Polish 100-Way National Record

    Some jumps are supposed to be a part of skydiving history, and this jump was one of them, with 100 polish skydivers creating a white-red formation.
    This week was the hottest in the year at 38 C degrees. The day consisted of 4 skyvans and 1 cessna waiting with engines on, FS suits, helmets, rigs and full sun over beautiful Klatovy airfield. 100 skydivers did their best to focus on the job - which took 8 tries before it was successfully completed. On the 9th load the formation was built, kept strong and everyone from the ground could see the white-red flag in the sky.

    This would never happen without dedication, discipline, self-control and only one goal in mind. And it all came together with the dedication of skydivers, organizers, dropzone staff, cameramen, load organizers, manifest, packers and sponsors.
    This way Poland is the 8th country in the world to successfully complete a 100-way national FS record (only Polish citizens)!
    Congratulations to all those involved.
    It is also worth mentioning that on Monday there was another record beaten: that of the 34-way of Polish women's FS formation. Girl power at its best! Congrats, ladies!

    Dariusz “Dafi” Filipowski

    Jarosław “Widget” Shot

    Maciej “Heniek” Węgrzecki

    Jarosław “Widget” Shot

    Jacek “Grabarz” Grabowski

    Sebastian Lewandowski
    Load Organizers:

    Dariusz “Dafi” Filipowski

    Marek Nowakowski

    Sebastian Dratwa
    Safety Officer:

    Maciej “Mahoo” Machowicz
    FAI judges:

    Grzegorz Świerad

    Maciej Antkowiak

    Mariusz Puchała

    By admin, in Events,

    World Team Fails to Break Record

    Photograph by Andrey Veselov/AP Attempts are currently under way in Eloy, AZ to break the two point big way world record. The World Team has 222 skydivers from 28 countries are working hard at carving their names into the record books. The goal is an ambitious one with the previous world record standing at only 110 jumpers, so should the World Team successfully accomplish their goal, they will have more than doubled the number of jumpers on the record that currently stands. The event is being held as the 20th anniversary event for the World Team.
    Training jumps began already on Friday, March 28 when warm weather and a light breeze offered the jumpers near perfect conditions for the first day of training. The first training jumps consisted of 4 groups of jumpers, a base group of 42, along with three other groups of 66. Initial jumps were quite successful with the base group managing to complete four successful jumps, while the groups of 66 managed to perform three jumps with two complete sectors on each jump. The record attempt schedule set three days aside for practice, with record attempts beginning on March 31st.
    On the second day of training the bar was raised with only two groups being created, as opposed to the four groups that jumped on the first day. The formation practice was now done via the formation of a 90-way and a 132-way. Each group managed to make four jumps on the day and again progress was clearly evident, as the jumpers gave it their all. Safety is always of the highest standard during big way events, and despite the extremely skilled nature of the team, the demands that a large scale record attempt puts on the competitors make it easy for concentration to lapse. The practice days of the event seek to slowly build up the quality of the jumps and move the team closer and closer towards the final goal.
    The final day of dedicated training began with some reshuffling of the formation sectors. The 132-way group which was operating on a full base got some practice in on the mini base by downsizing to a 90-way group, while the 90-way group from the day before would spend some time getting practice on the full base as a 132-way group. Practice on this day was cut short by 30-knot winds at 1600'. Time that was lost in the sky was spent by the team practising their jump with some dirt dives on the grass. Earlier in the day the 90-way team was able to make a first point completion, but the 132-way team was still struggling due to difficulties with the base.
    Record Attempts Begin
    The World Team began early on Monday, with a forecast for some less than ideal wind conditions later in the day. The plan was for a couple of final practice jumps in the morning before the record attempts would start, at around noon. The base managed to make two practice jumps, with only the Alpha team docking as one sector. The second jump provided a well established base and it was then decided for the record attempts to begin. The first jump would not seek for completion but rather aim to establish the build in stages. The base would complete and then allow the jumpers from the sectors to get into their quadrants and feel become comfortable with their position in the formation, there was no pressure for them to dock during this exercise. Unfortunately, as predicted, the wind did come up in the afternoon and cut the attempts short. The down time once again being used for dirt diving practice.

    Photograph by Gustavo Cabana/AP Improvements were made on Tuesday, 1st April when the team began practising achieving the full 222-way formation. The first jump of the day saw the teams beginning some of the docking on the base, while the second jump saw a further improvements in the attempt. The third and final jump of the day was the most successful with the formation then nearing completion. The team would look to then, on Wednesday further the progress and attempt to make their first point. Once the first point is made, the sights could focus on completing the two point formation.
    It was an early start on Wednesday when the team began through first dirt dives just after 06:30 in the morning, but before being able to get into the air at the scheduled time of 07:00, low cloud came in and caused a delay to the progression of the record attempt. The teams decided that they would spend the morning period while unable to get in the sky, to practice with smaller groups, which would then take to the sky once the clouds had passed. There were some changes to the base in order to give the group confidence that they would have a solid base to build on. The first jump after the weather cleared would consist of the 42-way base which would be docked on by a further 66-way group. This jump was extremely successful with the base building quickly and the remaining 66 jumpers slotting into position with good form; a 108-way formation was done to perfection and eyes then turned to the ultimate goal of completing the 222-way.

    Photograph by Andrey Veselov/AP The second jump of the day saw all 222 jumpers and come very close to completion. One of the sectors were complete while another fell just short. Overall things were very close, and hopes turned to being able to complete the formation and break the record later that day. Unfortunately however, the weather once again hampered proceedings and high winds meant that it would be the last jump for the day and attempts would resume on Thursday.
    Tragedy Strikes
    On Thursday, 3 April 2014 the atmosphere in the camp changed dramatically. Early in the morning one of the Diana Paris of Berlin, who was participating in the event suffered a malfunction. Paris, aged 46 was declared dead on the scene after her parachute was released too low, and unable to open fully prior to impact. Diana Paris was an experienced skydiver with over 1500 jumps. The team honored Paris later in the day by performing a "man missing" formation. The team have also decided that out of respect, they will not be replacing Paris for the record attempt, and instead will be aiming for a 221-way record instead of a 222-way.
    Despite suffering the loss of Paris, the team are still motivated to accomplish their record on Friday, the final day of the attempts.

