David Clark, D-33786, has poured his heart into establishing a drop zone (Desafío Vertical) in Costa Rica, and has worked hard to put the area on the map as a preferred skydiving location. What started in 2008 as word-of-mouth advertising and a single student rig has grown into a DZ hosting its sixth boogie in 2022, and it is still growing. A USPA Foreign Affiliate drop zone since 2014, Desafío Vertical has seen many Costa Rican jumpers through student status, and sent many others to the United States for additional training with the help of Skydive City Zephyrhills and former USPA Director of Safety & Training Jim Crouch. Clark is someone who loves using his own jumping experience as a tool to grow the sport in new parts of the world and provide opportunities to people who otherwise never would have experienced skydiving.
Birthplace: San José, Costa Rica
Nationality: Costa Rican
Marital Status: Single
Education: Half of an economics degree, a couple of technical degrees in IT as well as business administration
Pet Peeves: Not being able to wash off sea water immediately after going for a swim
Hobbies: Cooking/baking and then eating it all
Favorite Food: Chocolate (the real thing, not white chocolate)
Life Philosophy: Be kind; the other option sucks.
Hard opening or line twists? Line twists for the win!
Jump Philosophy: Every jump is an opportunity to learn or teach.
Team Name: Desafío
Container: Aerodyne Research Icon
Main Canopy: Performance Designs Storm 170
Reserve Canopy: Precision Aerodynamics Raven II
AAD: Advanced Aerospace Designs Vigil
First Jump Year: 1998
Licenses and Ratings: D-33786, Static-Line Instructor, Tandem Instructor
FAA Ratings: Senior Rigger
Total Number of Jumps: 1,200
FS: 500 Tandem: 300 Accuracy: 50 Camera: 50 Canopy Formation: 40 Demos: 30 Balloon: 1
Largest Completed Formation: 41-way
Total Number of Cutaways: One—intentional, for the tandem rating.
Out of all of your skydives, is there one particular jump that stands out the most?
At a demo, I was asked to board one of the planes out of sight from the crowd. It was a beautiful Stearman bi-plane. We took off and the emcee announced the start of the show. The plane flipped upside down and I hung for a while from the wing. I was supposed to just drop, but the visual mesmerized me, and the pilot had to literally shake me off. There I went kicking and flailing while the Stearman went into a spinning dive. The emcee told the spectators that the pilot had fallen and a few actually believed it. To top it off, I landed right next to an AWACS with the military crew clapping and giving me a thumbs up.
How long do you plan on skydiving?
As long as skydiving lets me.
What do you like most about the sport?
The camaraderie. It’s amazing how almost everyone truly wants everybody else to improve and have fun.
What do you like least about the sport?
Who, if anybody, has been your skydiving mentor?
I met Rich Grimm in 2014, when he wanted to do a boogie in Costa Rica. The boogie was an amazing learning experience, and Rich has been keen to share all sorts of tips and tricks, from DZO 101 to airplane operations to food. He still has not convinced me on the Beyond Burgers thing, though. So far, we’ve collaborated on five boogies and a Blue Hole jump, and I’m still learning like it’s day one.
How did you become interested in skydiving?
I thought of it as the closest anyone could be to flying, and who doesn’t want to fly?!
I skydive because…
On the ground you get to meet amazing people, teach, learn and be in a sincerely positive environment. In the sky, there are tasks and challenges that keep your mind busy and give a feeling of accomplishment.
Any suggestions for students?
Take it one jump at a time. Focus on the one you need to do now and the next will come soon enough.
What’s the most badass thing you can do in the air?
Fly my slot and smile. It’s amazing how you can relieve someone else’s stress just by smiling at them.
What is your favorite jump plane and why?
For aircraft in general, I’d go for the Bell UH-1 any time. Besides helicopters being as cool as can be, the Huey sounds like the Harley of the sky. For airplanes, the PAC; being able to stand on the wing of an aircraft in flight is unreal.
If you could do a fantasy 2-way with anybody, whom would it be?
Elon Musk out of one of his capsules. Lots of interesting stuff might happen if he gets into skydiving.
The toughest thing to do in the sport of skydiving is:
Accepting you can’t excel in everything.
What kind of skydiving student were you - the typical flailer or a complete natural from jump number one?
Almost until my A license, my main issue was being tense. I would arch on exit and use every single muscle to keep arching. I still remember the jump when I actually relaxed for the first time—I immediately stopped wobbling and felt the fall rate increase.
Out of all your skydives, is there one jump you would like to do again?
The inaugural load at the 2015 Costa Rica boogie; I was a jumping with the crew that had helped my DZ grow, and this was kind of a graduation for us all. It was a simple 6-way, but it was the first big event in the country after almost 20 years. It wasn’t until we landed that I was able to process how big this milestone was. We actually jumped a turbine at a boogie in Costa Rica. That’s a long way to go from chartering a Cessna 206 every other weekend.
Best skydiving moment?
Landing after a successful final coach evaluation jump with a candidate who started from jump one with us. It was also the first time anyone got an instructional rating locally (not traveling abroad to get it).
What is your perfect day like?
Wake up at the DZ, have breakfast and go meet with colleagues to plan a challenging jump. Jump a few times with nice, intense briefings and finish the day with a group dinner making fun of everyone’s bloopers.
What do you consider your most significant life achievement?
Desafio Vertical, my DZ. It’s a tiny operation, but it has led me to meet the people who are dearest to me. Also, I’ve witnessed them accomplish dreams and goals that they once thought were out of reach.
What are your future plans for skydiving in Costa Rica?
For Desafío, we’re working on growing the skydiver base and creating opportunities for advanced training.