Marc Bartley, founder of Spud Inc. Straps, is used to ridiculous levels of challenge. After all, he was a champion powerlifter for many years, seemingly suspending the laws of physics to lift superhuman amounts of weight. Suspending the laws of physics to defy gravity? Well, that’s right up his alley. We couldn’t be happier that he chose Piedmont Skydiving as the place to do his very first skydive, because we love meeting people who love tackling the big stuff.
“It was pretty exciting–actually, pretty exhilarating,” Marc enthuses. “Skydiving is something I have been wanting to do since before I started powerlifting. I remember the exact moment. I was watching the Motley Crue ‘Kickstart Your Heart’ video, and the second line is, ‘skydive naked from an aeroplane.’ From that moment on I wanted to jump. But you can’t be too heavy, and when I was powerlifting competitively I weighed upwards of 300 pounds.”
Then, in 2008, Marc suffered an accident. He tore his quad while lifting, and he dropped 110 pounds just like that. Since he suddenly found himself within the weight range for skydiving, he was very close to making the leap, but life got in the way, and his numbers jumped back up to 250.
It was only this year that he reached that threshold again.
“I started talking about it again,” he says, smiling, “And the wife signed me up for it.”
“I knew my instructor, Scott, from the lifting community,” Bartley adds. “That was a little comforting. Once I got in the plane, the Motley Crue song was playing over and over again in my head, which is kind of funny. I did some breathing techniques to keep myself under control. It surprised me how long it took to get up there. You’re just spinning in a circle going straight up.”
Finally, they were getting close to exit altitude.
“I was getting all jacked up,” Marc laughs. “There were a lot of distractions so you don’t think about exactly what’s happening. They distract you on the way up–which is very helpful, by the way.”
“For the first part of the jump, I was, like, trying to figure out where the hell I was,” he continues, “And I felt like I was spinning so fast. Then we leveled out. Once that happened, that’s when the real fun started. My arms were out and I was like, ‘Rah!’ That was a lot of fun. That reminded me of having 1,000 on your back–that intensity and focus you have to have when you are in that moment. When the chute popped, it felt like that moment when you’re riding a really good roller coaster and you’re slowing down to a stop. I just wanted to rewind the universe about 30 seconds and do freefall again.”
“Twenty years ago, I would probably have been scared shitless,” he says, wryly. “But y’know what? Even though I was really nervous, it wasn’t as much as I thought. After you have had more than a thousand pounds on your back, fear is a lot easier to manage.”
According to Marc–and he should know; he’s an expert–powerlifting and skydiving have a lot in common.
“There are definitely crossovers,” he explains. “Obviously, you practice technique, but you also have to be able to zone in on what you are trying to do and where you are trying to be and control your adrenaline so you don’t make mistakes on the way out.”
“We used to do [the] Arnold [Sports Festival] every year,” he adds, “And the hall would always be full. We would have upwards of 5,000 people in that hall. You have got to tune all that out to do the work, so you learn how to focus. On the way up, I was using some of those techniques, trying to keep myself in the zone. Not overthinking it too much and getting caught up looking out the window, thinking oh my God, you are way up there!’”
“I was jacked up for about three hours after that experience,” he laughs. “Just like lifting. After a powerlift, you are tired but still really jacked up because of the adrenaline. When the adrenaline is that high, everything is much clearer, and tastes better, and is more interesting. You notice a lot more things. And you just want to do it again.”
If you’re thinking about tackling the challenge of a first skydive, Marc has some great advice for you: to just do it.
“What you want is on the other side of fear,” he levels. “Jumping from a plane is one thing that you will not regret doing. It is so much fun. Like having 1,000 pounds on your back–you feel invincible afterward.”
So: is Marc going to get his license and actually “skydive naked from an airplane”?
“There’s a possibility,” he laughs. “It sure sounds fun as hell.”