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Found 31 results

  1. nettenette

    Shredding the (Adaptive) Gnar

    Rosie Manning Breaks Down Accessibility Barriers in the Tunnel Raise your hand if someone you know has been seriously injured on a skydive. Everybody? Right. Now -- keep your hand raised if that inspired you to invent a whole new apparatus to get your friend back into flight mode. I’m willing to bet that very, very few hands have stayed raised. One of them is Rosie Manning’s. The first thing you should know about Rosie Manning is that her lissome form and noon-in-July demeanor might easily fool you. She’s sweet almost to a fault -- but then you start to realize that she has you direly outgunned in the brains department. This mechanical engineer can think in circles around most folks (and then take you to the tunnel and fly in circles around them -- but more on that later). If you ask her, she delicately shrugs it off as a survival instinct. “When you study engineering as a girl,” she notes, “You’re already in an uphill battle. There were 200 guys and 9 girls in my degree. From day one, I was going against the wind.” As it turns out, Rosie thrives against the wind. She and one of the other nine girls in the program (Emily Whatton, a dynamo in her own right) joined the university’s skydiving club. At first, it was a lark, but by year two, both girls were hooked. Time flew. For the fourth and final year, the program participants were tasked with an individual project which made up the bulk of the students’ final grade -- and Rosie knew exactly what hers was going to be. It was that year -- 2016 -- that UK skydiver Ben White injured himself during a swoop. He came out of it alive, but paraplegic. Rosie figured she could use her project to help. “I was heavily addicted to skydiving at this point,” Rosie remembers, “and I really wanted to do a project that was skydiving-related. I had an idea.” Rosie sent Ben a message: How interested would you be in letting me design something for you to help you fly in the wind tunnel again? Unsurprisingly, he was entirely up for it. Bonus: Ben himself had studied robotics at university, so the process was uniquely collaborative. So far, so good: But there was still a baffled academia who had to buy in. “The first time I pitched the idea of the project to my tutor,” Rosie laughs, “He said, ‘Okay, so you’re telling me you want to throw a paraplegic person out of an airplane?’ Um...no. Then I spoke to quite a few of my other teachers about it to get some advice. They all told me it wouldn’t be possible.” “I just didn’t listen,” she grins. “I went and did it anyway.” Rosie, with Ben’s collaboration, set about designing a brace that would support Ben’s lower body for the purpose of tunnel flying. First problem: the university only allowed for a total project budget of 100 pounds. To solve her problem, she asked for help. Rosie went to a long list of orthopedic and prosthetic companies. Finally, she had a lucky break: she got an email back from a company in the UK called TruLife, whose Head of R&D, Shane Nickson, was a keen skydiver. He offered funding and help with manufacturing. TruLife ended up custom molding the carbon-fiber-and-titanium brace to Rosie’s design. The second challenge: tunnel time. This wasn’t too tough, luckily, as the owner-at-the-time of the UK’s Bodyflight Bedford was a super-cool guy who was happy to donate tunnel time to the project. Score. The third big roadblock was, again, academia. And it was a whopper. “We struggled making the project fit the specifications the university wanted,” she explains, “because the university wants you to show your preparation; the calculations; the justifications for all the choices.” In order to meet the requirements, the team had to build an external sensor system that would measure the angle of the wearer’s legs in different orientations: belly flying; back flying; free flying. From that data, they worked out the forces that would act on the wearer’s legs in each position to determine the required strength of the brace. “That actually took up a lot of the project,” Rosie notes. “And Ben was a huge help with that because he was a robotics guy, so he knew loads about the programming that was required.” After they finished the project -- after Rosie had left university -- she, Ben and two other friends entered the World Challenge in the rookie category. “There were only four teams in the category,” she remembers, “but it ended up being this huge battle with another team for third place. We just beat them, and I think the fact that our team beat another team that was completely able-bodied was probably the best day of this whole thing. We went up to collect our medals -- Ben, in his chair -- and we got the biggest cheer.” Such a triumphant, happy moment, no? But it came at such a confusing time. “To be honest, when I finished my degree, I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do,” Rosie remembers. “I knew that I pretty much hated the first three years of my degree but absolutely loved the final year. If knew that, if I was going to do engineering, it needed to be something I wanted to do -- something sport related -- because that’s what I love doing.” “I knew that going into a scheme with a huge company wasn’t for me,” she continues. “It would have been a super easy thing to do. Pretty much everyone in my degree went and did that because it’s the next step in the system they’ve set up for you. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, exactly, but I know I don’t want to do that.” So: Rosie and her friend Emily Whatton took off. The pair went traveling for a year with their partners -- also skydivers -- and the tiny amount of money the foursome had managed to save up. While on the road, Emily and her partner were offered jobs as tunnel instructors at Sirius Sport Resort in Finland. Six months later, Rosie got the call and joined them. While there, Sirius backrolled Rosie’s build of another tunnel mobility brace and started welcoming even more adaptive athletes into the bodyflight community, a fact of which Rosie is understandably proud. “Currently, there are two separate frames --” she explains, “a smaller one and a larger one, with different-sized straps that can be fitted with either one. If you have someone tall and skinny, you can use the longer frame with the shorter straps, and vice versa. For kids, we use the small frame and the smaller straps.” “It was quite hard to build it without really knowing what sizes of people we were going to get,” she adds, “but I was pretty pleased because the system can accommodate anyone from a tiny 8-year-old up to a fairly massive guy.” Users report that the biggest challenge for the adaptive flyer is fitting the brace to the body, because it has to go underneath their legs while the flier is seated in their wheelchair. Once they’re assisted from the chair into the airflow, it’s pretty much a snap. “[The brace] is at a set angle,” Rosie says, “so fliers with shorter legs have more forward drive and fliers with longer legs have more backward drive for him. That’s easy to manage; we just make sure that, when we brief them, we emphasize that they need to be really relaxed in the arms because we’re going to need to adjust the arm and hand position to counteract any drive that produces. Every [adaptive athlete] we’ve flown with so far seems to take that on board really well, and they fly beautifully.” The photos of Rosie’s adaptive athletes really speak for themselves. “I mean, it is fantastic,” Rosie enthuses. “I think that flying and skydiving is the greatest sense of freedom you can experience in this life. For an adaptive athlete -- someone that, maybe for their whole life, has been confined to a wheelchair -- it is a feeling that is like no other. Sharing that is super rewarding. I want to do a lot more of it.” Rosie recently relocated to work at a wind tunnel in Canada, but she certainly hasn’t abandoned that dream. Currently, she plans on taking her design in two different directions: continual development on the first-timer model, as well as a model designed for the specific needs of adaptive sport flying. “We got [Ben White] belly flying and back flying in the current design,” she explains, “but I want it to be able to do more. Ultimately, we want a design that makes freeflying possible. I’m thinking in baby steps -- take it to some low-speed back carving and belly carving; work up from there. I want to give anyone who wants to get involved in this sport the opportunity to progress in it as well.”
