Daina started her love affair with skydiving earlier than most.
She made her first skydive on her 18th birthday and was, as she puts it, “Sold.” Nearly ten years later she holds USPA AFF and Tandem Instructor Ratings and claims that skydiving has exceeded her expectations.
Daina started working at her hometown dropzone–Skydive Santa Barbara–when she was just 15 years old. She needed a summer job. Luckily, a good friend’s family knew the dropzone owner. Posthaste, Daina was trained up and slotted into a gig packing parachutes. She immediately fell in love with the energy and people who make up the skydiving community, constantly hanging out at the dropzone well after working hours…but she wasn’t yet 18.
“The thing I noticed immediately about the skydiving community,” she remembers, “is that everybody is just happy, for the most part. They just like to go out and have fun. It doesn’t matter whether nothing they planned for the jump goes the way they thought it would–the goal is to be there hanging out with one another and sharing what they love.”
“Every year, I would ask if I could jump,” Daina remembers. “I asked over and over if my mom could just sign a waiver? They wouldn’t let me do it. That’s the rules.”
Finally, Daina’s 18th birthday rolled around and she and finally got to jump. Before long, she found a place for her (talented) self shooting video, and, when she moved to Houston, she (of course) kept skydiving. After a while, she started working at Westside Skydivers, where she found an interesting new angle for her burgeoning career: working as a licensed tandem skydiving instructor. (Because of the region’s significant Muslim population, female instructors are very necessary.)
“I thought that would be a really cool opportunity, to be able to work with these women,” she smiles, “So I went for it.”
“Just in general, I love being a tandem instructor,” she continues. “I like that I get to be with people at their most vulnerable, because you get to see how excited they are and then you get to watch as they conquer that fear. In this job, you meet a lot of people who say they are terrified of heights, and that’s what they want to get over. When the parachute opens and they are released from that, they are laughing, or screaming or crying…it is a cool feeling to have guided them to that feeling. It’s amazing. It’s such an honor.”
Since then, Daina has instructed more than 2,000 tandem skydives. She also instructs AFF, helping new solo jumpers learn the skills they need to demonstrate to earn their licenses.
“I love getting to see the look on people’s faces when it clicks, and they finally truly understand the concept of human flight,” she enthuses. “Especially when they have been trying super hard to nail a level in the AFF program. It is super fun to be part of that learning: That I helped them succeed, and now they’re so stoked.”
“I’ve been doing this for a while,” she adds, “And there’s something cool that happens. I can watch the people who used to be my students becoming instructors themselves. When people point at me and say, this person was my first instructor and look at me now, it makes me really happy.”
As well as her very busy instructing schedule, Daina also puts a lot of emphasis on staying fresh as a sport jumper. She strives to do at least one sport jump per day to keep her skills strong–and to mix it up with aerial videography, too. In the future, she’s considering putting her hat in the ring and competing at the national level, but right now her heart is very much in teaching. She believes she is truly blessed to have the opportunity to share flight with people from all walks of life.
“The hardest part is standing on the edge,” she grins. “Once you get out, it’s hard not to fall in love.”