Wendy Smith captured the headlines last fall, when she became the first skydiver to take the highest free fall during Everest Skydive 2008. A very talented photographer and an experienced skydiver, Wendy, this year, is on the team of Everest Skydive 2009.
She was here in Nepal, recently to plan for the upcoming event. Explore Himalaya had the opportunity to ask her a few questions after she was back from her short trip to Pokhara. The interview was conducted on 23rd March at Explore Himalaya, Kathmandu.
Wendy with EH Team( IT & Business Development)
Q. How was Pokhara?
Wendy Smith: Very nice.
Q. What all activities did you indulge in while you were there?
WS: We flew up to Pokhara and the first thing we did was we met the guide. Then we started doing the trek to Dhampus. We arrived in the afternoon, just in time because a big storm came. We stayed the evening in Dhampus and I did some small walks around this area. We stayed there the evening and we climbed a little bit higher to see the sunset and it was a little bit cloudy and bit grey after the storm and very, very cold. The next morning we woke up at 5:30 and we went up, almost another 500m to see the sunrise coming on the mountains and it was clear. We could see all of the peaks facing Pokhara. It was very beautiful. Then we trekked 3 hrs back down to the village, on the other side of Dhampus, to take a shuttle back down to Pokhara. When we came back to Pokhara we went to check for some locations possible for parachuting drop zones, places that could be made suitable for landing on parachute. It was nice to see such an active paragliding club up there, very nice and just to see the general layout of the town and the people and the sports available. Pokhara is really calm and it’s very beautiful. Very nice place, and very clean, there’s no pollution!
Q. How did you get into skydiving?
WS: When I was seventeen years old, I did my first skydive in New Zealand. I always loved flying since I was a little girl on the farm. I grew up on a farm in New Zealand. I used to go flying with the agricultural pilots, when they were fertilizing the crops in their helicopters.
Q. Where exactly in New Zealand?
WS: Up in the mountains, in the middle of the North Island, in sheep and cattle country. I grew up with the nature, the big nature and learning to be in the aircraft and above the land was wonderful for me .When I was seventeen, I had the chance to train to do my first round parachute jump. I tried it and I loved it.
Q. How many jumps have you made?
WS: I have made nearly 18,000 jumps so far.
Q. Is that the highest number of jumps made by a woman skydiver?
WS: I probably may have the highest number of jumps. Maybe, I think there is one another American woman skydiver who has that many jumps. But she does accuracy, which means she doesn’t free fall a lot. Most of my jumps are high free fall.
Q. How was Everest Skydive 2008 ?
WS: It was exhilarating. It was so overwhelming, so stunning! But there were so many things to take care of, the equipment, the oxygen, cameras, cold, and aircraft. It was very, very technically interesting and I was very pleased at the technical influence. Our equipment was wonderful, our pilots were wonderful, the air to ground and ground to air crew were all wonderful. I mean this is so important. This is just not one thing but everything that made the event successful.
Q. You are now in the team of ESD 2009.How do you think this event will turn out to be like?
WS: I think from 2008 we have opened a lot of people’s eyes in the world about what we achieved and now they know we have actually achieved it safely. Now more and more people are gonna try it. Not only will they be able to achieve an amazing skydive but they will also learn so much about this amazing area. It’s a very humbling environment.
Q. Other then skydiving and photography, what are your other interests?
WS: I love all sports. I love water sports, skiing; I love animals and horse riding. I have been riding horses since I was three or four years old. I used to ride my horse to school. I love trekking and climbing in the mountains. Yeah, I love being outdoors, but I really love climbing and mountains and the nature.
Q. How would you like to be known as, a photographer or a skydiver?
WS: Well I am both. I am unusual because I am an aerial cinematographer and one of the only women in the world who shoots films and collects cinematography for such a wide collection of disciplines and sports.
We work with the motto "Tourism for Development". Explore Himalaya Community Service Project was conceived to empower underprivileged segments of Nepal.