  2. Aeronautrixx Literally Has Your Back Life in the sky just keeps getting better for the 13% of us who fly under the influence of two X chromosomes. The latest development? Aeronautrixx -- a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, founded by skydiver//adventurist Karen Woolem. The org’s goal, as Karen puts it, is “providing education, guidance, sponsorship and resources to help women pursue their aeronautical dreams in a fun and safe manner.” Those are lofty goals, indeed, but Karen -- who is as well-organized as she is dynamic -- isn’t the type to shoot low. To understand where Aeronautrixx is coming from, of course, you first have to understand a little bit about its founder. Karen started jumping 28 years ago, led by the example of her skydiver father. She was 15, and they’d make the long trek down to Skydive Paso Robles from the Monterey Bay Area because Paso was the only driveable DZ that would let such a young pup jump. She made a few less than 100 jumps in that first phase and stopped jumping in 1993, when her rig was grounded. “The question was,” she remembers, “Do I buy new gear, or do I go to college?’ Objectively speaking, it wasn’t really a question. Karen was the first in her family to go to college, and she wanted to place her focus there. As it turns out, a full 15 years passed before she got back into the sport, though she made a few feints in that direction. Finally, in 2009, she got recurrent -- at Hollister, where her dad learned to skydive back in 1988 -- and she’s been jumping ever since. Mostly, Karen describes herself as an RW kinda chick. (Fun fact: When I talk to her, she has just returned from skydiving over the Egyptian pyramids.) Aeronautrixx, interestingly enough, was born of that other major step forward in female-focused skydiving: the Women’s Skydiving Leadership Network. Back in 2016 (when the WSLN was first officially formed), Karen was selected for the first WSLN leadership symposium. She spent a week at Raeford with the event, soaking up the skills, the vibes and the connections. As part of that program, Karen designed a logo for a WSLN t-shirt. The image was strong, feminine, colorful and balls-out bold. She loved it. While a different logo was selected for that original purpose, Karen couldn’t help but realize that she’d created the logo for an effort that was gathering steam in her own imagination. Specifically, she was pondering a personal challenge she’d faced as a female, coming back into the sport: Finding a used container that fit both her and the canopy size she was comfortable with. She’d found it damned near impossible. “Finding a used container that fit me was no problem,” she mueses, “but they were all made for sub-100s; for super-swoopers. When I first came back, was under a 170. I ended up having to rent for what seemed like forever. It was so expensive.” She realized that there was a solution -- and that she could catalyze it. “I knew there were plenty of people out there that have gear to donate,” she adds, “And I thought -- hey! -- if I set up a non-profit, it can be a win-win. People can donate gear that fits smaller people jumping larger canopies -- or any gear they have gathering dust in a closet. Then I can give those guys a tax write-off and get that gear out to women who need it. Now [the recipient is] paying $25 a jump instead of $50 and can take her time to either wait for a long delivery on custom gear or piece together a used setup that fits.” “It’s so expensive getting started in this sport,” Karen adds. “Aeronautrixx aims to make the potential financial burden less of a deterrent for women.” So far, it’s a home run. Aeronautrixx just got a complete setup donated and matched it with a woman who just graduated AFF. Boom. It’s not just containers, either. Karen has partnered up with a craftsman who completely refurbishes and repaints helmets with airplane-grade paint, and those helmets have been gracing the sky in larger numbers with each passing season. In addition to that, Karen is currently working on getting a few complete demo systems co-sponsored with manufacturers. Of course, it’s not just gear that makes a skydiver — so Aeronautrixx covers the skills bases, too. These days, Karen is a WSLN mobile mentor, dually based at Skydive Sebastian (near her current home) and Skydive California (near her west-coast roots). For the past three years, she’s been using Aeronautrixx as a platform to host female-focused skills camps and boogies on both coasts. In October, there’s the Unicorn Boogie at Skydive California; in April, there’s the Mermaid Boogie at Skydive Sebastian; this February (coming right up!) there’s going to be a gold-lamé-festooned disco party at Z-hills. The boogies’ shared core value? Bring women together -- from all over -- and encourage growth and fun in equal measure. The response so far has been phenomenal. “I try to get an all-female roster of organizers,” Karen adds, “to show the newer jumpers that it’s not only men that are leading the pack. And I always try to bring in non-local organizers to give the ladies the chance to jump with other females in the sport that they might not get a chance to jump with.” The formula is certainly working. At the first Mermaid Boogie, Karen was standing in a packed hangar. Stopping in the middle and looking around, she suddenly realized something amusing. “I looked around and it occurred to me, there were no men. We’re turning the Otter with all chicks.” They turned 22 loads that day. At the end of the day, Karen insists that Aeronautrixx is about inclusion. Men are welcomed at Aeronautrixx events -- even issued cheeky “man cards” -- and the sea of costume onesies now includes a fair number of male humans. That’s not at all surprising, considering the unequivocal language of the Aeronautrixx mission statement: “We believe that women can be just as, if not more, badass as our male counterparts.” Well-put and well-proven, no? ---- To donate to Aeronautrixx (or get involved with an event or two), visit the org’s website or Facebook page: https://aeronautrixx.com/ https://www.facebook.com/pg/aeronautrixx/