    The Final Day
    The World Team returned to the record attempts on Friday morning, but were unfortunatly unable to complete the FAI sanctioned world record. Things were looking solid at the end and the team came extremely close, falling only two skydivers short of the record, with them being unable to link. As such an unofficial record of a 2-way 219-way skydive was achieved.
    Information sourced from The World Team Blog

    By admin, in Events,

    2014 USPA Nationals - A Weekender’s Perspective

    Photo by Ori Kuper | USPA | SDC This was my 4th year at USPA Nationals (and my 3rd at Skydive Chicago), so when I rolled up to Skydive Chicago on September 12, the day before 4-way FS was scheduled to start, I knew the drill. Get there early in the day before the registration lines get too long. Receive and dispense hugs from your friends from around the country, some of whom you only ever see at Nationals. Manifest for a couple of low-key “get the butterflies out” jumps with your team before chilling out until the briefing and draw that night.
    Except this year, Mother Nature had different plans. The first two days of Nationals had brought the miserable weather the Midwest is sometimes known for. The dropzone was full of maudlin vertical formation skydiving (VFS) and mixed formation skydiving (MFS) competitors, so some of those hugs were of the “Awww, I feel your pain” variety, as friends who’d trained all year were facing the possibility of weather truncating their competition to only a couple of jumps.
    The only competition going on was on the ground, with a friendly game of Four Square taking place outside, and a more competitive ($5 buy in) game of Corn Hole inside the hangar. Practice jumps on Friday were out of the question, so we went to bed with those butterflies holding strong, with their only to be exorcised on the first competition jump.
    Never fear, though, both Mother Nature and the meet management delivered on Saturday morning, with skies dawning clear (and pretty cold), and five Twin Otters ready to go to get not only the 10 4-way VFS and 10 2-way MFS teams in the air, but also get the Nationals’ largest event, 4-way FS (with its 56 teams) rolling.

    Photo by Ori Kuper | USPA | SDC Pausing for a moment to acknowledge what it takes to keep five Otters turning for two days straight, it’s hard not to be impressed by what the host DZs (and the supporting meet team from USPA) pull off every year, even with perfect weather. It’s a massive undertaking, and each time I compete, I’m impressed with how seamlessly it all seems to work (at least from the competitors’ perspective). I know that behind the scenes there’s a giant group of people working long hours to make sure that every part of the operations, from the judging stations to the fuel trucks to the toilets are working as they need to.
    Five Otters doing two passes per load means a jump run roughly every 2 ½ minutes. Skydive Chicago has a giant landing area, and the winds were favorable for parallel jump runs that still put most if not all of the jumpers in a good position for a safe on-field landing every time. Over my 10 jumps there, I only recall one or two times that we had a delay on jump run for traffic and spacing, and only one off landing (and that might’ve had as much to do with a slightly low pull as with the spot).

    Photo by Ori Kuper | USPA | SDC Saturday and Sunday brought two near-perfect days of weather, providing Meet Director Bill Wenger with almost enough of a window to complete the full competition for 4-way VFS and 2-way MFS. There was a heroic amount of scheduling Tetris taking place to alternate rounds of the two disciplines, especially considering there was quite a bit of competitor overlap. The vertical flyers competed at an atypical pace for Nationals, collectively agreeing that they’d rather accept shorter-than-required calls for the opportunity to get most or all of the competition rounds in. Saturday ended with MFS finishing five of its scheduled six rounds, and VFS finishing seven of eight, with the winners recognized at a medal ceremony Saturday night.
    At the same time, all of the 4-way FS competitors got through half their scheduled 10 rounds on Saturday, setting the competition up for an easy finish on Sunday with the predicted great weather. Sunday dawned clear and a hair warmer and a great day of weather allowed the 4-way FS competition to finish up. As Sunday’s jumps wrapped up in the early afternoon, both in the Open and Intermediate categories the race for Bronze came down to the final jump, with a crowd of competitors gathering around the monitors in the hangar to watch the judging of Round 10 live to see who would go home with a medal.

    Photo by Ori Kuper | USPA | SDC Speaking of medals, one of the best parts of Nationals is the awards ceremonies, which are scattered throughout the event as each discipline finishes up. There usually aren’t any surprises in the medals – the standings were set as soon as the judges finished their work, but it’s a chance to be recognized in front of your fellow competitors for a job well done.
    This year’s 4-way FS medal ceremony Sunday evening brought a special opportunity for USPA Director of Competition Jim Hayhurst to recognize someone that anyone who’s ever competed in 4-way has admired – Mark Kirkby – who is retiring from full-time competition with Arizona Airspeed after this Nationals. Typical of Mark, he won’t slow down much as he steps back into the alternate role on Airspeed, and will continue to coach and organize in Arizona and around the world.
    The enthusiastic and extended standing ovation for Mark showed just what an impact he’s had on the competitive 4-way world in the 20 years since he was a founding member of Arizona Airspeed. I’ve been privileged to jump with and be coached by Mark several times at Skydive Arizona, including my 1000th jump in late 2012, where I managed to talk three of the then-current members of Airspeed into joining me for a 4-way! Like so many of the top names in our sport, he remains ever helpful and humble as he passes on his wisdom to the next generation of skydivers and being part of the crowd that honored him was a great way to end my 2014 4-way experience.
    About Krisanne Combs:
    Krisanne Combs is a weekend warrior who has logged 1450 jumps in her 10 years in the sport. She competed in 4-way FS this year as part of 5th Wheel, a Northern California-based team. Krisanne lives in Oakland, California, where she has a paid job for a large health plan, and an unpaid job as staff for two freakishly large male cats. When she’s not in her local skydiving haunts of Skydance Skydiving or iFly SFBay, she’s probably planning her next skydiving trip.
    More of Ori Kuper's photography can be found on his website and Facebook page.

