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Are you looking for inspiration? Look no further than our own Kevin Bukstein. This month’s Parachutist Magazine features Kevin in the section, “How Skydiving Changed My Life.” Kevin’s story is inspiring and proves that if you can dream it, then you can do it. Below we begin our weekly segment with interesting people at WSC with 9 Questions With….Kevin Bukstein. You can also read Kevin’s Parachutist article below our interview. Enjoy getting to know about the inspirational Kevin Bukstein.
Nine Questions With: Kevin Bukstein
1. What attracted you to the sport of skydiving?
KB: I remember being 5 or 6 years old and first seeing skydiving clips on T.V. and thinking it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. I remember knowing at that point that someday when I got older, I was going to be one of those people in those skydiving videos. I think the main attraction for me at such a young age was I had a sense that skydiving was much more than just a “thrill seekers” sport. It appeared that skydiving gave people a deeper perspective/appreciation on life and the journey through it, that nothing else could give them. For some people, they look for different things to give them that perspective/appreciation. I.e. Religion, music, sports. For me, skydiving was that avenue.
Also, what continuously attracts me to skydiving is the fact that when you are skydiving, you are not focused on anything else. I have not found anything else that compares to the feeling of being in a specific moment, and having nothing else on my mind except how amazing that moment is. The moment you step out of the door of the airplane, you are living in the here and now. I love that mentality and like I have said, it has changed my perspective on life.
2. What influenced you to actually make the phone call to make your first skydive?
KB: When I turned 18 years old and was able to sign myself up for my first tandem, I made the reservation for a week after my birthday. I knew that I needed to go skydiving as soon as I could, or it would bug the heck out of me. A great story of my first skydive is that I did not tell anyone I was going skydiving. I made the reservation, went out to the DZ, and had a video of my jump. When I got home, I told my parents I had went to get myself a birthday present and busted out my DVD. My mom thought I had went to a video store and gotten a movie or something. Little did she know I had just jumped out of an airplane earlier that day. Her expression was priceless.
Another thing that influenced me was that I went a week before my senior year of high school started. So I remember thinking that skydiving would definitely win me some coolness points. Later that school year when I decided to take my AFF class, I started signing myself out of school midday in order to go skydiving. No joke.
3. What’s the most memorable skydive you’ve ever been on?
KB: While going through my AFF class, I had been stuck on making upper body turns. I had made two jumps with no success, and I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. On my third jump with Bo, right before I climbed out the door of the plane onto the step, he grabbed my shoulder, looked me dead in the eye, and all he said was “Smile!” I nailed the turns on that jump and had one of those “Ah Ha” moments. Since then, on almost every jump, I take a brief moment before climbing out of the plane to just smile.
4. Who / What inspires you? (Answer does not have to be skydive related)
KB: My biggest inspiration has been from my parents. While growing up, they had always pushed my older brothers and I to try as many things as we could and find our passion. Once each of us found our passion, my parents supported us and encouraged us to make it our career and life. My parents were not concerned with us making money, following in their footsteps, having socially prestigious jobs, etc. They were concerned with our happiness and wanted us to live our own life. I have always been inspired by their attitude to live life on my own terms and do what I want to do.
Another inspiration I draw from are two great quotes by Alan Watts:
“It is better having a short life, doing what it is you like doing; Than having a long life spent in a miserable way.”
“If you truly love doing something, and it doesn’t matter what that may be, you can eventually become a master at it. The only way to become a master at something is to be really with it. And then you’ll be able to get a good fee for whatever it is”
5. What’s the coolest thing that has happened to you since losing all the weight?
KB: Probably the coolest thing is buying new clothes. As trivial as that may sound, it geeks me out every time to walk into a store and be able to fit into clothes I had never thought I could wear. I went from wearing a 42 waist pants to a 32 waist. I went from an extra large shirts/clothes to fitting comfortably into mediums. I still remember being in middle school and buying my first 36 waist sized pants in the “husky” section. Also, another cool thing is weighing less than I do in high school. I looked at my old drivers license when I turned 16 and it said: Weight 180 lbs. I always hear ads on the radio and see them on T.V. about people getting down to their high school weight. Well, I beat that.
6. Now that you’ve reached your fitness goals, how do you keep motivated to continue to exercise?
KB: My motivation for staying fit and continuing to exercise is the fact that other people now look at me for motivation. I am a success story. I am looked at as someone who has done it, lived it, and now can share my story and motivate others. It is an amazing feeling being able to share my experience and motivate others to obtain their goal. It doesn’t necessarily have to be losing weight. I’ve talked with people about their specific drive to obtain their goal, whatever it may be, and how to stick true to it.