  3. “Misty” Kim Kanat Talks About the Team Guess what? There’s been an all-female demo team kicking ass and taking names since the 1980s. Maybe you’re as surprised to learn about them as I was--or maybe you’re squinting at your screen and wondering what rock I’ve been hiding under--but y’know what? I think we can both agree that that’s pretty damn great. The basics are pretty straightforward: The team of 13 women calls Skydive Tecumseh home, jumps hot-pink-and-navy kit and specializes in jumping big honkin’ flags. The details are the cool part: Each one of “the Mistys” can do anything the demo requires, from packing the flags to setting up the smoke--and each is a highly successful professional with a full-time career outside of skydiving. When I visited Skydive Tecumseh to check off Michigan for Down for 50, I jumped at the chance to corner Misty member Kim Kanat and pick her brain about the team. During the week, Kim is a mild-mannered (and high-powered) Facility Manager for a real estate company; but, when the call comes, she slips into her pink-and-navy supersuit and smiles for the adoring crowd. Kim’s been at it for four years now, and she shows no signs of slowing. Annette: Tell me about your person intro to the sport. How’d you became a skydiver in the first place? Kim: It’s a love story, really. My husband and I were on vacation in Hawaii in 2001 and ended up doing a tandem. It was a life-changing moment for both of us. About a year later, for our 10th wedding anniversary, we took the first jump course. The rest is history. We’ve been jumping ever since. Fifteen years later, here we are. A: How’d you get a slot on the Mistys? K: I’ve known the current owner of the Misty Blues, Amanda Scheffler, for my whole skydiving career, and known about the team since I started jumping -- Amanda bought [the team] about five years ago from Cindy Irish. We were at the dropzone one day and she asked me if I would be interested in doing some demo jumps. I said yes. The next thing I knew, I was jumping at an air show in Maine, so close to the Canadian border that our phones were roaming. It took two flights to get to Maine, plus some driving because there isn’t a commercial flight that goes that far up. It was a very, very small show; we just had a 182. I still remember the scariness of that jump. I started on static line; not AFF. So that first demo with the team was a very visceral reminder of being a static line student. I ended up having a minor malfunction with my banner on that jump; luckily, it cleared itself, but it still gives me butterflies to think about it now. Honestly, every time I do a demo, it feels just like that first time, because in skydiving anything can go wrong. You just hope that it doesn’t. There’s extra pressure on a demo with the team because the clients are paying for that jump; paying for you to be there as a performer. Sometimes there are issues with the plane; sometimes it’s too windy, or the weather isn’t great, which puts a damper on our part of the show. When everything is conducive to letting us do what we are there to do and it works, it’s magical. A: You haven’t slowed down in four whole years. What was it about that jump that hooked you? K: Well, the Misty Blues are very crowd-oriented, and that gets me going. It’s so much fun to be a crowd-pleaser with a message. Before and after our jumps, we walk amongst the crowd, pass out stickers and take photos with all these excited kids. We interact a lot. I think that sets us apart a little bit from some of the other demo teams that are out there, and it never fails to inspire me, because we spend a lot of that “crowd time” working the message of empowering women and girls to let them know they can do pretty much anything they set their minds to. We’re all working women, and a few of the Mistys have kids, too, so we’re walking the walk. A: What are your signature moves? K: When we’re booked for a show, we’re almost always the opener. We open up the show with a very large American flag. The jumper with the flag usually carries a microphone and has a little conversation with the MC of the airshow as they’re descending, which is a reliable crowd-pleaser. When we’re jumping in an airshow context, we’ll often have some of the stunt pilots circle us with smoke while we are jumping in with the flag. We have another signature flag with an enormous smiley face. I love that one. A: Do you have a favorite of the jumps you have done so far with the Mistys? K: Just last year we had a local businessman book us for a private party. He’s a construction owner that is local, and he throws this huge annual theme party. He got our name and asked us if we could do a demo into it. The theme that year was “America,” and it had a mechanical bull; volleyball courts; a fireworks show at the end. The setup was unbelievable. It was a tight landing area, but everything worked out. Best of all, we got to attend the party after we landed. The guests just thought it was fantastic--so much so that