Written by Melissa Lowe.
Melissa Lowe is one of the five Lead Organizers for Project 19 and is a CYPRES athlete. During COVID-19, she takes time to interview her Project 19 teammates. Above photo by Sandy Radsek
has become a household name in skydiving – she’s a Skydive Arizona resident, Project 19 Regional Captain, a co-organizer of the infamous SIS Event in AZ, a National Freestyle medalist, and not only has she racked up quite a resume, she’s also well-known for her down-to-earth and incredibly positive attitude. She’s inclusive, motivated, and wears some of the best socks ever. Join us as we sit down and have a chat with, Chazi!
Chazi was born and raised in Minnesota and she was first introduced to skydiving by the 1994 movie, Dropzone. “Yancy Butler in the movie is the – Coolest. Chick. Ever,” Chazi shares. “I needed to skydive because I saw it in the movies.” And she did. Her family vacationed in Hawaii in December 1998 and she made her first tandem skydive. “Three years later, I was still thinking about that first jump.”
Chazi realized she just needed to make it happen. She drove to the closest dropzone which was a quaint, little Cessna DZ and slapped down a check for the full amount to earn her A-licence and, “BOOM!” the girl exclaimed. Chazi earned her license in 2001 taking five months due to weather, army, work, and weather. “ It’s the midwest so it took some time to earn my license!” she remembered.
It was there Chazi began her dream that lingered in her mind for the last three years. She remembers her earliest goal was to become a Tandem Instructor but after she earned her license she recalls, “Yeah, no. I saw a video of Dale Stuart doing freestyle and since I was a gymnast, that seemed more my speed at the time. AND THEN, I saw a video of freeflying and THAT became my thing!”
When Chazi learned to skydive, she held a day job before breaking away and becoming a full-time skydiver just a few years ago. When asked how she stays balanced, she – in her very Chazi way said, “Aahhh dude! I knew from the beginning I wanted it! I spent 17 years at a desk working a day-job, the last 5 of it desperately trying to convince myself that I was supposed to work Monday through Friday. I also convinced myself it was OK that all my vacation was spent on skydiving, and that having 1-3 days off a month was totally cool. As fate would have it, I was laid off with severance to cover getting my ratings. I do not see myself getting burnt out when I have 17 years of corporate world to compare it to. Plus I have a few avenues, if I’m not load organizing, I’m doing AFF or tandems. If not that, then we’re training freestyle or I’m hosting or attending a camp. My schedule changes up enough to keep me interested & I jump enough not to go insane.”
Not only is Chazi a load organizer who travels around supporting events, she’s also a national freestyle competitor. When we asked what one of her greatest accomplishments was, she shared, “One of my greatest achievements in the sport was in 2012, I was nominated as Best Load Organizer in Blue Skies Mag. It was the first time their survey included write-in votes and I was and still am incredibly honored that people thought of me when they voted!”
In skydiving, we have the fortune of mingling and skydiving with some of the best skydivers in the world – especially at big drop zones such as Skydive Arizona. So we had to ask, who are your mentors? She replied, “Truly, I grew up with Arizona Arsenal [a multi-world champion 4-Way VFS team]! When Skydive Arizona is your home DZ, the list of mentors is long and full of talent!”
Chazi also recalled a story of a significant moment as she was progressing in the sport, noting the importance of people who inspired her by their resilience. She said, “I love skydiving. The super meaningful jump that sticks out to me has a decently long back-story. The short version is: in 2008 Jarrett Martin who was 17-years old at the time, came out to Skydive Arizona to fill-in on our VFS team at a competition. We had never met the kid, but what the hell, we decided to let him join us. It went well so we invited him back to compete with us at Nationals that year as well. We got, not last that year & it was epic! Not too long after that, Jarrett was injured in a crazy-cool stunt that left him paralyzed from the waist down. Years later, Jarrett is still a badass kid. He had relearned to skydive as a paraplegic and I was invited on a jump with him. I remember tearing up during the skydive knowing just how spectacular he is.”
It’s hard not to be intimidated by big names in the sport. One thing that has always remained true about Chazi is that she’s always happy and brings her best each day and to each skydive. She truly shares the stoke. Out of all her experiences, she shares the best advice she’s received in the sport: “Untwist your break lines,” she started jokingly. “Ok, that’s a good one, but my favorite was Jen Key at the very first Skydive Arizona SIS event in 2012. She took the mic, cocktail in hand, told a story, turned her focus on always learning and then closed with, I don’t care if you have 200 jumps or 20,000 when you stop learning, sell your shit.”
Last year Chazi was approached to be one of the Project 19 regional captains and we asked her what it meant to her to be a part of this initiative. “Oh my gosh, this one is huge, right? When I first heard 100-way I laughed inside, no way is that possible. Before the end of the project lay-out, phases, captains, CELEBRATE 100 YEARS of the 19th AMENDMENT I was sold, “I’m IN”. This is a slot in history. I know it’s skydiving, it’s just skydiving, but it’s a way for me to pay tribute to the Women that sacrificed so much to be heard and to pave the way for us to be able to skydive, to have freedoms and liberties, it’s HUGE.” And it’s a goosebumps kind of story!
Skydivers are grounded around the world, and 2020 was set up to be a pivotal year to celebrate the 19th Amendment for the Women’s Vertical World Record, Project 19. It’s been easy to ride the waves of the unknown, but Chazi simply put it in perspective, “This quarantine is the ‘longest weather hold’ ever!” And she continued about her part of how she’s coping and preparing, “To be honest, I’m just focusing on running, yoga and hiking as well as getting things done around the house and yard, so when we are able to return to the sky, I can be solely focused on flying. As soon as we start, it’ll be game on! The meditation work I’ve been doing is going to make my dirt-dive visualizing top-notch.
Chazi has built an incredible reputation throughout the years. She is still the happiest when others are happy, and of all the travels, events and time in the sport, you’ll be happy to know 17 years later, Chazi did earn her Tandem Instructor rating. Chazi shares such a great and refreshing perspective in the sport and we’re so happy to have her as a role model in skydiving, and a part of the CYPRES team.