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Jim Slaton - Advanced Canopy Pilot

Jim Slaton is widely recognized as one of the most accomplished canopy pilots in the world. Dropzone.com spoke to him and asked him about his involvement in the newly formed Para-Performance Pro Tour. We also wanted to know more about the Evolution Canopy Control School and used the opportunity to ask him about his thoughts on the wing loading and how small he thinks canopies will shrink. Here's what he told us and some more.
Tell us about your involvement in the Para-Performance Pro Tour?
I am the Para-Performance Pro Tour event director.
Who are the drivers behind this new initiative and how did it all come together? Tell us a bit about the history.
After several years of observation, it was clear that the evolution of the high performance canopy pilot was out growing our available competition circuit. I listened to what the competitor wanted and required. Almost every Pro competitor motivated me to build a tour in one-way or the other.
What are the goals of the Para-Performance Pro Tour? What would you like to see happen in the next year, two years?
The goals of the Para-Pro Tour are simple: "Provide intense, challenging swooping competitions in the safest manner possible for the evolution of high performance canopy flight". We have set goals and we plan to see them through. For example, none of the competitions or judging on the tour will be open for interpretation. Canopy pilots on tour will be ranked and competition records will be recorded.
What do you consider to be the biggest challenges and obstacles on the road to success? What is success in the context of the tour?
Three words: Participation, Education & Motivation
Tell me a bit about the Evolution Canopy Control School.
Elsinore Evolution offers professional canopy instruction tailored for today's modern skydiver. The school offers beginner, intermediate & advanced coaching. The school is the next step in the evolution of controlled canopy flight.
Who's involved? How did you guys come on the idea?
Elsinore Evolution is made up of Icarus Canopies factory team (Luigi Cani, J.C. Colclasure, Clint Clawson, Jim Slaton, Wyat Drews). The idea of creating a canopy control school is not new. In fact, professional skydivers have been onto the idea since the early 1990s and probably before. With the rising popularity of high performance parachutes and it's extreme canopy competitions, it's a good time to offer a structured alternative to learning the old fashion way.
Any takers? Do you find that people are interested in formal canopy flight training?
We have had a lot of students taking advantage of this program. Most of the students are learning the basics and several others are preparing for their first canopy competition.
Who and how are you teaching? Who are you targeting - experienced swoopers who want to become great or will you take me too?
The Flight training program starts with basic aerodynamics and then moves on to design parameters, flight environment, psychological approach, flight training & high performance flight training. The student starts the course based on his or her experience, learning objectives, and goals, etc. The school offers training for all levels of canopy pilots.
How did you get into high performance canopy competitions?
I started competing in competitions through a canopy manufacture. Parachute testing and just fooling around with my friends.
What do you see as your greatest achievement in skydiving?
That's a hard question. I guess I have enjoyed providing an additional opportunity for the skydiving community. I've enjoyed organizing canopy competitions for my friends and fellow skydivers.
Besides swooping, what's your favorite skydiving discipline?
I would have to say freeflying. I was part of the "Orbit Punks" freefly team and operated a freefly school before dedicating all my time to canopy swooping.
What's your favorite canopy and wing load combination?
 
ICARUS EXTREME CANOPIES. I enjoy flying at several different wing loadings. I can't tell you what my favorite wing loading is but I will say I feel the most efficient at around 2.3..... or is it 2.6?

With your team mate Luis Cani flying a 46 sq Ft canopy and talking about trying something smaller, how small do you think we could go?
Luigi & me spend a lot of time experimenting with wing loadings and airfoil types. I have seen Luigi load himself up with weights and fly the VX46 at over a 4.7 wing loading! However, Luigi is one of the best canopy pilots in the world and has one of the best testing grounds as well. There comes a point with aerodynamics that you start sacrificing one type of performance for another. When you reach a high enough wing loading for your airfoil type, you begin sacrificing lift for speed. The smaller the wing and the higher the wing loading, the more airspeed you need to create lift. All pilots need lift for a safe and productive landing. This is why parachutes flown at very high wing loadings don't always out swoop their competition and don't always land pretty. Overloaded canopies are not always efficient and are very tricky to land. However, just because they are not efficient doesn't mean they can't be landed safely. Technological advancements in canopy designs have open new doors for pilots flying at higher wing loadings with smaller wings. Future designs will make this opportunity even more epic! I feel Luigi Cani could successfully land an Icarus Extreme down to 28 sq feet! This is a bold statement, but I know he can and probably will. Keep in mind Luigi makes over 1000 jumps each year and trains daily in high performance canopy landings. He has some of the best aerodynamic engineers in the world behind him and is backed with the support of some of the biggest canopy manufactures in the business.
What would you consider to be low, high, medium and extreme wing loading?
Low 1.2-Med 1.6- High 1.9........Extreme loading are 2.0 and above
What advice would you give someone just starting with swooping who plans to become good at it?
Take advice, choose wisely who you listen to, train hard, stay current, be patient, make a plan, stick to the plan, explore all aspects of your current canopy before you move on, practice high speed approaches and new maneuvers over water, wear a helmet, don't panic, think ahead, make a smooth approach, make smooth inputs to the canopy, pay attention to what your canopy is doing, don't force it & BREATH!
Thinking about the high number of people hurting and killing themselves under perfectly good canopies, what do you think is the most common mistake that can prevent a lot of these accidents from happening?
A pilot needs to understand some basic aerodynamics. The pilot needs to know why canopies act the way they do when they do. If you understand the performance envelope of your canopy and it's limitations, you can better understand what to ask of it or what not to ask of it. To make things worse, the wind is never constant, turbulence is always waiting, density altitude is changing and the pilot has to deal with this all at the same time during his final approach. As a wise man once said, "Never initiate a turn you won't be able to complete before you hit the ground"
About Jim Slaton
Age: 30

