Todd J.

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This appears to be the one day of the year that I find absolutely nothing good about it. No matter how perfect the weather could ever be, it will always be overcast at 600', 40 gusting to 50mph winds, and with rain and sleet. That's right...just plain shitty.

One of my favorite quotes is by a man named Theodor Geisel: "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened." Most days I feel incredible lucky to have found "the one" and to have him in my life for the time that I did. Some people go their entire lives never having found "the one".

Maybe time would have proven Todd may not have been my "the one". But ignorance is bliss and if that ignorance makes my face smile and my heart laugh, I'm okay with that. Even though I would rather hate his guts but still be able to see him walk into a room with his chest held high because he's "Fuckin' Todd Jacobson".

Todd - Lots of things have changed since you left. Jedei's a little more grey, and slowing down quite a bit. Your gear is gone and I took over your locker. I haven't had apple pie for quite awhile. The landing area is bigger, we have a new pop machine and the student room just got new windows. But we still laugh at your stories and the things that you did all the same as if you were here. We wish you were here. I wish you were here. I hope I make you proud.

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The day 8-8-08 was considered the luckiest day of the century in China. Thousands of superstitious Chinese got married that day because of the luck factor. But for Lynn and I and a few others, it was the worst day ever.

I've got so many great stories starring Todd that it will take the rest of my life to tell them all (or even remember them). As for the stories that are unsuitable for public consumption, I guess I'll have to save them for when we're sitting around the bonfire and tipping back a few beers.

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Todd’s been gone for 4 years now. I still think of the silly bastard whenever I’m at the dz and something crazy or righteously cool happens. I know Todd would be the first one to volunteer for the craziness…with his camera helmet firmly cinched in place.

One of my favorite Todd stories is from Bridge Day 1997. At the time, Todd and I were both financially challenged, so we talked another jumper from the dz into accompanying us to West Virginia even though she wasn’t jumping. Basically, we needed the services of her car.

Todd drove most of the way there, and he had the speedometer pegged in the red zone most of the way. He drove so fast in the mountains that 3 of the 4 hubcaps flew off.

The first time we stopped for gas, I told Todd and the girl that we should take turns paying. I paid for the first fill-up, the girl paid the next time. When it was Todd’s turn to pay, I watched him slowly crack open his suspiciously-thin wallet. He only had 3 one-dollar bills in there! I asked him how he was going to pay for food and beer, not to mention the hotel room. He just shrugged his shoulders.

When I told him to use a credit card, his face lit up like a x-mas tree. He hadn’t thought of that. With a confident stride, he marched inside the gas station to pay for the gas, but he came back out a few minutes later with a hangdog look. “It didn’t work,” he said. “My wife put a hold on the credit card.”

It was common knowledge that Todd was one of the cheapest dudes in human history. He was always begging, scrounging, pilfering, and eating nasty or rotten food because it was cheap. Previous posts have described him eating dog food and purchasing ten burgers on dollar burger night to save a few bucks. However, I could never get mad at him for being cheap, because his reason was that he wanted to spend every penny on skydiving. Hard to argue with that logic.

I ended up paying for his share of the hotel room that weekend…and yes, a few burgers and a few beers. But when I think back to how great a friend he was, and how many times he packed my rig for free (it must be in the hundreds…), it seems like I got the better part of the bargain. Damn, I miss that cheap fucker.

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My buddy Todd has been gone for 5 years now, but the lessons he taught me live on...


Todd’s Rules for Being an Awesome Skydiver

1, Be the best that you can be at every aspect of the jumping process from start to finish. This includes exits, freefall skills, canopy control, landings, pack jobs, etc.

2, Be the best that you can be in every discipline of the sport. Formation skydiving, freefly, CRW, wingsuit, canopy piloting, BASE, demo jumps, etc.

3, Always strive to increase your knowledge base. Read every issue of Parachutist from cover to cover. Research online sites and datebases. Be a constant presence on DZ.com. Talk about skydiving with your peers. Ask a lot of questions. Apply the knowledge learned in other areas such as aircraft piloting and aerodynamics.

4, Encourage the jumpers around you to also be the best that they can be.

5, Pay It Forward. This means in-air coaching, ground mentoring, and video debriefing, all gratis and free of charge. It also means unpaid demo jumps into stadiums, schools, and various local events to bring positive attention to our sport and hopefully entice new jumpers.

6, Get involved in the administrative/business side of the DZ. Successfully run for president of the skydiving club, become an S&TA, get your rigger’s ticket, fly the airplanes, assist with aircraft maintenance, take charge of the DZ groundskeeping, etc.

7, Shoot as much video as possible. This makes debriefs more constructive and improves everyone’s skills and learning curve. Plus, you never know when you are going to capture exciting or humorous footage. Also good for later blackmailing purposes.

