Josh Ruiz-Velasco is a self-described adrenaline junkie, so it comes as little surprise that he would find his passion in indoor skydiving.
The 26-year-old man, who grew up Federal Way, started cliff diving after graduating from Decatur High School in 2010. A diver on his high school team, he also enjoyed the challenges of BMX and mountain biking and motocross.
“I started realizing that something I would really like to do would be skydiving,” he said. “I always imagined myself flying and doing that kind of stuff.”
Ruiz-Velasco got his chance to skydive when he started working at iFLY indoor skydiving in Tukwila. He was attending Highline College and working at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse at Westfield Southcenter when iFLY opened across the street from the mall.
“I saw this building going up,” he said. “I remembered seeing it on a show before, and I am like that is probably one of those indoor skydiving facilities. I was right. The owners would go to BJ’s … and I finagled my way in and started working as a front desk representative here.”
He got his first taste of skydiving while working at iFLY and fell in love with the sport.
“I knew it was something I wanted to do for at least the rest of my young adult life,” he said.
Within his first year at iFLY, Ruiz-Velasco took part in his first indoor skydiving competition.
“I wasn’t very good,” he said. “Me, as a person, I like to compare myself to other people to see where I am, and it kind of pushes me to get to the next level.”
With time, Ruiz-Velasco improved, and he has taken part in more than a dozen national and international competitions, where he has won a world championship, along with eight gold, five silver and five bronze medals in freestyle and dynamic flying.
As he got serious about competing, Ruiz-Velasco decided to move to Poland.
“The U.S. has a lot of indoor skydiving facilities and has a really big market in skydiving, but the best flyers in the world are in Europe,” he said. “To further my career — because from the first day I flew I wanted to become one of the best — I went over to Europe to get professional coaching and learning their style of flying and lived over there for roughly a year and a half.”
Now, he splits his time between Warsaw, Poland, and his home in the Lakewood area where he lives with his wife, Lauren. He works as a part-time instructor at iFLY.
Ruiz-Velasco represents Poland in international competitions, and he and his partner, Andrzej Soltyk, will compete for Poland at the FAI Indoor Skydiving World Championships in Montreal, Canada, on Oct. 19. The duo won the FAI Indoor Skydiving World Cup in Poland last year for dynamic flying.
The tandem met when Ruiz-Velasco began giving a then-14-year-old Soltyk skydiving lessons. Now 16, Soltyk is one of the youngest in Europe to have a skydiving license, his coach-turned-partner said.
Ruiz-Velasco has also taken to the outdoors skies. The seasoned jumper was part of a world-record-setting jump for the most people to complete a vertical dive.
“Most formation skydiving you’ll see is people flying on their bellies, and there are people flying up right and people flying upside down,” he said. “So we did it with 164 people flying upside down. It is was one of the coolest things I have ever done.”
While he enjoys indoor and outdoor diving, Ruiz-Velasco said he is partial to indoor.
“One is more of a hobby, the other is more of my work,” he said. “Indoor is what I do all the time.
“You can stay in (an indoor tunnel) for hours, and it is instant gratification for me. It is the most freeing feeling I have ever had. I’m in the zone. It’s awesome. Whenever I am in there, there is a huge smile on my face because I feel great.”