Hometown: Amarillo, TX

Home Drop Zone: Skydive Elsinore, Ca
Year of First jump: 1990
Championships: 2000 Pro Blade World Freefall Champion, Para-Performance Games 3rd place-accuracy record holder-Distance record holder (321 feet!), PSST Caribbean Challenge 3rd place, 2000 Summer Jam Canopy Challenge Champion, Pro Blade Houston 4th place, ect
Total Jumps: 3000 or so
How many cutaways do you have? 20 (I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not)
What gear do you jump?
Icarus Canopies, Precision reserves, Infinity rigs, Cypress (waterproof housing) Pro Track/Pro Dytter, Jump Shack custom pilot chutes, Firefly jumpsuits, Bonehead helmets, Gatorz eyewear
What canopies do you own or fly?
Icarus Extreme VX 60,65,69,70,84
How did you become interested in skydiving? Through the military
Who have been your skydiving role models?
J.C. Colclasure, Rob Harris, and that older guy that always jumped with his dog at Quincy!
What do you like most about this sport?
Skydiving allows us the opportunity to explore the limits of human flight.
What do you like least about this sport? Politics
If you had to quit skydiving tomorrow, what would you want to do instead?
Become an astronaut
Tell us something most people don't know about you.
I spent 10 years on active duty in the Army Airborne Ranger Regiment. In addition, I lived in Germany and spent four years as a parachute test jumper for a European company.
Anything else people should know about Jim Slaton?
I think I have said enough already, Peace!!!!

By admin, in News,

Sun Path Releases the Javelin Odyssey

After more than a year of testing, the engineers at Sun Path Products Inc, are proud to release the Javelin "Odyssey" harness/container system. In keeping with the tried, tested, and proven reliability of the world-famous Javelin, the Javelin "Odyssey" takes comfort, strength, performance, and fashion, to a new level.

The "Odyssey" will be tested under the FAA TSO category C 23 (d), meaning that it will be drop tested to weights in excess of 300 lbs. The new rig features longer riser covers, eliminating any exposure of the main or reserve risers, but not hindering the opening characteristics of the canopy. New "anti-twist" technology main risers, incorporating plastic riser tube inserts, are featured on this container. The tubes are of a composition that meets, or exceeds, the test conditions required by the FAA TSO. The advantage of plastic tubes is that they can be "crushed" in a car door/trunk, and continue to function. The new "Odyssey" will also feature the Oetiker clamps, which clamp the release and reserve housings in place, thus eliminating the need for hand tacks.
The "Odyssey" will touch you where no other rig can with its new "cut-in" backpad (the lateral straps exit the backpad closer to the center of the main container, instead of at the corners). This feature of the Javelin "Odyssey" allows for the lateral strap to contour around the lower back, keeping the container snug against the jumper. The jumper and Javelin "Odyssey" move as one. High-speed free flyer, competitive formation skydiver, or weekend warrior, the Javelin "Odyssey" stays snugly in place. The Javelin "Odyssey" features a new quilted-look, extra comfortable backpad, affording unsurpassed luxury while sitting in the plane or waiting for your load.

New legstrap geometry is currently under evaluation and will become available as soon as testing is complete. The Javelin "Odyssey" also features split leg straps as standard. By splitting the webbing, and making the leg strap wider, the weight of the suspended jumper is dispersed through a larger area, providing exceptional comfort under canopy.
The Javelin "Odyssey" will be available in new "space-age" durable fashion fabrics, previously unavailable to the general public. These new fabrics have been tested for over a year, before officially debuting on the 2001 Javelin "Odyssey". These new "space-age" fabrics include a leather-look fabric, available in black, navy, green, and brown. The colorful "houndstooth", a checkerboard pattern, is available in a variety of colors. Also new to the market, is our "Diamondback" fabric, which is a ribbed parapack fabric, where the ribs are in the shape of diamonds. The "Diamondback" is available in six different colors. We will have a limited supply of a funky "hologram" plastic fabric, which will be available for the pop-top and midflaps. Promotional material, and fabric samples, will be available in the near future.
The Javelin "Odyssey" offers exceptional safety, performance, comfort, and fashion, from a company that has proven itself an industry leader in skydiving harness and container manufacture over the last decade. The Javelin "Odyssey" will premier at the PIA Symposium, and will beavailable for order after January 27. The retail price of the Javelin "Odyssey" will be $1650 and include all of the above mentioned features. For more info, contact a Sun Path representative.