    By admin, in Events,

    Sky Camp Halloween Party

    Halloween is the one day each year when you can be whoever you want, think of an alternative self and have fun of being someone else - if just for a while and when mixed with skydiving, you have something really extraordinary, transforming into a flying demon.

    In many places around the world the skydiving season is just about to end, and in turn we can look back and summarize past few months. For DZ owners, you can review how your business did. Packers; how are your hands, knees and fingers going? If you are a skydiver - have you accomplished all goals set in the beginning of the season (or have you set the goals in a first place). Was this season safe? What have you learned?

    Thinking about that serious issues can wait though. Have fun. Squeeze this season like a lemon. Let it go for a while. Enjoy life.
    Sky Camp in Poland recently hosted their Halloween event, and it looks to have been an amazing party to close out the 2015 season!

    Photos by KonwentPhotography for Sky Camp DZ in Poland.

    By admin, in Events,

    African Sky Blue - Skydive Diani’s 3rd Anniversary Boogie (Part 1)

    The monkey freezes, holding two pieces of toast overhead like semaphore flags.
    For a moment, nothing happens. We just stare at each other across the patio table: two primates who want breakfast and are a little startled to find that someone with overlapping priorities has added complications to the goal. For a moment, I think he’s going to set them back down, pat them reassuringly with his long, delicate hands and cast a fulsome grin over his shoulder as he saunters bipedally into the bushes. Instead, he lets loose with a cowabunga screech when I start to rise, tucking both slices under one lanky arm as he uses the other to facilitate an impossible leap to the roof above my head. Once up, he pops his face back over the edge. I’m quite sure he winks. He then chitters his way into the enormous baobab that overhangs the packing huts, clearly satisfied with himself.
    My companion at the table pours himself another cup of tea, orders more toast and pats his forehead with a napkin. The first load of the morning is on a 30-minute call, but we’re already tugging at our collars. Diani snuggles the equator, so the seasons don’t dance a spring-summer-fall-winter foxtrot; it’s either pretty hot or really hot, and it’s pretty darn hot already before 9AM on this early-December day. The pressing swelter is making us pay for last night, which was spent at the beach bar next door, with several bottles of Tusker and an ill-advised shot of tequila or two, chasing crabs through pools of lamplight on the velvet sand.
    The heat blossoms up, up, up from where we sit in the sultry seaside jungle, pressing long thermal fingers through the troposphere, summoning a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd of cumulonimbus calvus. These puffy troops stand a daily watch along Diani’s ribbon of powdered-sugar sand; along the impossible blue of the Indian Ocean. Similarly reliable, Kenya’s coastal wind system pumps as reliably as a healthy heart. It pushes consistently and directly down the twelve-mile-long line of the beach, day after day after day.
    When the ten-minute call goes up, I set my remaining toast back down and smile. It’s time to go play.
    My companion and I wiggle into our gear and make our way to the dropzone bus, relishing the little puffs of air conditioning that emit from the ceiling vents. Once our motley bunch of boogiers have boarded, we’re underway: two French freefly medalists, fresh from the Mondial; a South African dropzone owner watching his clever daughter giggle her way through AFF; my curly-haired companion, a beguiling Briton who has taken national gold in freefly and freestyle alike; a Russian instructor who has probably never once frowned; Diani’s resident TIs, who look like two different artists’ renderings of Peter Pan; an international assemblage of fun jumpers, representing a comprehensive gamut of languages, disciplines and gear loyalties. As we cobble together an exit order, we scratch down the gravel road from the stately white house and grounds that comprise the dropzone, starting what I can only properly describe as a ten-minute summary of the African experience.
    The road between the dropzone house and Diani’s Ukunda Airfield is about four and a half kilometers long. That four and a half kilometers starts in earnest with a paved, two-lane road, lined by crayon-box craft stalls and criss-crossed by vervet monkey families. Exuberantly painted tuktuks (“JESUS LOVE! WU-TANG 4EVER! BIG DADDY!”) blast past the bus, signs proclaiming their three-passenger capacity partially obscured by passenger number five’s arm, leg or shopping bag. When we negotiate the sharp turn onto the airstrip road, we’re greeted by a gaggle of tiny children in baggy school uniforms, howling and waving at us through the windows as we bump along. Shiny babies peek shyly from the backs of their mamas who, draped fastidiously in the sherbert wraps of their kikoy, walk with the lulling, rolling cadence of hips that have never been parked at a desk. Imminently pregnant cows march, at their kid shepherd’s behest, to match our forward movement as we pass a series of crumbling tin-roofed shops selling peanuts and airtime; a mission schoolhouse; a braiding salon comprised of a single pink lawn chair; a toilet plumbed directly into the middle of an open yard; a throng of shoeless teenagers in Chinese G-Star polo shirts, singing. The bus driver tries to hurry. I want him to slow down.
    Once we’ve passed the stern-faced airport soldiers and have bundled out of the bus, I lean down to firm my shoelace ties. I’m jostled by a woman dressed in her shiny-shoed Sunday best, as is often the case in Kenyan airports. She has wandered over to poke at the rig on my back.
    “Is this a parachute?,” she asks, as I weave to avoid a more comprehensive probing. When I answer in the affirmative, she shakes her head and smiles the wide, crinkle-eyed, hakuna-matata smile that seems to be the Kenyan default.
    “Say hello to God for me,” she says as she wheels her carry-on through the doors of the tiny terminal.
    As I try to figure out exactly what she meant by that, I hear the Dornier spin up. Another Diani day has officially begun.
    Skydiving, as you can see in the faces of the locals, is a relatively new addition to the list of activities on offer at Diani Beach. In fact, as of my first jump at the dropzone, it had been three years almost to the day since Skydive Diani first opened its doors. Though the country’s history in skydiving goes back a decade, Kenya’s skydiving scene had been categorically temporary--a week-long belly boogie, here or there, hosted from borrowed safari bushplanes in different parts of the country. In 2012, a square-jawed British expat named Gary Lincoln-Hope ended up at one of these boogies--which was, fortuitously, taking place in Diani.
    Gary did his first tandem at age 16. He joined the British army soon thereafter, as a commissioned officer in the parachute regiment, traveling extensively in the process. Though circumstances and conflicting responsibilities prevented him from going through his AFF while he was in the army, it was his first priority when he matriculated. The new skydiver founded a London-based security company and jumped faithfully all weekend long, every good-weather weekend. When he decided to expand his security business to Kenya--a country he’d fallen for during the course of several army training jaunts--he didn’t want to stop jumping.
    “I had been in Kenya for a little when I happened to come to that boogie,” Gary explains, “And I really enjoyed it. It was a huge buzz. I just knew that there should be a drop zone here in Diani. It didn’t hurt that I was really missing skydiving, because there was nowhere to do it in Kenya and I was based in a place with nowhere to jump. Luckily, I was quite entrepreneurial back then. I didn’t really know anything about skydiving, but I had set up a business here and in the UK, and I reckoned I could make it work.”
    Within months, Gary found the house, sourced a 206, rushed through some documentation, put the proper requests through to a somewhat baffled aviation authority and--four weeks later--found himself the proud operator of an active dropzone. By the time 2012 was out, it was all systems go. At the time Skydive Diani opened its doors, Gary himself had 300 jumps. Several thousand jumps and all their instructor ratings later, Gary and the team find themselves flying multiple aircraft from the cute to the huge.
    “Skydive Diani was always intended to be a place to go to jump for fun,” Gary insists, “Fun is now and has always been at the top of the agenda.”
    “I didn’t do it to make money,” he continues “I did it because I wanted to skydive on weekends. But I got a couple of willing tandem instructors to come over. Business was slow at the start, because the difficulty in Kenya is you are not selling tandems; you are selling the very idea of jumping out of a plane.”
    “During that first four months,” he continues, “I was jumping every single load, just to build up my own experience and jump numbers so I could through the rating courses. It’s been a long road, but it has steadily, organically grown to what it is now.”
    Continue reading part 2
    Originally published in Blue Skies Magazine

