Carl Adams

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Carl Adams died at his home on Sunday, May 23, 2010, at the age of 45. He was a skydiver and B.A.S.E. jumper without compare. His father was a parachuter, and Carl grew up at the drop zone (Indianhead Sport Parachute Club/Skydive Wissota). As a child, Carl packed parachutes for money. He made his first jump as soon as he was eligible, on his eighteenth birthday.

Carl went on to accumulate more than 3,500 skydives. He was the first tandem instructor at Skydive Wissota, and its only one for more than five years. His friendly personality was perfectly suited for dealing with nervous first-jump students. He was also a static-line instructor and master rigger.

On several occasions, Carl traveled to the World Freefall Convention in Quincy, Illinois, where he logged jumps out of everything from helicopters to a Boeing 727 jet. He also had an abiding interest in B.A.S.E. jumping. Carl attended Bridge Day three years in a row, from 1995-1997, and he logged numerous B.A.S.E. jumps from radio antennas.

On the ground, Carl was an avid outdoorsman. He enjoyed fishing and bow hunting for deer. He was also fond of restoring classic cars, such as his Pontiac GTO. My deepest condolences go out to his family and friends, especially his mother and his daughter. He was taken from us too soon, and he will be sorely missed.

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Here's a photo from Bridge Day 1996. Carl is having a last cigarette before jumping from the 876-foot span.

Bridge Day typically takes place the weekend before Halloween, and many people dress in funny costumes. Carl decided to dress like Brett Favre that year. He even had an official Green Bay Packers helmet, which is sitting on the ground next to him. In my opinion, the bright yellow football pants were a bit over the top.

In the background, you can see me making last-minute rigging adjustments to my parachute. Gear fear sucks. I had 400 jumps and two B.A.S.E. jumps, and I thought I was invincible. Luckily I had Carl there to babysit.

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My previous posts memorialized the life of Carl Adams. This post elucidates what he meant to me on a personal level...

Carl was my first friend in the skydiving world. He would often let me stay at his house when I had nowhere else to go. When I first met him, he was the perfect role model. He was a devoted husband and father. He had a steady day job as a manager at the company owned by the DZO. On weekends, he was raking in money hand-over-fist at the DZ—he was the only tandem instructor at the airport, and he owned his own tandem rig. He was also highly skilled in 4-way and 8-way formation skydiving. He owned a house in the country, which was full of his skydiving trophies and his racks of horns from trophy bucks. He owned numerous vehicles, including a Tempest muscle car that he was always tinkering with in his garage. He even owned rental property in a nearby town. He had everything I hoped to have one day.

Carl was one of the best skydivers that I ever had the privilege of jumping with. It was in his DNA—literally. His father had been a veteran jumper at the same skydiving club. As a child, Carl was a “DZ rat,” a parachute-packing prodigy and a constant presence on the drop zone. His father bounced right in front of him one day, living only long enough to say a few words. Despite that, Carl made his first jump on his eighteenth birthday, which took a tremendous amount of courage.

Ten years or so after meeting Carl, I had fulfilled most of my goals, becoming the man I am today. Unfortunately, during that same time period, Carl’s life regressed into a downward spiral of substance abuse and legal troubles. He eventually quit jumping altogether, and I never got the chance to tell him how important his mentoring had been to my growth as a skydiver, or as a person.

From the first day when I attended my static-line class at ISPC, Carl took me under his wing. During my first freefall jump, I remember him cheering me on from inside the Cessna.

Two-and-a-half months after my first jump, I attended WFFC 1994 in Quincy. When it came time to conquer the Boeing 727 jet, Carl was so worried about the pin protection on my POS rig that he made me borrow his spare. He was always watching out for me like that.

Carl and I attended Bridge Day together three years in a row (1995-1997). The first year, I had a meager 200 jumps, and Carl had over 2,000. To me, he was a skygod. If it weren’t for his coaching, I probably would have eaten high-speed rocks on the gnarly NRGB landings. The nightly parties at the hotel near the bridge were legendary. I wish I could share some of the stories, but the statute of limitations hasn’t run out quite yet (LSD).

I’ll never forget Carl’s first antenna jump, because he wouldn’t let me. He and I had been equally eager to do our first B.A.S.E. jump from a radio tower. Then on Super Bowl Sunday, I got a telephone call at five o’clock in the morning. Carl was calling to brag that he and Todd Jacobson had just made antenna jumps from the 1,200 foot Wheeler tower. Carl’s voice was happier (and louder) than I have ever heard another human voice before or since. I was so jealous that I hung up the phone.

In the early to mid-nineties, Carl was the first canopy swooper at Skydive Wissota. He was flying a Sabre 150, which at the time was the smallest canopy on the DZ. Using trial-and-error, he taught himself toggle hook turns (TWY). Later, he graduated to front riser carving turns with long turf-surf landings. He had no one to teach him how to swoop--everyone in the sport was learning how to do it together. The rest of us could only watch in awe...until years later, when we all owned small hot-rod canopies and knew how to swoop them, with differing degrees of success.

When I first earned my tandem rating, Carl had already logged over 1,000 jumps as an instructor. He taught me many techniques, safety and otherwise, for taking whuffos along on 2-mile-high carnival rides. It was a secret thrill for me to be doing tandems alongside my role model and mentor.

BSBD, Carl. I will never forget you. I became the man I am because of your mentorship and your friendship. I think that you would be proud of me. If there is a heaven, I know that you are swooping your parachute through the pearly gates, and bagging eight-point angels with your bow and arrow.

answer key
DZO = drop zone owner (duh)
DNA = deoxyribonucleic acid
ISPC = Indianhead Sport Parachute Club
WFFC = World Freefall Convention
POS = piece of shit
NRGB = New River Gorge Bridge
LSD = long story, dickhead (what did you think I meant?)
BASE = bridge antenna span earth
TWY = toggle-whipping yahoo
BSBD = Blue Skies, Black Death

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What's up cujo? Yeah, i still check out "incidents" and "in memory of" on dz.com on occasion, hoping I don't see any of my friends names. These posts took me back to a dark time in my life. I had just lost my third skydiving friend in a short period of time (sparky, Todd, Carl). It took me awhile to process all of the emotions caused by their passing. Now, I like to think that every jump I make is a tribute to their friendship and mentorship. They taught me a lot about skydiving and about life...

I hope all is well with you, my friend. Stay safe out there

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