By admin, in Gear,

Skydivers Leap from Malaysian Tower

Fifty-three skydivers have leapt off the world's fourth tallest communications building, the broadcasting tower in Malaysia's capital, Kuala Lumpur. Hundreds of people watched the jumps off the observation deck of the 421m tower to celebrate Kuala Lumpur's City Day.
It is the second time in recent weeks Malaysia has allowed skydivers to parachute off buildings - a sport that has proved controversial in other countries.

Base-jumping - or parachuting from buildings, bridges and cliffs - is considered more dangerous than conventional skydiving from planes and at least 39 people have died since 1980.
It runs foul of trespassing laws in most countries, where governments and property owners fear lawsuits if there is an accident, and many jumps are now carried out in secret.
However, Malaysia has welcomed the sport, which some say could be promoted as a tourist attraction. On New Year's Eve, 15 jumpers leapt off Kuala Lumpur's Petronas Twin Towers, the world's tallest buildings.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad expressed delight at the feat which was watched by 100,000 people.
The company which set up the event hopes to stage an extreme jumping world championship in Malaysia in August.
Freefall
Those taking part in the latest leap included skydivers from America, Australia, Malaysia, Sweden, Canada, Britain, Iceland, Norway, New Zealand and Switzerland.
Each parachutist was expected to make 10 jumps from the 300m mark on the tower during the six-hour event. The skydivers freefell for about three seconds before opening their parachutes.
"It's a treat to be here," said British jumper Nikolas Hartshorne. "Malaysia has done something that America won't do."
"Getting a building elsewhere is very hard," added American Avery Badenhop. "But here, people seem to realise we should be free. It's our life, it's our fate."
Malaysian officials say they recognise the perils of base jumping and all 53 parachutists signed insurance waivers.
Rozitah Idris, marketing manager for the broadcasting tower, said he believed the sport would help draw tourists to Malaysia.

By admin, in News,

Skydivers interested in renting at Garrett

MCHENRY -- Tandem skydiving may come to the Garrett County Airport if the Pittsburgh Skydiving Center Inc. meets four requirements set by the Garrett County Commissioners on Tuesday.
Saying an agreement should be no more restrictive nor more liberal than others operating out of the airport, the commissioners agreed with the recommendation of the Garrett County Airport Commission.
Director of General Services Gary Mullich presented an official request from the Pittsburgh Skydiving Center in December for a formal lease agreement with the airport by Jan. 31.
The commissioners approved the request but did not agree to a waiver of liability insurance. The county does not have any building space to lease to the center, and area for land lease would need to be added to the Airport Layout Plan and approved by the Federal Aviation Administration. Electricity and water are not provided to land lease tenants; they provide their own.
"You would have to have a good reason to deny anyone the use of the airport," Mullich said, since it receives federal funds. The skydiving center would have to give the county a hold-harmless agreement and would have to have an agreement with the county if it uses the airport as a base of operation.
Don Bick of the skydiving club, which operates out of Connellsville (Pa.) Airport, met with members of the advisory group in December. He would like a standard three- or five-year lease, beginning May 1, with an option to renew. The group is interested in leasing appropriate building space or installing a mobile office.
The county requires $1 million general liability coverage. The skydiving group has $1 million in premise or "slip and fall" insurance, and $50,000 in third-party insurance for all licensed skydivers through the United States Parachute Association, but says it cannot get general liability coverage, Mullich said.
Bob Railey, a local pilot, said the group seemed to have a pretty smooth operation at Connellsville. He said it might be possible for them to just use a trailer as an office on weekends. He felt it would be an attractive business for the county and could not see any airplane operations vs. skydiving issues that would hinder either activity.
Ken Wishnick, president of the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce, said the skydiving club had joined the chamber and asked if any staff members wanted to jump. "A few are actually considering it," said Wishnick.
"I would love to do this myself," said Deb Clatterbuck of the chamber. "You would be jumping with a jump master," she said, stressing safety must be first.
The addition of the skydiving, Clatterbuck said, "would be an inclusion of another adventure sport and of course, the increased amusement tax received off that." Also the number of take-offs and landings at the airport would help make it eligible for an increased runway.
"Dick assured us the jump would not interfere with any planes coming in, and would not take up much room at the airport," said Caroline Hill, co-manager of the Garrett County Airport. "He said they were quite busy up in Connellsville. They haven't had any problems, but there are a lot of questions to be answered.
"Some local people have supported him and I think there is an interest," she said. She is worried some about parking problems because of the participants and curiosity-seekers the event would draw.

