These are strange and challenging times for all of us. Like the rest of the globe, the Skydive Orange community is learning to adjust to the “new normal” which, for the moment at least, means no more jumping out of airplanes. For our skydivers, instructors, pilots and ground crew daily life has changed a lot in the past few weeks. We’re feeling the absence of our community and the pull of the sky in a major way. To help us all stay connected, we’ll be touching base with some of our community members to share their stories with you and to see what they’ve been up to during their COVID-19 sequestration. We hope these features will bring a smile to your face and help us all stay connected during this difficult time.
Name: Monica Noncheva
What is your role at Skydive Orange?
I am the lead videographer at Skydive Orange. I am also one of the AFF instructors! Along with my skydiving roles, I was recently appointed to the Board of Directors to help support our drop zone manager.
How long have you been in the sport?
I have been around the sport since I was a little girl and I began working Manifest before I could skydive. I did my first tandem with Mario in September of 2012 and decided to go for my skydiving license in November of 2013. Since then, I have been a part of the sport as a skydiver for 6.5 years and have made around 2,500 skydives.
How did you first learn about skydiving/what brought you to the sport?
My mom and I used to come to the drop zone to visit my aunt (Gigi) when I was younger. I never saw myself becoming a skydiver because it just wasn’t something that interested me at the time. However, being around the family-atmosphere and seeing how close everyone was made me want to be a part of it.
Who would you invite to join you on your dream 3-way?
I would love to do my 100th jump all over again with Chuck Hashek and Mario Ripa. They both did my first tandems and they were both on my first AFF category A jump with me too! While there are a lot of people that have helped me get to where I am today, these two were instrumental in my progress.
What’s you next skydiving goal?
This past year I have been working on training for the Project 19 World Record. Project 19 is where we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment (the amendment in which women received the right to vote) by attempting to build a 100-way women’s vertical world record. Attending the camps has been an amazing experience, and I am looking forward to seeing what these awesome women can do during the record attempts!
Tell us about your most rewarding skydive to date.
The most rewarding skydive for me was probably the last evaluation jump I had to pass to receive my AFF Instructional Rating. I had the privilege of completing my AFF course with some really good friends of mine, Jonathan Markowitz (course teammate) and Jared Miller (Evaluator). Just remembering landing from that last jump of the course and Jared telling us that we had both passed was an indescribable feeling. I was/am proud of the accomplishment I had achieved.
What is your favorite thing about the skydiving community?
My favorite aspect of the skydiving community is the new family that I found. Being able to see them and spend time with them on the weekends is something that I will always be grateful for.
What is the biggest challenge you’re battling in light of COVID-19?
The biggest challenge for me is that this happened right as we were about to get into our busy season of skydiving. The cold of the winter has just barely thawed, and it started to get warm outside. Skydiving in the winter has its own silver linings, but it is always a welcome adjustment when the spring comes around.
There are a lot of challenges with Coronavirus, but what are the silver linings about all of this that you hadn’t anticipated?
I am grateful to have the extra time to get back into reading! When I was younger, I was always reading. For the past several years I never made the time to read, but now that I have extra time it’s been really nice having the opportunity to lose myself in a good book. I am currently on my third book in the span of a two weeks.
Everyone is facing challenges. What companies or people have impressed you during these challenging times?
The most inspirational person to me during this challenge is none other than the Drop Zone Manager of Skydive Orange, Pam Young. It is common knowledge that running a drop zone in the best of times is stressful enough, but I couldn’t imagine the stressors of managing one during a worldwide crisis. Pam has gone above and beyond to try and ensure that we all have a drop zone to come back to when this is all over, and on top of that she is doing everything she can to help out our full-time staff as well.
We’ve all taken things for granted, that we now miss and appreciate. Outside of skydiving, what had you taken for granted that you appreciate more now?
One of the things I miss the most is being able to see and hug my drop zone family. I 100% took my going to the drop zone every weekend for granted because I knew I would see everyone the following weekend. It has been weeks now since we have seen each other, and I am looking forward to the day that I can hug everyone again.
Aside from skydiving, what are you most looking forward to doing when all of this is over?
I am looking forward to being able to go back to the parks (preferably anywhere near a river or a lake) and just hang out outside again. I love being outside, and while having a deck helps a bit, it isn’t the same as being able to leave your house and go to those places.
If you could recommend one song for everyone to listen to, what would it be?
Happy Now by Kygo, Sandro Cavazza! Or Sunrise by Kygo feat Jason Walker!
Who/what is your spirit animal?
I always had a hard time answering this question until a good friend of mine (Pinecone) told me I looked like a chipmunk with my video helmet on. From then on, I felt like a chipmunk was a pretty accurate way to describe me.
Tell us about a memory that instantly makes you smile?
When a really good friend of mine, John Lighthall, surprised me at our annual Safety Day event last year by presenting me with all of my skydiving awards (1000 jump, 2000 jump, 12 hour freefall, 24 hour freefall). It’ll be a memory that I cherish forever!
The largest tandem skydiving center near Northern Virginia, Washington D.C. and Maryland.