Meet, Linley Ewing
In 2017, I had the good fortune to present at the British Parachute Association’s, Skydive Expo and during that visit, I met a young skydiver – an Irishman named Linley Ewing.
Unbeknownst to him, he inspired me.
What inspired me was Linley’s ambition and acceptance to put it all on the line in order to realize his dream of becoming a professional skydiver. In life, you meet lots of people who have big dreams, but few are willing to sacrifice comfort in order to achieve them. In the case of Linley, that meant living in his car for a year in order to put every dollar and dime towards making his dream a reality. Today, he’s well on his way with a new set of goals in his progression.
Enjoy this interview with a man worth knowing: Linley Ewing.
You’re originally from the small town of Omagh, in Northern Ireland. How would you describe your childhood?
Pretty uninteresting really. I grew up on a farm in the countryside with my parents and two younger sisters. I never really did much whilst growing up, I did well in school, and I enjoyed playing video games. My Dad would always want me to go and help him with work, but I was never particularly interested, lazy would probably be a good word in all honesty!
What was your favorite subject in school and how were you as an overall student?
I always enjoyed Maths and Physics in school. I’d say I always did pretty well in my studies, I found a lot of things came naturally so I never put in a huge amount of effort, else I’m sure I could have done a lot better! I got on well with most of my teachers, but did find myself getting in trouble every now and then. I’d say the most rebellious thing I did was a couple of handbrake turns on an icy morning in the school car park! The principal also kept telling me off for not being clean shaven. I always hated that!
Were there any early markers in your life that would indicate you’d live the life you’re living?
Honestly, I would say not a single one, it still surprises me where I’ve found myself in life. Whilst growing up I had the usual ambitious plans to get your typical 9-5 job, earn good money, have a nice car and a big house. That all started to change when I was at university.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I’d always considered myself quite technically minded, I enjoy learning how things work, so I spent most of my teenage years thinking about a career in Engineering, I went on to get a Masters in Mechanical Engineering, it didn’t take long for me to realise that wasn’t where my life was heading.
What failure in your life set you up for later success?
I had found a job in England as part of my degree. I packed my life into my car, and moved over, ready to spend a year working in industry. I decided to head over two weeks before the job started, to check out some drop zones. This was back in 2014, and it was the first time I visited Skydive Langar.
As it would turn out, I absolutely hated the job I was working in. My employers didn’t seem to have anything productive to do, it was common to run errands, and make tea. I ended up quitting the job, and with a month of freedom, I moved into my tent for the end of the UK season, and spent every penny I had on jump tickets. This was when I realised I wanted to work in the sport.
What are your interests outside of skydiving?
When I’m not jumping, I want to be in the tunnel! I bought a paramotor at the end of last year. I haven’t done a huge amount of it yet, but it’s very good fun and I’m looking forward to the weather improving so I can go and fly more.
What are you not very good at, but wish you were good at?
Moderation. I find I’m very much an all or nothing kind of guy. If I’m interested in something I completely throw myself into it. If I have money, I spend it. If I buy a pack of muffins, I’ll eat the packet of muffins. When I go out for pint, I’ll drink myself stupid. Basically, if I find something I enjoy, I can’t get enough of it. I always need more! So yeah it would be nice to be able to moderate myself!
Following you on Facebook, it looks like you’ve been taking some bold steps towards your goals. You’ve been improving your flying skills by investing in the tunnel and you’ve started running… like a lot! What has inspired you to make such changes in your life?
I’ve been investing in tunnel consistently for the past couple of years, I’ve been trying to figure out my head down for awhile now, then back in September on a trip to Poland, it finally clicked and my progression over the past few months has been incredibly fun!
As for the running, I saw an article about a guy who ran 2017 miles in 2017, and I thought “I could do something like that”. I did some maths and realised that was a hell of a lot of running, so I figured, hell I’ll go for 2018 km in 2018. I’ve been enjoying the mental aspect of running, I’ve never been good at sitting doing nothing, my brain tends to get ahead of itself, I’ve found running to be a really good way to focus my thoughts! I’ve also bought myself a road bike and started cycling, and I’ve been having swimming lessons over the past few weeks. I’m loosely throwing around the idea of training for an Ironman!
What is one of the best investments you’ve ever made (time, money, energy)?
I’ve been on four tunnel camps now, two in Slovakia, two in Poland. My ability to progress seems to rely on doing lots and doing it regularly. Each camp I’ve been on has brought my flying skills on in leaps and bounds! I’m ready for the next one!
List every job you’ve ever had:
- Product Development Engineer
- Student Design Engineer
- Professional Skydiver
Of all the jobs listed which one would you say was pivotal to your development and your future self?
