We think Kat Konstanti is simply an amazing person – friendly, talented, a great coach and totally approachable. Read all about her skydiving story as she prepares to go to the World Cup in skydiving this year as part of team GB.
You’re from Greece originally, what brought you to the UK and how did you get into skydiving?
I moved to the UK, when I had just turned 18, for University. I came from Athens, a fairly cultural and rather big (5 million people) city, to Dundee – that was an experience haha! I lived there for about 5 years in the end. Growing up, I had my dad’s army adventures as my bedtime stories. He was in the special forces when he was doing his national service, so he was trained for a number of different things, including skydiving. Mostly static line of course – I think I have a black and white picture of him under a round parachute with his gear hanging off him. I think he had also done around 30 freefalls. Growing up, I ended up doing a lot of the things my dad told me in his tales (climbing, scuba diving, skiing), but skydiving was not something I could do back home. So, when I got to Dundee and found out that there was a skydiving club at the University, I joined immediately.
What does your family think of your skydiving career and has it changed when you started to win medals?
Ahh, my family! Bless them – love them to bits – and I often find myself in need of reminding this to myself! Apart from my dad and maybe a cousin or two, the rest of my family are fairly disapproving of my skydiving, medals and world cups are an irrelevant fact to them. I often hear quotes like ‘you should stop flying amongst the clouds and come back to planet earth. These are stupid things you are doing! You need to move back home and marry a nice man and have kids’. I think the latter part of the statement is more important to them than the former, so I guess that’s something to hold on to – maybe?I think my mum has started to relax a bit about my skydiving. She just now says ‘Argh, you’re there again? Okay, have a good time! Do you need to go there so often? Just, please be careful’ – which is a reaction that I can live with.
You’re known as an FS jumper, what attracts you to that discipline?
I have been skydiving for about 12 years. In that time, the vast majority of my jumps have been in FS. The first sticker you get (or should get) after your A-licence is your FS1. People brunch out to other things, but I found it a lot easier (and cheaper!) to carry on with FS, start jumping with other people, join load organised groups, get into in bigger and bigger formations and generally have fun. The first formation load you do is an amazing experience! The social side of that is pretty great too, most of my close friends now, I have met from doing FS. Furthermore, in 12 years of FS, I am still learning! Still, things I don’t know. Still things I know I can improve on. To me, this is a great feeling.
Have you ever considered getting into another discipline like freefly or wingsuiting?
Yes, I have – I am learning how to freefly, It’s so disconcerting! I think Matty (Mitchell) will get tired of me real soon haha! I try and do about 15-30 mins of 1 on 1 with him every month. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury is keeping me from being able to do too much at once, but I do what I can and I am absolutely loving it. I have done a bit of CF too, back in the day – I absolutely loved it. Want to do more, but it is not a priority.I am also currently devoting more time to learning how to become a better canopy pilot. It started to become clear to me that, as FS jumpers (and maybe this is a gross generalisation), what we seem to do is become really good at building formations and turning points on a 4-way, but then we deploy our parachutes, get to the ground without hurting ourselves in the process and then think that we know what we are doing under canopy. Is this a bit harsh to say? Maybe. But still, the amount of people have seen devoting any time to canopy training is disturbingly small. I can say, embarrassingly, that I never did it either. But it has become clear lately that this is a dangerous mindset to have and that we need to get it changed! As a coach and an LO, I feel like I need to set an example in this area.
How did you get into the world of coaching and load organising?
In 2010, I did a 4-way rookie team with Alan Russel, Chris Reeves and Phil Colwell. We did well actually. That was the first time I really enjoyed FS. I thought I was okay, so I expressed an interest to be an FS coach. After some evaluations, I got my rating.I coached a bit back then at Strathallan, but then stopped jumping for a while. A couple of years later, I had moved away from Scotland and had started jumping at Hib. I told Stu that I would like to coach there. He, very politely, said ‘hmmm, no’. It took a couple of years, where I had to work a bit (a lot!) on my personal flying skills, to do more 4-way and just generally improve. But eventually, I did become part of the coaching team at Hibaldstow and I love coaching, I really do.You are teaching people, most of them new to the sport, how to fly, get to see them progress, try to encourage them, get them to have a good time and integrate them to the community. You are, essentially, their way into the wider world of skydiving and that’s an important role!