    By admin, in Events,

    World Parachuting Championships 2016 - Wrap Up

    As the 2016 Mondial draws to a close it has got me thinking about what competitive skydiving means to our community as a whole. Most of the world has little or no idea that the act of falling from aeroplanes can qualify in form and function as a sport - let alone into the myriad ways of counting up points to assess who is the best at all its different disciplines. Many of us begin our careers in this same way - learning to skydive because it is exciting and cool before knowing anything about the existence of a competitive element. During the height of a serious competition it can sometimes seem a long road from those initial intentions of hoofing about in the sky with your friends - serious faces glued to monitors, disappointment in a missed move or a weak round, tension amongst a team, arguments about the rules and controversy over judging. With the pressure on it can be easy to cast an envious glance at the easy body language of the fun-jumper loads sprinkled here and there amongst the motivated and meaningful march of team after team after team.
    Yet competition is a big part is how we evolve. Gathering the most accomplished of our peers into a single place for the purpose of deciding who is best is a huge undertaking - the collected years of refined skill on display at a world level skydiving competition is amazing to witness and the sheer amount of training put into the last week or so here at Skydive Chicago often represents the accumulated knowledge of entire careers in the sky - years and decades - to which the end result of all this is more than simply deciding who is the best. Friendships are made and plans for the future created. Lines of communication are drawn across borders in the skydiving world where perhaps there were none. Skills in every discipline that have been honed to a fine edge over recent weeks and months scatter across the globe as this great swarm disperses - to filter back into the progress of skydiving’s nations, communities and individuals.

    Putting on the Mondial represents a three-year project for Skydive Chicago, and their attention to detail came together with few hiccups. The main issue they have had to wrestle is that the sheer amount of accuracy teams represented meant that despite recognising the task it and going hard from the start they were still trying to get finished after all the other disciplines had long since wrapped up their business. Medal ceremonies were held as the separate competitions ended - starting with the artistic categories, VFS and the eight-way awards first then moving through the others each evening that they finished. There are lot of disciplines at the Mondial which involves much applause, hugs, standing respectfully and proudly for national anthems, and positioning for endless photos. It was an entirely sensible choice to break the awards up over empty evenings as to do it all at once would take a long time indeed - yet this perhaps resulted in a slight sense of fragmentation after the grand communion of the opening ceremony and the weeks proceedings as teams began to scatter once their affairs grew complete. It might have been missing a trick to not keep everyone together until the end - giving the finale a touch more scale and bombast. Yet these are small things in an otherwise impressive undertaking.

    With the end in sight the SDC staff even put in the extra work to bring the banquet and party forward a day to breathe a little room into those tight travel schedules or perhaps allow time to pursue an adventure in the city - for which many are grateful. Many are now in debt to SDC for a free day through which to nurse a hangover brought on by the multiple encouragements of a table-service banquet, a local funk band, the famous SDC fireworks display and Jay Moledzki playing records late into the night.
    So what is next for us? New champions have been created and numerous wold records broken (some obliterated). What we could really use though is some more exposure for our sport. The people of Ottawa and the surrounding communities of Illinois have been as welcoming and hospitable as that for which the people of the United States are celebrated by anyone who has ever actually been here. However despite it being on their very doorstep, when you say “skydiving” and “world championships” together in a sentence there is that familiar battle behind people’s eyes between admiration and incomprehension as they try to commute one idea to the next with no frame of reference. With advances in training methods and equipment skydiving only grows more accessible so the way ahead is bright and clear. That there are places like Skydive Chicago in the world - with the space, support structure and lift capacity to make the demands of a forty-nation get together seem relaxed and efficient means we can plan healthily for the future competitive skydiving - building on our successes and see the sport as a whole continue to grow, educate and amaze people around the world.
    View full list of results here