By admin, in News,

Skydiver falls to death in DeLand

DELAND -- A skydiver plummeted to her death Wednesday evening near U.S. 92, and investigators worked well into the night trying to determine exactly what happened during the final moments of her fall.
Chantal Bonitto, 31, of New York City, was pronounced dead at the scene, an EVAC spokesman said.
Her body was discovered shortly after 5:30 p.m. in a wooded area along U.S. 92, directly behind the Flo Met office building at 810 Flight Line Blvd.
Bonitto was vacationing in the area and was taking part in jumps offered by Skydive DeLand, according to the DeLand Police Department.
She was no stranger to skydiving, having completed at least 100 jumps, said DeLand Police Lt. Paul Proctor.
"It's still too early to tell what happened," Proctor said Wednesday night. "At 100 jumps, it would seem to be they know what they're doing to a certain degree."
Proctor said people who witnessed Bonitto's fall offered conflicting stories as to whether the woman's parachute opened.
"That's where some of the stories differ," he said.
Some eyewitnesses reported they did not see a parachute open. Others, Proctor said, reported seeing Bonitto perform a "cut-away," detaching herself from the primary parachute in an effort to deploy a back-up canopy.
Proctor said local investigators, along with the Federal Aviation Administration, will investigate the incident.
He said more witnesses would be interviewed, including the pilot of the plane from which Bonitto jumped.
Bonitto was married, and her husband was at the scene Wednesday night. His name was not immediately available.
Proctor said he did not know if Bonitto's husband was a skydiver.
Skydiving injuries and fatal accidents occur sporadically in DeLand, Proctor said, due in part to the sheer volume of participants.
Skydive DeLand officials have previously said they average nearly 85,000 jumps per year.
"There are just a huge number of skydivers in the area," Proctor said.
Two skydivers were reported injured in April, one of them critically.
In April 1999, a French skydiver died after her parachute malfunctioned and failed to open properly. The 55-year-old woman was an experienced skydiver with more than 500 jumps.
2000 News-Journal Corp.

By admin, in News,

Wild Humans - A Reputation in Rotation

For the past three US Nationals, the Wild Humans have topped their competition in the canopy relative work event of 4-way rotation. Known in the past as rogues and the back street gang of the CRW community, this reformed team is marking up a new chapter and serious side to their history. Sort of.
"This is the first Nationals we didn't have a cutaway," says Stu Wyatt. "(In the past), we hardly ever practiced. We were known for coming and getting our practice at competitions. We always had the attention of everyone, because we were learning while we were on video."
The history of this team starts as far back as 1979. Stu Wyatt's older brother, Doug, started skydiving shortly after Stu, and because they had "a bad reputation for wanting to learn too fast," people veered away from jumping with them. That left each other. So, the two brothers spent a lot of time doing stacks and free fall together.
Around 1981, Jeff Wagner asked the two brothers if they wanted to build a canopy formation team, with Bill Storms as their fourth. The team, Wild Humans, was born.
Wagner organized one of their first experiences together. Wagner wanted his NCCS, an 8-stack award. It was to be performed at night, under the full moon out at Stapleton. Stu, who up to that point had no more than a 3-stack experience, closed the top as number 9, and Wagner got his award.
"I was jazzed," says Stu. "I didn't get the NCCS (due to technical fumbling), but we got broke in pretty good.".
The team started competing and training for the Nationals. They got third place that year. They also entered the Nationals with one different team member, but they were just going to learn and have fun. After about three competitions, the team faded.
Scott Chew, wanting a new chapter on the Wild Humans, approached the Wyatt brothers three years ago about reforming. Scott wanted them all to commit to a certain amount of training jumps. Joined by Joe Berning, the same four have won the gold at the '98, '99 and '00 Nationals. They also had the opportunity to go to the World Championships in Finland, where they placed fourth overall, but were proud to give the top-ranked Italians a run for their money on the first round.
Doug notes, "We're way more serious. Used to be completely for fun."
In that vein, they put in about 100 training jumps a year at their home drop zone in Colorado. They also had Scott, a certified rigger, redesign their deployment procedure with a pull-out pilot chute system.
Doug says, "We lost a lot of points in Finland over a pilot chute in tow. Our (new) method allows us to pull the pin by putting the pilot chute handle inside, up against the apex where the bridle meets."
Another feature also flattens their pilot chutes after their canopies open. "Even though our parachutes are so little (126 PD Lightnings), we can't have that little pilot chute up there; it will affect our landings," notes Doug. "Our wing loading is 1.7. And these canopies aren't designed to land well from the get-go."
So, these US Nationals proved to be their test run, and it was their best to date. Their throwaway round was 16 points, five points better than their competition's best. They will be attending next year's World Meet in Spain.
"To be in contention, we need to get 200 practice jumps in between now and then. The big boys in the world get 500-600 practice jumps," says Stu. "We're looking for sponsorship. There's only so much T-shirts can do for you."
But one thing the Wild Humans have always excelled at is public relations. In Finland, "while we were doing formation, we were the only team that landed together, and it excited the fans. They were rooting for the USA, even over their own teams," says Doug.
Their name and attitude definitely precedes them. And their tattoos. The temporary gnarly, tooth canopy tattoos seem to be stuck on anybody within their reach.
"It's a good ice-breaker with people; we talk to them, and it's a little more personable. Then, we try to sell them a T-shirt," laughs Stu.
But for the World Meet, "we plan on keeping the same game plan. If we're consistent, we can do it," says Stu. "This is the first time we've put up consistent scores all the way along. But even in those 17's, we had some problems. We want to work out those glitches."
However, it was their very own Scott Chew who was awarded a very special honor, the Overall Canopy Relative Work Medal, for scoring the best in all three CRW events.
"Usually, it goes to a team, but these guys let me ditch them," Scott laughs. He joined Clean Leap in 8-way speed, and his Wild Human teammates says it was due to no less than Scott's presence that Clean Leap won their gold.
Scott has 6,000 jumps, the most of his team, and has accomplished such bold maneuvers as building a 2-stack off of the River Gorge Bridge. The other three have about 3,000 jumps apiece.
"It's amazing you can still be an athlete over 40 in CRW. Some of these old boys have been around a long time and they're good flyers. It's kind of ageless to some degree," says Stu.
There's a history of jumping with the Wyatt brothers, and Stu has a T-shirt that lists all of the people that have competed with them.
Stu says, "We have two rules. First, there's no such thing as rules. Second, you can't change the rules."
So, what came first--their name or their behavior?
Stu answers, "We considered ourselves 'wild humans' before we even got into skydiving."
But these bad boys turned somewhat good are getting up to world-class levels. They're a little more serious, but not losing any of the fun. All four got a permanent version of their team tattoo this past summer.
"It shows one's commitment to some degree," says Doug. A lifetime, noting the permanency of real tattoos, to which he responds, "Naw. We won't stay together a lifetime. But it'll bring back good memories."
"Yeah, we'll be legends in our own minds," Stu jokes.

