Pablo Hernandez | D-29869
By Brian Giboney
Pablo Hernandez, D-29869, is a highly accomplished Spanish canopy pilot whose father taught him how to jump at a young age. He is a member of the Performance Designs Factory Team and a Flight-1 coach who won the 2018 Féderátion Aéronautique Internationale Swoop Freestyle World Championships in San Diego, California, as well as dozens of other medals at world-class canopy piloting events. Although best known as a canopy pilot, he also excels in freeflying and is a respected wingsuit coach and seasoned tandem instructor.
Nicknames: Machine, Silverback Gorilla
Birthplace: Valencia, Spain
Marital Status: Married
Occupation: Special projects coordinator and tandem instructor at Skydive Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, Flight-1 Coach, Performance Designs Factory Team member
Education: High School
Pre-Jump Superstitions: Checking my rig and equipment non-stop on my ride to altitude
Jump Philosophy: There are never two identical jumps, so be ready for the unknown on every single one of them
Team Name: PD Factory Team
Sponsors: Airtec, Alti-2, Cookie Helmets, Flight-1, Liquid Sky Sports, Performance Designs, Salice Ochiali, Skydive Dubai, Spanish Aeronautical Federation, Squirrel, Sun Path Products
Container: Sun Path Javelin Odyssey
Main Canopy: Performance Designs Valkyrie 90
Reserve Canopy: Performance Designs Optimum 143
AADs: Airtec Speed CYPRES and Wingsuit CYPRES
Home Drop Zone: Skydive Dubai in the United Arab Emirates nowadays, but I became a professional skydiver at Skydive Lillo in Spain
First Jump: A tandem, then static line, in 1996
Licenses and Ratings: USPA D-29869, Coach, Tandem Instructor and PRO; Flight-1 Instructor; Phoenix-Fly Coach; Birdman Coach
Championships, Medals and Records: Twenty-eight-time medalist at FAI World Championships, World Cups, World Games and World Air Games. One FAI Speed Canopy Piloting World Record and one FAI Distance Canopy Piloting World Record. Three-time European Canopy Piloting Champion. FAI Swoop Freestyle World Champion.
Total Number of Jumps: 16,419 Freefly: 5,000 Hop and Pop: 5,000 AFF: 2,000 Tandem: 2,000 Camera: 1,000 Wingsuit: 700 FS: 500 Demos: 50 CF: 40 Balloon: 10 BASE: 120<
Largest Completed Formation: 19-way
Total Number of Cutaways: 20
Who have been your skydiving mentors?
Thankfully, I had many along the road, starting with my father, who was my instructor. Mike Carpenter mentored me in freefly; Brian Vacher introduced me to canopy piloting; my PD Factory Team teammates pushed me to train harder. And nowadays, any kid with tunnel experience.
What safety item is most important?
Jump with people you know and trust. Keep it small and don’t get onto a full-load tracking jump if you don’t know who you are jumping with. You can control your actions but not other people’s or the consequences they have on your safety.
How did you become interested in skydiving?
My grandfather was a pilot during the Spanish Civil War. He had to jump twice after being shot down by the enemy. In the 1970s, my grandfather took my father to the skydiving club, and he became a skydiving addict. I followed my dad every weekend to the DZ. Let’s say it’s in the blood.
Do you have any suggestions for students?
Work on your belly skills first, don’t go straight into freeflying. Belly-flying will give you a strong foundation, and it gives you a chance to develop your situational awareness and reactions before you start moving at higher speeds. Learn to walk first and then run!
What’s the most bad-ass thing you can do?
I am quite consistent performing under-canopy barrel rolls over the top of another canopy. Both canopies’ top skins contact each other for a second. I call them top-skin-to-top-skin barrel rolls.
What do you consider your most significant life achievement?
The adoption of my daughter.
Most people don’t know this about me:
I didn’t want to adopt a baby girl from Ethiopia. My wife told me I was being a racist piece of s**t. Like always, she was right. It’s the best thing I have done in my life, and it has helped me to become a better human being.
What was your best skydiving moment?
Joining the PD Factory Team
What was your worst skydiving moment?
Losing three teammates in skydiving accidents.
What was your weirdest skydiving moment?
Intentionally carving around with a freeflyer while flying my parachute (a PD Peregrine 61 at a 4.2:1 wingloading). Quite surreal!
If you could do a fantasy skydive, whom would it be with?
I would love to jump again with all my teammates who passed away in skydiving accidents: Jonathan Tagle, Jessica Edgeington and Gage Galle. It would take place at Deep Woods Ranch in DeLand, Florida, a ranch with a lot of history for our team.
What drives your competitive spirit?
After competing in canopy piloting for 15 years, that spirit has faded. Competition doesn’t interest me anymore, but for 15 years what drove that spirit was the fact that there were better competitors than me, and I hated it!
How did you become interested in CP?
In the summer of 2004, I attended a canopy course on my PD Sabre 107 with Brian Vacher. Brian was the first person I ever saw swooping the pond efficiently on a Velocity. That same week, I decided I wanted to compete at the CP World Cup in Lake Wales, Florida, in February 2005. I bought an old Icarus VX from Jim Slaton and trained for five months. I won the intermediate class at Lake Wales and got hooked on competition.
What do you consider your best CP achievement?
In 2018, just when I decided to retire from canopy piloting, I won the FAI Swoop Freestyle World Championships in San Diego. Funny that I chased that dream for 13 years and accomplished it just when I decided to retire. Being on top of the podium was one of the best moments in my life, but the feeling went away the second I stepped down from it. Thirteen years chasing those two minutes of glory ... totally worth it!
What do you see as the future of CP Comps?
The Swoop Freestyle organization is working really hard at building a world tour where competitions come to the core of cities in front of big crowds and get broadcast live in a two-hour-competition format.