Boise native Aleksa Davis has completed more than 500 skydives. The first was a tandem jump in Star for her 18th birthday.
“I’ve always been an adrenaline junkie,” she said. “I saw people skydiving and always wanted to do it.”
Davis, 25 and a senior at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, was on the team that won two gold medals at the 2017 U.S. Parachute Association National Collegiate Parachuting Championships in January in Arizona.
The eldest of 10 children, Davis was the kind of kid who was doing back flips off bridges, said her father Marshall Davis, a U.S. Army veteran. He made his own first jump from a plane when he was 16. These days, the minimum legal age to skydive is 18. Nearly all of the Davis children have followed Aleksa and jumped at least once.
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“If you’re over 18 in this family and haven’t jumped, you’re a second-class citizen,” Marshall Davis quipped.
He was able to travel from Boise to Arizona to watch Davis compete. His daughter, he said, “is just amazing.”
“Knowing what it takes just to land on the ground safely, let alone land on a spot the size of a salad plate, I’m in awe. Just in awe,” he said.
The collegiate competition drew 80 skydivers from universities around the country to compete in four disciplines: formation skydiving, vertical formation skydiving, sport accuracy and classic accuracy. Davis, one of two women on West Point’s 30-cadet team of skydivers, and the sole woman on her particular jump team of six, won gold medals in the six-way speed formation skydiving event for the second consecutive year.
The object of this event, said Davis, is for teammates to leap from an aircraft and connect in the air in a pre-designed formation as quickly as possible. Since actual jumps are time consuming and expensive, most of the training for this event takes place on the ground. Teammates “dirt dive,” or practice the formation over and over again so it becomes muscle memory, said Davis, “knowing whose hand you’ll be grabbing, or whose foot, and when.”
Being flexible, being able to move easily are important for skydivers, said Davis. Also tuning body awareness. “Because your arms and legs, and all parts of your body become flight surfaces when you’re in the air.”
Davis also earned a gold medal in the team sport accuracy event. In this event, skydivers try to land their parachutes as close as they can to a target while flying across the ground at high speeds.
The recent competition in Arizona was Davis’ last as a college athlete. Besides competing, the team also trains for demonstration jumps.
“We jump into home football games. We jumped at the New York Air Show. We even got to jump into Yankee Stadium once,” said Davis.
Davis graduated from the Meridian Medical Arts Charter School in 2010. She attended Boise State and the Idaho State University’s Meridian campus and served in the Idaho National Guard until 2013 before entering West Point.
Davis graduates in May with a degree in defense and strategic studies, a discipline she describes as, “the study of defense and the overall strategy of military operations around the world.”
In exchange for free tuition, West Point cadets commit to serving in the military for five years after graduation. Last semester, Davis learned that she’d gotten her top choice for an appointment. She’s headed to flight school in Fort Rucker, Alabama, where she’ll learn to fly helicopters.