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Utah-born, Arizona-bred Amber Barney took a long and winding road to get to professional skydiving–one that each and every one of her grateful students is glad she did. Interestingly, Amber’s first moment in the sky happened to be in a desert sunset (and she thought it was going to be her last jump, besides).
“We ended up jumping out of a Skyvan into the setting sun,” Amber remembers. “It was crazy. We just walked right off the end of the plane into the most amazing sunset. It was my first time, so I had no idea the treat I got that day.”
With that jump in the bag, Amber thought that she had checked that box right off her bucket list. Destiny, however, had other ideas. Five years later, the mother of Amber’s boyfriend got a bee in her bonnet to do a tandem. Her boyfriend–Josh–wanted to join his mom. Amber was keen to come along, but when she jumped she ended up learning from experience how a disinterested instructor can put a damper on the experience.
“I will be 100% honest–my experience wasn’t great,” Amber winces. “My instructor didn’t pay any attention to me. I knew I was interested in the sport, but I wanted to know more before I really invested myself in it, and he wouldn’t give me any info. I was asking questions and he would give me one-word answers.”
Despite the frustration of a bad instructor, Amber was disappointed but undeterred. Without further ado, she and Josh decided to head to a different, smaller dropzone to earn their solo licenses.
“The smaller dropzone is where I discovered what skydiving really has to offer,” Amber muses. “I finally got to see how much fun it was; that it was actually a sport. The different types of disciplines and the competitions. There was great camaraderie. It was more than I had imagined.”
In 2014, a friend of the couple’s went out to Michigan on a jumping trip. He came back singing the praises of Skydive Tecumseh–which neither Amber nor Josh had yet visited. Intrigued, they came out in 2014 to check it out. Both of them swiftly fell in love with the place.
“We busted our butts to get our jump numbers up so we could have our instructor ratings by the 2016 season,” she explains, “We were at the dropzone every weekend.”
It worked. Amber ended up earning both her AFF and Tandem Instructor ratings in record time, officially making skydiving her career. The pair have been at Skydive Tecumseh for three seasons, and they’re excited to be part of the dropzone’s growth. They’re so dedicated that they even decided to stay through the Michigan winter to help construct the dropzone’s new hangar. The couple’s trailer is parked inside the hangar as construction goes on around it.
“Every morning, we just walk outside our trailer and go to work,” Amber grins. “It is awesome.”
That’s not all that’s awesome, of course. For Amber–as for most of the rest of us–skydiving isn’t just about the freefall. It’s about the spirit of adventure–that original fountain of awesome from which all awesome originates. As she explains it, it’s in her blood.
“My dad was in the Air Force,” she recalls. “He was stationed in Italy, and he would always tell us great stories of traveling around and hanging out with the locals. They would take him out everywhere, and he would let us know what he was doing–having ten-course meals and stuff like that. He got to do Alaska as well, and Florida. He got to do a lot of cool stuff I was honestly kinda jealous of. But you know what? Skydiving gave me that.”
“I have seen much more of the States than I ever did,” she enthuses. “We have driven cross country a couple times now. I went to Niagara Falls. It was amazing, and I would have never been there otherwise.”
The open road ain’t the half of it, either. For Amber, it’s as much about the internal adventure as it is about the external. She truly loves the people she jumps with–and it shows.
“There are so many personalities you get to interact with in this job,” she grins. “The ones that are super-hyped and you’re trying to calm them down; the other folks that you’re working to build up. Everyone is different, and I love that.”
“I love to help people step out of their comfort zone,” she adds. “I can’t tell you how many times the parachute opens and how relieved people are. They can’t believe they actually did it! I congratulate them on their accomplishment. They overcame their fear and they’re so stoked! I love that energy. I also welcome them to my office. The view is breathtaking and most of them tell me they’re jealous of it. I tell them they can have it too! I always try to promote the sport and give them the info I wish I would’ve had from the beginning. Looking back at my first couple tandems, I never would’ve imagined me doing this for a job. I’m forever grateful for taking that step into a new direction.”
“Skydiving changes peoples’ lives every day,” she smiles. “It’s amazing to be a part of that. We have so many stories. I’m truly lucky.”
Want to jump with Amber? Call us up to make your reservation and let us know!
Wonderful staff -- my tandem instructor, James, was funny, clear, and made sure that I was comfortable during the entire experience (which involved two flights and a bit of "will-we-or-won't-we" due to clouds).
The dive itself is unreal -- exhilarating and meditative, terrifying and relaxing, absolutely breathtaking. I absolutely recommend you try it here first. Skydive Tecumseh has a great reputation, and there's a reason for that. I hope to go again.