he asked us to come back and do it again this year. A: Do you feel like you face additional pressure because you’re an all-female team? K: Personally, I would have to say yes. I know there are a lot of other demo teams out there that do more than we do, and some of those guys have more experience than we do, so I do personally feel obligated to put on a better show. I don’t know if that’s necessarily because we are women, but being a woman, I like to be able to nail it. On the other hand, some people want to coddle you more when you’re a female jumper, and I just want to be treated like everybody else. The landscape for women in skydiving is changing, though, and it’s changing fast. A lot of the AFF classes at Skydive Tecumseh have a good number of women in them. Case in point: There are two female Tis at our dropzone. I think that’s awesome. It doesn’t happen everywhere, yet, but I am certain that it will. A: The Misty Blues have been around for more than 30 years. What’s the secret to that longevity? K: Inclusion. Some people have better skill sets at certain things, but we strive to include everyone in a meaningful way. Over the years, we’ve discovered that inclusion can bring shy and hesitant people out of their shell and end up in them becoming an integral part of the team. The owner of our team, Amanda Scheffler, is fantastic. She is willing to show anybody anything, anytime. She does it all. And she’s a great example of inclusion. I don’t know if I would have [joined the team] had they not approached me. I would have never asked. I’ve learned from Amanda that you never know what including someone will open up for them. A lot of times those people in the shadows are the ones who are jumping conservatively, thoughtfully and procedurally and have a tendency to look and observe before they act, which is the kind of person you want on a team. I think having other women to show you the ropes helps, too. We have a couple of guys who help us out as ground crew, but we really do it all. For example: If we’re doing smoke and all that stuff, we try to get in there and make sure all the people are informed and all the girls know how to do it. We can all pack the banners, rigs, and flags. Getting everyone’s hands on all of the skill sets is really what makes our team. Everybody can jump in and fill in for each other. A: What’s your personal skydiving philosophy? K: Feel the fear and do it anyway. That’s what I’ve always said about skydiving. Even to this day, I still get butterflies on a demo. In skydiving and in life, I really live by that--to feel the fear and do it anyway--because you never know what will come out of it. Sometimes it is good. Sometimes it is bad. Always, it is a learning process. “Doing it anyway” can only ever propel you forward. ---- For more info on the Misty Blues, visit the team website at mistyblues.net.
  4. nettenette

    The Secret of Banana Hammock

    A Few Nuggets of Golden Advice from a Winning Self-Funded Skydiving Team It starts like a bad joke: a Californian (Kenny Beach), an Italian (Alessandro “Alex” Struppa) and a Frenchman (Lawrence De Laubadere) walk into a skydiving competition... “Our team name was Banana Hammock,” Kenny grins. “We decided that while we were drunk ice skating.” Yep. Banana Hammock. “Alex made a logo,” he continues. “It’s a banana in a hammock with his hands in the air. His arms are my jumpsuit and his legs are my teammate’s jumpsuit, and the banana is drinking a martini.” The punchline of the joke? Banana Hammock took the 2-way MFS gold at the 2014 Nationals. (*Rimshot*!) It was a damned good result, especially considering where Kenny was at the outset. “When we did our first team jumps,” Kenny remembers, “Alex was already able to fly head down and pick up grips. I would leave on my head and then flop away and fall past. Byyyyyye.” As it turns out, the road from flopping to flying your way to the top of a national podium is paved with very intentionally-executed intentions. Without meticulous planning and open team communication, there’s very little chance you’ll ever make it to the first round. And, for most mere mortals on self-funded teams, you’ll have a very limited number of chances to get it right before the money and/or the wherewithal runs out. The struggle is real. That said: If you’re looking for an example of a skydiving team done right, this is it. Banana Hammock not only walked away with a gold medal but with the teammates’ friendships intact--gold within gold--and Kenny is willing to share the wisdom he gleaned from that epic endeavor. 1. Compete for the right reasons. When Kenny was first looking for teammates, he ran into a lot of friction from people who simply didn’t want to compete without the guarantee of a win. “You have to understand that it isn’t the winning that makes you better,” Kenny observes. “It’s the fact that you are getting in with a like-minded, dedicated group of people and you are doing the same skydives over and over with them. You each learn how the other flies, and then you can focus on the really fine details.” “When you train to compete, as long as you approach it from the mentality I’m not going to win, I’m going to become a better skydiver and I’m going to use this as a tool to buckle down as if I’m trying to win,” he muses, “then you will be giving yourself the opportunity to learn all these particular skills within whatever discipline you’re training, in a really focused environment.” 