BOUNTIFUL – For Dusty Hanks, going skydiving once just wasn’t enough.
Neither was going a dozen times. Or a hundred. Or even a thousand.
Hanks, 42, of Bountiful, is a competitive skydiver with more than 12,000 skydives under his belt – and that number will keep going up as he trains to compete with his team in the 2018 FAI World Parachuting World Championship in Australia this October.
“I love every skydive that I do,” Hanks said. “I’m fortunate enough to travel and compete, and participate in world records.”
Hanks is a member of SDC Core, a four-person vertical formation skydiving team based out of a Chicago. SDC Core recently won its fourth consecutive national championship at the 2018 U.S. Parachute Association National Skydiving Championships and is a two-time world champion in vertical formation skydiving.
In vertical formation skydiving, teams are judged on their ability to perform as many pre-determined formations as they can in 35 seconds, Hanks said. The teams complete 10 jumps with a different set of formations each time. A camera person jumps with the team, recording the maneuvers for the judges.
Teams get points based on their ability to complete the formations. For instance, if the divers don’t complete a grip or its not in frame, it won’t count toward points, Hanks said.
“This is the Olympics of skydiving,” Hanks said of the upcoming world championships. “It’s going to be an awesome event, and we’re excited to defend our title as the current world champions ... we’re ready to battle.”
Hanks has been skydiving for 24 years, though he hasn’t always been doing it competitively. The extreme sport became his passion almost as soon as he jumped for the first time as an 18-year-old.
“As soon as the door opened and I climbed out, it was just a whole new world,” he said of his first jump. “As soon as we exited the airplane, I fell in love.”
He kept jumping, eventually gaining enough experience to become a skydiving instructor. It was during one of those skydiving sessions that he met his wife, Holly, who had come to make a tandem skydive with a friend from high school.
“Dusty was my instructor. I saw him and I thought, ‘I’m going to marry him.’ So I tipped him with a $20 with my phone number written on it,” Holly said. Five months after that jump, the two got married.
Holly has made a few additional tandem jumps since then, but largely leaves the skydiving to her husband.
“For him ... it’s just part of who he is, so it doesn’t freak me out,” she said. “He’s super safety conscious and he’s super heads up. It’s not really ever been concern since I met him doing that.”
Since SDC Core is based out of Chicago, Hanks spends about two weeks a month there training for competitions. During those two weeks, the team can make anywhere between 100 to 150 training jumps. Depending on the weather, that can add up to around 16 jumps a day.
The team also competes in indoor skydiving competitions and often comes to Ogden to train in the wind tunnel at iFly Utah, where Hanks has worked for the last 11 years as an instructor.
Because he spends so much time on the road training or at competitions, Hanks said he doesn’t jump in Utah all that much any more. He’d rather spend the time with his wife and their three children – Aidan, Cole and Kayla. Hanks recently took the two boys on their first skydive in Colorado.
When he’s not competing, Hanks also skydives at air shows and other events, like the Stadium of Fire in Provo. He said he enjoys jumping into crowds and showing people what skydiving is all about because “maybe that’ll change their lives.”
“I deep down believe that everybody should try everything in life and experience as much as we can in this short life,” he said. “Skydiving is one of them.”