Zach Carbo: I am originally from Southeast Louisiana. Spending almost all of my childhood outside, I literally grew up in the swamps, marshes, and bayous of the “Sportsman’s Paradise.” I finished my high school years in the Bay Area of California.
That is where my love for the mountains began.
After holding almost every conceivable job that you can imagine (brick packer, bartender, pilot boat captain, night club DJ, sheriff’s deputy among others), I enlisted in the Army under the Delayed Entry Program in early 2003.
I spent nearly 13 years in the Army with the vast majority of it in the 75th Ranger Regiment.
While not the best, smartest, or strongest Ranger, I thrived in the environment where everyday was another interview for your job. You wanted to get better today than you were yesterday for three reasons:
Since leaving service almost two years ago, I have struggled with figuring out what is next.
- You worked hard to get there.
- Someone else was ready to take that job from you.
- It was a place that you wanted to stay.
Leaving a place that I never thought I would ever leave, the 75th Ranger Regiment, was like cutting off one of your own limbs.
I focus now on a graduate program that I don’t care much for anymore and asking myself the question I think many of us have asked ourselves at one point or another:
The above was taken by a good friend and fellow veteran, Matthew Drewelow. We enjoy each other’s company in the mountains a great deal. They both highlight the beauty of my home ski area, Crystal Mountain.
CFF: How did you get into contact with Griff and the team at Combat Flip Flops?
ZC: While the legend now known as Griff may seem like just a beautiful face with perfect hair and 180 pounds of twisted steel and sex appeal, he was well known amongst my friends in a sister company.
However, it wasn’t until a mutual friend from Squirrel Wingsuits, Matt Gerdes, put us in touch.
Matt knew a bit of my military service and my innate desire to help people who deserve it. Since then, we have shared laughs, beers, ideas and solace. I later met Jill (the customer service guru) and was immediately struck by her personality and dedication to her work.
(PHOTO CREDIT: Mike Hamilton)
They say you never forget your first time. They are right. This was my first trip to Alaska, the first time being pulled by a snowmobile on skis at 75 mph, the first time heliskiing in the Chugach, the first time I saw the northern lights and the first time I spent two weeks with a smile on my face 24/7.
CFF: How do you de-stress?
ZC: I know how I try to de-stress (I’m a complete nut job).
I head to the mountains or the ocean. All the answers are there if you listen hard enough. Or not at all. Sometimes they just come to you if you are willing to accept them.CFF: What role do you consider the outdoors to play in your life? Why?ZC: Much like I mentioned above, the outdoors in general are where the answers are. They are the teachers of the harshest of lessons, the artists of the most amazing pieces of art and music, the givers of the truest love and the most devoted of friends. Always there, always willing, always giving.
(PHOTO CREDIT: Brendan Cork)
CFF: What was the most memorable BASE jump you've ever had?
First first damn, dam.
ZC: It would have to have been several years ago in Montana with a dear friend Jeff Shapiro.
He invited me to visit some local sites in Big Sky country. While not the biggest, most difficult or most awe inspiring of wingsuit BASE jumps, it was filled with incomparable camaraderie, a soul filling vibe, some broken bones, some intestinal fortitude and ultimately, smiles and laughs that I will never forget. Ever.
This was taken by a good friend
(Jhonny Florez) during a project here in Washington several years back. It is a reminder of an amazing weekend with dear friends in one of my favorite mountain ranges on Earth.
CFF: Why would you recommend people to push outside their pleasure & comfort zones and challenge themselves to BASE jump (or do any of the crazy things you do)?
ZC: I actually don’t recommend any of my activities to anyone per se. There are a lot of activities out there for people to try or do. These are very rewarding activities, but come at a price in one way or another.People need to be honest with themselves and figure out why they want to participate in these activities and what they want or expect to get out of the activities. I suppose the exceptions to this rule would be skydiving, surfing, and maybe paragliding.
That's how we roll.
A family that skis together stays together.
While they do each require a certain level of dedication, currency, and aptitude, the former activities (skydiving, surfing, paragliding) can be done by just about anyone and are all VERY rewarding (sometimes I fly my paraglider over Griff’s house to see if he is out back sunning in his silkies… no luck yet). BASE jumping, speedflying, and speedriding are a bit of different animals. They require an extremely high level of currency, attention to detail, dedication, and time to do safely and with a reasonable level of sustainability.In the case of speedriding (flying a small parachute on and just over the snow at high speeds around objects and terrain), you also need to know how to ski and have access to areas to participate in the sport. Much like BASE jumping, this is not an easy task here in the U.S. as both activities are typically looked at in disapproval at best.
My happy place.
CFF: Any advice for those suffering from self-medicating with unhealthy habits from life's stressors (e.g. alcohol, addictive drugs, etc)? Do you think there's a viable alternative to those substances in nature?
ZC: I've never had any issue with drugs or alcohol, so I may not be the best person to speak on such a topic.
However, I know that when I swim back in to the beach after my last set in the ocean or pack up my parachute after another 5 hour hike/flight in the Alps, for if nothing but a small moment, all is right in the world. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t being inundated with all the crap the world wants to dish out on phones, TVs or computers. Or maybe it’s because the mountains, oceans, rivers and fields truly are healers and erasures of pain and stress.
I will just have to keep returning to them to see if I can find out.
CFF: Please tell me a nickname that you currently hold!
ZC: Kindergarten Cop. Long story.
This was the first time I understood what the phrase: “The silence was deafening” really meant. I sat and watched the sunrise and the alpenglow fade. My ears truly hurt from how absolutely, completely quiet it was.
CFF: What are some of your favorite quotations?
"Don't let your schooling interfere with your education." —Mark Twain“Do not be afraid of death. Be afraid of the unlived life.” —Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting
“I only wish that wisdom were the kind of thing that flowed … from the vessel that was full to the one that was empty.” —Plato
Remember that amazing day in Montana? This was it.
CFF: Anything else you'd like to mention regarding your personal philosophies?
ZC: I don’t think we can do things to get over our innate fears. I think we just learn how to manage those fears and responses to those fears. Some of us are better than others at this. One person’s fear is another person’s comfort zone.