A pioneer in wingsuit flying, Taya has been an active coach since 2004. With over 6000 jumps, she holds a USPA Coach rating and is a Wingsuit Coach Examiner. Taya has been the lead organizer and a participant in the largest wingsuit formation world records, ushering them into official recognition as a member of the International Parachuting Commission wingsuit committee. She is the first woman and one of the first skydivers to perform XRW (“Extreme Relative Work”), a new discipline where wingsuit flyers in freefall link up with high-performance parachute pilots. She also enjoys freeflying and angle flying, and she recently spent a season training and competing with an all-women’s 8-way formation skydiving team. She runs the Lightning Flight Wingsuit School at Skydive Perris in Southern California, one of the world’s largest dropzones. Read her profile in Parachutist Magazine.
Researcher and Humanitarian
Taya has a BA magna cum laude from Harvard University and a Master in International Relations from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. After learning the ropes in marketing and content development at Internet startups in San Francisco, Taya moved to Johannesburg, South Africa, to pursue a less conventional career in human security research. She has researched and reported on the illegal small arms trade in Africa, publishing her findings in several monographs and papers through the independent Institute for Security Studies. She also worked on the design and implementation of a regional curriculum to train police on violence against women and children, taught self-defense and empowerment to at-risk groups, and volunteered as a rape crisis counselor. Her professional mentor, Sarah Meek, and life partner Eric Stephenson died within a year of each other during her time in graduate school and Taya turned to skydiving for focus and healing. When she began jumping full time, she founded non-profit Raise the Sky to continue her humanitarian work.
Writer and Speaker
Taya’s writing explores central questions about risk seeking, consequence, loss, leadership, and redemption in the skydiving and BASE jumping subcultures. Her articles have been published in Time, Smithsonian Magazine, Parachutist, Blue Skies Magazine, Do It Now, 90Percent, Dropzone Magazine, Dropzone.com, and others. She is an accomplished public speaker on a number of topics, including: leadership in high-risk environments; the value of calculated risk taking in finding and pursuing a calling; and the power of human flight to inspire social action.