By admin, in News,

US Nationals 2000: The Big Picture, Part 2

The overall tone of the US National Skydiving Championships 2000 changed overnight as Perris Valley continued to host its second week of competition. Smaller groups of competitors and a variety of disciplines made the meet more of a grab bag of styles and feelings. It was lower key, and the Perris staff did try to accommodate each of their specialized needs. The CRW community for once got tended to first. The first official freeflying event launched successfully with only a couple of hitches. However, it was the poorly attended freestyle and skysurfing events that organizers should take a closer look at with the intent that restructuring the whole Nationals schedule could possibly prompt higher participation in each, and all of the above.
The canopy relative work community is truly a family unit. They support each other, gripe when feeling ignored or misunderstood, and generally, are a cheerful, relaxed group of skydivers. So when 4-way rotation took flight Monday morning of that second week, it would almost be called a blessing. The week was starting off with beautiful skies, open communication and a lot less pressure than the RW week.
The defending National champions, the Wild Humans, literally flew circles around their competition. They ranked up 17 points in four of their first five rounds. In essence, they already neatly wrapped up the gold to be delivered to them later in the week, but the finals would be placed on hold. Knowing rain was forecast, and with the minimums already met for 4-way rotation, John DeSantis switched over to 8-way speed to get them into the air. Clean Leap and Perris Infinity were both able to punch out their full 8 rounds on Tuesday. The four other teams in 8-way speed got in 5 rounds apiece.
By Thursday, when the meet was able to get off the ground again, it was a very diversified scene. The CRW dogs shifted to 4-way sequential, while 8 skysurf, 10 freestyle and 17 freefly teams geared up. Each discipline has such distinguishing rituals, names and dress code, it was truly an eclectic hodge-podge of parachute-packing sport enthusiasts.
Taking a closer look at the skysurfing and freestyle events, one will note that there were never more than two to three US teams in any one class. That means any team that entered was guaranteed to medal. This situation shouldn’t be considered a good thing.
Chris Rimple, the 1999 freestylist Nationals champion from Team Nitro, proposes a solution. "Try to imagine a Nationals where freestyle, skysurfing and freeflying were held first. For most of a week, all eyes would be focused on those events. Media attention always starts strong in that environment, and it wouldn’t falter, continuing straight through to (the highly participated) formation skydiving. Skydiving teams would be making training jumps, while freestylists, skysurfers and freeflyers were battling for positions on the podium, exposing more skydivers to these events. Add canopy formation, style and accuracy in the middle, and what do you have? A recipe for success and media attention."
From an organizer’s perspective, starting with the larger and more challenging RW task may appear to be structurally sound; however, from a promotional stance, reversing the Nationals structure could have greater ramifications all around.
A couple of other glitches plagued good intentions. Because of decisions made beforehand, the freestylists weren’t allowed to use the side-exit aircraft they normally utilize but had to use the allotted Skyvan.
In addition, the freestyle, skysurfing and freeflying events all had to be hand-scored. Because the USPA failed to adopt the 2000 IPC changes in time, attending teams were competing under the 1999 rules, which uses a different scoring system and different compulsories than will be employed in next year’s World Meet, the very one competitors are qualifying for. The Pegasus scoring system by Omniskore had already been updated to keep abreast of these changes, but the bureaucracy and paperwork lagged behind. Ultimately, it was the competitors who were affected.
These points aside, the Nationals staff saw that all the teams got put through all their paces as quickly as they could output their scores. By Friday and Saturday, the results were pouring out one after another.
