SULTAN — He jumps out of a plane some 1,500 times a year. And he’s not just free-falling to the ground.
Gage Galle is a canopy pilot. The Sultan native flies high-performance parachutes in competition for speed, distance and accuracy in an adrenaline-fueled sport.
“It’s actually very difficult, as ridiculous as it sounds,” Galle said. “The U.S. is very competitive.”
Galle beat out some 80 challengers for his spot on the elite U.S. team. Now, he’s set to compete against top international challengers at the World Championships in November.
In canopy piloting, often called swooping, experienced skydivers generate speeds of around 90 miles per hour and glide very close to the ground, usually glide above a shallow pond, as far as 100 meters or more. Canopy pilots aim to touch down at precise spots on a course to earn points.
“You can go super far, super fast,” Galle said. “That’s why I like it.”
Galle said he set his distance record at 140 meters. That’s not far from the world record of 165 meters.
Galle works and trains at Skydive Hawaii. He lives in Waialua, just north of Honolulu on the island of Oahu.
Galle took his first jump at Skydive Snohomish when he was 21. Some 25 jumps later, he earned a licence to go solo. For about $1,000, he bought a parachute.
“My first parachute was very cheap and used and crappy,” he said.
He left the Northwest to attend the University of Hawaii, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in meteorology.
“I didn’t really want to get a real job,” Galle said.
So he started competing about four years ago. He soon went pro. Now he’s sponsored as a member of the Performance Designs Factory team. The parachute manufacturer provides equipment that costs more than $8,000 for team members.
“It’s made up of extremely experienced, extremely skilled parachute pilots from all over the world,” Galle said.
He practices skydiving five to six times a day. Galle now boasts more than 6,500 jumps.
“A lot of those are what we in the industry call work jumps,” he said, referring to training jumps with students or performing for video.
When he’s not jumping for work, he’s training for competition. His thrill-seeking sport has taken him to faraway places including Russia, the Czech Republic and Italy.
Galle’s family cheers him on from Washington. His father, Matthew Galle, lives in Sultan. His mother, Deb Galle, is in Puyallup.
Galle is set to travel to Dubai for a skydiving event later this year.
He said he doesn’t ever worry about his safety.
“You get more nervous from competing,” he said. “I want to win.”
Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; email@example.com.