I would say the pivotal moment was my few months working as a product development engineer. I hated every second I spent there, and this was when I made the decision that working in engineering wasn’t for me.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a skydiving instructor especially in the UK where the weather can be such a challenge?
Be prepared to sacrifice a lot of your time. Be prepared to not earn as much as you would like. Be prepared to not jump for days and weeks on end during the winter. If you aren’t going to travel abroad during the offseason, accept that doing a few working jumps a month is pretty normal in the winter!
You are now based at Skydive Langar, what do you enjoy most about your job?
So many things… I love that when I wake up in the morning, I’m excited to go to work. We have a great team at Langar, I enjoy the banter we have. I love doing tandems, being a part of my student’s experience, telling all the usual rubbish jokes, I feed off their enthusiasm. When I’m not throwing drogues, I love working with the students, helping people work towards their licence, or that next sticker, and at the end of the day, I love to sneak in that fun jump on the sunset load.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?
Sometimes there are hard decisions to make. I’ve taken some ground schools and had students perform poorly throughout the day, so much so, I made the decision to not let them do a solo jump. I want everyone to be able to skydive, and to have the opportunities I’ve had, so it’s not a choice I make lightly, at least a part of me wonders if I could have taught them better, but after several hours of additional training, I still wasn’t confident in their abilities. Safety always takes priority, but it’s still a hard decision to make.
What’s your dream job? What do you aspire to do professionally (if not doing it already)?
Working in the sport has been a dream come true. My professional aspirations are to get more ratings, to become a better flyer and a better instructor. I’m hoping to save up some money over the next couple of years and get my pilot’s licence, but that’s a pretty long-term thing to work towards!
What was the opportunity or ‘crossroads’ moment in your life that propelled you forward… that moment that had you made a different decision would have resulted in a different life than you live today?
I quit my job, and ended a relationship to pursue my career in the sport. If I’d never started skydiving I’m pretty confident I know exactly where I’d be in life, suffice to say it would be a very different way of living!
Living a life on your terms takes risks… what is the riskiest thing you’ve done to date to make things happen?
I’ve mentioned that I’m pretty bad at moderating, and that tends to constantly leave me on the edge of financial ruin. I spent every penny I had to get my jump numbers up and get my tandem rating back in 2016, so much so that I ended up living in my car during my first season working. It was worth it!
What’s the best purchase you’ve made under £100 that has positively impacted your life?
I hate being cold. Sadly, skydiving in the UK and being cold go hand in hand. I bought myself a pair of Karrimor thermal socks. They cost me £25 and they have been a real game changer! Can’t beat a warm pair of socks!
List your skydiving equipment and sponsors
Container: Javelin Odyssey
Main Canopy: PD Spectre 120
Reserve: PD Optimum 126
Altimeter: L&B Viso II
Jumpsuit: Pro-fly suits Focus
Helmet: Cookie G3 / Cookie Fuel (Sponsored by Cookie Helmets)
Accessories: Schier Clamp from Schier Concepts
AAD: Vigil Quattro
Where did you make your first skydive and what was the circumstance that took you to the dropzone that day?
For some reason I signed up to do a charity tandem skydive, to raise money for Alzheimer’s in memory of my Granny Harriet. I had a pretty good experience skydiving, but I had no plans for another jump.
When I went to university, there was a fair for sports clubs & societies. Turns out there was a university skydiving club which I decided to join. I remember thinking “Well I did it strapped to someone, I wonder if I could make myself do it on my own”. The plan was always to do one jump. I’ve never been one for sticking to the plan!
List your canopy progression from jump 1 through present day:
Manta 280 – 55 jumps
Sabre 2 230 – 10 jumps
Sabre 2 210 – 27 jumps
Spectre 190 – 120 jumps
Sabre 2 170 – 56 jumps
Spectre 150 – 110 jumps
Spectre 135 – 250 jumps
Spectre 120 – 513 jumps
EZ 384 – 50 jumps
Sigma 370 – 20 jumps
A2 370 – 420 jumps
What’s the most memorable skydive you’ve ever made?
A ten-second delay in early 2014. I wasn’t a particularly good student, I repeated a lot of jumps (52 jumps before I got my A licence). I even had an entanglement due to an unstable pull. I’d done a good ten-second delay, and then the weather turned and I wasn’t able to jump for about 6 weeks. When it finally came to the jump, I knew in my head that if I could do the same thing on this jump, I’d be able to progress, but I’d messed up a lot of ten-second delays before. I was terrified in the plane, I remember shaking out of fear. I told myself on the way to altitude, “Linley if you fuck this one up, you’re done skydiving.” Thankfully, the jump went well and here we are a few years later!
What’s the most common error or mistake you most often see with skydivers today?
