The Hon. Ed Weil, The Sky Diving Judge
Ed Weil had always wanted to parachute from an airplane. Sixteen years ago he acted on that desire, jumping tandem out of a plane, strapped to an experienced skydiver. “I loved it. Before I hit the ground, I already knew that I wanted to do this sport,” he stated with a smile and a sparkle in his eye. Since that time, Judge Weil, who was appointed to the bench in 2009, has become an experienced skydiver, having completed over 1,900 jumps.
During any weekend, if the sky is clear and there is light or no wind, you have a good chance of finding him prepping his chute or descending from the skies near the Yolo County Airport, outside of Davis. In one day, he will typically make about five jumps. “It is therapeutic. After my first jump, I always feel happier and better. Every jump, though, is fun.”
For many people, exiting planes at 13,000 to 15,000 feet seems scary. “Some say skydiving is crazy, while others say that it sounds great but they could never do it.” Judge Weil responds that the sport is not as risky as many assume. If you have the right training, equipment, and good weather, he says, the sport is relatively safe, with a rate of fatal injuries occurring in only about one out of every 150,000 jumps. Additionally, in all of the jumps that he has completed over all of these years, he has never incurred an injury that required medical attention. “I actually worry more about breaking an ankle when I go on a trail run than I worry about getting hurt skydiving.”
Despite his assuredness regarding the safety of the sport, though, it is still not for everyone. “My policy is that no one jumps out of a plane because I talked them into it. If you are not comfortable doing it, I won’t try to convince you otherwise.”
Regarding the cost of skydiving, Judge Weil says the reality is not as onerous as you might expect. There are upfront costs for equipment and training, and then there are per-jump charges, but, over time, he estimates that the total outlay is not much more than what one could spend over the same period playing golf.
On the other side of the ledger, skydiving has many benefits. First, other sports can’t match the beauty, freedom, and thrill of freefalling. Also, an unanticipated plus for Judge Weil is that the sport has allowed him to get to know many people who otherwise would likely never have crossed his path. “Skydiving. . .” he says “-brings together people from various professions, cultures, and age groups.” Still, his career makes him fairly unique. “Judges and lawyers think it is weird that I skydive. Skydivers think it is weird that I am a judge.”
When asked whether he has gained any life lessons through parachuting, the Judge laughs. “It isn’t a deep philosophical thing for me. I do it because it is fun. If it ever stops being fun, I will stop.” Based on our recent conversation, that prospect doesn’t appear anywhere on the horizon. Even from 15,000 feet.