The air, the intake and exhalation of breath and being suspended above the ground are one and
the same to Alabama Shanker. She filters the ‘noise’ in her environment, while she is
transported into the choreography of her next skydive. Alabama lives in two worlds, her feet on
the ground and her spirit in flight - her whole being verges on being ethereal.
Alabama ghost-walks the routine as she goes through her paces; arms outstretched, toes
pointed, head held straight - to all intents and purposes, she is an airborne ballerina. With such
natural talent comes the responsibility to see it reach its full potential - without the desire,
motivation and a strong team around her this just wouldn’t be possible.
Alabama’s first coach was Paul Capsey, a world class team mate of Dave Pacey’s, who is now
working with Alabama, coaching her to achieve her goal of becoming a world champion
freestyle skydiver. What makes this an unusual and inspirational story, is that Dave is an
ex-military sergeant and Alabama is 18 and still studying. The combination of a disciplined,
highly-skilled coach and an unusually receptive, talented and driven young woman have made a
winning combination. Dave and Alabama are at the core of a community of skydivers, which
shares their passion for the sport and responsibility for the success of their team. They are
bound together as a family, forming an arm of a global skydiving culture that is as inclusive as it
Dave is the man behind the camera and her coach, having skydived for 15 years and competed
at the highest levels. His goal is to teach Alabama everything he knows and has learnt over the
years. He is a constant source of ideas and tips, knowing exactly how technical the
choreography needs to be for the dives. Dave flies with Alabama capturing every sequence with
his seasoned eye. He becomes Alabama’s constructive critic while allowing her to bring her
intuition and creativity to the choreography. Their relationship is a striking example of what it
means to work together respectfully, sharing ideas and allowing natural growth and progress.
Together, they so aptly represent the indomitable spirit and courage of Team Bravery.
Harry Shanker, is Alabama’s father and a strong role model. He has been skydiving since Alabama was 3 years old and was her first inspiration and guide. When she first started to free-dive, Harry was her cameraman and together they competed in events and won the Armed Forces Parachute Association at Netheravon thus launching their competitive career. Alabama has been surrounded by encouraging, passionate and entertaining people, all of whom have formed an extremely important team. Such a diverse group of skydivers allows for a range of input and wisdom. What holds them together is their love of flight - one can only become truly successful when you love what you are doing. Alabama’s team loves its sport and its prodigy - it works together to achieve the highest outcomes.
In order to see this all in action, YESSS POWER sponsored the Bravery.org skydiving team in a
night tunnel session, which was visually amazing! The ultra violet lights, swirled and twirled with the acrobatic movements of the skydivers, reflecting their sinewy movements that we usually don’t get close enough to see. The combination of a wind tunnel and extraordinary lighting, transforms this extreme sport into an enchanted world of unleashing the power to let go and fly!
The Basingstoke branch of YESSS Electrical, sent a team of their adventurous staff members to
have a go in the tunnel. What a treat, for them and for us. It was uplifting to witness the
excitement in their faces and the sense of achievement, which was palpable in the room.
Another lesson in well-practised routines becoming adaptable and powerful in any environment.
At Skydive, Netheravon, Dave and Alabama geared themselves up for their jump, they laughed
at shared jokes and gentle teasing. Fun is functional - it mentally and emotionally prepares them
for the joy that they must continue to experience if they aim to be successful. As they reached
the aircraft exit, there was a change in Dave’s and Alabama’s expressions, subtle yet
meaningful - they were ready to work.
One immediately understood what has made her an emerging star. Alabama and Dave, as
Team Bravery, have recently qualified for the Great Britain team and will be going to the World
Championships in Australia, 2018. The team embodies discipline, diligence and devotion to the
sport - nothing will stand in her way.
Watching such an accomplished team reminds one of something Maya Angelou said, “Do the
best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better!”