I first met Laura Golly when she was still in college several years ago; it was midweek at CarolinaFest (I think in 2010) and she arrived with a group of others from the Flying Gators Skydiving Club close to midnite. Despite her fatigue from being on the road all day, she was wide-eyed and filled with excitement to be at the boogie. The interaction was brief as I showed them where to park and set up camp, but I never forgot the interaction because of her natural zeal and positivity.
While Laura was a young jumper then, I consciously knew she would stay in the sport – you can usually tell who will stay and who will eventually bow out. Sure enough, she stayed and the industry has benefitted from her enthusiasm for the work she’s done representing two of the largest brands in the sport as well as being a positive person to be around.
Enjoy our interview with Sun Path’s Laura Golly:
You’re from Naples, Florida – a beautiful place! How would you describe your childhood?
My dad moved to Naples in the 60s, when Naples was a small beach town instead of the luxury resort destination it is today. It has changed a lot, even in my lifetime! Growing up we spent a lot of time outdoors doing Florida stuff like boating, fishing, and SCUBA diving. I learned to love the outdoors early!
Tell us about your parents. What did they do when you were growing up and what was your upbringing like?
My dad is an airline pilot and my mom is a therapist who works with children & teens. My
parents always encouraged me to try new things. They have been so supportive in all my endeavors, even those they don’t fully understand or agree with. I am lucky beyond measure.
Do you have any siblings?
Yep! I have one older brother, Aaron, who lives in Florida. He’s very talented writer and musician.
What was your favorite subject in school and how were you as an overall student?
I loved reading and learning, but I didn’t like the structure of high school and I was known for cutting class with friends. Despite my attendance, I was able to keep good grades and I graduated high school with a full-ride scholarship to college. It was there that I found teachers and subjects that motivated & inspired me.
What clubs, sports and activities were you involved in at school?
I dabbled in lots of hobbies and sports growing up. Anything from skateboarding to softball to ice skating. In the end, I spent a lot of time at dance class, which I continued into my 20s.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Wait, am I grown up now? When did that happen? I still don’t know what I want to be.
Were there any early markers in your life that would indicate you’d live the life you’re living?
I got injured a lot as a kid, mostly from climbing and jumping off of things. I jumped off a table and cracked my skull open. I feel out of a tree and broke my arm. I went to the hospital so much that we had Social Services asking questions about our family life. They thought my dad might be beating me, but in reality I was just fearless and clumsy. These days I like to think that I am still fearless, but a bit less careless.
You studied advertising at FSU – why did you choose Florida State and what led you to study advertising?
I chose Florida State because they had a huge variety of majors and because I got a great scholarship to go there. I chose advertising because it was the right mix of creativity and business.
Who inspires you?
Can I say, two people? First, my mom. She manages her own private practice doing therapy with kids, is the clinical director of an intensive therapy program, and is currently writing a thesis for her PhD. She organizes every holiday get-together, is the cheerleader for the whole family, and never forgets a birthday. She had major back surgery in 2016 and then hiked the Inca Trail a year later to prove she could do it. She always has a good sense of humor. I don’t know when she sleeps. She is the superhero of our family.
Second, my partner Joe. He’s talented at everything he does, yet he is the embodiment of kindness, humility, and patience. I am in awe of not only his attitude and sense of adventure but also his ability to whip up a gourmet meal from random ingredients in the fridge. He inspires me to be my best every day.
What is something about you that few people know about that people would be surprised to learn?
Despite being in Marketing, a profession defined by extroversion, I actually find it very draining to be connected to the world 24/7 via email, phone, and FaceBook. I need a lot of time in nature to recharge and find balance. Technology is great, but like everything, it is best in moderation.
What are your interests outside of skydiving?
Mountain biking, traveling, and hanging out with my dog Pepper!
What achievement are you most proud of?
I turned down a couple of job offers right after college to spend a year traveling by myself through Europe and parts of Africa. I worked in several countries along the way and met some life-changing people. I am proud of myself for taking that risk with limited funds, no plans, and nobody to hold my hand. It wasn’t all glamorous, but it was certainly an amazing life experience.
What are you not very good at, but wish you were good at?
Where did you make your first skydive and what was the circumstance that took you to the dropzone that day? I made my first jump when I was 18 at Skydive Air Adventures in Clewiston, FL, which is now owned by Skydive Spaceland. I had a female tandem instructor and I thought “if she can do this, I can do this!” Fun fact – my videographer for jump #1 was Curt Bartholomew, who I now get to work with as one of our Sun Path sponsored athletes.
What other sports and activities have you / currently pursuing?
Mountain biking! I love riding and racing. It’s a great sport with an awesome community, just like skydiving.
Is your family involved in adventure sports?
They aren’t involved in what you would call “adventure sports” but they are all adventurous in their own way! My dad is a phenomenal water skier and my brother is a very adventurous world traveler. My mom conquered some fears this year and organized a family hike on the Inca Trail in Peru.
What’s the most memorable skydive you’ve ever made?
