Interview – Alex Fitton

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Alex Fitton only started skydiving with us in Decemebr 2018 and in that time, he has become a regular and welcome member of our community. Freefly and wingsuiting appear to be his thing. If ever there was anyone who had to earn their place as a skydiver, getting past their inner fears, it is Alex. Read his brilliant story here:

1. Tell us a bit about yourself to start?

Hi – I’m Al, I’m 33 yrs old, I work as Core Systems Developer implementing IT systems under code (DevOps Engineer). Currently I have 186 Skydives. Since the age of 4/5 years old, I was riding roller blades which escalated quickly into skateboarding, rock climbing, power kite flying and snowboarding. In the back of my mind all the time was getting to that next big thing but skydiving and wingsuit flying seemed so far away. After having had several issues and rebuilding my life, I started to get the feeling that it’s either now or never, it was this feeling that provided the inspiration to make my first Accelerated Freefall AFF jump.

2. How did you get into skydiving and what inspired you to give it a go?

For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to fly like a bird. The freedom they had to carve through the air looked amazing. I remember watching from an early age, proximity flying on YouTube. I would watch the jumps repeatedly in awe, trying to understand how it would feel to fly in this way, leaping off mountains and carving down and around it, sounds amazing right? The dream of wingsuit flight is still the primary focus in skydiving for me currently, but coaching with Andy Godwin is showing me a world I did not even know existed, and my “race” to fly wingsuit has settled into “enjoying the long journey the long way around”.

As for BASE / BASE wingsuit, if I ever get to a point where I feel I can handle it and perform jumps safely, then there is potential to get into this in future. I can’t think of anything on this earth that could compare to this.

3. Why did you choose Skydive Hibaldstow to learn?

I was working in the worst job I think I’ve ever had, my boss was a nightmare, generally people were really aggressive within the business. One day they brought in a contracted accountant, and she came into the office all hyped up, because she had been for a tandem at Skydive Hibaldstow the day before. I got talking about her experiences and the way it was described just made me think “it’s now”.

Within that same ten minutes I had gone upstairs to my desk, typed and booked my AFF level 1! I decided not to bother with a tandem skydive first, but instead go straight down the qualification route.

After ground school and meeting some amazing people, I knew this was the space for me…and I have never looked back since then. Throughout all of my “ups and downs”, Skydive Hibaldstow and its staff have been there to support me, so I can’t thank this drop zone enough.

4. What does your family think of your skydiving?

I’m one of the really lucky ones where my family understand my adrenaline seeking nature and they have always supported this as much as they can. This was during AFF and pre-Covid. My mum would attend the drop zone with me, this was an opportunity to provide care and allow her to support me on the journey of AFF. I’ve also brought my dad along for a tandem ride, which he loved! I think skydiving has given me some special times with my family that I would never have had without it.

5. Like many skydivers you had a wobble at the beginning of your career, what happened, how did you get over it and do you have any words of advice?

My “wobble” led me to grounding myself for a whole season/ year. I would arrive at the DZ with all intentions of jumping, but then the fear would set in. I remember watching lifts go up and down with people coming down smiling, yet in my mind if I got in the plane, something bad was going to happen… If I had coaching booked, I’d not want to turn up.

Even if there was nice weather, I’d be praying for rain, so I could get out of jumping that day. It quickly became quite known on the drop zone, that I was not jumping and why. I figured in skydiving “honesty is the best policy” and I was therefore upfront about how I was feeling.

I cannot really give a reason as to why I ended up so scared, there was no significant event that caused it. I was, however, a bit of a bad student in terms of not putting enough time into the sport or taking enough time to note what everyone was telling me about being current. There was a new member of staff Nathy. He and I talked a lot and he said he would help me get back into jumping.

