One small group of MSU students is dedicated to an activity that most people will never try in their lives — skydiving.
The MSU skydiving club started back up last spring under the leadership of mechanical engineering senior Noah Roux following nearly two years of inactivity due to the pandemic.
Roux, who first tried skydiving the summer after his senior year in high school and fell in love with it immediately, said part of his motivation for enrolling at MSU was the skydiving club. However, the COVID-19 pandemic coincided with his freshman year, and because he was living at home, Roux did not join any clubs.
Upon returning to campus the next year, Roux was eager to get involved in student life.
“It was my sophomore year, and I was trying to get back into clubs, and I wanted to get into the skydiving club really bad, but I found out they dissolved during COVID-19 year, so my dreams were kind of over," Roux said.
Throughout his sophomore year, Roux skydived on his own time under the assumption that his hope to be a part of MSU’s skydiving club was merely a pipe dream.
However, during his junior year, Roux was reached out to by David Mathews, who is the accelerated free fall student program director at Skydive Tecumseh, a drop zone in southern Michigan where the MSU skydiving club has practiced in the past. Mathews was also a member of the MSU sport parachute club, an early version of what is now the MSU Skydiving Club, during his time as a student in the 1980s.
“I worked with the student services division that handles clubs and organizations at MSU, and I asked them if they could dig up some names of students who were in (the club), and they came up with Noah’s name as somebody who had requested information about it while the club was dormant, so I contacted him," Mathews said.
Roux described the initial exchange with Mathews.
“(Mathews) was like, ‘I see you’re a skydiver. Would you be willing to start the club? It’s how I fell in love with skydiving and I’d love to see it back to where it was.' I was like, that’s exactly what I’ve always wanted.”
The next step in getting the club up and running was finding a faculty adviser, a requirement for Registered Student Organizations, or RSOs. Mathews chose Antonio Ybarra, a former military parachutist and National Guard recruiter for the MSU Battalion of the Reserve Officer’s Training Corps, or ROTC.
Ybarra’s interest in skydiving stems from his time in active duty in the military.
“I was in 3rd Ranger Battalion, and Ranger Regiment, and our main objective at that time was airfield seizures, so jumping out of planes was something I did quite a bit," Ybarra said. “However, my jumps were static line, so something I always wanted to do was get on the HALO (high-altitude, low-opening) teams and do (more advanced stuff).”
Skydiving has given Ybarra the ability to maneuver more freely while jumping and enjoy the sport for recreation. Furthermore, being involved with the MSU skydiving club has benefits for his work in the ROTC.
“As an instructor for the ROTC here, ultimately what I’d like to do is bring that club to the ROTC,” Ybarra said. “We do send cadets from MSU to airborne school, so just getting them introduced to jumping out of the plane is a big thing.”
Mathews, Roux and Ybarra all said the financial aspect of skydiving is an obstacle in attracting more members to the club.
“You’re looking at around $200 every time you jump,” Ybarra said. “That’s not an easy thing for anybody, let alone students who don’t have the ability to work full-time.”
The club, despite finding a faculty adviser, has also struggled in becoming an RSO. Roux and Mathews both told a reporter for The State News that they believed the club had been officially designated as an RSO, but the club does not show up on MSU’s website for student organizations. An RSO consultant did not respond to questioning at the time of publication.
“Once we can get past the beginning hurdles of becoming a registered club, I think it will take off on its own just based off the sheer excitement of wanting to (skydive),” Ybarra said.
Mathews and Roux emphasized how rich and vibrant the skydiving community is and how after much experience, skydiving can be a profoundly relaxing experience. Mathews even described it as a form of “moving meditation.”
“The purpose of the club is to enjoy the beauty of skydiving,” Roux said. “For me, it is very calming to have the sense that the only thing that matters in that moment is that exact moment. So, everything else I stress out about, everything that worries me, all that doesn’t matter. The only thing I care about is making sure I jump safely.”
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