CRW 4-way sequential, which had started last, was actually the first to finish. The organizers didn’t want to switch gears on the CRW gang again, so they had the 6 teams fly all their rounds. Team Talon/Express proved to be tops all the way along and won the gold. Soul Purpose followed in second, and Lodi Express took the bronze.
CRW 4-way rotation shaped up with absolutely no surprises. Wild Humans placed first, and Soul Purpose again proved to be solid performers and won the silver. Guest team, Demolition, came in third in points, but Lodi Express Rotation plugged away and took the bronze out of the 5 competing teams.
It was the freefly segment that was both exciting and suspenseful. It took a three-year effort on the part of dozens of freeflyers, headed up by Omar Alhegelan and Kama Mountz, to even get this discipline onto the Nationals agenda. The freefly entourage had a respectable turnout with 11 Open and 6 Intermediate teams, competing in seven rounds with 45-seconds of working time. Rounds 1 and 5 were the compulsories, and the rest were open forum for their free routines.
However, because the freeflyers were so protective of their original routines, they requested and were granted the privilege of not having their rounds shown on the DZTV. Only the posted scores gave the audience and fellow contenders an idea of how they were doing. The final results and showings didn’t even come in until after-hours in the Bombshelter Friday evening.
So by the numbers, Arizona Freeflight gave the Flyboyz a run for their money. These two alternated ranks on the board right up to the end. However, the Flyboyz posted the highest score of the meet in the 6th round and moved into second. It was Freefly Circus, with their late tallied scores, (due to the fact that Olav Zipser and Mike Swanson were competing in other events), that breezed by the competition and grabbed first place.
In the Intermediate freefly category, team Guano took first, Mirror Image second, and the Bomb Squad was third. Arizona Airspeed came in fourth. Craig Girard, having only won five golds the previous week, says, "It’s a whole different ballgame." But they didn’t bottom out.
On the freestyle front, Team Nitro defended their champion status, with Craig Armine replacing Grant Hetherington as Rimple’s videographer. Z Crazy secured first in the Intermediate class. Both of the Skydive America teams took second in each category.
In the women’s Open, the Flying Gelardis, went on to garner their first Nationals gold, having been the silver medallists in the ’98 Nationals. Axis 21 scored second in points but was a guest team, so it was Team Flew-id that took the silver. In women’s freestyle Intermediate, Free Radicals won. The Unsponsored Freestyle Team came in second and Freestyle Space Center took third.
Perris Firestarter, with Tanya Garcia-O’Brien and her cameraman/husband Craig O’Brien, blew by the men in skysurfing, but competing officially in women’s Open, took first there, followed by Elsinore Boardwalk. CrossKeys Inferno won the gold in men’s Open and Skysurf Chicago the silver.
Guest team, Evolution, posted the highest marks in men’s Intermediate skysurfing, but A2B were proud to officially grace the top podium. Proper Dose-Perris was the silver medallist and Perris Black Diamond rounded out the picture in third.
Wrapping out, it was just over the two-week mark when the final competition load took off with 8-way speed on late Saturday morning. The gaps in the scoreboard were filled in, and Clean Leap, which built the fastest round in 39.12 seconds, took first overall. Perris Infinity performed well, but not their best, and came in second. Drought Busters scored the bronze.
Nationals finished all rounds with one weather day to spare. There were no injuries, no official protests and the overall vibe was positive. Many greeted old friends and acquaintances from afar among the milieu. A few kinks in the competition still need to be worked out, but it certainly wasn’t due to lack of effort or heart. As Al Gramando, Eloy’s general manager, said in regard to the 2001 Nationals to be held at his drop zone, "Melanie (Conatser) is making my life difficult." The sign hanging over Perris Valley Skydiving’s entrance proclaims, "Home of the 2000 US Nationals Skydiving Championships." They are proud of their efforts and have good reason to be.