2. Overstaff. The most deadly contingency for most skydiving teams is that of the suddenly-absent member. Shore up. “If you want to do a 4-way team, find 8 people,” Kenny says. “If you want to do an 8-way team, find 16. People are going to bail on you. I’ve seen teams that have been destroyed a week before Nationals because their outside center flyer decided he couldn’t go to Nationals anymore and the entire team’s training was shot because they didn’t have a backup. Make sure you have more people than you need.” 3. Start talking. Got some people interested? Great. Now it’s open-communication time. “When you get the people, put together the plan for your schedule and the goal of what you want to achieve: to win; to place; to develop; whatever that is. Figure what everyone wants to do and find a general consensus. For example: You might have one person who is, like, I want to win the Worlds this year and somebody else who is, like, I just want to see what a competition is like. Both of those people won’t get what they want. The person who just wants to see what it is like isn’t going to put the energy in to train hard enough to win the Worlds. You are going to have to meet in the middle if it’s going to work. Find people you can work with and who will work together for compatible goals.” At some point along this journey, emotions are bound to escalate. When that happens, be ready. Kenny advocates getting everyone into a quiet room and passing around a talking stick (or a talking altimeter or a talking helmet or a talking rock or whatever ya got). 4. Everybody gets a job. Kenny insists that, once the team is in agreement about the goals, it’s time to give everyone a very specific set of roles to play. “Try to divide up the responsibilities for each member,” he says. “Have one person be responsible for making sure there is coffee in the morning; one person be responsible for making sure the video flyer gets taken care of; one person be responsible for making sure your pack jobs are done. You’ll pool your resources to pay for everything, of course, but have the admin jobs divided up so that everyone is responsible for part of the team so it comes together as a fully functioning unit. You don’t want one person getting stressed because they’re having to do everything. Everyone shares ownership.” 5. Plan down to the minute detail, and do it on paper. “I think the thing that helped us the most was sitting down and getting a calendar and scheduling out every single day we were going to train, with concrete goals lined out. Not just, We want to win Nationals. Instead: We want to win Nationals and have this kind of average point. We put down on the calendar what skills we needed to work on at what time, and we broke it down to be really structured around what we were going for.” That hyper-detailed schedule might sound imprisoning; for Kenny, it was anything but. It gave him the freedom he needed to dedicate himself completely to the task. “If I knew that in the month of February, I would be at Paraclete for the second week and training three full days over the last weekend, then when February comes around, I’d know exactly what my schedule was going to look like to plan ahead for work. The strictness of the schedule ensured that we were getting the number of jumps we needed, the amount of tunnel time we needed and the amount of work we needed, all within our schedules.” Not a spreadsheet nerd? No problem. You’ll get the hang of it. “I literally had no experience of even how to set up a schedule,” he adds. “I went from working at McDonald’s to a full time skydiver, and then I quit my job to pack parachutes.” In fact, Banana Hammock’s training schedule derived from a 4-way-specific structural starting point gifted to Kenny by uber-competitor Dan B.C. The team agreed on a certain number of jumps and a certain number of tunnel hours that they needed to accomplish in the nine intervening months between their training start date and the Nationals competition in October. From there, it was a matter of division--but with a twist. 6. Cluster ‘em up. “You just divide up the jumps by the number of months you have available,” Kenny explains, “but you try to schedule so you are trying to do your month’s jumps in 2-to-4 day time period. You don’t want to do 40 training jumps over the entire month. You want to do 40 training jumps in 3 days and then maintain currency the rest of the month. That way you are honing in and developing those skills rather than just maintaining some vague point of currency. Like: Do I transition on my right or my left shoulder? Do I back up two feet or a foot? When you do 10 jumps in a day, you can dial that in. If not, you are not going to get that level of resolution.” 7. Then plan for the contingencies. “Then we went on to build a plan for all of the things we could think of that could possibly go wrong,” he continues. “When we did our first team jumps, we had already had a contract that we had written up and both signed that said, ‘if this happens, this is what we are going to do.’ That way there was no animosity between us if any of it happened.” Happily--and somewhat predictably--but for a few speed bumps, Banana Hammock ended up cruising cheerfully along its well-oiled tracks to meet its golden goal. While the team decided not to compete again (self-funded, y’know), Kenny reports that everyone involved considered it a happy ending, and he, for one, is glad he took the time to do it right. “The best advice I can give you,” he smiles, “Is don’t give up. Don’t quit. It won’t always seem like it, but it is worth it. If you’ve ever considered competing, you owe it to yourself to try.”
