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Devon O'Neil
Summit Daily/Reid Williams Action County: Deb Julsen, skydiver
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There’s a reason jumping out of an airplane thousands of feet above the Earth is not for most: It’s scary.Alaska native and Keystone resident Debbie Julsen has been doing it for 27 years, but on paper she had none of the traits you might expect to find in a skydiver.”It sounds nuts,” she said, “but I have a fear of heights and I hate small airplanes. It makes no sense, I know.”

Somehow, it made enough sense to her to give in to the prodding of a friend in 1974, when she tried it for the first time.Since then Julsen has safely executed more than 1,500 jumps, including the pride of her being – February’s world-record jump in Thailand, in which Julsen and 356 of the globe’s best skydivers jumped at 23,000 feet and formed a perfect, 175-foot-wide formation to break the record of 300 jumpers linked at one time.To recognize the feat, the Guinness Book of World Records is including the jump in its next edition. All 357 names (the World Skydiving Team) will be printed.Julsen, who dove at 199 mph to get to her spot in February’s record-breaking formation, is currently preparing for two more big-time formation jumps. Jump for the Cause, in September 2005, will be an all-women formation of 150 skydivers uniting to raise money to fight breast cancer; the second will be the newest record-breaking attempt by the world team, when they’ll try to get 400 together at one time in January 2006.

What’s going through your mind when you’re moving at 199 mph?”For one, you don’t realize you’re doing it. There’s no sensation of falling or speed in skydiving. It’s so wild. I think people think skydiving’s perceived as a wild and crazy sport, but it really isn’t.”What’s a typical skydiver like?”Self-confident. They’re of all walks of life, which is what makes it so interesting. You don’t know if you’re talking to a street person or a doctor. It’s actually a bit of an escape for that reason. It’s pretty neat to trust a stranger.”

You have to die somehow. Would you want to go out while skydiving?”Yeah. But I don’t think I’m going to die doing it. You can’t be afraid of your shadow. You only live once; you’ve gotta do all this cool stuff while you can.”- Devon O’Neil


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