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Living on the ... edge.

Tell Charles Nuzum that he's being shipped to Siberia, and he'll smile. A broad grin will cross his face as he recalls: Khatanga, Siberia, April 1995, and the Russian IL-76 air force jet that took him from Siberia to the North Pole - for his 2,000th skydive.

It was an international expedition where Nuzum joined 50 of the world's best skydivers. For him and many of the others, the scene went as planned. For most, the situation is unfathomable.

Flying at a speed of 250 miles per hour, in a temperature of 150 degrees below zero with the wind chill factor, Nuzum inched his way to the jet's tailgate, unable to ignore the intense knot in his gut - the same knot he felt on his first skydive with his college roommate over Seattle in 1966, and on every one since - and jumped from just over 13,000 feet. His freefall, at 120 miles per hour, lasted for 41 seconds before he tugged the canopy cord. When the parachute released, Nuzum whipped his Nikon from his custom-fitted survival suit, snapped four pictures before the camera's battery went dead from the cold, repositioned, and floated like a glider to the cracked and grinding ice-laden surface that was the North Pole drop zone.

"When I was freefalling and past the point of no return, this incredible feeling of peace and well-being enveloped me," recalls Nuzum, a CPA and currently CEO of Pavement Marking Technologies in Menlo Park, Calif., a start-up company that's developing a machine to apply traffic markings to pavement. Musing on skydiving's appeal to him, Nuzum explains, "The simple act of stepping off the tailgate carried me beyond the world of finance, mergers, IPOs, reversals, frustrations and inanities. And, in the space of a split second, life had been reduced from a highly complex existence, with a thousand petty problems, to one of the barest simplicities in which only one real task remained - ensuring a soft landing on the North Pole."

A 30-year veteran pilot, scuba diver and mountain climber, and former member of the U.S. Army Special Forces, Nuzum is no stranger to adventure. However, a dedicated father and family man, Nuzum speaks with pride about his family vacations and the fact that his wife and four children have accompanied him on all of his excursions, except for the North Pole expedition and some shorter mountain-climbing trips.

"Together, we've explored the ancient Mayan ruins in the jungles of the Yucatan, sailed to Greece and rafted down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. We've also visited all four Disney parks. But I can't get them interested in flying, skydiving, hang gliding or, particularly, mountain climbing. They would do it, though, if it were an amusement park ride," he says jokingly.

So, what's Nuzum's next great adventure?

Already beyond the planning stages is his South Pole expedition, scheduled for late 1997 or early 1998. "We'll be the first to ever skydive onto Antarctica," he says, "and I'll be the first to skydive onto both poles. However, the South Pole jump will be much more technically difficult; the area is far more remote and the weather is much worse." To Nuzum, just another detail to work out.
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Title Annotation:adventures of Pavement Marking Technologies CEO Charles Nuzum
Publication:Financial Executive
Date:May 1, 1997
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