How a Juneau kid turned his passion into a profession

Expire photo Sept 30 2015
Jon Devore, Filippo Fabbi and Andy Farington fly through the middle of a glacier field during the filming of “The Unrideables: Alaska Range” in the Tordrillo Mountains near Anchorage on April 29, 2014. (Scott Serfas/Red Bull Content Pool © Red Bull Media House)

In the film “The Unrideables: Alaska Range” a former Juneau kid makes aggressive ski turns, flips and literally flies off snowy cliffs.

Jon Devore started skiing and skydiving in Juneau. Now, he’s turned his passion into a profession by skydiving, speedriding and performing Hollywood stunts for a living.

Unrideables is a documentary on speedriding, a combination of big mountain skiing and high speed parachute flying.

“I have spent my whole life waiting for this moment – an opportunity to pioneer and ski mountains that were previously thought unrideable,” Devore says in the film.

The 39-year-old grew up in Juneau.

“If you didn’t get outside and do something, you’d go crazy living here,” Devore says. “And as a kid, whether it was scuba diving, skiing, kayaking, climbing – I went out and did everything that this beautiful area offers.”

He started skiing Eaglecrest Ski Area at age 5 and, as a young adult, spent summers river raft guiding. His first time skydiving was in Juneau.

“When I was a senior in high school, a guy rolled through the town offering tandem skydiving and I was his first client,” Devore says.

Jon Devore (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)
Jon Devore (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

After that, he was hooked. Devore moved to Arizona in 1995 to pursue skydiving full time. He became part of a group that was perfecting, what was at the time, a new style of skydiving – free flying.

“Most people think skydiving is belly to earth falling flat. Well, we were taking it into three dimensions whether we were standing up vertically and having our feet go first, or going head down towards the earth or everything in the middle,” he says.

Devore worked as a skydive coach and competed in world skydiving meets. After a little while, “the world of Hollywood and the stunt world started calling.”

He coordinates, films and performs aerial stunts.

“We did all the wingsuit scenes in Transformers 3 where we were flying our wingsuits through downtown Chicago through all the buildings having the robots chase us.

In “Furious 7,” part of the “The Fast and the Furious” series, Devore is an aerial cameraman for cars that are dropped out of an airplane. He’s the lead actor’s stunt double in the remake of “Point Break,” due to come out in December. The original movie was what first inspired him to skydive.

Expire Sept 30, 2015
Jon Devore hikes to get into position during the filming of “The Unrideables: Alaska Range.” (Scott Serfas/Red Bull Content Pool © Red Bull Media House)

Devore is the manager of the Red Bull Air Force Team, which performs in about 60 shows a year doing stunts like skydiving into a Seattle Seahawks game or into a concert. In his 20 year career, Devore only recently experienced his first injury – a torn ACL.

But he says he’s had close calls. During a movie shoot in New Zealand, DeVore was supposed to jump out of a helicopter, land on a big mountain, cut his parachute off and ski down. He had been practicing for weeks, but while filming,

“My parachute didn’t open, my lines came out and they tied around my ski boots and bindings, so I basically tied myself up in the sky and my parachute never inflated. It was just being towed like a piece of garbage. And I took that all the way into the ground and impacted at probably 95-100 miles an hour, almost pure free fall speed,” Devore says.

Devore was positive he was going to die. All he could think about was his wife. His curled up his body and hit the ground on his back.

“Two minutes later, I stood up and didn’t have a broken bone, zero injuries, nothing,” Devore says.

The mountain he landed on was part of the Invincible Snowfields.

Despite the close calls, Devore loves what he does and is sticking with it for as long as he can. He has friends in their late 60s and early 70s still skydiving. He says, he may one day bring the sport back to Juneau and, just maybe, change some kid’s life.

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