  5. nettenette

    Out of the East (Yin Yu's Story)

    Yin Yu Is In Your Sky, And She’s Bringing China With Her If you don’t know about Yin Yu yet, take note: You will. (You’ll probably meet her as “Daniela,” the name she goes by in the States.) Yin’s rarefied position as one of the only Chinese athletes teaching skydiving to a Chinese student base has put her at the forefront of a growing wave that’s getting ready to engulf the world in new licensees. Her business--AUV Skydiving--has already graduated more than 50 Chinese skydivers, and the waiting list is growing at an exponential rate. “They know the US gives the best skydiving education,” she says, simply, “so they want to come over to the US to learn how to skydive.” In a lot of ways, this story starts when Yin moved to the U.S., 10 years ago. For the first couple of those years, Yin lived in Atlanta. She did her first tandem skydive at The Farm (now Skydive Spaceland Georgia) and started her AFF there. Distracted by a heavy academic schedule, she didn’t finish. When Yin moved to Chicago to earn her Master’s degree (quickly followed by a high-powered internship and job), she found what she still refers to as her home dropzone at Skydive Midwest. “The major reason I wanted to learn to skydive,” Yin explains, “was that I felt under too much pressure from balancing hard work and cultural differences. Being a Chinese person in America is challenging. The conflict of the culture is the hardest part. There is the overall feeling, all the time, on the inside: No one really gets me. I’m just sitting in the corner, wishing someone could talk to me and understand me.” With jumps tucked here and there within a packed schedule, it took Yin three seasons to earn her solo skydiving license. “When I first finished my 25 jumps,” she explains, “I wasn’t able to find someone to teach me how to pack, because everyone was in the sky and I could only come on the weekends. So it took me forever. I had 60 jumps by the time I completed the packing course, so I just applied for a B license. I never had an A license.” “I teach almost ½ of Chinese skydivers to get their A license,” she laughs, “but I never even had an A license.” Yin’s whopping market share is motivated by a whole range of factors. The first of these, of course, is that the cultural differences between east and west loom large for skydiving students even more than most. Learning to skydive is a highly stressful proposition, and navigating its exacting, immediate requirements at the same time as navigating the subtleties of a new culture has proved preventively overwhelming for many would-be students. Yin seeks to change all that. “The US is very straight-talking,” she says. “You just tell people what you want. In China, people always talk in a circle to get to the point. And that’s just one of the differences. Chinese students can only really learn from a Chinese person. So I bring them in and teach them in the way they need--a way they can understand--because it is so stressful to do learn how to skydive. You can’t go over the barrier of the fear and stress and the barrier of the culture. Once Chinese students have a teacher who speaks to them in a language they can understand, both literally and culturally, they get confident and then the connections can happen naturally.” “In China, education is also very different,” she continues. “I went to university here, so I understand very well that the American teaching style is really open. When you bring questions to school, the answers might vary. In China, you sit in the classroom simply learn what the teacher tells you. I try to combine the two methods so my Chinese students are comfortable, but they are better prepared to deal with the differences when they set out on their own.” Yin brings the hard-earned lessons of her own student days to bear in her instruction. It was way back in those days that she initially decided on this path, in fact: When she saw the occasional Chinese skydiving student struggling in a system that wasn’t built to facilitate them. “For example: when you see a student flare too high, you tell students ‘Hold it!’ But if you say that another way--like ‘Don’t let go!’--they might be confused and freeze. Even though it means the same thing, switching words forces the student to process because they have to translate between English and Chinese.” “Before I was an instructor, I saw many things like this happen,” she continues. “I tried to help interpret but, at the end of the day, I decided I should probably be an instructor and stop that from happening in the first place.” She couldn’t help but notice some sticky equipment issues, too. “I am small,” she grins. “I was even smaller when I started 10 years ago. I was 100 pounds with a 260-square-foot canopy. I constantly had bruises all over me.” “I also had an experience with a cutaway that was very informative,” she adds. “I learned that the equipment was not designed with Asian people’s bodies in mine. Asian people are much smaller; their arms are shorter than what we think. We have to cut away a little more forward and harder.” They also have to communicate a little differently, which gets in the way--especially in the vulnerable beginning. Yin notes that Chinese students are really nervous about responding in English. They do speak English, but they are reliably shy. If you’ve ever learned another language, you can empathize: It’s not necessarily that you don’t understand; you get nervous for freeze up. “At a drop zone, a lot of the instructors will question a Chinese student to find out if they can do an action and think that the answer they receive means ‘no,’” she says. “When that student talks with me, It’s clear that they understand exactly how to do the action, but with English instructors--even if the student does speak English--there is this disconnect. American students will pretend to understand. Chinese students simply don’t fake understanding as well.” When she decided to create AUV Skydiving, Yin was no stranger to business ownership. She’s been in business before: a smoothie shop; a magazine; a stage design business. She was raking in a six-digit, salary, but she wasn’t finding joy. She was never able to see her parents in China. Interestingly enough, she already had a solid audience for her marketing when she launched the endeavor. As it turns out, Yin is something of a celebrity. In addition to several other entrepreneurial ventures, she was a songwriter. One of the songs she wrote “got her name out there,” as she wryly notes. Chinese students recognize her as the song’s writer--and, more recently, as the Chinese girl who wingsuited over Everest--so when she opened her doors, there were already faces pressed to the glass. She left her other work a year and a half ago to go full-time with AUV. It’s not just the AFF students, either: In 2013 and 2014 alone, Yin brought over 1,000 Chinese people to the States simply to experience tandem skydiving and the iFly wind tunnel. (She’s also the first Chinese AFFI certified by both China Aero Sports and the USPA, the first Chinese examiner candidate.) Yin’s next project is to solve the problem of where those students can go when her two-week AFF camp complete. In China, as you may or may not know, there’s almost nowhere to jump. There are no commercial dropzones. For now, Yin’s students usually come back to the States to jump; this year, she’s organizing a group skydiving mission all over the U.S. In the meanwhile, she’s starting to lay the groundwork In China for commercial dropzones to operate. In this author’s opinion, this is where it gets really interesting. Slowly by surely, Yin is making inroads, consulting with other Chinese entrepreneurs who are interested in opening dropzones. She’s also working on a education program for US instructors who want to go to China and teach skydiving skills and operating. “There are a bunch of [Chinese aviation owners] coming to talk to me, saying they want to start a dropzone and asking me how,” she says. “I’ve been working for dropzones for 7 years, so I can help them. I am building a team as well, to teach people how to start a dropzone. I’m getting my examiner rating, too.” “Three major things are always on my mind,” she states. “I want to bring very advanced skydiving education to China. I want to bring USPA standards and practices to China. And I want to bring serious skydiving competitions to China. If China gets in, it will take half of the business of the world. When China decides to do something, there is no stopping it.” “In China, everything is possible,” she adds. “It just comes down to the way you present things, and what kind of connections you have.”