8, Take pack jobs very seriously. Dispense free pack jobs to friends or acquaintances at the slightest provocation, or if it is a new model of canopy you haven’t seen before, or if a student is having difficulty learning how to pack, or if someone is having trouble with a slippery new canopy, or if someone is trying to pack fast to make a short call, or basically whenever you have extra time. (Todd was the first and possibly only skydiver I ever met who actually enjoyed packing parachutes…once in a while he even charged money.)

9, Have more fun than a human being deserves. Go to boogies and other skydiving events, bring groups of newer jumpers for visits to nearby drop zones, invite skydivers to your house for dinner and drinks, instigate Saturday night bonfires at the DZ, plan stupid skydiver tricks to perform on the ground when the weather is uncooperative, etc.

10, Use the word awesome every chance you get. This rule is especially important when describing yourself, as in “I was awesome!”

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Amen! Except, more accurately, "Dija c me?!?! I was awesome!" :)
It blows my mind that it's been five years. Seems like just yesterday we were screaming for the C182 window because Todd dropped ass in the plane so bad he could taste it, but seems like an eternity since I last heard him laugh or felt his arms around me.

I had the chance to get a few skydives in today at the dz that Todd had his accident. Seemed like a fitting thing to do. As I was driving there, all I could think of was that horrible, horrible drive five years ago. And then I got to the dz and all seemed right again.

Skydiving is an amazing sport. It gives so much, and sometimes it takes away. But after every time it takes away, it'll go back to giving. Thanks to my skydiving family for getting me through the last five years! Have fun, be safe and see ya at the dz!

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At one period of time, Todd was the best canopy pilot in the Midwest. He had an uncannily high degree of aptitude for canopy flight. When I started jumping in 1994, Todd had about 50 jumps, and he was doing a lot of flying jump planes back then, so I quickly passed him up in jump numbers. He soon came back with a vengeance and passed me up again, and to this day he has more jumps than me.

Our canopy progressions were similar. We learned how to swoop at the same time as the rest of the skydiving world. Unfortunately, we were all learning by trial and error. It seems ridiculous now, but at the time we would actually debate which was better, toggle or riser turns. It’s amazing that we survived this period of canopy flight. Many of us didn’t.

Downsizing was the name of the game back then, as it is now. I remember when Todd got his brand-new Jedei 105. He was very fond of that canopy, and I was proud to be the only person he would let jump it. Todd was an awesome canopy pilot, and his wealth of experience at flying airplanes gave him a massive edge when it came to understanding the aerodynamics of flight. He also did CRW jumps whenever possible, which further broadened his skillset.

He taught me how to fudge my jump numbers so I could get on the hottest loads at Quincy and borrow the tiniest demo rigs. He was there with me when we jumped the 69 square foot Xaos. Our swoops in the WFFC main landing area were epic. We would swoop every object imaginable: tents, RV’s, golf carts, etc. His landings were always a little crazier than mine. His favorite saying was “Make them run.” At the Convention, he once broke his foot on landing, broke one of Carolina Sky Sports’ wind blades, and got in trouble for swooping a woman sitting on a golf cart who was holding a baby…three different landings on the same day.

At our home dz, we were always swooping obstacles: the trees at the north end of the landing area, the “South Gate” as we called it through the other treeline, and the spectator area which was our favorite because it was deep and tight and hard to get into. We kept trimming the trees to create extra lanes until we got in trouble from the DZO.

Our dz had winter rules for landings, when all regulations were thrown in the crapper and anything goes. Todd and I would swoop snow banks, hangars, and parked cars—hopefully all three on the same run. Sometimes our swoops would get so hairy, we would be grounded for the day, or the week, or in Todd’s case, for an entire year.

Todd and I did many awesome demo jumps together, and we always managed to pull out our best swoops for them. We also did a lot of cross country jumps, the clouds over Lake Wissota gave us ample opportunity for flying around in the industrial haze. It all came together during my last 4 years or so at Wissota. Todd and I became very proficient at swooping side-by-side...we had kind of a mind meld thing going on. He always followed me in, which was the harder job. We made at least a thousand jumps together, usually swooping side-by-side on landing. Towards the end, his favorite landing was when we would swoop at each other from opposite directions.

I am older and wiser now, and sometimes I feel the effects of old landing injuries. My landings are a bit more conservative, though I am still considered a swooper. I always told Todd to pull back his aggressiveness 10% in the interests of survival, but he was not able to bring it down a notch. That was his nature, and that was what made him so damned good at it. As Hunter S. Thompson put it, Todd was “some kind of high powered mutant never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

BSBD, my friend. You are missed.


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