    By admin, in Events,

    Women's Vertical World Record Camp: Teamwork

    Teamwork: work done by several associates with each doing a part but all subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole.
    Have you ever been a part of a team? Felt the pressure of performing? Emotionally and physically put your efforts on the line for a common goal? That’s what we did August 1st – 3rd – a group of 23 women from Mexico, Canada, Dubai, Sweden and all over the US converged to participate in the Women’s Vertical World Camp hosted by myself in the cornfields of Skydive Chicago during Summerfest.
    This is one of several camps in preparation of the upcoming Women’s Vertical World Record attempts to be held November 27th – December 1st at Skydive Arizona. The specialty of this camp was designed so women could experience 2-plane shots, practicing different exits, flying in a formation, and on the last day, attempt to break a state record. (The current Illinois Women’s Vertical Formation State Record an 18-way set in 2005.)
    Every camp faces their own set of unique challenges – cutaways, fatigue, nerves, etc. Our camp especially did. Participant, and overall badass, Stephanie Eggum died from a low reserve deployment on our 3rd jump of the first day of the camp.
    An hour later after the news digested, we re-grouped. I asked, “I’m going to jump. Does anyone want to join me?” Unsure how to move on, the entire group agreed they were ready to jump. “Then we’re going to do 2-plane shots.” Some gentleman jumpers joined in to be the base and grew our group to practice 30+ ways. Each jump a special camaraderie was developing even though our jumps only yielded 19 to 20-ways.
    The next day we awoke to cloudy skies, but met to discuss the finer techniques of formation skydiving including exit techniques, showing videos from the current 138-way co-ed Vertical World Record, talking about the mental and physical aspects and what it takes to get on a world record skydive. We also took this time to introduce ourselves, state our home dz, jump numbers and goals. Not too much later the skies started clearing and we were back up doing 2-plane shots.
    After lunch the camp’s direction shifted gears in selecting a group to break the state record. “This is where it gets emotional,” I began. “It’s not political or playing favorites. This is about being a team. Even if you’re not selected to be on the record, you’re still as much a part of this team. Our goal is to build the safest, largest state record.” We finished the day building 14-ways.
    Saturday’s weather couldn’t have been more picture perfect – high, puffy clouds, light winds, and 70°F temps. There was an intense feeling as we walked together as a group to the skyvan. We were 20. The plane ride up began with clapping, the silence. From the first day till now, some of the women weren’t ready to build a 20-way. But now, they stood at the door with the experience and skills to be a part of a team, to build a record.
    We huddled around 11,000’ and I said, “I know you can do this, that’s why you’re here. Now you have to know it too. Be safe and let’s build a record!” The skyvan door opened and I could feel my own heart beating faster. I smiled, “Ready, set go!”
    The formation didn’t build on the first jump. Nor the second or third. I re-engineered the formation and we tried again. No success. I re-engineered it again. By this time, the whole drop zone was rooting for us. Spectators watched us intently with awe as we’d board the plane and greet us when we landed asking if we were successful. Although each jump wasn’t successful, something greater was happening – we were truly becoming the essence of a team.
    It’s easy to go up and do one jump and be successful. But can you do it over and over? Especially after two days of an intense camp, lack of sleep and having lost a comrade? We really had to dig deep for the energy and motivation; we had to keep doing our best even when we were doing our job and others weren’t; we had to be patient and keep moving forward.
    The sun was low on the horizon and the temperatures were slightly dropping. We huddled together on the ground in support of each other. “I believe in you girls. Level, slot, dock. Be safe, let’s do this!” We cheered loudly as we got on the skyvan. We clapped, hooted and hollered on take-off and became quiet with focus. “No pressure, but now there’s pressure. This is the last jump of the camp and our last attempt. Stay focused. Stay safe. Let’s build it!”
    We exited cleanly. The stingers were docking. Wackers were building. Levels were awesome. The formation was flying!
    When we landed we ran to each other because the dive just felt so good. It felt so good we were unsure if we made the state record. We smiled, laughed, high fived and hugged. In that moment, it didn’t matter if we built it or not. We knew how much we progressed as a team and that was our best jump together!
    After reviewing the video, we saw we were super close to building the formation, but at the last moment, ditters were going off and we broke off. So close!!
    At the close of the camp I didn’t feel defeated. I was lucky to have a great group of girls who stuck by each other’s sides, improved their flying, and was so determined that we embraced the real spirit of teamwork. And in that, we were successful.
    My heart goes out to the Eggum family. Your daughter was determined to be on the next Women’s Vertical World Record. We will remember her during the attempts. Much respect.
    This camp’s success also goes with having to give praise to the many who helped make it happen:
    Mike Bohn from Colorado came out to assist in the camp as a coach
    Camera: Norman Kent, Jim Harris, Brandon Chouinard
    (To view or orders from Summerfest, please check out Norman Kent’s gallery here:
    BASE BOYS: James Garnant, Ben Roane, Paul Jones, BJ Miclaeli, Pat Collins, Dennis Cowhey, Ryan Risberg, and Doug Legally
    WVWR Camp Participanats:

    Melissa Nelson – Utah

    Hermine Baker – Sweden

    Julie Wittenburg - Dubai

    Amberly Brown – Hawaii

    Cate Allington – New York

    Stacy Powers – Pennsylvania

    Helen D’Astous – Canada

    Katie Blue – Texas

    Logan Donovan – New York

    Noelle Mason – Florida

    Stephanie Eggum - Illinois

    Kelly Isenhoff - Tennessee

    Valentina Solis – Mexico

    Natalie Pitts – Colorado

    Tyfani Detki – Florida

    Emily Royal – Missouri

    Amy Cowhey – Illinois

    Paula Rodrigues – Mexico

    Jen Sensenbaugh – Texas

    Jen Frayer - Indiana

    Alyssa Manny – Colorado

    Stephanie Beeguer - Switzerland

    Lauren Piscatelli – North Carolina

    By MissMelissa, in Events,

    Wingsuit Artistic Camp - NSPC, Australia

    Yes, the wingsuiters are at it again - at Newcastle Sport Parachute Club. On the weekend of 21-22 September 2013 Australia's oldest parachute club was the host of one of skydiving's newest disciplines - artistic wingsuit flying. Organised by local wingsuit coach Roger Hugelshofer and artistic competitor Jason Dodunski, the camp focused on building skills for the precise and technical style of flying involved in competitive acrobatic wingsuiting.
    As we all know, wingsuiting is one of the newest developments in skydiving, but competitive forms of wingsuiting are still in their early stages. While much focus has been on performance flying - flying with the goal of achieving the best glide ratio or forward speed, or lowest descent rate, relative work has also been developing in more formalised directions - these being flocking and artistic flying.
    Flocking generally involves a number of people flying together, but competitive artistic flying requires a much higher level of precision. An artistic team is one of three jumpers - two performers and a camera flyer. Points are awarded for achieving moves and docks in the same way as other relative work, but moves include barrel rolls, front loops, and up-and-overs (flying up and over your team mate, then docking on their opposite hand). The camera person is also judged on their ability to keep the subjects in frame, and using creative methods of shooting such as backflying. In fact, camera can be considered to be the most demanding role Since the competition is judged on the footage, no matter how good the performing flyers are, if they move out of the frame 'it didn't happen'.
    Roger and Jason had much advice to give on how the competition works. Fresh from placing second in the intermediate division at the International Artistic Wingsuit Games at Skydive Texel in the Netherlands with his team Jetstream (also including Ben Futterleib and Leon Hunt) Roger is now focusing very much on artistic wingsuit flying in his jumping. Jason also recently competed with Roger, as part of the team Can’t Fly at the Australian Nationals – which they won.
    With generous support from the APF (thanks APF!) the day was planned with the idea of mixing the teams up and allowing everyone to have their turn at performing or flying camera. We were ready at 8.30am and totally amped. Soon we had a load together with the crew all parcelled up into 3-ways, including well known local hardcores Trent Conroy, Dallas Drury, Paul Munro, Sarah Hughes, Zoran Stopar, Jake Bresnehan, Kieran Turner, Jason and myself. Roger was absent for some time but we forgave him eventually as he was teaching two first First Flight Courses.
    After the first load we had a lot of great footage of our three groups, which was then debriefed by Roger and Jason. The initial focus was on ‘simple’ moves like docking and barrel rolls. For the camera person the obvious task is to get both the jumpers in frame, but from there the job takes on a more technical aspect. It’s not as easy as it sounds keeping two wingsuiters in frame when one is falling faster than the other one, then slower, then faster again.
    It is here that repeated jumps with the same teammates really pays off. Like everything else in skydiving, practise really does make perfect, or at least it gets you to screw up less than everyone else does. For the artistic wingsuit flyers it means that they achieve a much greater level of precision – speeding up docks, adjusting to fly more efficiently with each other in order to have more ‘working time’, and being able to learn more advanced manoeuvres like carving, fruity loops, the Howling Hobbit and Jabba’s Moist Sail Barge (actually one of these is made up). For camera flyers it means being able to anticipate their team mates, know how much height they’ll lose in transitions, and adjust their framing accordingly.
    What I like most about artistic wingsuit flying is that it offers a challenging way of flying with precision. Getting into a wingsuit for the first time can be an amazing feeling of freedom, suddenly having the ability to stay up in the sky for twice as long – the feeling of precise control and of the different speeds both forward and downwards that can be achieved can lead a new wingsuiter to think they’ve suddenly found the pot of beer at the end of the skydiving rainbow. However, once beyond the basic safety skills that are needed to complete a Wingsuit Crest (or your local equivalent), it’s easy to lose focus on the more technical and precise aspects of the sport. Just flying along with one or two of your buddies a few metres away can make it seem like you have everything under control – but not until you try and dock with them do you realise that there is a whole new level of skill available to tackle. On top of that, this style of flying is best done in a beginner/intermediate suit as the extent of the surface area on the larger suits means that transitions more difficult – so it’s yet another awesome use for your first wingsuit.
    The recent Wingsuit Artistic Camp was a resounding success for all involved, we all learnt a lot about the discipline, and had a ton of fun. Massive thanks to Roger, Jason and the team at Newcastle Sport Parachute Club for another awesome weekend.
    I’d like to encourage any wingsuiters to give artistic and acrobatic flying a red-hot go. Being able to fly relatively and consistently with someone else is just the beginning. Training for precision by practising docking will translate to tighter, more consistent flocking abilities, and learning acrobatic manoeuvres will also help prepare you for the inevitable moments instability that we must prepare for as wingsuiters (often caused by bad exits). Not to mention, if you practise, practise and practise, there are local and international competitions to win – so get up there and get into it!

    By johnmatrix, in Events,

    African Sky Blue - Skydive Diani’s 3rd Anniversary Boogie (Part 2)

