were still doing their routine on the field, and I ended up landing on one (in a very gentle way). I got a standing ovation from the crowd of 40,000 when walking off the field. This made the TV and newspapers and it was also used in an TV ad. (“Moments like these, you need Minties.”) Melanie, the cheerleader, made a tandem not long after. She loved it.
Is there one jump you would like to do again? Before I was married in the late ‘80s, Donna (now my wife) and three others were jumping in marginal conditions. The winds had picked up considerably after takeoff, and the plane ride was turbulent. When we opened, we were well off the drop zone and going backward. We all landed off the DZ in various farmers’ paddocks. Donna ended up landing behind some trees, which caused her canopy to partially collapse and re-inflate. She landed hard, breaking her pelvis and wrist. She made a full recovery after a few weeks in the hospital and rest.
What is your most significant life achievement? Having a beautiful wife, partner and companion, mostly supportive, for 35 years and counting. And, of course, two unbelievable children, Dale and Whitney.
Do you have any suggestions for USPA? Publish incidents, malfunctions and accidents, like the Australian Parachute Federation. The Australian federation leads the way here. Most skydivers will learn from others.
What has been your best skydiving moment? All the great moments are special to that time and occasion. Making the video for the release of the new Icarus Crossfire 3 was a highlight, doing two early morning jumps over the snowcapped Southern Alp mountains, behind Mt. Hutt Skyfield in mid-winter, flying down the mountains.
What has been your worst skydiving moment? In the mid-1980s, watching a friend cut away very low from a canopy wrap and having no altitude to deploy the reserve.
What has been your weirdest skydiving moment? Doing a demo onto Magnetic Island for a full-moon party in the mid-1990s. The jump went to plan, but when we landed there were only about two people watching. We were a day late.
You bought a share of Coral Sea Skydivers in the late 1990s and moved to Australia. What was your motivation for such a big move? We had an opportunity to go to Australia and work in the mining industry, so I said yes, and it was a great move. We lived in Australia for approximately 13 years. Donna and I shifted back to New Zealand in 2005; Dale and Whitney stayed in Australia and still live there today. It’s certainly one way to get the kids out from home life into the big, wide world.
Your son Dale has become a solid skydiver. Any tips for other parents raising a potential skydiver? We never pushed any of our children to skydive. You need to let your children do what they choose for a career or activity. Your role as a parent is advice, support, understanding and love, in my view.
Explain Brent Findlay in five words or fewer: Quiet, respectful, competitive, listens.