  6. Last June a new European head up record was set. 43 skydivers (plus 2 cameramen) in the sky of Empuriabrava broke the previous 21-way record. Fly Warriors, a team of 4 talented freeflyers, was behind that achievement. Three of them, David Nimmo, Luis Adolfo Lopez-Mendez and Gustavo Cabana visited the Belgian sky during the Flanders Boogie. I had the opportunity to interview them and get some insight of how this was done. After thanking them for accepting the interview, this is how the conversation went like. Who are Fly Warriors? Tell me a bit of your history, previous teams, how you've gotten together...Nimmo: Luis and I were both members of Babylon freefly for many many years. Around 2015 this was coming to an end, the end of an era, and being still very keen to push the sport and not to pull back the reins in and slow down, we combined with a 3rd guy -Raph Coudray-. He had just finished competing in VFS in one back to back world championship. It was kind of a natural thing forming something together. And then we added a couple of young guys -Leo and Gyzmo- into the team with similar ideas and did a 4 way dynamic team, which actually won the world championship together. That kind of was the first year. Then Leo and Gyzmo wanted to focus on tunneling. And with Gus, we needed video with obviously steady imaging and high quality. His level in freefly has improved a lot in the last years, he has put a lot of effort on in, and we asked him to join. And that's how we've got on. Real professionals, independent, autonomous, all of us doing our own thing, but we come together to do advanced and worthy stuff. So these jumps (head up European record) is how we do it. Luis: One of the rules to become a Fly Warrior is that you need to be over 40 (laughs). Damian: So if you guys meet somebody young but really great... he simply has to wait. Nimmo: Too immature. At 40 you start to be a man maybe (laughs). Fly Warriors (From left to right: Gustavo Cabana, Raphael Coudray, Luis Adolfo Lopez-Mendez, David Nimmo) with the record holders and the rest of the crew. Photo: Mariana Franceschetto Empuria seems to be Europe's skydiving capital. What is the reason for that, what makes it so special in your opinion?Gustavo Cabana: Empuria has over 30 years of history and during that time they had many events and teams who train there because of the weather and the aircrafts. It is just the best place in Europe to skydive, the weather, the aircrafts... Luis: And the location. Gustavo: And the location! The location is incredible. I think it is the only dropzone in the world that is in the town. It is not in an airfield, in the middle of nowhere, it is really in the side of the town. Every time you go away to jump somewhere else and you come back you can't believe that. As a photographer to have the chance to jump there, to have the sea, the mountains, you know, it is kind of the perfect background. You were the organizing team for the recent European head up record. Congratulations for that fantastic achievement. What drove you to take on that challenge? At which point did you decide "we have to do this"?Luis: Nimmo and myself, when we were in Babylon, we were involved in other European records, head down. Head up started to wake up and become what it is today (with respect to records). So when we went from Babylon to the Fly Warriors Nimmo said to me that we should organize a head up record. And so we decided to start with the first one, two years ago. We did a 21 way. The problem is that the capacity of the planes is limited. It is too expensive to have that many planes and to make it happen. So being in Empuria with 3 planes made it easier to organize and we decided to put the full fleet into work. And then we were thinking in starting a bit smaller, but the two camps we organize in Empuria were really good and big and then the feedback and registration for the record... we had to tell people to stop, there was a waiting list. So we went for go big or go home, and we started with slots and 2 camera flyers, which is the capability of the planes. Nimmo: We basically maxed it out. To go any bigger we would have to find money for other aircraft or another location. Europe or South America don't have 5 Twin Otters or 7 Skyvans in the garage like in Eloy. So, it is harder go to massiver. Shame. How did you organize the try-outs to attract jumpers from all over Europe? How was the process of organizing the try-outs to select who is going to be part of it or not. Was it enough with the camps you had in Empuria, or did you try to have other people that you trust to organize some other camps, somewhere else in Europe?Nimmo: To try and make it work, there is some smooth out. We had different areas within Europe, like the German speaking section, the Scandinavians, the English, the French... and for each area we had a team captain. He was allowed to do some kind of trials to find out people of this area that he would recommend to come to the record. So those 5 guys that were part of that team had their job to do in the jump, and also to bring people to us. It's helped to some degree but the biggest thing we did was some try-out camps last year and 2 camps this year. We had a big interest in people wanted to do head up, and we had the capacity maxed out in those camps. Most people came from there. It worked out well. The dropzone wants to do formation records. That's an offer than other places can't do, that's a premium product that we have, and they are happy to that in the future. So of course in the future if we can we will keep doing this up to 40 ways. Base exiting from Twin Otter. Photo: Gustavo Cabana The level has to be super high once you select jumpers in the try-outs. How do you organize the jump then? How do you decide who goes in which airplane, who is on base, who is gonna sting it...?Luis: We try to find a slot for specific qualities. Maybe you are a heavy person and fly strong, so we put you in the base. The first stingers are people that can fly fast to get there. And then who closes the pod needs to have the ability to grab 2 hands and then give shape to the pod. So we kind of assess the people and give them a slot. We also had Antonio Aria taking care of the bench. He is a very good organizer and part of the world record crew. And in the last world record met with Raph Coudray and David Nimmo in Eloy. So that, combined with our experience, the experience of the world record, and Antonio taking care of the bench helped us to take decisions. When we needed to have a change we would come to Antonio and say "we need a second stinger", and he would say "ok, from the bench, this guy is rock solid. Now. Today". Because sometimes you have the issue that you know people that are good flyers, but maybe they are having