    Continued from Part 1
    Steady and organic as it has been for three years running, the growth for this particular event is a little more along the “exponential” lines. The biggest boogie Diani had seen before this particular crowd descended was made up of around 30 people; today, almost a hundred jumpers are thronging about the place. They’re poured out in ones, twos and threes on the pillows heaped on princely carved daises. They’re queueing up for smoothies at the bar--a converted Volkswagen bus, painted a cheerful robin’s-egg blue. (The van’s side roof has been removed to reveal a seemingly indefatigable blender and its winking operator--Jimmy, a Kenyan with light eyes, a quick wit and international schooling who’s just about to start on his helicopter pilot’s license.) Two dropzone dogs chase wayward monkeys up the treetrunks. A local taps an endless stack of coconuts with his practiced machete, revealing the restorative nectar inside for the jumpers rustling back in from their beach landings. A dozen packers, tidily kitted out in their official Skydive Diani shirts and swoop shorts, busily compress a steady stream of nylon under thatch roofs. It’s busy here.
    Not too long ago, this wide lawn would have had a population of perhaps four, give or take--and, reliably, one of those residents would be Ingvild Finvåg.
    Ingvild’s Viking-blue eyes and honey-blonde, Disney-princess locks announce her provenance with rigorous clarity, even if the mildness of her Nordic lilt does not. Her polished manners and peach-cheeked smiles belie the steady, bulldog resolve that has placed her squarely next to Gary at the heart of the Diani operation.
    Ingvild did a handful of skydives in her early 20’s, but it didn’t quite take. Seven years later, she moved to Mombasa from Oslo to work the volunteer circuit; this time, it snagged her thoroughly. She landed from her first Skydive Diani jump and essentially never left. Ingvild started her AFF in earnest a week later, logging a hundred jumps within that first season, then quickly going on to earn her TI and AFF instructor ratings. As it turns out, hers was one of the first tandems Skydive Diani had ever done.
    “I just hung around, jumping all the time, and built up jump numbers,” Ingvild remembers. “I just wanted to be around the drop zone.”
    Ingvild initially picked up a gig as the dropzone’s marketing liaison; now, she’s General Manager. On this particular afternoon, she’s ensconced at the front desk, working out the details of the catering for tonight’s Christmas party as she scruffles Bonbon, her roly-poly, lambswool dog. Next to Ingvild, Aaron Kitchener--an old friend of Gary’s, who co-runs his Kenyan security firm--is pitching in to run the manifest and make sure the bottomless coffee and tea urns stay full. When the final load goes up, Aaron ambles out from behind the desk, summoning the ground crew to help him unbox, unwrap and light dozens of oil lamps, all in the DZ’s signature blue. By the time the sunset load comes whooping down, the lamps are casting warm pools of light at the feet of the lawn’s tall palm trees, guiding the way to the free beer.
    If this isn’t paradise, I don’t know what is.
    We hear the Christmas party before we see it.

    Kenya Defence Forces Parachute Display Team by Joel StricklandAs we stroll down the long driveway towards the boutique hotel Gary and Ingvild have arranged to host the shindig, the happy chitter of a hundred giddy skydivers comes through the trees to announce that we’ve come to the right place. When we enter the venue, we’re stunned: this is an actual-factual Christmas party, not a cobbled-together skydiverly simalcrum. It’s a pressed-tablecloth affair, with roses and candles and African-themed Christmas crackers at every place setting. Skydivers swish about in showy dresses and ironed collars. Solicitous waiters work their way through the constellation of tables like fish in a reef, wine bottles dipping this way and that. We’re seated with the Kenyan Defense Force parachute demo team, a decorous foursome who, as we draw them out, set about showing us smartphone photos of their farms and families. We work our way together through a splendid little buffet, watching luminarias twinkle around the pool as we tell our stories.
    As we tuck into our Christmas pudding, a representative of the Kenyan Civil Aviation Authority makes his way to the front stage, attired in what must be his full traditional kit. As he sings the dropzone’s praises and hails the rich future of Kenyan airsports, jumpers pepper his speech with happy hoots and hollers. The phenomenon seems a little new to him, but he rolls with it, eventually passing the mic to Gary, who delivers an emotional brief history of the place before introducing a live band.
    In a handful of minutes, the dance floor is pumping and the pool is splashing. At one point, Jarrett Martin takes advantage of a suitable path to take a flying roll into the deep end. By the time I call it a night, I’ve already written off tomorrow morning.
    Fair play.

    Image by Mikael Soderberg It’s certainly not the only morning that we happily write off over the course of the ten-day event. Gary and Ingvild have planned get-togethers for every night we’re together there, and none of them are missable moments. From the outdoor cuddle-puddle movie night to the jump-in “invasion” of the island at the far border of the marine reserve, these are one-event-per-boogie special, but they’re happening every time the sun goes down.
    There’s the pizza night at the fancypants resort down the road, for instance.
    After we pass through the massive wooden gates, staff in crisply pressed uniforms with crisply pressed hellos lead us past a succession of rose-petal fountains. Somewhere back beyond the second or third swimming pool, we’re established family-style at long tables and presented with pizzas that would pass the muster of any Italian expat. Someone unfurls a projector screen and hits play on the day tape, which revolves on the axis of some gorgeous flying by Airwax--the French team--as they spin around the tropospheric ballroom with consummate grace. The dazzling footage has the knock-on effect of reminding us that we’re here for skydiving, after all. Several of us immediately order water.
    On another evening, we pile into the Dornier for sunset inhopps to the Tiwi rivermouth. The takeoff timing leans heavily towards the late side for this strictly VFR airstrip, so we hardly get a peek at the low, golden sprawl of Mombasa and its interwoven estuaries before we’re scrambling out the door.
    The exit rush and the sudden fall of darkness has me a little discombobulated when I land, so I’m nowhere near prepared for what happens next.
    As I’m scrabbling up my lines and putting together what just happened, a group of Kenyans marches up from the treeline, surrounding me and the jumper I landed with. Dozens of them. Before I can respond to their sudden arrival, they start singing. And hugging us. And hugging each other. And dancing. And suddenly, we’re spinning in a vortex of big gospel voices, heads thrown back, pouring bouncing, burnt-sugar Swahili into the twilight sky.
    They eventually let us go after hauling us back in for just one more selfie; just one more enforced nuzzle into a rotund grandmama’s rooster bosom; just one more high five for somebody’s shy preschooler. They wave until we’re hundreds of feet farther on our way towards the barbecue Gary and Ingvild have set up on the banks.
    As I tromp through the rivermouth dunes towards the glow of headlights and smiling faces, I can’t help but thinking there’s no place like this one. I can’t help counting the days until I return.
    And next time, I’ll order extra toast for the monkey.
    Originally published in Blue Skies Magazine

