USPA D Licensed Sky Diving Instructor – Commercial Pilot and Flight Instructor – High Altitude Alpinist and Master Scuba Diver Williams Pontel joins us today in our first Q&A: Confessions of an Adrenalin Junkie
MB: Thank you Williams for taking the time to chat with us this morning.
WP: My pleasure.
MB: I guess the first question that comes to mind when observing Adrenalin junkies in action is, what is the driving force behind their choosing to participate in such extreme activities? Is it recognition, acceptance, boredom…?
WP: For me, it is a desire to become more comfortable with nature and to explore the out of the ordinary. And, I just want to add that a bit of Adrenalin gives the body a beneficial boost and heightens awareness.
MB: Certainly benefits that are needed when participating in extreme activities. How much does self-awareness or even selfishness play into these choices?
WP: You have to know exactly what you are going to do, otherwise the events will take over. Ego needs to be in check and you need to be in touch with yourself and your surroundings. Remaining humble and genuinely curious is also very important.
MB: Do you embrace or ignore the possibility of something going very wrong?
WP: I embrace the possibility of something going wrong, each and every time, which is why I perform several checks. It is all about safety and what to do if something goes wrong…so a plan b and even plan c are always in place. I repeat in my head the emergency procedures over and over and at the same time I accept the risk while minimizing it. I have to trust in me and my knowledge and training. Denzel Washington once said, “A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because her trust is not on the branch but on its own wings.”
MB: Nicely put. So, if I understand correctly, it is a balancing act between embracing potential danger, preparedness and trusting in yourself, and at times in others, enough to be able to let go and enjoy the experience as well.
WP: Exactly. Without the freedom that comes from training, training, training you wouldn’t be able to explore, learn and enjoy whatever it is you have set out to do. It is about repeating the same things over and over again so that they become second nature to you as well as keeping your ego in check at all times.
MB: Considering that your interests are in the air, on land and in the sea, I was wondering which environment you are most comfortable in?
WP: Personally, in the air. There is no one around me, for the most part, and I make the biggest connection with nature when I am in the air. I took a leap of faith in starting these activities and I discovered that there are other worlds beyond what we see or perceive as “normal.” This helped me to find new alternative meanings and also answers to many life questions.
MB: What are you afraid of?
WP: I am afraid of the unknown. For example, on a basic level, I was afraid of snakes until I learned about them and was exposed to them. Once I understood about them, I was able to get a handle on my fear. The more you know the less afraid you are.
MB: In your opinion is there an age (mind, body, spirit) limit to what you do?
WP: You must trust yourself and know your body and mind and limitations as well as strengths. You need to be in tune with yourself and your surroundings. When I was twenty I could run marathons no problem, but with age my body changed and so I had to accept this fact and stopped running marathons. However, the same obstacle that stopped me from running did not stop me from scuba diving or sky diving for example. So, with awareness and acceptance you can continue to push and challenge yourself through all the stages of life.
MB: And finally, what has been your most memorable experience so far?
WP: Skydiving from 28,000 feet with oxygen equipment. This is the altitude of Mount Everest, where there is very little oxygen and you cannot survive if you do not have oxygen supply and gear protection as the outside temperature was -39 C degrees. I felt like I was in an unexplored dimension. I could see the curvature of earth and I felt very small compared to my surroundings, but at the same time I felt very close to the source of all things. It also seemed as though a long time passed prior to landing. The free-fall time was over 2 minutes and felt like an eternity. Just another proof that time perception is not constant and can be different according to the situation/experience you are in.
MB: Williams, thank you so much for sharing with us today and may you have many more thrilling and chilling experiences!