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Omaha Magazine

Rian Kanouff Sets Guinness World Records

Apr 28, 2022 04:54PM ● By Jarrett van Meter

Photo by Amanda Horner

The chaos swallowed him as soon as he hit the grass. 

“Grab his helmet!” yelled a voice from somewhere in the mass of people surrounding him. Hands were thrust upon him from all angles, peeling his parachute backpack and helmet away from his body. It was hot, heat advisory hot, and the commotion was a bit disorienting. Within a matter of seconds, Rian Kanouff was left standing in nothing but his sneakers. That’s when they hit him with the pies.

“My entire body was pie-d, private parts, buns, everything...” Kanouff remembered. “They just rushed me, and they did it right, too. The guys who were taking off my gear were distracting me, and all the people who I thought were celebrating behind them all had pies in their hands and came through and just machine-gunned me with pies.”

The dessert fusillade was the culmination of a record-breaking day when Kanouff secured the Guinness World Record for most naked skydives in 24 hours. He completed 60 jumps between 5:45 a.m. and 6 p.m. at the Lincoln Sport Parachute Club in Weeping Water, Nebraska.

Kanouff, who is 33, began skydiving six years ago. He grew up in South Omaha playing hockey and football, racing motocross, and wrestling. He continued playing hockey into adulthood, and when a teammate invited him to go skydiving for that teammate’s 29th birthday, he was hesitant.

“I was terrified,” he remembered of the buildup toward his first jump. “My No. 1 fear in life is heights. I did not want to do it even a little bit, zero desire to jump out of an airplane.”

On August 26, 2016, he forced himself into the plane and, once it was up in the air, jumped over the threshold toward the world below. As soon as he was airborne, his life changed forever. 

“The second we left the airplane I was like, yep, this is what I want to do,” he recalled.

When he hit the ground, he asked the cameraman who had jumped alongside him how he could get a similar job. The cameraman suggested a training course being held the following weekend. It was the last session of the year, so Kanouff registered. A week after his first jump, he was on his way to making a career out of skydiving. 

At the time of the interview, Kanouff had completed 704 jumps—most of them clothed—in nearly a dozen different states. He has become a sought-after motivational speaker and positioned himself at the sport’s vanguard. But when he decided to go after the world record, he didn’t want to make it about himself. It wasn’t even about skydiving. Kanouff used the platform to raise awareness for another cause close to his heart: men’s mental health.

Within a five-month span leading up to his record-setting day in June 2021, Kanouff lost four people close to him to suicide: his grandfather, his childhood neighbor, his high school best friend, and a fellow member of the skydiving community. It is tradition in skydiving culture to complete one’s 100th jump in the buff, but the man who has set naked skydiving records declined to make his century-milestone in this traditional way. “I jumped naked for the first time filming another jumper’s 100th celebration,” Kanouff said, noting that it was for his jumping buddy, who took his own life just before his own century milestone. That’s when Kanouff decided his record would be set naked. The folks at Guinness told him he needed to jump 24 times to set the record. He chose 60 to represent the number of men who die of suicide every hour.

He contacted the men’s health nonprofit Movember Foundation, and the organization agreed to back the project. A team of volunteers from the Lincoln Sport Parachute Club, Kanouff’s home drop zone, helped plan and execute the day without any hiccups, repacking his parachutes after jumps, monitoring his hydration, and even cooking him bacon and eggs for sustenance. Kanouff alternated between five different parachutes, each re-packed by his team between uses, and two aircrafts. He typically jumps from 10,000 and 14,000 feet, but in order to maximize his total, all of his 60 record-setting jumps were from between 2,500 and 3,000 feet. He estimated that each jump took between seven and nine minutes.

And Guinness World Records wasn’t the day’s only governing body to sanction the event. Jeff Dawson, the founder and president of the Society for the Advancement of Naked Skydiving, drove in from Milwaukee to serve as a verifying official. On jump number 37 of the day, Dawson stripped down and joined Kanouff.

“It’s freedom, it’s breaking the rules, being naughty, doing things that the rest of society wouldn’t normally accept,” said Dawson, who also holds the world record for number of cumulative naked jumps. “But mainly it’s the sense of freedom and just being able to go out there and enjoy the skydive without any clothes on with friends who are doing the same.”

Kanouff and Dawson even joined hands briefly during their jump to set the Nebraska state SANS record for a formation with two people—yet another accomplishment during a day that raised nearly $13,600 for Movember, set a World Record, and launched Kanouff’s career to new heights. There would be more than 500 news stories about the feat appearing across 25 countries. The Hollywood mainstay Skydive Perris would take notice, and recruit Kanouff to California to serve as a cameraman and instructor. There would be agents and PR teams and podcast appearances. But as soon as his feet hit the ground for the 60th time, none of that was on his mind, only jubilation, fellowship, and pie.

He hasn’t stopped yet. In late February, Kanouff set the record for largest naked formation jump, bringing his total of naked jumps (at presstime) to 84.

“It was surreality is what it was,” he said of the sugar-soaked culmination in June. “I couldn’t believe it was happening.” 

Visit 1011now.com/2021/06/17/nebraska-man-sets-world-record-naked-skydiving-cause to watch Kanouff skydive or movember.com to learn more about the cause.

This article originally appeared in the May 2022 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.  

Photo by Amanda Horner