    By admin, in Events,

    An Adventure in Mexico - Puerto Escondido Boogie

    After a grueling 38 hours in the car to Puerto Escondido Mexico, via Central Texas, (mostly brought on by a bad sense of direction and a belief that I could plan a better route than Google, the real drive should have only been around 21 hrs.) We arrived in the quaint coastal town of Puerto Escondido, OAX, for the new years boogie put on by Skydive Cuautla.
    Puerto Escondido is a small ocean town on the pacific coast, known for its beautiful beaches and friendly people. Puerto Escondido means “hidden port” because it has remained relatively untouched by commercialization that so often takes over tourist destinations. While not as well known as its neighbor, Acapulco, Puerto Escondido has been a longtime favorite vacation destination for the locals, allowing this town to hold on to a truly genuine feeling.
    As we descended from the mountains south of Oxaca, our first sight of the small Mexican town was of a picturesque beach, bright sun, gentle sea breeze, and blue sky, punctuated with the bright colors of the canopies soaring through the crisp ocean air. We quickly followed them to the landing area, a white sanded beach with deep blue water dotted with small umbrellas and sun bathers, and inquired as to where to find manifest. Everyone was more than happy to point us in the right direction, maybe a half a block up the street we found their buses out front of a beautiful traditional style Mexican patio, surrounded by a wrought iron gate, draped with banners urging us to come, "jump in paradise". Just a few steps inside this oasis-esque courtyard stood a thatch roofed cabana, with a set up of tables and computers.
    We quickly made our way over there, and after an attempt to comprehend my limited knowledge of Spanish vocabulary in regards to skydiving, an English speaking staff member found us and pulled us aside to help out. We had our gear checked, a safety briefing, and then told us how to purchase jump tickets, and informed of the white party that was set to occur that evening. We told them we would probably not jump that day, as we needed to find a hotel, shower (most importantly) eat and then come and jump. The organizer then immediately got on her phone and helped to find us a room at a local hotel. EVERYTHING was booked up, and she spent close to an hour of her time calling the hotels around us, until finally she was able to send us in the right direction. We ended up getting a room at the Caracol Plaza, which was the best hotel I have ever stayed at in my life, but that is a review for Hotels.com (but if you want to be treated like royalty, for the price of a pauper, definitely look them up).
    We washed up, grabbed some food, and headed back to manifest. We decided to do a warm up little two way jump, though we received a warm welcome and invitation to jump from everyone there, we made our way to the bus, and headed off to the airport. The loading went smooth, and their shuttles were clean and comfortable. Which made for an enjoyable ride to the airport.
    The Airport was located just 5 minutes up the road on the mountain top overlooking the city, where we were unloaded, geared up, walked out onto the flight line, loaded into the otter, and then airborne lickety split! The climb to altitude was as quick as it was beautiful, and we even got up to 14k AGL on this jump. The Otter was in tip top condition, clean and maintained better than most planes I have seen in the states. The other jumpers on the plane were helpful in describing the landing pattern again, and helped to make sure we had a good spot.
    We had a Great Jump, nice soft landings on the HUGE beach landing area, and headed back up to the manifest area to pack. The packing area was a large shaded area right across from the manifest hut, with tarped over floors, and a large grassy area behind the manifest hut. We had ample room to pack, and they even had some packers on hand to help with any overflow.
    As sunset load came down we headed over to the beach to watch everyone come down, where we were greeted with beers, and everybody took pictures and celebrated a good day of jumping while a Fire orange sun sank low into the into the sea, casting a warm glow upon the smiling faces of the jumpers.
    We retired to our hotel to prepare for the New Years Eve white party. I was skeptical at first to spend 700 pesos a person on a party (roughly $60 USD), but after we arrived at the party every ounce of doubt was removed from my mind. They had paper lanterns and sparklers for us to light off on the beach, the paper lanterns floating skyward like fireflies into the cool night air, while we drank sangria, and took group photos, before walking up to a restaurant courtyard area. There we sat at long tables, surrounded by friendly people, a DJ spinning music, skydiving videos playing on a projector screen, and the smell of food grilling floating through the air.
    The Beer was cold, the conversations warm, and many new friends were made that night, (shout out to all of the Canadians that came out to escape the winter weather!). Some speeches were given, translated into both Spanish and English, and then food was served; And let me tell you, we ate only local food the entire time in Mexico, and the food they served was the second best we have had in all of Mexico! They passed out party favors, hats, tiaras and horns for everyone, as well as champagne and grapes, which might not have been the best idea, because it was a large group of skydivers, and we just can’t have nice things, so it took less than a minute for grapes to begin whizzing through the air followed shortly by tortillas and paper plates!
    At the stroke of midnight a firework show kicked off, and the party jumped into high gear! It was a beautiful moment as the moon shone brightly overhead, fireworks cracked in the sky, music floated through the air, and everyone was happy and together, not separated by culture, country or language, but united as Skydivers doing what we love. We enjoyed the festivities, hailed a cab, and retired to the hotel for a night of finally sleeping on a real bed, and not curled up in the seat of a car.
    Our second and final day there, Manifest did not begin operating until around noon, so we had the morning to experience the town, visit the small tiendas, enjoy the food from roadside vendors, and visit the beach. There was much more to do in this little town, and beauty was everywhere you looked, from the fantastic landscapes, architecture of the buildings, to the street art plastered on the alleyways and building around town.
    We were invited on more jumps, and had more wonderful experiences with the staff and fun jumpers at the boogie. We ate in the cafe on the manifest grounds, our home DZ still has the best kitchen in the world, but the food and service here was a close second. We had awesome jumps that day, and even got to see the awesome staff in action when I landed off on a tracking dive (surprising right?), and saw a cutaway on our jump. Someone was in a boat and grabbed the main and free bag right as they hit the water, and a bus and people on ATV's were there to check on us and give us a ride back to the manifest area before I could even stow my brakes. We made it back, packed, and then set out for a night on the town before we left for home in the morning.
    EVERYTHING about this boogie ran like a well-oiled machine, the staff of Skydive Cuautla and their volunteers did a phenomenal job of organizing this boogie. The people, all over Mexico, not just at the boogie, were friendly, the facilities were top notch, both the Super Otter and the Sky Van were in incredible condition, loads went up fast, and the altitude was always generous. We have definitely found a new years tradition, and will sing the praises of this boogie to all of our friends. I will be there again this coming new year with bells on! This is one boogie you MUST attend at least once in your lifetime, as you are surely missing a big chunk of your skydiving life if you do not!

    By admin, in Events,