The Women’s Vertical World Record jump in Arizona last year.
You’re an excellent free flyer, what’s the best advice you can give to those thinking about getting into the discipline?
Thanks for flattering me, but “excellent” is a stretch! Adequate maybe. What helped me was realizing that everyone learns at their own pace, and that’s OK. I was in college when I started jumping so I didn’t have a whole lot of money or time to invest into skydiving. I only did a few hundred jumps from 2009-2014, and it took me years to learn the basics of freeflying. But I didn’t give up, I jumped and tunneled as much as I could afford, and I took opportunities when they arose. Slowly I progressed to doing bigger and better jumps. I guess what I’m saying is not everybody has the means to do 1000 jumps and 30 hours of tunnel in their first year, and that’s just fine! Don’t be discouraged – jump for the love of it, and the rest will fall into place.
List your canopy progression from jump 1 through present day:
A series of Navigators, Pilot 188, Sabre 2 170, 150, 135, 120, Katana 120, 107. I also spent some time jumping PD’s products to get familiar with each wing including the Storm, Pulse, Silhouette, Spectre, Stiletto, and a PD Optimum set up as a main. Everything I had the experience to jump, I did.
List your skydiving equipment:
Container: Sun Path Javelin Odyssey
Main Canopy: PD Katana 107
Reserve: PD Optimum Reserve
Altimeter: L&B Viso II
Jumpsuit: Fluxor Speeding
Helmet: Cookie G3
If you could make a 4-way jump with anyone in the world (alive or deceased), who would be the other three on that skydive?
Jon Stewart, Joe’s mom, and my maternal grandmother, because I think she would have loved skydiving.
What discipline of skydiving excites you the most?
I love VFS. All disciplines are exciting though! I’m thinking about competing in the beginners class of the FLCPA next year if I can get some practice over the winter.
Name every job you’ve ever had since you were a kid to present day:
- Dog Walker
- Camp Counselor
- Hostel Maid and Receptionist
- Marketing Intern @ FSU Health Promotion
- Marketing Intern @ Monster Energy
- Marketing Coordinator @ Performance Designs
- Sport Marketing Manager @ Sun Path Products
You work in the marketing department at Sun Path – one of the most well-known companies in the industry (and respected). What was the process for you to getting your job at Sun Path?
After school, I saw friends taking advertising jobs for clients like fast food chains and pharmaceutical companies. I didn’t want that… I wanted to sell a product I genuinely loved and believed in. A great friend helped me get my job at Performance Designs, where I worked with a talented team and learned a ton about the skydiving industry. I loved working at PD, but when a bigger opportunity with more responsibilities became available at Sun Path Products, I couldn’t turn it down. I have grown a lot personally and professionally since joining the team here, and I couldn’t be happier to be part of this family.
Pat Thomas has played a big role not just at Sun Path but for the entire sport. Can you give us any insights on Pat that few people know about?
I think a lot of people know how generous and genuine Pat is. She takes care of her employees and friends, and is extremely thoughtful. Many people might not know that she plays a big role in the Skydiving Museum, Skydiving Hall of Fame, and Parachute Industry Association (PIA). Her influence in skydiving reaches far beyond just Sun Path.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
It’s an exciting time to be at Sun Path right now. We are pushing hard to come out with some new and innovative stuff. Our whole team here – marketing, engineering, production, everyone – we’re all working together on some big projects and getting creative with solutions. It makes coming to work really enjoyable.
What’s the most challenging aspect about your job?
Our Marketing team is very small, but we have some big dreams for Sun Path! Given that, we all handle a huge variety of tasks to serve our customers around the globe. It can be challenging to balance and coordinate, but as long as we are always putting our customers first, we know we are working in the right direction.
Of all the boogies you’ve been to in your skydiving career, which is your favorite and why?
My favorite event of the year is actually US Nationals. I love the competitive environment. The rewards of putting time and energy into a team are tenfold!
What’s the most common trend in skydiving that concerns you today?
Experienced jumpers failing to help or mentor those with less experience. Skydivers have a wealth of collective knowledge that isn’t necessarily written down anywhere…it’s up to us to share what we know. Whether you have 10, 50, 500, or 5000 jumps, we all have both something to learn and something to teach. Pay it forward.
Forrest Gump, Anchorman, Top Gun.
Favorite skydiving movie?
Favorite sports outside of skydiving?
A Short History of Nearly Everything.
Favorite Board Game?
“Sixty percent of the time it works every time.”
Place You’d Most Like to Visit?
I am determined to cycle the Carretera Austral, a roughly 800-mile gravel bike ride in rural Patagonia.
Favorite DZs and why?
Wow, too many to choose from. I am hugely grateful to Skydive the Farm for their support of our VFS team the STF Gnarwhals. We wouldn’t be able to compete without Hans’ friendship and generosity.
Most embarrassing skydive you’ve ever made?
Any jump where I let my ego overshadow my skills. Nothing makes you feel worse than that!