Taking It To the Extreme: Skydiving Side Hustle

In the days of high inflation, the need to find extra income is essential to nearly any household to cover the costs of everyday needs and enable them to have some fun too. Regular side hustles such as rideshare or delivery driving, or re-selling are an option for some. Others have turned to more unique ways to make money — literally taking it to the skies and pushing themselves to the limit.

Alex Coker of Memphis, Tennessee, has taken a jack-of-all-trades approach over the years for his income, which will pay off in the form of an early retirement next year. One of those side hustles has him jumping out of planes as a skydiving videographer and instructor. He is a former member of the military and a current member of law enforcement as his regular career.

“It’s great for me that I get paid to do my hobby. My advice is to find your hobby and learn to make money doing your hobby,” he says. In addition to his retirement pay and savings, this hobby will allow Coker to be financially set for life in his 50s.

Coker says that growing up, he knew he wanted to be a paratrooper and jump out of planes. He accomplished this at age 19 when he jumped out of his first plane. He has done so both in and out of the military. He first began as a videographer on jumps, where his job was to take the video.

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Pictured: Alex Coker. Photo Credit: Mike Mullins. Used with permission.

“You have one shot to get it right because you have to leap at the exact same time as the person doing a tandem jump,” he says. For these videos, he was making $50 a jump. Once he had 500 jumps under his belt, he was able to complete tandem instructor training in 2016.

Coker works through a local skydiving company in Tennessee called West Tennessee Skydiving. The amount he makes per jump varies based on his role that day. He can work in three different aspects—a tandem instructor, AFF (Accelerated Free Fall) instructor, or doing the video.

On a busy weekend day, he can take part in 15 to 20 jumps per day, with an average fee of $40 to $55 per jump.

Challenge… Accepted

Coker notes that his side hustle hasn’t always been easy on him or his body, and there are challenges.

One, he notes, is the weather, and they can’t control it, and he doesn’t get paid if there is bad weather and they can’t take the jump.

The second factor he points to is its toll on the body. Coker compares a busy weekend of jumping to being hit at football practice. He pays a physical toll not only to the strenuous act of jumping but also the exertion it takes to pack and re-pack his parachute in between each flight.

Additionally, dehydration can set in, and he says that those who jump should rely on lots of water before and after their jump experiences.

For any other adventure seekers who want to consider skydiving as a side hustle, Coker offers this advice.

“They have to like jumping out of airplanes and talking to people,” he explains. “You have to have good people skills, and you have to be willing to be thrown up on,” noting that it has only happened to him a few times.

Once in a Lifetime

Overall, though, the experience he provides to people outweighs any challenges. He has taken over 1,500 people jumping out of planes, the oldest being 90 years old.

“I am giving joy and happiness because skydiving is a near-death experience; it’s locked in your brain forever,” he explains. “People will never forget that day—they are really excited to have completed their jumps.”

If Coker’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s also an actor and TV personality. He was the co-host and survival guru for the global tv show “Remote Survival” on National Geographic Channel. He appeared on History Channel’s “Stan Lee’s Super Humans” as a SWAT Rappel Master. Additionally, he has been in various large and small films, TV shows, and commercials.

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Photo Credit: Jeffrey Spraggins. Tandem Instructor: Alex Coker. Tandem Student: Rosario Borboa. Used with permission.

As retirement nears, Coker shares what he’s looking forward to the most—travel. He has long been envious of his friend’s photos from tropical destinations with drinks and umbrellas. Now, due to years of working several different side hustles, he can travel earlier in life than many other retirees. Of interest, he would like to take a cruise to the Grand Cayman Islands and travel around the U.S. in an RV.

“I am debt free now and have a good amount of money saved. I am trying to do everything the right way and use my life as an example of how to retire early,” he says. “If I work again, I will work because I want to, not because I have to.”

While he doesn’t envision working full time again, if he were to, he would love to be a national news contributor using his expertise on such topics as skydiving, firearms, and law enforcement, from his vast career experience.

“I don’t want to work until my funeral date. I believe in enjoying your life and not being a slave to the time clock,” he shares. “I have been saving money since I was 19 years old. I will have passive income with my retirement money and additional income with any work I do.”

Finding a side hustle or multiple side hustles is important when looking to reach a goal or dream, including early retirement or travel. Some side hustles are more traditional, while others, such as selling plasma or musical performances, are more unique. Jumping out of a plane might not be for everyone, but it serves as an example of how to turn a hobby into an income-producing side hustle.

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Kelley Dukat is a freelance writer, photographer, and event planner currently based in the United States. She has spent the last year as a nomad traveling and house-sitting. She holds a Journalism degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder and previously served as a trade magazine editor. Her favorites include dog-friendly travel, road trips, and nomad life. She is currently working on a memoir and a series of personal essays.