“Execution of well-thought-out and rehearsed emergency procedures would have prevented half the 2016 deaths in the Malfunction category” – USPA 2016 Fatality Summary.
This really struck home with me, and from videos I seen of various Safety Days last season, it couldn’t be any more true. The staggering amount of experienced skydivers who don’t know their drills is mind-blowing. People who have been jumping for 30 years have changed equipment, have downsized, and have not stayed up to date with best practices. I’ve made it a focus to emphasize the importance of experienced skydivers practicing their emergency procedures, and I now run regular sessions throughout the season to help fix this.
What discipline of skydiving would you love to learn that you’re not currently doing and what about it fascinates you?
I really want to do more canopy piloting. I jump a PD Spectre 120 which I absolutely love because it’s just so easy. It opens, it gets me back, I can get away murder on it. It’s such a fun canopy to jump, and I love doing my cheeky front riser 90’s to land. I think I swoop it pretty well! I’ve been considering getting something a little bit more aggressive so I can get more out of my swoops, but I’m conscious of just how much harder I’d have to work under canopy! Maybe I’ll get a PD Storm next…
Of all the skydiving destinations you’ve been to, which one would you most like to return?
I visited Skydive Chicago for two months in 2016. What a drop zone. I met some really amazing people there, I was lucky enough to have the chance to jump with some of the best in the sport, SDC Core and SDC Rhythm. I had such an amazing trip out there and I would love to be able to go back, and work there for a season. (Anybody want to help me out with a green card?)
What’s the closest call (scariest situation) you’ve had happen in your skydiving career and what did you learn from it?
There have been two moments I would consider close calls. Annoyingly both happened quite recently.
The first was on an 8-way head down jump. We had exited on the east side of the PLA and I had tracked south from the group on the break off. I had continued to fly south, heading off the flight line and into clear airspace whilst I sorted my slider etc. I looked to my left and seen another jumper from my group flying towards me on his way back to the PLA. He hadn’t seen me and was preoccupied with his RDS. He was coming straight at me so I decided to do a front riser turn to the right to try and dive out of his way. He saw me right at the last second and turned to his right.
The second was on a 2-way freefly jump. Our jump went as planned but we hadn’t discussed who would land first (Me on my Spectre 120, him on a Katana 107). A solo had exited after us and was under canopy a bit above us, but jumping a Sabre 2, 210. I was the lowest canopy so was expecting to be landing first. The solo starting spiraling and ended up on level with us as we went into the pattern. I was still the lowest canopy, and was setting up for my left hand 90, having seen both of the other canopies and knowing I had the airspace for my turn. As I started my turn, the Katana also started their right hand 270 above me. I was committed to my turn at this stage, and as the Katana finished the last stage of their turn, they passed my canopy with no more than 2-3 feet separation.
- I’m normally very good at agreeing on a landing order beforehand, but for some reason, we hadn’t done this.
- A spiraling canopy congested the airspace and left two of us in close proximity.
- The Katana 107 made the decision to complete their 270 despite having seen me underneath them in the pattern.
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?
Since I’m just starting to get into VFS, I’d love to get a little bit better first and then go do a sick jump with people like J Russ, Rook and Kai Kai. I really enjoyed their personalities and enthusiasm when I was at Skydive Chicago, and they’re all pretty badass skydivers, so I might even look cool when jumping with them!
It’s definitely not the best movie in the world, but I’ve watched it several times and always enjoy it, Clint Eastwood’s, Gran Torino.
Favorite skydiving movie?
Well it has to be Cutaway. I do enjoy playing the Cutaway drinking game. Although it has been a while!
Favorite sports outside of skydiving?
I’m really enjoying my running at the minute!
Wilt in Nowhere, by Tom Sharpe. Just a normal bloke who takes a sabbatical and ends up in the most hilarious situations. A real laugh out loud novel.
I’m a big fan of green!
Favorite Board Game?
I do love a game of Risk, although it can get a bit ruthless.
“Forget the money. Because, if you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life wasting your time. You will be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is, in order to do things you don’t like doing, which is stupid. Better to have a short life that is full of things you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way.” – Alan Watts.
I try and live by these words, it makes sense to me!
Place You’d Most Like to Visit?
I’d love to go to Belize to see the Great Blue Hole. It just looks pretty!
Favorite DZ(s) and why?
Skydive Langar. This dropzone has opened doors for me and I would not have got this far without it.
Skydive Chicago because of the amazing facilities, staff, aircraft. Just an all round amazing place to go and jump!
Most embarrassing skydive you’ve ever made?
We did a demo last year into a local cricket club. I was landing last. When I landed, I fell flat on my ass in front of a few hundred people. I’ve since been told somebody always has to fall over, to make everybody else look even more impressive!