7. What is something about you that few people know about?
KB: How I almost died when I was born, and how that has motivated me to live day to day. I was born with a condition called Pyloric Stenosis. Normally, this is a very easy condition to fix and live a perfectly normal life with. What Pyloric Stenosis is, is pretty simple. The valve in-between your stomach and intestines that opens and closes to allow food to be digested was permanently closed for me. Like I said, this condition is relatively simple to diagnose and treat with surgery. However, Pyloric Stenosis is predominately a condition that affects first born child. It is rare that subsequent children are affected, let alone the fourth born child, i.e. me. Since the occurrence of fourth born children with Pyloric Stenosis is so low, nobody suspected that was why I was malnourished and was vomiting after every meal. It wasn’t until 21 DAYS of not being able to fully digest or eat food that I was diagnosed and had surgery. It wasn’t until later on in life I fully comprehended how lucky I was to be alive.
Another thing most people don’t know is that I was the captain of my college club diving team. I started spring board diving when I was 6 years old and kept at it ever since. When I went to college, I joined our club team that regularly competed agains Division I, II, and III diving teams. I was able to hold my own agains Division II, and III divers. During my junior and senior year, I was the captain of the team and had to organize diving meet schedules, practices and other general team events. It was an amazing experience that I am glad I had.
8. Do you have any other interests outside of your occupation and skydiving?
KB: I am a pretty active person throughout my life. I enjoy rock climbing, camping, hiking, SCUBA diving, and waterskiing/boating. I worked at a rock climbing gym on and off for over 10 years. I own 4 different tents. My family owned a ski boat and a pontoon boat while I was growing up. And I have been SCUBA diving all across the country. My mom jokes that I do not enjoy being on flat, solid land. I am either doing something above or below it.
Something other than being an adrenaline junkie that I really enjoy doing is finding hole in the wall places to eat breakfast. I am IN LOVE with breakfast. As strange as that may sound, I really do enjoy that time in the morning to sit down and enjoy a nice meal before the day starts.
9. What’s next for Kevin Bukstein?
KB: The next step for me as far as skydiving, I want to get into coaching. I have always enjoyed teaching my skills to others. Whether it is rock climbing, camping, fitness, firefighting, emergency first aid, etc. I really like being able to teach others what I have learned. I do have aspirations to eventually be involved with all aspects of skydiving, from videoing to actually flying the plane. But for the immediate future, I plan on focusing on coaching.
The next step outside of skydiving, I am looking at potential jobs across the country on big city fire departments. I have been applying, testing, and interviewing at several departments across the US, and I look forward to seeing when these opportunities take me.
I was three jumps away from getting my A license when I had to leave for college. Seven years later (and many failed promises to get myself licensed), I finally returned to my home DZ, AtmosphAir Skydiving Center (now WSC) in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. When I started skydiving in 2005, I was by no means a featherweight skydiver. Due to my heavyset appearance, I was affectionately nicknamed “Cannonball,” and during my seven year hiatus from skydiving, I had packed even more weight onto my already stock 5-foot-7inch frame. I was pushing 260 pounds when I passed the certification for my A license.
During the 2012 summer skydiving season, I struggled to float enough to fly with anyone. I had no idea there was any slot in a formation other than base. My skills in the air suffered, and any formation I was a part of struggled to get together. Nont only was I limited as far as what I could do in the air, I was also a danger to others flying with me in the sky. At the end of the season, I realized that I needed to change in order to stay in the sport I loved.
During the winter, I tried various weight loss regimens with no success. Finally, I took the initiative to talk with a professional dietician and fitness guru. After a week of figuring out what would for me, we implemented my plan on Safety Day 2013. It consisted of a tremendous lifestyle change. I worked out seven days a week, sometimes twice a day in two-hour sessions. I committed myself to waking up at 3 a.m. to exercise before working a 12-hour shift as a firefighter-paramedic. Oh, I forgot to mention: I quit drinking alcohol. Believe it or not, no booze… not even a beer after a beautiful sunset load.
Eight months later (and many grueling, sweaty days at the gym), I am at 170 pounds and still losing weight! I’ve gone from flying a 280-square-foot canopy to a 190-square-footer. My old jumpsuit is loose enoght that I could fit another person in it with me. And now I knjow waht the top of someone’s rig looks like in freefall.
Not only have I seen a vast improvement in my flying ability, but in my “real life,” as well. As a career firefighter-paramedic, it is important that I kepp myself in shape. While I was at my peak weight, I found it incredibly difficult to do most of my duties. I was pre-hypertensive and on the borderline of acquring adult-onset diabetes. However, with the loss of more than 90 pounds, I am more in shape than I have ever been and I have one of the best-looking physiques around the fire station. I have also gained more confidence in my social life. I have already been on a few dates with women I previously thought were out of my league.
Although getting in shape for my career as a firefighter-paramedic was necessary, my main drive was my passion for skydiving. Without the continuous support of my family at AtmosphAir, I would not have been able to pull this off. Skydiving has not only changed my mental wellbeing, but it has made me a physically healthier person as well. Now I am certain that I will remain in this sport for the rest of my life. A year ago, I would never have imagined that I would be where I am today, and this is due to skydiving and my love for the sport. Skydiving will always be a part of may life because of what it now, and always has, meant to me.
-Kevin Bukstein | B-38806