Updated: Oct 10
Successful career woman and sports nut are just two facets making up Gal Shemer, 40; there are several others ... The most important is being a mother to five children (three girls, two boys – 10, 8, 7, 5, 3). "Ironically, people think this would not leave any energy for anything else. But the kids are my force, my drive, the reason I consider myself 'complete.'"
How did Gal get started in indoor skydiving?
"The story is that I went with my kids for first flight. Everybody was wowed, but only mommy had the life-altering 'OMG! I want more' reaction.' I started going back to the tunnel for 10-minute sessions, then 15, then 30 ... By now I customarily purchase a 10-hour block which I tend to use up in just four days."
That should make her a sought-after client for tunnel operators.
"Even as a 'frequent flyer' I have come across some bad attitudes at certain tunnels. A few coaches were shocked by the idea of me spending 30 minutes straight in the tunnel. They told me that it won't give me the results. But hey, I have zero aspirations to compete. I do this for myself. It is my investment, my time, my pleasure and my choice and decision. You will never see me rotating between tunnel and bench with other flyers. Not because I'm a snob, but because I hate taking my helmet on and off or watching videos. I want the 30 minutes. That's what pushed me to try new tunnels and not to stay stuck at a place I didn't feel right."
To purchase and spend tunnel time in such bulk one requires two things: the means and the availability, i.e. an exceptionally well-paying job with plenty of time off.
“I'm a workaholic and run a startup company developing Augmented Reality technologies and platforms for luxury retail. The fact that I'm an independent entrepreneur is demanding on one hand, but on the other it gives me the freedom to work at night, be with the kids when I want, and combine work with my sports in a smart way.”
Water and snow skiing were her primary games for years – until she discovered flying.
“I have been an alpine skier since I was seven, traveling with my dad to European ski resorts, mostly in France. Afterwards, slalom waterskiing became a huge part of my life. It’s a special sport in the sense that you must condense your entire energy and concentration in one single pass of five to ten minutes. Boy, those minutes are hard. Not a single muscle in the body that you don't put to use. It also does away with aggressions or any bad vibes you may have locked up inside. Before the kids were born, I was a much more aggressive skier, there was no fear whatsoever.
Last but certainly not least, I fell totally in love with indoor flying. Totally! All three sports produce similar feelings in me. That I run 10K three times a week helps – and all three sports are about core muscles that I have well developed.
Something else: I find that there is a strong connection between water and air. For me, they both symbolize the subconscious. If you ever come to my apartment, you will see many posters with art by the Salvador Dalí and René Magritte. I am obsessed with surrealism."
Whenever she talks about indoor skydiving in posts and comments on social media, Gal transmits high levels of emotionality. Just recently she claimed that it provides her “oxygen” during these challenging times.
"Flying is very spiritual for me. Certainly more than the other sports. Not many people know that I've been diagnosed on the spectrum. The fact that I'm in an enclosed environment, with a monotonous ambient sound and hardly any distractions, helps with my Sensory Modulation Disorder. It also helps with eye contact issues I have had from a very young age. Yes, the sport is therapeutic for me; I truly consider it a gift.
Coaches have seen me burst into tears, laugh like a child – angry and raising my voice … The range of emotions which tunnel flying brings out is wide, their intensity powerful. I don't know if it's just me or if everyone feels that way, but it brings me to a higher level of creative thinking and feeling. I'm still trying to figure it all out. I'm an addict. I need the humming sound, the constant airflow."
The places she goes to get her regular dosage of both make up an ever-growing list of indoor skydiving destinations around the globe.
"The first year of my flying I spent at Flyspot Warsaw. I went there once every month, from Monday to Thursday, for 10 hours in three and a half days. Then I needed to get back to work and my kids. Many reasons brought me to travel to tunnels elsewhere. But it was mostly a matter of combining flying with work abroad. As someone whose job it is to research retail spaces and the connection between offline and online shopping experiences on a worldwide level, I visited iFly Singapore, IFly Paris, the Hurricane Factory Madrid and several others. Some of the tunnels were located in malls or close to amusement parks, something which had me thinking about related business models a lot. I didn't do it as a mission, just as rough ideas that I came up with during my trips."
A journey that provided Gal with plenty of insights.
"I am in a constant dialogue with investors for the startup. When I met with LVMH (French corporation controlling different luxury brands) representatives in Paris, I thought to myself that outfitting Team Airwax with Louis Vuitton suits and helmets would be quite appropriate. True, everyone seems to prefer Red Bull, but we should try to gradually open your horizons. I observe that the flying community is overly fixated on certain sponsors, just as it is about the ways of coaching. Well, maybe this will need to change now, with all of us preparing for the ‘new normal.’”
According to her, what would need to change first?
"I personally think it's time for coaches to start thinking about different kinds of clienteles. Not all of us are skydivers doing the “regular" camps. Thinking outside of the box is always good. During these challenging times even more so.
As a customer who is athletic and who has been coached by pros in alpine skiing, waterskiing, tennis, surfing and more, I have hardly ever come across such a collectively snobbish attitude. Quite frankly, I don't understand it.
At first, I thought that maybe It's just me, but after getting to know more and more people, I understood that it's not only my problem. One of my idols is Jackie Chang. #NoEgo is a hashtag which I use regularly.
Aside from the coaches, some tunnel operators are to be blamed too. It is not a cup of coffee I am buying. Despite of that, I often come across flexibility issues. That's what makes me try new tunnels occasionally. If I have a “home tunnel,” it would be Aerodium Sigulda. There is hardly another place I leave with as intense a feeling as I do after having flown there. And it’s not enclosed!
What’s good about diversifying in three sports: whenever I feel disappointed about coaches’ attitudes or tunnel management, I immediately get back in the water, try to find my true self, and take advice from my down-to-earth coaches, who also happen to be European and World Champions.”
This particular approach to mix things up is reflected in a video that she produced herself.
“While editing, I could certainly retrace and grasp my own development over the years. From the frozen water to another aggregate state … and on to fast-moving air. It was – and continues to be – an incredible journey.”
So much for Gal’s views as a high-volume consumer of airtime and as a demanding customer buying into a fairly expensive good. In the second part of the interview, Gal will speak up as a branding and marketing expert, providing her views on the development of the sport in the post-COVID-19 world.
She will also talk about people who left a lasting impression on her, keeping her from throwing in the towel in the early stages of a fledgling career in flight. That is people like Toms Ivans and Adrian Ślesicki - plus a few others.
Part two of the interview with Gal will get posted within the next two weeks right here. Stay tuned!