We booked a trip to Spain and Nathy spent much of his time on this trip getting me into lifts. Back in the UK, local freeflyer Andy Godwin and I continued our coaching sessions together. Through a process of rationalising skydiving with myself, forcing myself through the bad sensations to reach the good times, jumping consistently with Andy, I was finally able to let go of the fear and enjoy the sport.

My words of advice would be, just after AFF it can be extremely easy to feel a little “lost”. At this stage in the sport, we cannot jump with others, and we have limited flying skills. I like a lot of people at this point still wanted to stay in skydiving, could not really afford FS coaching straight after AFF, was not sure what it was and other than “I want to fly a wingsuit”, had no direction in the sport.

So, I will break down my advice down into a few points:

  • Keep some form of coaching and progression going.
  • Once through AFF, strive to get FS1 done as soon as possible as this will open the world of skydiving, not only jumping with friends but being able to learn new skills such as tracking (TR1) or freeflying (FF1).
  • Aim towards the type of skydiving you want to do and most importantly find a way to make it fun for yourself, the right coach for you will be able to get your mind focused on what is important, the skydive you are about to do.
    Speak openly about your fears. When I did this, everyone at the dropzone, especially my coach Andy Godwin, Nick Davison and Nathy Odinson, I was able to conquer my fears. They spent countless hours talking to me about the risks, how to approach situations and deal with fear. This type of support is only available when it is known that it is required.

If it was not for the above and encouragement from all staff at Skydive Hibaldstow, I would still be stuck in the fear cycle…I cannot thank the dropzone and staff enough.

6. Is skydiving a means to an end towards your long-term goal of wingsuit BASE?

When I first started, skydiving was a means to an end, it was a path to fly wingsuit. I started “sticker smashing” with Andy Godwin. My theory is, if I am going to jump from a plane in a wingsuit at some point and something was to go wrong, I would want to know how to recover from as many potential incidents as possible.

I figured if I aimed to be able to fly numerous principles, I would know what to do when I accidentally end up head down or in a flat spin during wingsuit flights. Over the last 18 months of coaching with Andy, the progression has just become increasingly fun. Instead of coach days being about “getting through the day” because of fear, it now just feels like “flying with friends”. I was taught, once you take a breath and lay into wind with a clear mind, the right things start to happen.

These days, I have my wingsuit, and everything ready to go for when I get my 200 jumps (the minimum required to learn this discipline). My aim is to get the last 50 or so required jumps before June this year which should give me access into WS1. In answer to the question, I’m happy to see where skydiving takes me first.

7. Are you a competitive person, do you plan to take part in the freefly nationals one day?

Usually not, but in skydiving I think competing would be a lot of fun. Maybe when the time is right and I have the right skills, it would be a fantastic experience!

8. In 3 words or phrases, describe why you love skydiving? 9. Do you had any funny moments or stories in the sport so far?

  • Freedom
  • Endless learning
  • Like nothing else on this planet

9. Do you had any funny moments or stories in the sport so far?

There’s so many to choose from, which is an inevitable part of being a skydiver! One funny thing was me and Aisha Kayani were doing our first jump in Skydive Dubai Desert Campus. Aisha was nervous as it was her first time jumping at a USPA DZ, wearing a full-face helmet and it was her first time jumping after her longest break in the sky world.

We said we would make it a chilled first jump to get used to the surroundings, landing areas etc….and it was as far from chilled as can be!. As her new boyfriend, I felt like it was my responsibility to make her feel relaxed.

So, we linked in the sky, and I began pointing down to the dz during freefall, only to dive down by accident, putting Aisha on her back because she did not expect it! This promptly took her to a level of 10 on the scale of nervousness! I felt so bad and the entire way down under canopy, I was so scared of how she was going to react. Luckily though we both landed, and she screamed ‘That was bloody hilarious’, and I was so relieved. So, after what was the most nerve-wracking canopy ride of my entire life, I am now able to laugh about the carnage of my scared girlfriend on her back plummeting down into the desert. Hopefully it is understood, we had plenty of altitude to play with!

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