By admin, in Events,

US Nationals 2000: The Big Picture, Part 1

For two weeks in October, the Perris Valley corridors filled with hundreds of competitors trying to leave their mark in the sky and on the scoreboards at the U.S. National Skydiving Championships 2000. For fourteen days, it was the tag-team efficiency of the Perris staff that overcame the stubborn weather patterns that threatened to wrestle the meet to the ground. In the end, there were many historic firsts to be proud of at this year’s competition. It was the first year freeflying was produced as an official event. It was the first year in recent memory there were no re-jumps. It was the first time in almost two decades that all National events were held together during a two-week period.
Even more unprecedented, Arizona Airspeed managed to sweep all four of the formation skydiving events. Airspeed Vertical took top honors in 4-way, and Airspeed 8 nudged by the Golden Knights in 8-way. Various combinations of PD Blue and PD Gold helped the Arizona boys also dominate the 10-way and 16-way events.
Rumor has it that Airspeed was going to take a few weeks off, and then decide if they would represent the United States in the three events at the World Meet next year in Spain, their concern being the demand it places on them. But if they choose to decline one or more events, the second place team will be offered the slot.
And despite their impressive results, don’t think the Airspeed boys easily dominated the whole RW week. There were many close bouts, and the final tally didn’t always look as clear as it appears after the fact.
In 4-way, which by the way also broke its own numbers with the most teams participating ever--32 Intermediate, 34 Advanced and 11 Open--for a grand total of 77, Perris France Maubeuge gave Airspeed Vertical a run for their money. Though guests who couldn’t officially medal, Maubeuge’s performance very much counted to everyone else competing. Everyone wanted to know how they ranked in the overall mix.
By the end of day one, Maubeuge was leading, with Airspeed Vertical and FX close on their heels. DeLand Norgies and DeLand PD Blue followed. But the picture shifted on Sunday, the day the meet put up the most loads, a record-breaking 230. Churning out six rounds, the pressure was definitely on.
Airspeed Vertical inched by Maubeuge on round 7. Then, they continued to keep their lead--and they won. Maubeuge came in second in points, but it was FX that officially took the silver. DeLand Norgies, also guest competitors, tied FX in points, however, it was the U.S. team DeLand PD Blue that went to the podium to claim the bronze.
In Advanced 4-way, Barry Jive’s Uptown 5 and Optic Nerve duked it out all the way to the end, when Barry Jive’s Uptown 5 slipped by Optic Nerve once again. But both were guests, so it was Teiwaz that took first place, proving to be strong, solid performers the whole meet through. (The name, Teiwaz, comes from a book on Norse runes in which a teiwaz is an arrow pointing upwards, meaning "skygod spiritual warrior.") The silver was hung around Nemesis, and DeLand PD Gold had a medal day, which raised their status up the ranks to bronze.
The Intermediate 4-way class unveiled the Best New Team on the scene. DeLand Tunnel Rage simply dominated. But it was also this category that held the first jump-off. Tying for second place were Focus 4 and Dallas 4-Quest. They both tied again on the jump-off, so another round took place. Focus 4 ended up eeking ahead of Dallas 4-Quest by only one point.
8-way unveiled 21 competing teams, 13 Intermediate and 9 Open. In a reverse scenario, John DeSantis, our diligent meet director, cranked through six of the rounds on Tuesday, knowing full well that problematic weather was following--which it did. But by Thursday, he was once again wrapping out the event in record time. The five Twin Otters helped.
Airspeed 8 and the Golden Knights were fighting neck-to-neck for that top slot, each taking the lead in each subsequent round. The big scoreboard by the creeping area held the rapt attention of many as scores posted. By round 9, the big boys were tied once again.
The crowd hovered around the big-screen TV for the 10th round. Airspeed proved to be smooth, fast and polished. They posted an impressive 23. The Knights’ turn came, and the audience audibly gasped as they watched as the team visibly hesitated before a few of their points. The Knights scored a 19. The hugs and congratulations went all around.
In the Intermediate 8-way class, Wendy’s Boyz, guests, held first throughout, but the N Gang did post higher marks in 4 of the 6 rounds than them and were the official gold medallists. One more jump-off took place: Two teams again, Perrisinore Sibling Rivalry and Willy & the Bone Lickas, were tied for the silver. Perrisinore won the round and the honor.
DeSantis immediately rolled over into 16-way, with team captains waiving the one-hour wait period. This would become one of the three consistently waived rules throughout the rest of the meet. The other two consisted of the one-hour wait between dives, especially for teams that were competing solely in one event, and somteams were allowed to complete all their rounds ahead of the rest.
But it was all twelve 16-way teams that were launched Thursday afternoon for two rounds. Then, the weather set in again.
By noon Saturday, the skies finally cleared, and the heat was on. One of the Golden Knights had problems in round 3 of 16-way and struggled with a loose reserve handle for a 40 precious seconds. They scored only 2 points, which set them back. Meanwhile, Airspeed Blue blew by the competition with a 14 in round 4.
DeSantis then switched over to 10-way to get them rolling. Roger Nelson’s team, Skydive Chicago STL10, blew out of the starting gate with a 12.18-seconds. But Airspeed Blue, once again, regained control. By the end of the day, with 4 rounds completed in both 10-way and 16-way, Airspeed were already looking like the clear victors.
Formation completed Sunday--just. DeSantis was getting ready to call the minimums, when the sun busted through, and he filled in the missing holes on the scoreboards in the 10-way and 16-way events.
Airspeed Blue came shy of one point on their final 16-way round of breaking the world record with 16 points. Knights FX garnered the silver, making a comeback, and Deguello, the mostly Texan team, who were momentary contenders for second, fell in their last 2 rounds and collected the bronze.
An interesting debate between Carl Daugherty’s 10-way team, the Power of Ten, and the judges took place. According to Tim Wagner of Omniskore, they were "busted by the judges on the last 4 rounds for using an illegal hand hold on the airplane." But Daugherty won his appeal, relinquishing only one round to the bust rule.
However, by this time, Airspeed swept that event as well, and the Nationals Formation Skydiving week, and no less than five gold medals were hung around their team members necks. The fifth, called the Overall Formation Skydiving Medal, which had been awarded to no more than two individuals in any one year in the past, decorated 11 of the Airspeed guys for their combined high scores in all cumulative events.
The standard was set that first week, both in front and behind-the-scenes. As Al Gramando, Eloy’s general manager said in regards to next year’s Nationals to be hosted by his drop zone, "Melanie is making my life difficult." All of the Conatsers should be commended on trying to accommodate any predicament, and the success of the first week was reflected back. It was indeed the biggest and best to date.

By admin, in Events,

Book Review: Flying the Camera - by Patrick Weldon

It would be difficult, at best, to write a complete and comprehensive guide to freefall photography. Patrick Weldon's "Flying the Camera" is the first attempt I have seen to do so, and is well worth the $34.95 purchase price for an aspiring freefall photographer. It covers a lot in a short book, and may fall just short of being 'complete,' but it sure is a great way to learn the basics. It may even save you some money by helping you avoid common 'beginner' mistakes.


