Photo by: Trina Lee Mattson
Tim Mattson started skydiving in 1991 and soon got involved in freefly, which was just emerging as a discipline. By 1997 he was traveling the globe on the SSI Pro Tour with team MadStyle. Over the years, he’s excelled at various skydiving disciplines and is also an avid BASE jumper and tunnel flyer. He is a USPA AFF Instructor, Designated AFF Evaluator and Safety and Training Advisor who always lends a helping hand if he sees a struggling newbie. Mattson is full of humor and fun, the quintessential kid who never grew up. For the sport’s sake, we hope he never does.
Birthplace: Portland, Oregon, but I grew up in Montana
Pets: Digby the Dachshund
Occupation: Parachute rigger at an eVTOL vehicle (electric vertical take off and landing, aka flying car) company. I also hope to get back to Stunts Adventure Equipment now that it’s up and running again.
Team Name: MadStyle
Containers: Stunts Adventure Equipment Eclipse and Velocity Sports Equipment Infinity
Main Canopies: Fluid Wings HK2 67 and NZ Aerosports JVX 70
Reserve Canopies: Icarus World Nano 113 and Performance Designs PDR 113
AADs: MarS M2 and Airtec CYPRES C-Mode. Both set to “speed” most of the time.
Disciplines: Freefly and swooping. But my wife is a tummy flier, so that means I am also a tummy flier. AFF instructor. AFF evaluator. Yes, evaluator is a discipline!
Home Drop Zones: Bay Area Skydiving in Byron, California, and Skydive California in Tracy
Year of First Jump: 1991
USPA Licenses and Ratings: C-22057, D-15587, AFF Instructor, Safety and Training Advisor, PRO, Designated AFF Evaluator
Total Number of Jumps: 8,000
Freefly: 5,000 AFF: 1,000 FS: 500 Camera: 500 Demos: 100-plus Wingsuit: 40 Tandems: 16 front rides for new instructors CF: 15 with real CF canopies Helicopter: 12 Balloon: 10 BASE: 1,300
Largest Completed Formation: 52
Total Number of Cutaways: This year? Or all the years? I’ve lost track.
People don’t know this about me:
I can still ride a skateboard while doing a handstand, and I own 17 sewing machines.
Someday I am going to own …
Fewer sewing machines.
Who were your skydiving mentors?
This would be way too large of a list to mention everyone, so I’ll cut it down to the two most important people in my early skydiving career: my old teammates from MadStyle, Brad Chatellier and Evan Mortimore. We pushed each other, motivated each other and figured out this freeflying thing together. Brad doesn’t skydive anymore, but I still get to jump with Evan now and then.
What do you like best about the sport?
It attracts some of the best, most interesting people in the world.
What do you like least about the sport?
Sometimes some of those people die.
What safety item do you think is important and often neglected?
Gear knowledge. Skydiving gear is not particularly complicated, but many folks have no idea how it really works.
Is there anything you’d like the younger generation to know about the ’90s freefly movement?
It was an amazing time in history. We didn’t have the benefit of tunnels yet, and coaching was limited to nonexistent. We watched videos from the Freefly Clowns and the Flyboyz religiously (sometimes copies of copies of copies), trying to pick up anything we could. It could easily take 1,000 jumps back then to become skilled. But despite this, there was an incredible feeling between all the freeflyers, like we were part of a revolution together. The brother and sisterhood in the community was incredibly strong. It was less of an exact flying science and more of a spiritual movement. A once-in-a-lifetime wave came through, and we got to ride it.
What has been your greatest competition moment?
I was competing with MadStyle on the SSI Pro Tour in Germany back in 1997. The night before the final round, I slid down the roof of a small log cabin in a playground and caught my foot on the step, severely spraining my ankle. Both my teammates were sure we were done, and I was pretty sure we were, too. On a side note, Orly King ran to a bar and stole some ice for me when they wouldn’t give it to him. The next morning, I still couldn’t put my toes on the ground. Luckily it was foggy, so I had time to make a cast out of a T-shirt and gaffer’s tape. Lots of gaffer’s tape. After the weather cleared, I was able to complete the final round of competition, and we ended up getting third place and were number two at the end of the tour.
What’s the most bad-ass thing you can do in the air?
I should mention something related to freeflying, but what’s more rewarding and challenging is taking “problem” AFF students who can’t seem to figure it out and finding ways to make them successful. Also helping transform AFF instructor candidates into the next generation of bad-ass instructors.
Does one jump stand out the most?
My teammate Evan Mortimore’s return to skydiving after a long layoff. Evan waited for me to be on his first jump back, and I am grateful for that. Even though it had been years, we picked right back up where we left off. It was fun to see that we could still anticipate each other’s moves without having a plan.
What is your secret for three decades in the sport?
Stay relevant and be willing to evolve with the sport. Wind tunnels have completely transformed what skydiving looks like now compared to the ’90s. New canopies, wingsuits and disciplines are exploding on the scene. You can choose to embrace the changes and grow with the sport, or you can sit around wishing for the “good old days.”
Never stop challenging yourself in skydiving. Always keep training and having new goals or you will eventually get bored and quit. At the same time, keep your training at a sustainable pace. If you always push yourself over 100%, you might burn out or get injured.
Help newer jumpers every chance you get. They will become part of the community that keeps you in the sport, and you can play a big role in developing that community. Nothing pleases me more than seeing my former students ripping it up in the sky or under canopy or becoming the newest generation of AFF instructors.
What do you consider your most significant life achievement?
Just being alive today to marry Trina Lee Mattson and share great adventures with her. I’ve lost a countless number of friends in the past 30 years and have had more than my fair share of sketchy moments. Based on my past history, it still surprises me that I’ve lasted so long. Every gray hair on your head means you’re winning.
How long do you plan on skydiving?
Until I expire or it’s not reasonable to continue. Hopefully, I’ll realize it’s time to hang it up so someone else doesn’t have to make that decision for me.