Rachel is a Colorado native that ventured her way to Chicago chasing a career. Eventually this outdoorsy woman found her way through the doors of Skydive Chicago. That day a team of elite skydivers had set a new world record and she immediately fell in love with the sport. Join us as we sit down and get to know the woman behind the office: Rachel Rolfsmeier!
Give us the skinny. How old are you, where are you from and how did you end up at Skydive Chicago?
I am 31 years old, from the suburbs of Denver, Colorado. After college I moved to Chicago chasing an inner city teaching job. That didn’t exactly work out, and after 6 years I decided to relocate again, this time to Madison, Wisconsin. Just a couple months before the move I was invited out for my first tandem. That definitely changed my plans, and a few months later I was living here instead.
What were you like as a kid? Were there any indicators early on that might make one think you’d becoming a skydiving instructor?
Well, I’m not an instructor yet! But hopefully some day soon. I was a pretty reserved child, honestly. Being from Colorado, I loved being outdoors, especially in the mountains, but I wasn’t much of a thrill seeker. I don’t think anyone who knew me as a child would have imagined this is where I’d end up, including myself! I enjoyed sports and the like, but my motor coordination was quite poor. When I told my brother I started jumping, he responded with, “Well, I always knew you’d find a way to make falling work for you.”
Before skydiving, what were your favorite passions and/or hobbies and why?
Anything outdoors really. I love camping, hiking, rafting, kayaking, climbing, and the like. Why? Because being outdoors is beautiful and neat! I’m an avid reader and painter as well.
What job(s) did you have before you found skydiving?
I’ve had so many odd jobs, but I’ve played the role of teacher, bartender, and freelance writer most.
What are you looking forward to this year?
Making it to the end of the season without Rook firing me from my new management job, mostly (please). I absolutely LOVE the unlimited program we run here too. It brings in such a unique and beautiful group of people every month! I look forward to spending time and the sky with all the new and returning passers, especially my favorite person who will be here for the entire month of July! I haven’t manifested the VWR yet, so I think that should be exciting too! Pretty much everything, I guess. So much rad stuff going on this year!
What is the story of how you got into skydiving (including who/what inspired you to go; where and when you learned, etc)?
I did my first tandem during SummerFest 2015 when a friend from Colorado was out for the boogie. It was actually the day they got the last Vertical World Record! I fell in love with the sport and the community immediately. The following month I went through AFP at Skydive Chicago, earned my A license, and secured a job in manifest and a slot in the campground for the following season. I’ve been here ever since!
Tell the story of what happened after your first jump and how you decided to continue:
Being the last Saturday of SummerFest 2015, and the day they got the Vertical World Record, there were tons of people around after my first jump. I camped here with my buddy and met so many new lifelong friends and had one heck of a night. I came back two weeks later for my second tandem. It was much more chill that weekend, which was nice because I got to know the locals a bit better. I knew this was the change my life had been needing, and I obtained my A license two weeks later.
What discipline do you like and why?
I like to go fast! Angles for days, head up, and I’m working on learning head down.
What’s something about the sport that surprised you that you didn’t know when you started?
How difficult it would be, which is amazing. The challenge of it is so frustrating, but I think that’s what keeps us all doing it. I also couldn’t have imagined how diverse a group of people it would attract, which makes it very special.
What attracted you to get a job in the skydiving industry?
I felt my life was stagnant where it was in Chicago. I was ready to relocate and try something new, and I fortunately stumbled upon this life-changing sport at just that time. Working in the sport made it more affordable for me, and it meant I had no reason not to live at the DZ surrounded by this amazing community that has truly become my family. I’ve had a number of people tell me that this isn’t real life and some day I’ll have to get back to the real world. I think that’s absolute nonsense. I mean, of course I sometimes have to pinch myself to remind myself that I’m not just dreaming this amazing place and situation up, but when it comes down to it life is what you make it, and this life is very real to me!
How long have you been at Skydive Chicago and what is your position?
This is my third season in manifest and my first season as office manager.
Can you explain a breakthrough moment in your skydiving career: explain the challenge you faced and how you overcame it:
I’m not sure if this is exactly what you’re asking for, but one of the most influential moments I’ve had in skydiving happened just some weeks ago. I had just earned my coach rating and was doing my first recurrency with a sweet friend of mine. She’s a tunnel shredder, but still fairly young in the sky. The recurrency went super well! The next day though, while team training, she had a premature opening during which her arm became entangled in her risers, suspending her from that arm. She cut away and landed safely but sustained some minor injuries. When I saw her walk into the hangar, clearly in a lot of pain, I immediately panicked and began replaying our review over and over, trying to figure out what I’d missed and how I could have done something more to prevent this from happening. Later that day when the adrenaline had worn off, she approached me and thanked me for such a thorough recurrency. She said she heard me in her head in the chaos of it all, and while ultimately she saved herself, I was there with her. We hadn’t gone over that exact situation of course, but she felt comfortable enough making a quick decision based on everything we had gone over. In that moment I felt the full weight of what a coach is and really should be, and I’ll carry that experience with me as I progress to becoming an AFF instructor in the future.
Tell us about why you applied for a scholarship with the WSLN and what that journey has been like thus far:
I had so many excuses for why I was putting off getting my coach rating, but really when it came down to it I was making those excuses because I doubted my abilities. The WSLN with their scholarship network forced me to give up those excuses and face my fear of possibly failing not only for the monetary reasons, but also because I knew I would be learning from and with other strong females who would support me in my times of doubt. Angie Aragon of USPA Courses puts on a tough but highly effective course! I learned so much and truly left the course with confidence in my ability as a coach. Just two days later I did my first coach jump with a student, and a few days later I did a recurrency for a dear friend of mine. Coaching has combined my two passions of skydiving and teaching, and I can’t wait to take it a step further by getting my AFF-I. It’s so amazing to see the number of women getting their ratings thanks to the WSLN. Get out there and join us, ladies!
Favorite Cuisine? Anything asian
Favorite junk food? Does cheese count as junk food? Because cheese. Also gummi bears, but only the clear and green ones.
Favorite food that you enjoy that most people would consider disgusting? This is hard. I’ve had a variety of bugs though, and they definitely weren’t terrible.
Favorite place you’ve visited: Colombia
Place you want to visit that you haven’t been to yet? Spain
Pet peeve: I feel disclosing this to the masses is asking for trouble, but people who chew loudly or with their mouth open. STOP. Also people who use adverbs incorrectly, but I’m getting better with this one.
What you said as a kid: “When I grow up I want to be ___________________.”
Something about you that few people know about and would be surprised to learn? I have cases upon cases of comic books sitting under my bed in my bus.
Best book you’ve ever read? Slapstick by Kurt Vonnegut
If you were to write a book, what would be the title? Be Loved and Be Love
Most used app on your smartphone? Any of the multiple weather apps I use on the regular.