Nancy Koreen, D-18240, is a world-record-setting skydiver and freefly load organizer with more than 9,800 jumps to her credit. She has also worked behind the scenes to promote skydiving in myriad ways, rarely taking any credit. As a former managing editor of Parachutist, she approved a new column called “Profile” in the February 2000 issue. Circling back to the beginning, it is now Koreen’s turn to take the limelight as the 250th Parachutist profilee.
Birthplace: Hollywood, Florida
Nationality: First-generation American
Marital Status: Single
Children: No thanks
Occupation: Currently funemployed
Education: BA in Communications from the University of Pennsylvania
Hard opening or line twists? Neither. I jump a Katana and always pack for myself.
Neat packer or a trash packer? Shmedium tidy, I’d say.
Container: Sun Path Javelin
Main: Performance Designs Katana 83
Reserve: Performance Designs PD 113R
AAD: Airtec CYPRES 2
Home DZ: Skydive Arizona, although I grew up at Skydive Orange in Virginia
Licenses/Ratings: A-20526, C-25076, D-18240, PRO
Records: Fédération Aéronautique Internationale Women’s Word Records for Largest Head-Down Formation Skydive—18-way (2005), 41-way (2010), 63-way (2013) and 65-way (2016); FAI World Record for Largest Head-Up Formation Skydive—52-way (2014); FAI Women’s World Record for Largest Head-Up Formation Skydive—32-way (2017)
Total Number of Jumps: 9,800-ish Freefly: 7,000-plus FS: 1,000-plus Demos: 100 Balloon: Two
Largest Completed Formation: 65-way women’s head-down world record
Total Number of Cutaways: Three—a couple in the first 100-plus jumps, and then none until somewhere around 8,700, when one cell of my canopy split apart on opening. It was pretty much the least dramatic, slowest-speed, most anti-climactic way imaginable to break my streak.
What do you like most about the sport?
I can go just about anywhere in the world, where I don’t know a soul, show up at the drop zone and have instant friends.
What do you like least about the sport?
Of course, it sucks when people die. But I know way too many people whose lives have been irrevocably altered by severe injury, whether brain trauma or paralysis, which is devastating.
Do you have any suggestions for students?
I’ve heard so many new jumpers say things like, “Once I get my license (or once I can freefly, or once I can jump with those ninjas, etc.), I’ll be able to start having more fun.” There is no end goal in skydiving. As soon as you get to that level, you’re only going to want to be able to do the next thing. No matter how good you are, it’s never going to be good enough. That’s the great thing about skydiving—there’s always a new challenge. If you don’t have fun tackling all the steps along the way, you’re missing the whole point. Besides, if it were easy, it would be boring.
If you could do a fantasy 2-way with anybody, whom would it be with and where would it take place?
It would be a 3-way with my old-school skydiving besties Heather and Tessie over Skydive Orange in Virginia. We were an inseparable trio back in the day, when we were all young and new in the sport and having all the fun. Heather stopped jumping years ago, and Tessie died of cancer last year. I can’t imagine a more special skydive to make now.
What has been your most embarrassing moment while at a drop zone?
Wow, so many. Maybe taking out a camera guy on the ground with my lines on landing after thinking I was badass with my low toggle turn—right in front of everyone on the DZ, including the guy I was into at the time. Or maybe the time the freefly organizers at a boogie, who were good friends of mine, put me as the hanger on a hybrid after a few of the locals kept blowing it, saying, “Don’t worry, she’s got this.” And then I proceeded to do a front flip through the middle of the entire formation and spit myself out the bottom. Gotta love how this sport keeps you humble.
What kind of skydiving student were you?
My first jump—an AFF—was so bad that one of my instructors almost quit instructing. I basically tumbled for 5,000 feet. After I landed, I thought, “There’s no way in hell I’m ever doing that again.” But after a couple weeks, I decided I needed to at least do it right one time. My second jump was solid, and after that I’d say I was a pretty average student. I’ve often wondered, if my first jump had been uneventful, whether I would have ever jumped again.
Is there one jump you would like to do again?
The women’s upright world record 32-way in 2017. That event was the least stressful record for me, personally, that I had ever been on. On the actual record jump, we held the completion for 13 seconds. We all knew we had it, and it was so much fun to be able to celebrate in freefall together for so long, all of us just looking across at each other, nodding and smiling and cheering.
What has been your strangest thought while skydiving?
Looking up after a cutaway: “Well, that reserve is round. Huh.”
What was your weirdest skydiving moment?
Landing 40 feet up in a tree under the aforementioned round reserve, hearing my friends traipsing through the woods calling my name and yelling back, “I’m up here! I’m OK!”
What drives your competitive spirit?
I’m actually not very competitive at all. I’ve always been a pretty slow learner in freeflying. I figured out long ago not to compare my progression to other people. There will always be someone slower and someone faster. Tons of people who I first taught to sit-fly can now fly circles around me. That kind of thing doesn’t bother me at all anymore. I don’t take any of it too seriously. It’s not like we’re saving the world by having badass freefly skills.
What do you enjoy most about organizing?
I have an excuse to walk up to any stranger on the drop zone and start talking to them. I’ve had the chance to meet countless people from around the world who I never would have interacted with otherwise.
Explain Nancy Koreen in five words or fewer:
Adventurous, compassionate, straightforward, chill.