From night owl to flying fox
In 2012, Jimmy Baker was 22 years old and working as a sound engineer. He toured around Australia, and the world, setting up sound systems for some of the country’s biggest concerts. He got to work with lots of different artists. The entertainment industry may sound appealing and glamorous, but it’s a lifestyle that doesn’t allow a great work-life balance.
It was a grind and he needed something to break up the repetition. So he signed up for the Accelerated Free-Fall course and learned to skydive. Now, six years later, he’s a skydiving instructor at Skydive Geronimo’s Rottnest Island location.
In this post, we discover how skydiving took over Jimmy’s life and changed it for the better.
Your first career choice was sound engineer. Was that something you’d always wanted to do?
As a child I really can’t remember what I wanted to be. I was quite misguided and directionless as a teen and I only really decided on my first career path of sound engineer a day before the TAFE and university applications had to be submitted. After a few years in that job I became a Touring Sound Engineer and did a number of national and international shows and tours.
What exactly does a sound engineer do?
Sound engineers do a lot of stuff. We set up and operate concert speaker systems for many different applications: festivals, concerts, theatre, conventions, and really boring corporate talks. The act of mixing a band is to take all the signals from all the microphones on stage and balance them to make them sound as good as possible. Whether it’s creating a mix for the audience or individual band members, it has to be done by a sound guy. The best part of being a touring sound guy is flying all over the world mixing bands and getting drunk for free.
Which concerts and events have you worked at? Any bands we’d know?
I’ve worked at almost all the festivals in Australia (most of which don’t exist anymore): Big Day Out, Soundwave, Southbound, Groovin’ the Moo, Future Music, Origin… Splendour in the Grass was definitely the best. And bands that people might know: Tim and Jean, De La Soul, The Tea Party, Birds of Tokyo, Karnivool, The Panics…
Why did you get into skydiving?
I started skydiving because I wanted more girls to like me. They still don’t, so I think there might be other issues there. But (semi) seriously, I started jumping because I was working so much.There were a few years where I didn’t actually have days off. I would work most of the day and night. The longest stint I did was 32 hours – that sucked. I needed something else happening in my life, and in truth, I saw the wing-suit BASE stuff and thought that was the tits. I was certainly starting to get pretty jaded at the end of the sound engineering stage of my life, and really needed an outlet that could improve my life as a whole. I really didn’t start skydiving as a new career path, I was just looking for something different to do, and jumping out of planes happened to be what I landed on. Lucky it wasn’t heroin, hey?
When did you choose it as a new career?
It was never really that kind of decision. I started working in skydiving as a parachute packer. I wanted to be living at a drop zone so I could do more jumps. It was a big pay cut to what I was used to. Had I been thinking about it in regards to a career, I probably wouldn’t have done it. I’m glad I didn’t think too hard though.
So, you’re glad you made the change?
Skydiving is significantly more fulfilling. There’s an enormous number of ways it’s changed my life and job. Work these days is great; it doesn’t feel like an endless slog through the day and night wishing it was over. When I’m not doing tandems I get the chance to jump for myself which is killer. There aren’t many people who can go to work and expect to do their favourite hobby while there. And I’m also far more social now. It’s awesome taking people on what could be a life changing experience. Seeing reactions and seeing who comes back for more is great. I’m happier, and it’s a great conversation starter.
You’ve done some competing in skydiving too. What has that taught you?
At my first couple of comps, I wasn’t having much fun. I was taking it too seriously and feeding off some others around me who were also very serious about it. I was beating myself up, as there’s a lot of exceptionally talented swoopers* out there and I’m just not on that level. That mindset changed significantly while at the World Cup in Dubai. After meeting some guys who just seemed to be there to have some fun, I took that on board. Now, I really enjoy competing. It’s a chance to do some great jumps with some great mates in some great parts of the world. Sure, winning would be awesome, but I’m not going to beat myself up if I don’t, nor will I push myself to a potential injury, or worse, just to make it to the podium.
*’swooping’ is a discipline of canopy piloting where skydivers fly their parachutes at high speeds.
What are your future goals?
Look good naked, maybe that’s unrealistic. BASE jumping is still on the cards, so is speed-flying in the mountains. See snow. Get drunk on a beach in the sun. Go to the World Cup in 2019, and World Champs in 2020. Cut down on chocolate, burn one of those big candles all the way to the end, read more books, do Pilates, see my mum more often. All the things.
What’s the best thing about skydiving over Rottnest Island?
The view is the best in the world; jumping over an island is amazing. It’s also not far from Perth – just a quick jaunt on the ferry.
It sounds like Jimmy is enjoying his life as a skydiver. Who knows, he may be your skydiving instructor when you jump over Rottnest Island.