If you’re not yet familiar with Justin Price, it’s a name you’re bound to hear sooner than later! Justin claims a unique title (along with Niklas Hemlin) for having been a member of two of skydiving’s most famous and elite teams – Arizona Airspeed and the PD Factory Team.
Justin Price grew up as a DZ kid with skydiving quite literally in his DNA (his Dad is a skydiving legend in his own right – Chuck Akers). From the moment he made his first jump at age 16, it was clear to Justin that skydiving would be a major part of his life. Now 34, Justin has built a positive reputation for himself having built an impressive resumé of accomplishments. Despite his skydiving success, Justin is the furthest thing from a skygod. He is humble, hilarious and a total badass (in our humble opinion)!
Melissa Nelson Lowe was fortunate to catch up with Justin to discover more about this rockstar in this short and sweet interview.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Houston, Texas
What were you like as a kid?
Really similar to how I am now – very energetic! I played lots of sports and was a bit of a class clown.
Most people don’t know that you grew up around skydiving. Tell us what life was like as a DZ kid and how your family got into the sport.
My father, Chuck Akers, pretty much pulled the experienced jumper card to ease my grandparents as my mother, Delia Akers, started her first jump program. They bonded as their passion grew for the sport and later took a shot at running a DZ. Life as a DZ kid gave me lots of responsibilities, cheap labor for the parents, as I helped out with cleaning, taking out the trash, start cart and aircraft loading duties which eventually led me to packing parachutes. I got to run around with my shirt off and drink Dr. Pepper, life was awesome!
Did you know early on with your family’s involvement, that you too wanted to be a skydiver?
I knew I was going to try it at least once. I never really understood how they jumped over and over again though until I tried it.
Tell us the story of your first skydive – and what kind of student were you?
Tom Bryant was my ground school instructor and it happened that we shared the same birthday. My first jump was on August 8, 2000 which was my 16 birthday. Kick-ass Cessna with the DZ pilot Richard I believe, parents were main and reserve side AFF instructors and the real Super Dave was my video guy.
What can I say, left the plane and fell in love. Got a “sky boner”. Pretty average student, my mom had to do a spin stop on me around level 6 or CAT E. Picked up canopy pretty easy, I think it was mainly due to the countless times I stood in the landing area to help catch tandems. My tandem catching skillz wereballer.
What did you struggle with becoming a skydiver, then professional skydiver?
I could not share a big part of my life with my peers when I was 16-25. The biggest struggle with becoming a professional skydiver for me was trying to be a college student. I learned some important life lessons in school but I still found myself at a DZ almost every weekend trying to work. While studying all I could think about was skydiving.
Tell us the path in the sport you took, to get you where you are today?
I get asked this a lot and could give you a chronological flow of things I’ve done and where I’ve been but in short, I jumped. GO JUMP!
Of all the disciplines, why canopy piloting?
As a kid watching people come in on sub-100 canopies was a thrill, now I get to do it!
In short, tell us the story of earning a slot on the coveted PD Factory Team:
Aside from jumping as much as I could I never said no to any work at the DZ. This led me to be in all the right places at the right times meeting as many people as possible. I made my own luck. I also have been competing in canopy piloting since I quit school, going to regional meets in the US and nationals. I flew camera for Airspeed for 4 years where I learned how the world’s best trained.
When people see canopy pilots, they don’t realize all the time in the sport it took to get there. For new skydivers interested in progressing in canopy piloting, what is your advice?
Spend the first couple hundred jumps just having fun in freefall and safely getting to the ground. Then get some canopy coaching. I think the world of youtube can lead people down the wrong path where critical pieces of information can be misleading which can lead to serious injury that could easily be avoided. You will also learn faster so win!
What are your future plans in the sport?
The PDFT has always tried to push the sport in a positive direction especially in the world of canopy piloting. We have some great opportunity coming our way to put our minds and capabilities together to see how we can evolve our sport. In short, MORE JUMPING!
You’ve traveled a lot in your skydiving career – where is one of your most favorite places and why?
The Czech Republic or Europe in general, because it exposes me. I get lost in a foreign country by myself in a car I can not drive surrounded by people and signs I can not communicate with. It is usually a nightmare, I didn’t even check the city out when I tried to go to Prague I just escaped. I learn a lot about myself by getting lost for 5 hours just walking around a city I just arrived in.
Favorite junk food?
Favorite food that you enjoy that most people would consider disgusting?
Chicken that has not been refrigerated for 2 days.
People that are bad communicators.
What you said as a kid:
“When I grow up I want to be an Astronaut.”
Something about you that few people know about and would be surprised to learn?
I’m an introvert.
Best book you’ve ever read?
Ishmail by Daniel Quinn
If you were to write a book, what would be the title?
“Unsolved Mysteries of the Nylon Strangler” Probably a best seller.