Work hard, play hard

When Amelie Hebert-Dugas’s path crossed with an Aussie bloke in 2013 while skiing in Canada, she had no idea she’d trade in her skis for a parachute. But she did, and now the 28-year-old French Canadian licensed skydiver is an essential member of the Skydive Geronimo team.

When you check-in for your skydive over Rottnest Island, Amelie will be the first smiling face you’ll see – the one who will make sure you’re all set to embark on your skydive adventure. She may also be the one to assist you into your harness (the important one that connects you to your skydive instructor). She may also edit your skydive video and photos. You see, Amelie is our one-of-a-kind all-round customer service superstar.

In this post, we talk to Amelie about skydiving, her role at Skydive Geronimo, and what’s next for her.

Aerial view looking down over Rottnest

Amelie, how did you get into skydiving?

I got into skydiving after I met Clay [the Aussie bloke], but I had always wanted to try it. Clay was a new tandem instructor, so I took the opportunity to do my first skydive with him. As soon as we landed, I knew I needed to learn how to skydive. A week later, I was doing the Accelerated Freefall (AFF) course at Lodi Parachute Center in California. From there, Clay and I travelled around America and Canada skydiving. I’ve also jumped at Tully in Tropical North Queensland, and a lot in Jurien Bay when I lived there for two years.

How often do you skydive these days?

I don’t get to jump much now because of my position with Skydive Geronimo. I haven’t jumped much since starting with Geronimo because I’m pretty busy all the time. I haven’t skydived in at least a year. My role requires me to be on the ground doing manifest duties, editing videos, and being available for customer service, so there’s no opportunity for me to jump. It’s not just that though, I take one day off a week to make enough money to allow me to take four months off every year. We (Clay and I) both work really hard for eight months so we can take our annual holiday. I’m not current, but I do miss it. I’d love to jump again.

You and Clay leave Perth each winter. Are you chasing an endless summer?

We like to move with the seasons. It’s a chance to give ourselves a break and also to appreciate life a bit more. Plus, we get to see our families. Coming from Canada, I don’t get to see my family too often. We work hard over spring and summer, then take off during the quieter months of the Australian winter. Clay’s family lives on the east coast, so we usually take a holiday to visit them, or my family in Canada.

Aside from visiting family, what do you do on your extended holiday?

Travel around. Last year we went to Canada for my sister’s wedding, but we also spent some time with friends in British Columbia. And we did a big road trip of the eastern provinces too. I’d never been there before, so it was nice to see the Maritimes. I’ve travelled all over Canada and the USA. There are only a couple states I haven’t been to yet. My journey took me from Canada, through the USA,  Mexico and Central America as far as Costa Rica. Then, I ended up in Australia.

What brought you to Australia?

I need to credit Clay with that too. After living in Canada together for a few years, and taking the  trip to Central America, we thought we’d try life in Australia. We’ve been here (off and on) for about four years now. I fell in love with the country right away and recently got my permanent residency status, which is amazing. We’ve travelled all over Australia, so I’ve seen a lot of the country already.

Where are you going on your next long holiday?

We’re not 100% sure. I try not to plan too much in advance because we both change our minds so much. We bought a piece of land in Queensland, so we will go there at the end of the 2020 summer season. Maybe we’ll build a little house. Maybe we’ll put a caravan on it – who knows? We’ll wait and see what happens.

There are a few things on my bucket list that I’d like to do, like travel to South America and Southeast Asia. The big cherry on top of our wanderlust lifestyle will be when we buy a sailboat and starting sailing. I don’t know if it will be a sail-around-the-world trip – that really scares me, but sailing around Australia is entirely possible. It’s scary, but it’s not a good project if you’re not scared.

How did your travelling lifestyle begin?

My first solo trip was when I went to British Columbia to immerse myself in English. Growing up in Quebec, I spoke French at school and at home. English was a school subject, but I never used it outside of school. I wanted to travel and I knew I had to learn English first. As soon as I moved out of my comfort zone and met people from all over the world living in BC, I got bit by the travel bug. I began to see all this opportunity that I’d never seen before. So, I started to travel, and it really opened my mind.

What did you do before you worked in skydiving?

I used to scuba dive a lot. I worked on the Great Barrier Reef during my first 18 months in Australia, and that was really great. I also missing diving – I haven’t done that very much lately either. Sounds like I don’t do much fun stuff, eh?

All work and no play…makes a great bank balance.

Well, that’s the plan. It’s alright, that’s the idea. I’ll get to enjoy a fair few months of holidays soon.

What do love about scuba diving and skydiving?

For scuba diving, it’s when you’re under the water, and you hear your breathing and see the bubbles floating upwards. Being in that three-dimensional world is so peaceful and beautiful. It’s the same (but different) for skydiving – you get that sense of freedom and feel every second and live in the pure moment. There’s no thinking of work or money or saving or your daily life, it’s 100% in the moment. And that’s what attracts me to scuba diving and skydiving.

What’s the best part of working at Skydive Geronimo?

Getting to know the people – the customers. For me, the job itself is not really exciting: the paperwork and manifesting loads and that stuff. But, when I start talking to the passengers, and they tell me their stories and reason for jumping, it makes me feel a little bit special because for them, it could be life-changing and I’m part of that.

I remember the day an 83-year-old man jumped to raise money for breast cancer research. Just to be part of that, to get them ready for this huge thing they are about to do to help someone else, is really great.

The tandem skydive experience starts the moment the customer walks through the airport doors. My aim is to make the whole time special – even the boring bits like paperwork and waiting to board the aircraft.

If you’re planning a jump over Rottnest Island, there’s a good chance you’ll meet Amelie when you check-in at the Rottnest Airport, so be sure to say a big hello.