"You're doing something magical.
For a minute at a time, I can play in the sky."
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
13,000 feet, but sometimes higher. Becker is one of the few civilians to have jumped from 30,000 feet.
120 to 180 miles
per hour, depending
on body position.
"Horizontal or 'belly
to earth' positions
are slower," he says.
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:
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
Last year, there were
18 deaths and about 800 skydiving injuries.
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
Fifteen to 20
maneuvers during a 35-second free fall
One of their
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.