 
  By covering a complex subject in a short book, Weldon leaves a lot out - but he does so effectively, by making the information easy to read and follow. The information he leaves out is the sort that is usually more easily learned through personal experience anyhow. Most of the missing information is of the advanced or expert variety.
If I noticed one thing that detracted from the overall impression I got from the book, it would be the quality of the illustrations and photos. The hand drawn illustrations were crude, but effective, and several of the photos seemed ill thought-out. Specifically, in the section where Weldon chides the neophyte photographer to always keep the subjects face in the sun, the example photos show the subjects face half-shaded.
Nevertheless, even with cheesy drawings, the book does an excellent job of making a difficult subject into a set of tasks that are easily broken down and understood. Each area is thoroughly explained, from the equipment required to safely photograph each jump, to the proper editing technique for a tandem video. Weldon tries to cover it all and does a good job of doing so.
No book on freefall photography can avoid personal technique - and there is an endless set of variations on this. Each individual has their own style, and this comes with experience. "Flying the camera" is a great introduction, but no book can teach technique. What a book can teach, however, is method - and at this "Flying the camera" is a huge success.
It is in the specific methods and 'tricks' that Patrick Weldon shined the brightest - the book is full of useful hints that even seasoned photographers can benefit from - I sure did. But the book also had some controversial advice, and went directly against a personal philosophy - that of what to do when you open you parachute while wearing a camera helmet.
The book specifically recommends that you put your head on your chest and look down - I was taught, and personal experience reinforced - that you always look at the horizon during opening and keep your head level to your shoulders. The difference is in the details and I am certain there are many sides to the argument. My opinion is just that - opinion.
In freefall photography, whatever the technique - the method remains the same - and it really does come down to personal experience. That is what skydiving is all about, and photography just expands this - it captures an intensely personal experience and allows us to share that vision with the world.
With rapid advances in camera technology, more and more skydivers are now flying a camera. This book will not cover all of the subject areas of interest, but for a novice freefall photographer this book can provide invaluable advice and guidance - and potentially save you a lot of wasted time and money. Even where the book is less-than-perfect, it is certainly better than nothing, and Patrick Weldon should be proud of his work. "Flying the camera" fills a huge gap of knowledge and will be a great benefit to anyone interested in freefall photography.

By admin, in General,

Alistair Hodgson - Overcoming Obstacles

Everyone has some kind of disability; some seen outwardly, while others are not readily visible to the naked eye. Some live with the notion that the only limits we have are the ones that are self-imposed. This was clearly evident in my interaction with Alistair. Alistair came to spend a month at Skydive Arizona, his goal to become a more proficient freeflyer.
I was so inspired by this young man that I decided to have a word with Craig Girard. I asked Craig if he would consider making a jump with him, Craig's response was a resounding yes! I then spoke with Greg Gasson about doing a photo shoot with him and Greg informed me that he had met Alistair in Sweden at a freefly festival. They had been in contact via email prior to Alistair's arrival in Arizona. Greg had taken the time to ensure that there wouldn't be anything that would prevent Alistair from jumping at the DZ, and of course he would certainly jump with him. Small world. Needless to say, Alistair is exuberant at the prospect of jumping with these two world- class skydivers that are now on his growing list of friends.

One morning while waiting for the first lift, I asked Alistair how long he had been skydiving and why he partakes in the sport. He told me that his legs were "blown off" twelve years ago by a land mine in Ireland. He took up skydiving three years ago to experience life. In his easy manner he looked at me and posed the same question. I answered simply that I had found freedom and a sense of community. His response was a quick: "Exactly!"
Alistair resides in England and according to him, is the first double amputee to take up skydiving in that country. He began his journey by experiencing tandems, three to be exact, and was then offered a course in freefall. Although he had static line experience from serving in the military, it was nothing compared to what he is doing now. Alistair says that he has tried everything from rock climbing to kayaking since his amputations, and found skydiving to have been the best rehabilitation. He states that he is better physical shape now, and his life much richer than before he lost his legs. Alistair went as far as to say that he even drinks less than he used to since he wants to feel his best for the next day's jumping.
He offers that skydiving has given him his life back, and it is the only thing that he is interested in doing. His travels have taken him to several countries, and Alistair has found that the people in skydiving are generally approachable and open- minded. They are quick to offer him a hand up by lifting him into the airplane, other than that he isn't treated any differently. He feels as though he is accepted in this community, he belongs. There is of course, a curiosity that goes along with seeing a skydiver without legs, but for the most part he says that people are just glad to see him participate.

During his visit here he was approached by one of the camera flyers for "Pieces of Eight" and asked if he was interested in flying with them. Alistair responded by saying he appreciated the inquiry and would get back to him.
Alistair jumps in a custom made Merlin Suit that has small pockets on the legs to help catch air. He says that the suit has made all the difference for him in his freeflying. Alistair managed to maintain head-down all the way to break off for the first time while here, and is excited to learn to fly his body in this new orientation.
I asked him if he had one piece of knowledge to impart to his fellow skydivers, what would that be? He said: "If you think you can't do something, you're right, you can't! Can't isn't something that I recognize in my vocabulary." Alistair has nearly 600 jumps to date and hopes to add an additional 100 before returning to his native England.

By admin, in News,