Joey Freeman is a staple staff member here at Skydive Carolina. Typically manning his post at the back of the hangar, arms folded across his chest, radio on his hip, and dark sunglasses shading his eyes. If there are canopies in the air, Joey has his sight trained solely on the landing area.
Though his visage may be intimidating, looks can be deceiving. Joey may actually be one of the most approachable skydiver’s you’ll ever meet! Always ready with a piece of sage advice or a nugget of skydiving knowledge, Joey has been dedicated to helping skydivers learn and grow for nearly 20 years.
Without further ado, let’s get to know a little more about this member of the Skydive Carolina family: Joey Freeman!
JOEY FREEMAN FAST FACTS!
Estimated # of Jumps
Estimated Freefall Time
Woodworking, fishing, hunting, and rock climbing
Favorite Skydiving Memory:
“Probably the one that I will remember the most, and I will never forget is walking in at Skydive Perris from Round 10 at the 2005 Nationals. We walked in off the field through a tent that was full of people, and as we were walking through, they were showing the video of the jump that we just did. And everybody is in there yelling and having a good time.
I believe we got second, and it was my first nationals ever. I won’t ever forget that the vibe and the energy coming from all of the people and just the way they had it set up. I’d never been to one before that, but there’s never been one like that since, either!”
From the time he was a child, Joey had dreamt of skydiving but, like many, the tribulations of his teenage years and the tedium of discovering a career path made pursuing his dream of flight quite difficult. However, as soon as a coworker mentioned making a jump, Joey was all in:
“A guy at work one day asked if I wanted to go skydiving. I said find a place and I’ll go. So, I went … and the rest is history!”
Though his dream of skydiving didn’t come to fruition until Joey was 34 years old, once he got started, there was no stopping him. Two weeks after completing his first tandem skydive, Joey returned to do his static line First Jump Course and, in his words, “I’ve basically been at a dropzone every week since.”
Joey made his first jump in September 1999 and, within the first year of being a licensed skydiver, he accrued 350 jumps. According to Joey, his early progression was “wide open!” Every weekend, you could find him at the dropzone jumping as many times as he could. In fact, by October 2000, he had earned his D-license.
It was also early on that Joey realized what path in skydiving he’d like to pursue. With a chuckle he shared,
“As I left the dropzone after my first tandem, I told the tandem instructors I would be back to take their jobs.”
And if you know anything about Joey, you know he’s a man of his word!
Joey earned his AFF Instructor rating in 2002, followed by his Tandem Instructor rating in 2003, and his PRO rating later that same year! (If you ever get the chance, ask him about jumping into the Chicago White Sox stadium … dressed as Elvis … at night … with pyro.)
Currently, Joey is an active AFF instructor and, though he no longer has his tandem rating, he did spend over a decade introducing folks to the sport of skydiving as a tandem instructor! In addition, Joey is also an AFF Instructor Examiner and a Coach Examiner. Through these multiple roles, Joey continues to give back to the sport by helping to vet and shape the next generation of skydiving students and instructors.
The sport of skydiving has captivated Joey for as long as it has, in part, because it’s an ever-evolving challenge. Joey’s focus has never been on earning awards, medals, or achieving acclaim. Instead, his focus is on the experiences that lead up to reaching different goals.
“It’s about the journey versus the destination …. The destination is temporary. The journey is a lifetime. See, you’re going to remember the journey, but the destination will always disappear. Over time, you’ll forget about the destination, and everybody else will forget about it too. But you’ll always have the journey as memories.”
Part of the passion Joey has for the sport is fueled by the opportunity to make a difference. He explains: “If there’s a student or a newer jumper that’s having difficulty in an area, I can always get them over that hump and keep them in the sport or get them to pass whatever level of AFF or whatever skill set it is that they’re struggling with. I feel like that’s one of my gifts … to be able to get people through those hurdles. Because I will spend the time that it takes to make that happen.”
In fact, some of his favorite moments are “those moments where you’re in freefall and you see the light bulb come on, and they just get it. It’s definitely one of the things that I will remember for a long time. Because when you’ve put all of this effort into teaching people with the goal of making them better, when it actually happens, it’s very rewarding.”
Truth is, Joey Freeman has a different value system than most. While others focus on their own achievements, Joey maintains that having “a positive impact on others is more important than any medal or point average.”
For many, the early years as a jumper are pivotal. Joey credits much of his knowledge to the mentors he had in his journey from his first jump to jump 500, including David Todd, Travis Payne, and Ron Alley. Joey also credits the positive influence of these mentors for helping to keep him safe as a younger jumper when he attended the boogie of all boogies: the World Freefall Convention in Quincy, IL. (An event for which Joey would even dye his hair red, white, and blue! Betcha can’t picture that!?)
Joey also believes that these early jumping gurus helped show him the importance of mentorship and helped to mold him into the strong advocate and guide he is today. To Joey, the value of mentorship shouldn’t be understated:
“A good mentor is someone who tells you what you need to hear versus what you want to hear … which will ultimately keep you safe. A mentor will also help prepare you and help you to achieve further goals in whatever area of skydiving you want to shoot for. If you don’t have that, you’re just blindly going through the motions until you get bored. I think it’s important for people to have a mentor or several mentors.”
Likewise, Joey asserts, “one of the main qualities you find in a good coach, mentor, or instructor, whatever the role may be, is that the mentor’s goal is ultimately for their students to become better than them. Otherwise, why are you teaching them at all? Are you doing it for you, or for them?”
Joey also emphasizes the importance of approaching others (students and other skydivers) with respect, even if they’ve made a mistake. He elaborates:
“How you approach someone makes all the difference in the outcome. If you approach with respect, the walls come down, and you’re more likely to reach a solution. If you approach with condescension or anger, the walls go up. The first approach is key to a positive and successful outcome.”
Additionally, Joey shared that when he approaches someone he doesn’t know, often, he will assume the other person has more experience than he does – for Joey, it’s an easy way to ensure he always approaches others from a place of respect.
So what else does this local legend do in his spare time? Why, build a remote self-sufficient cabin in the woods, of course!
Like a modern day Thoureau, Joey has long aspired to live simply on the land and to be self-sufficient. A few years ago, Joey bought some land and started bringing his vision to life.
As has been established, Joey does nothing half way. So, no surprise, today he lives in a small cabin he built himself on 42 acres of land and, with solar power and well water, is 100% off-grid. Joey’s homestead is known to the few select individuals who have visited him as the “Fancy Pants” cabin. Amazing.
Now that you know a little bit more about our very own Joey Freeman, don’t be shy! Say hi the next time you’re at the dropzone. Blue skies!
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