When you think of skydiving, pie does not usually come to mind.
In almost every sport there is some sort of tradition that an athlete receives when they have achieved something remarkable. In skydiving, it is no different. Once a skydiver has completed 100 jumps they receive a pie in the face.
“Everyone knows that once you get to 100 jumps you get a pie and everybody sort of tries to avoid it, so they try to sneak around, but there’s no getting past it, there’s just too many people around,” said Mark Ehrmantraut, chief instructor and part owner of Skydive Saskatoon.
At 1,000 jumps, you receive champagne in addition to the pie. “It’s a celebration of your achievement,” said Ehrmantraut, who has over 6,600 jumps.
If jumping out of a plane sounds like an adrenaline rush, it is, but the sport of skydiving has evolved over the years to being more than just an item to check off on a bucket list. “We are in an era where this (sport) is becoming mainstream.”
Mark Ehrmantraut took his first jump in 1997 with his wife and friend at Indian head, Sask. Ehrmantraut said that he was addicted to the sport on his first tandem jump. “It was all fear of the unknown, but once you’re open under the canopy, it’s like, ‘Yeah, I want to go again.’ I even remember telling him, ‘Can I go again tonight?’ and he (the tandem master) goes, ‘Dude, you’re not even on the ground yet, how about we wait until we land and see if you like it?’ So, yeah, it was addicting,” said Ehrmantraut.
The sport is ever-evolving, as the technology behind the equipment advances. “The canopy that I am jumping now was not around 10 years ago, there was nothing like it,” said Ehrmantraut.
At the moment Ehrmantraut is focused on free flying, which he said is “flying with your feet down, head down.” Ehrmantraut is also focused on flying under the canopy, which is achieved once the parachute is open and attaining high speeds.
“When I started in it (sports parachuting), there was no major people going super-fast right near the ground. Now when we are turning near the ground we’re going over a hundred miles an hour,” said Ehrmantraut.
Ehrmantraut is the vice-president at Skydive South Sask, a non-profit organization located just outside of Moose Jaw. He along with some fellow members of the club decided to open up Skydive Saskatoon in 2014.
The team at Skydive Saskatoon uses humour to ease the nerves of their first-time clients. The Internet makes it easier for people to purchase because there is no need to phone anymore. “You can just click and buy,” said Ehrmantraut.
It also makes it possible for clients to view past skydives by the instructors and clients.
Ehrmantraut is a member of the Canadian Sport Parachuting Association. He has been a competitive skydiver on a provincial level for multiple years. “Last year I missed the hit and chug by two-hundredths of a second or five- hundredths of a second,” said Ehrmantraut.
Every year Ehrmantraut goes down to the United States to skydive. This year it is the 50th annual Lost Prairie Boogie which takes place Aug. 5 to 13. “It’s sort of a big party, celebration and lots of jumping going on,” said Ehrmantraut.
Ehrmantraut teaches in Regina, Sask. but once the snow melts he works at Skydive Saskatoon.
To Ehrmantraut skydiving is much more than just a sport. “It’s a family, as well, you’ve got friends at the drop zone that you go out and see every weekend,” said Ehrmantraut.