As if Moab area residents don’t have enough to brag about, locals can now lay claim to being home to a national champion skydiver.
Katie Hansen and her team – Polaris – last week took gold in Artistic Freeflying at the U.S. Parachute Association National Skydiving Championships at Skydive Paraclete XP in Raeford, North Carolina.
The championship drew 600 competitors, but they weren’t there just for a trophy. The win means that next August Hansen and her teammates, Matthew Fry and videographer Chad Ross, will represent the U.S. in the 2020 World Parachuting Championships in Siberia, Russia.
Hansen, who bought a home in Moab 18 months ago after visiting for the first time in 2004, said she loves Moab because it is “grounding and peaceful. The pace is just different.”
She’s also into BASE jumping and biking when not skydiving, an activity she said is “full of huge personalities. My favorite part is the community of people.”
Hansen has made about 7,250 skydives since jumping out of a perfectly good airplane the first time in 2003. It was a static line jump with her father to mark her high school graduation.
The artistic freeflying competitors in Raeford jumped a total of seven times, with five of them being “free” – meaning they could do what they wanted – and two that were “compulsory,” which called for a total of eight specific acrobatic moves, four in each of the two rounds.
“Free is similar to a gymnastics floor routine,” she said during an interview Saturday, Sept. 21. “You’re scored on difficulty and execution.”
Hansen said there were different levels of difficulty with the compulsory moves, which had to be executed flawlessly. “You’re trying to create something aesthetic.” She also said the videographer’s role is as critical as anyone’s on the team.
And while creating something beautiful is the goal, Hansen said safety is everyone’s first priority. They have a number of ways to maintain altitude awareness, but she her experience has given her a “built in internal clock” that warns it’s time to separate so they aren’t too close together when they deploy their chutes.
Hansen said she and her team plan to make 400 practices jumps leading to the world championships. The knowledge that she is representing the U.S. is a weight on her shoulders that she embraces.
“Our freeflying team is now the U.S. freeflying team,” she said with a huge smile. The training will be “camp style,” with the team making as many as a dozen jumps in a day. “We love skydiving together.”
Hansen said one of the teams she, Fry and Ross competed against were last year’s champions. “It was a lifelong dream of mine and it was cool to stand on the podium. It was cool to see it come full circle.”
While she skydives year-round, the change in seasons does ground her enough that Hansen supplements her income by working as a traveling registered nurse in the off-season. And when she isn’t nursing, skydiving, BASE jumping or biking, Hansen likes to put on a wingsuit and jump from the skids of a helicopter or some other perch.
She’s living the life. Want proof? Log on to YouTube and search for “Katie Hansen skydiver.” There’s video of her skydiving, including swooping into a moving convertible; BASE jumping and flying her wingsuit.