Adam Martin and David Winland are here to tell you that skydiving saved their lives: from self-destructive tendencies, depression, drugs, and possibly even the emotional quicksand of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They call it “Action Therapy”, and it’s the working title of a grassroots documentary they are creating on an iconic summer road trip to as many dropzones as possible before their money runs out. Their mission is to highlight the sport’s everyday stories of beauty and personal meaning: no high-profile stunts here, just tales of transformation.
These two friends, who met through skydiving, have different but equally harrowing stories. Three and a half months after his father committed suicide, Martin decided to go skydiving. His family assumed that the grieving son had a death wish. On the contrary, the idea of taking a previously unimaginable risk was a way of pulling himself out of a self-destructive spiral. Winland, on the other hand, speaks freely about surviving childhood abuse: “Everyone has dysfunction in their families and lives, but mine was really bad. I had cigarette burns on me. There were some terrible people. Instead of getting counseling, I bottled it up and started using drugs and fighting. I’d go out and just raise hell.”
Martin, 30 years old, and Winland, 38, both largely credit skydiving with their recovery. Winland, a single dad, says he was burned out and worried about his ability to sustain relationships: “When my daughter was born, that just kind of got better. But I still had that really severe issue of, I didn’t communicate well and I didn’t trust anyone. I love my daughter and she was the focus on my life, but I was still angry. Once I started jumping, I was just able to let everything go. I’m a single dad. I have custody of my daughter. I don’t know if I would have been able to do that if I was the same person I was before jumping. I got custody right as I started in the sport, and it has helped. That’s why we have the name Action Therapy. Both of us have been helped so much just by exiting that plane.”
The duo hopes that sharing real stories will reach people in a dark place. “I hope someone watches our documentary and says, that kid was going through a shitty time in his life, and he did something to pull himself out. So if it helps someone get out of a bad time, whether through skydiving, or something else – go do it,” says Martin. He goes on, “My father was a medic in Vietnam, and there’s no doubt in my mind he had PTSD. But he was raised on a Montana ranch where men kept their feelings bottled up, so we never really talked about it. Maybe this could have saved my dad. Maybe if my dad had something like skydiving, he wouldn’t be gone right now.”
In addition to Martin’s father’s service, Martin and Winland were deeply inspired by a meeting with Todd Love, the triple-amputee wounded warrior who has refused to let his circumstances prevent him from skydiving (as well as wrestling alligators, going white-water kayaking, and completing the challenging Spartan Race). Along the way, they hope to raise awareness and funds for the Wounded Warrior Foundation.
These two newer jumpers (Martin has 230 jumps and Winland 296) have the easy banter of friends who have spent too much time in a car together already. They are an odd couple: a tattoo artist who hates golf (Winland) and a golf pro (Martin), now living and working together towards a shared dream. “Skydiving is a great equalizer, a crazy group of people,” says Martin.
They can almost finish each other’s sentences, and the words of encouragement flow easily. When Martin talks about his father (“I can’t bring him back – I have to move forward in the right way”), Winland chimes in: “He’s so proud of you and your accomplishments!” And when talking about how skydiving has helped ease his fatigue with the world of golf, Martin adds, “I know it’s helped David with his tattooing, too.”
The philosophy is simple: no matter how heavy the burden, skydiving will lift it. “It’s not the adrenaline rush every time,” says Martin, “It’s just fun and it puts a smile on my face, so I keep doing it.” Winland adds, “I was always quick to pull my roots up. The people I’ve met jumping feel like home.”
If you want to get some Action Therapy, share your story, or just give this enthusiastic two-man team a high-five, you can find them at Skydive Chicago’s Summerfest boogie or on the last stop of their tour, the Lost Prairie boogie in Montana.
Keep up with them online at the Action Therapy Facebook page. They have already visited: Skydive Arizona, Skydive San Diego, Tsunami Skydivers (Oceanside), Skydive Perris, Skydive Elsinore, Monterey Bay, Bay Area Skydiving in Byron, Skydance Skydiving in Davis, Sacramento, Lodi, and Oregon.