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The Inc Life: Passions

"You're doing something magical. For a minute at a time, I can play in the sky."
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You know you have a demanding job when you see jumping out of airplanes as stress relief. But that's what skydiving is for David Becker, president and co-founder of Philippe Becker, a 24-employee San Francisco design firm that creates branding materials and package designs for companies such as Hewlett-Packard, T-Mobile, and Whole Foods. After a day of skydiving, "you are completely cleansed and ready to attack your job again," says Becker, 44. "It's incredibly rejuvenating."

How often he jumps:
Five or six times every other weekend

Typical jump:
13,000 feet, but sometimes higher. Becker is one of the few civilians to have jumped from 30,000 feet. Velocity: 120 to 180 miles per hour, depending on body position. "Horizontal or 'belly to earth' positions are slower," he says.

Free-fall time:
About 60 seconds What those 60 seconds feel like: "It's very loud with all the wind rushing by," says Becker. "It's very intense. Then you pull the parachute, and it's quiet and calm, and you just kind of float there."

Where he usually goes to jump:
SkyDance SkyDiving in Davis, California, which offers high-altitude jumps

How he started:
In 1990, a friend bought Becker a skydiving jump for his birthday. He was petrified, he says, "a basket case the whole day"; he thought he would fling himself out of the plane and get it over with. But after the first jump, he was hooked.

Total jumps he has made since then:
More than 1,500

Total jumps made in the U.S. last year:
About 2.2 million, according to the United States Parachute Association

Safety record:
Last year, there were 18 deaths and about 800 skydiving injuries.

Becker's regular jumping buddies:
His wife, Linda, and the other two members of their formation skydiving team, Focus4

Who doesn't go:
Their two kids, Anders, 6, and Thea, 2. They stay at Grandma's.

What Focus4 does in competition:
Fifteen to 20 maneuvers during a 35-second free fall

One of their best moves:
A stardian-stardian, in which all four divers start out in a star formation, then break their grips, flip around 360 degrees in the air, and form another star

Key to a good jump:
"When you're falling at 120 miles per hour, the movements have to be much more subtle," Becker says. "Even slight gestures make a big difference."

Number of awards won by the team:
Two. The team earned silver medals in the U.S. National Skydiving Championships in 1998 and 2000. Focus4 plans to compete in the nationals again in Eloy, Arizona, this October.

Last updated: Jul 1, 2008




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