Cliff Ryder jumped out of a helicopter at 3,000 feet for the season premiere of America’s Got Talent that aired on Tuesday night. Billed as “#AGTextreme,” the show’s 10 season leaves the studio for dare devil acts such as jet packs, car stunts and Ryder’s thrilling jump from a helicopter.
Ryder, former resident of Boot Key Harbor, left the helicopter at 3,000 feet with smoke flares strapped to his ankles, reached speeds of 120 mph and pulled his parachute at the last possible moment of his 19-second descent.
When he left in March aboard his 31-foot Island Packet, he did it with a heavy heart.
“I really got sucked into the Boot Key community in a good way. Everyone knows who you are,” Ryder said. “And when you’re not there, they throw an event for you as if you were. I think it’s a really special quality … and I travel all around the world.”
About 20 of his former neighbors gathered at Marathon Grill and Ale House to watch the show.
Ryder said he was approached by the TV show producers and urged to audition.
“My whole life I’ve been climbing things. Even as a very young child, I would slip out the window and climb onto the roof with my stuffed animals,” he said.
Although raised in New York, Ryder came to Florida as a young man. He learned to skydive in the middle of the state, but took off for California when he heard about the then fledgling sport of base jumping — leaping from fixed objects such as bridges, roofs, cliffs. Ryder is part celeb, part stunt actor. He has major brand sponsors and is also hired for TV spots and demonstration jumps.
He hopes to return to Marathon soon. In the meantime, though, Ryder received the three votes needed to move on to the next round of competition in “America’s Got Talent.”
It seems that TV production companies and reality shows have discovered the joys of the Keys and its wacky cast of unique characters. There’s Netflix’s “Bloodlines” filming in the Upper Keys; Marathon’s Mallory Morton and Michael Pinto on “Waterfront House Hunting;” Amanda and John Musolino on “The Briefcase;” and Veronica Cili on “Masterchef.”
Cliff Ryder was formerly a resident of Boot Key Harbor.