Pro Skydiver Kevin Haugh Dove Headfirst Into Triathlon

"The feeling of finishing my first race was the feeling I had when my feet touched the ground after my first jump."

Photo: Kevin Haugh

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One might think that jumping out of an airplane is the most exciting part of Kevin Haugh’s day. But really, it’s his early-morning run that gets him revved up. The professional canopy pilot, who can skydive up to 14 times in a day, has found triathlon to be an element in his life he didn’t realize he was missing.

When the COVID pandemic hit in early 2020, Haugh—like many around the world—found his usual schedule disrupted. Skydiving went on hold for the better part of a year, and with it went Haugh’s coping mechanism for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from his military career. When a friend suggested he take up triathlon, Haugh was intrigued. He pulled up video coverage of past Kona races, and couldn’t stop watching.

“I was enthralled,” Haugh said. “The next morning, I signed up for a race, bought a bike, and hired a coach.”

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The Niceville, Florida resident tackled triathlon in the same way he approached his professional skydiving career—all-in, with a goal to be the best. In the past, his focus had been on working his way up from the amateur ranks, to become a member of the United States Parachute Association‘s U.S. Parachute Team, where he earned the opportunity to represent his country at the World Cup of Canopy Piloting. In triathlon, despite his lack of experience, Haugh set a goal to be competitive in his age group right off the bat. He knew early on he wanted to try to qualify for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship, which he did in his very first attempt at the distance.

“The first skydive I made—the one that I will remember forever—is very similar to my first triathlon. The feeling of finishing my first race was the feeling I had when my feet touched the ground after my first jump,” Haugh said. “I was ecstatic when I crossed the finish line and saw that I qualified.”

He credits his early success in triathlon to his career in skydiving. As one can imagine, jumping out of a plane successfully requires a lot of planning and attention to detail. For every jump, Haugh has a structured plan on what he is doing, why he’s doing it, and how he’s accomplishing it. He takes the same approach to training.

“I think most of us can relate to the word ‘structure’ when it comes to training,” Haugh said. “Just randomly doing things never works out. But if we put together a structured plan, the results will speak for themselves.”

Triathlon has benefited him in his career as well. “Hands down, I don’t feel as tired at the end of a long day of jumping,” he said, now that he’s fitter and training more. “The endurance, as well as the conditioning, have made for more enjoyable evenings after jumping.”

Though his work schedule has filled out once again now as the country begins to emerge from the pandemic, Haugh still makes time each day for training. “It can be tough to juggle the military career, skydiving career, training for triathlon and having a personal life,” he said. “But those who are dedicated will find a way.”

A Day in The Life: Kevin Haugh

“There are always challenges with the work/life/training balance act,” admits Haugh. “Monday through Friday, I’m limited to about two hours of training each day. When the weekend rolls around, and I’m teaching a Flight-1 course, I’m up at 4:30 or 5 a.m. to get my first workout in before I’m in the classroom with my students. Once the day is over, which on most courses we jump until sunset, I’m off to the track or gym to get my second workout in. Occasionally, travel is required on the weekends to teach at other drop zones, and that can be difficult to also meet training goals.”

5:45 a.m. – Wake up, and prep for first workout

6-7:30 a.m. – Easy bike or run

7:30-8 a.m. – Prepping classroom and pre-course paperwork

8-8:30 a.m. – Classroom time

8:30-noon – Filming student landings and debriefing videos

Noon-1 p.m. – Break for lunch and quick gym/yoga session

1-4 p.m. – Filming students and debriefing landings

4-4:30 p.m. – Close out course

4:30-6:30 p.m. – Track workout

6:30-7:30 p.m. – Dinner

9 p.m. – Go to bed

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