The load organising seems to be a ‘side gig’ at the moment, haha. I started doing a lot more of it after Stu’s departure from Hib. I really like doing the ‘Bootie camps’ (as we used to call them) for a lot of the same reasons why I love coaching. You are teaching newly qualified FS1 students the basics of how to build formations, and then you see them going from not being able to dock on a 6-way to actually getting grips and turning a few points. That is great. On the other hand, you are jumping with fairly inexperienced skydivers, with what is practically a bullseye on your back, so it is also nothing sort of terrifying too! I find myself breathing deeply on those plane rides and try and calm myself down – then, try and psych the rest of them up.
When you’re not skydiving, you’re traveling a lot, why is that?
Ahh, yes, my tales of woe. I travel as part of my job, I’m an account manager/technical advisor for using probiotics in animal nutrition. My company works in a number of countries around the world. I often have to go and visit our customers and offer in-country support (or, as I try to think of it as, get them to sell more of our products). It gets me to a number of places, I get to meet a lot of interesting people and try some nice food (and equally some not so nice food). But I also seem to be in a constant state of jetlag, with no real time to do anything for myself and I don’t really get to see my home or friends. So there is a definite trade-off.
Do you participate in any other extreme sports?
I used to do a lot of rock climbing. Greece is a great place for it. We have great rocks and great weather! I think I have a picture of me lead climbing, outdoors, when I was maybe on the 5th grade (around 11 years old)? I remember often wild camping (sometimes no tents) at the top of the mountain and then coming down the next day, or by a river bed, or on a beach. Good times! I climb here too, albeit not so much anymore.
I used to do white water kayaking, skiing, snowboarding. And that’s just the things I had some sort of proficiency in. Unfortunately, time constraints mean that a lot of those things are a thing of the past now. I would love to do them again at some point though.
Who are your role models in the sport?
Oh, this is a hard one to answer. I have no role models, not even in life, let alone in skydiving – especially in skydiving. I mean, I met most of them. Something to be said about never meeting your heroes haha! No, but seriously, a role model is somebody that serves as an example to be imitated – that is the definition. I believe in personal growth, personal achievement and personal goals.
Trying to imitate someone else, even in one small part, is a dangerous game. Having said that, there are people in the sport that have done things that I thought were cool. For me, the commitment the ‘old XL boys’ showed to their team, to progressing in 4-way, was amazing. Don’t think I have seen it (to this level!) in others since. Maybe it doesn’t have to be like that now. But then, they chased their dreams, they sacrificed a lot in the process, and they did well.
I have been coached, spent time with and got fairly drunk on several occasions with John Mciver and Steve Hamilton and I think both of them are great guys in their own way! But, dear god, please, do not try to imitate either one of them haha! Pete Allum as well, for much the same reasons, although I do not know him as well.
Stu Ferguson’s work at Skydive Hibaldstow is also something I have admired in a way. He created a community of FS jumpers, a welcoming place for everyone that wanted to be part of it. We skydived together, but mostly, we were friends! Still are!
Last, but definitely not least, the story of NFTO this year has been amazing. Going from a mid-table team to winning the UK Nationals (as a female team) in one year, and taking podiums internationally was great to see. Especially at a time, where our commitment to female categories here in the UK is wavering, seeing those girls do so well is inspiring. I hope to see more females competing in the future.
What are your plans for this year?
And what training plan has the team put in place?My plans are in a constant state of flux, ever so changing haha! I have a job that is fairly demanding of my time, and a lot of what I do needs to fit around it. We do have fairly cemented team training plans, however, that see Alola training every month until we get to go to Eloy for the World Cup in October. We are mega excited! Stepping up to AAA is such a bit step, but we have great coaches. Sian and Milko are absolutely amazing and John Mciver has also kindly stepped in to help us on occasion.
We have a lot to learn and we can’t think of any better combination of coaches to have by our side! Of course, to do well in AAA training, there is side-training involved! I am committing more time to freeflying (as mentioned) and to 1 on 1 FS to get my personal flying skills up to much better level! Also, my fitness levels need to get a bit (a lot) better than they currently are. So diet and exercise plans are actually taken seriously this year haha.
Photo credits: Joe Mann and Martin Martinez.