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Hobby or Competition, the Sky's the Limit

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Talk to regular skydivers about their freefalls, and you'll find their head in the clouds.

"It's hard to describe until you've done it, and once you've done it, it's hard to describe," said Todd Spillers with Skydive Aggieland.

Their path to the skies are usually simple enough. "I had a friend that started skydiving," said another diver, Katrina Autry, "and I just went out with her and came out and watched a whole bunch and said, 'Hey, that looks like a lot of fun.'"

And when it comes to deplaning from a flying jet, packing a chute is packing one's life. "You can't play the game without having the equipment ready, so you've got to get the equipment ready," said Skydive's David Lund. "It's just something you've got to do."

On Sunday, you could add a dash of competition to the mix. Coulter Field played host to the fourth of five meets in the state's canopy piloting event, with tests of accuracy, speed and distance. When the competition is complete, two Texans will compete in the nationals, with $5,000 on the line.

"Most of the competitors have a minimum of 500 jumps," Spillers said. "Most of them have around a thousand or more. And basically, you're diving at the ground at 60-70 mph.

"It's kind of neat to be able to have something, making a living and loving to do it at the same time," he added.

"When it comes down to it," said Lund, "these competitions are really low key. Everybody here is friends. We've known each other in skydiving long before we started competing with each other. We're out here rooting each other on and having a good time."

And for those who've already made up their minds about diving, "Never say never because life is always changing," Autry said, "and one of these days everyone should do it at least once just to experience and so they know what it's like."

"People think skydivers have a death wish," said Lund. "Skydiving isn't about death. Skydiving is about life. It's about living your life, and living it to the fullest."

And with a little cash on the line, it's that much more fun.