a bad week or a bad day. And there is some other people that might not be that strong, in paper, but that day they are on and then get on it. We had issues with some flyers that were really good, but they had to be cut off, which it was a surprise for me, and for sure for him. But then other people did their job and at the end it is not a personal thing, we have a job to be done, and is to get a record. It is a common goal and not a personal goal. Which sometimes people don't understand. At the end, after every record I tell Nimmo I won't never do this again -and then we do another one-. Because you have 45 people that love you, then 15 that understand that they had a very good training with the bench group, and 10 that don't like you Damian: I guess it is also difficult if you have the level to be there but are kicked out because you are not being consistent enough, I guess... you know, it has to hurt your ego as well. Luis: That's the biggest problem in skydiving at the end. Damian: Ego? Luis: Ego. Ego is a bitch. And it can kill you. How did you decide in other factors like altitude (did you take it as high as possible, decided to do something lower...), speed (does the base accelerates or slows down, how much...), shape of the formation, number of people on base, number of people on base during exit.... How do you decide about all those details?Nimmo: Experience. We have done it enough and we trust that gut. The formation is just a standard formation, a round thing with round things attached to it. The base of whatever size and then you connect pods like doing Lego. So there is nothing really to think about. And with Luis' experience and Raph's, we look at people and we decide where they are gonna be. Then you make mistakes and they might not be in their best place so you move them around. But the most important thing for me is that we had a good base. This is the key. If you have planes doing their job, the base doing its job then you just have to take the picture. That's it. If the planes make a mistake, they are too far away, whatever. The timing of the exit. Or the base makes a mistake. Then for sure I guarantee nothing is gonna happen. Luis: But everything starts from the number of people we are gonna use. Nimmo and myself were discussing for a few months already about how much people we are going to have in the base, if it is going to be 6 or 8 or 10. If we have enough people to do that base, to do the pods, what is going to be the shape... Like he says, we kind of go with the feeling. We can do this and we put it on paper. We do on the first attempt what we think is best, and then you realize that this person can be better here or there. So you start moving pieces around so the structure is more solid. Nimmo: We had a struggle with the beat. We did 6 jumps a day, which is a lot to 18000 feet. In the 2 and a half days that took us to do the record we did 16 attempts. Which is a lot of fucking work. So we really pushed it when we had the conditions. We could have problems with the weather... there are so many variables. Gustavo: The thing with a record is that you need more time, no? So why don't you go to 20000 or 25000? The problem when you go past 15000 is that there is less oxygen and people are more prone to have hypoxia. For that we use oxygen onboard, which helps you to keep sharp. But also because the planes need to climb in formation, it takes longer to go up and it is kind of... I think we found over the years that going to 18000 or 19000 maximum is a good compromise between the effort to climb and what you are going to get for the extra time in freefall. Also in the head down and head up world records we went to 18000-19000. The challengers getting together during one of the attempts. Photo: Gustavo Cabana It took 16 jumps to get the formation completed. How was the atmosphere before that? Were you absolutely confident you would make it?Nimmo: I mean, yeah. For sure the last 2 jumps... in the last one too... we were flying very strong. We knew we would get a record. We started to cut. We said 45... now we need to get a result. 44. We didn't get it. 43. Done. The head up world record is a 72 way, done in Skydive Arizona. Do you see that as an attainable number in Europe? Or are we limited because of the size of the dropzones and the number of planes there?Nimmo: It is logistics. You need to get sponsors that say "fuck let's make this happen, here you have 20 grand, two more planes". Hell yeah. But otherwise we have to pay. We, as the flyers. And there is a point where you go "I rather spend that money doing other cool shit". The record is very cool and it goes in the history books. It is an achievement for all the participants. But you are still limited by how much you have to pay for that. So yes, it is possible, but you need some extra sponsors. Gustavo: 3 years ago we did a world record with 106 people (FS sequential). But the thing is that bringing the planes there is super expensive. And if that money has to come from the pocket of the skydivers... it is too much money. It is really expensive to fly a plane to a dropzone. Luis: And it was happening, this 100+ way because Dubai helped financially to make it happen. Gustavo: If not it is impossible. Nimmo: It is possible, but we need someone to support it. But, why not? Shall we look? Maybe we get hungry in a year or two. Luis: That's why we stopped with the head down once. Basically. Nimmo: Logistics. That's about flying at the end of the day. Because if you have to choose between logistics and not flying you go "fuck this, I want to fly". So there is also that trade off in the equation as well. How much you want to work on the ground to make it happen, but all you want to do is flying. Luis: There is a lot of work behind the scenes. Registrations, payments, getting everything done... The good thing about our team is that everyone has a speciallity. And we combined them, and we do whatever we do strong. We are lucky that we have a very experienced camera flyer plus he is really experience with oxygen. So we have that part covered. Nimmo and me don't have to think about it. Nimmo has a lot of experience organizing big ways. And that experience helps you to do the things. Me and Nimmo are taking care of the administration as well. Receiving and sending emails. Nimmo was talking to the captains, I was organizing the payments... Nimmo: Judges, T-shirts.... Bullshits that are just as important. And we all do that without effort. You don't have to grab anyone and tell them "do this" like a child. It is just "Hey, could you do this? -Yeah, sure". And it gets done. So this also makes the team mature enough to realize you have to do something to make it work and to do that without having to be hit with a stick. Luis: And how it works, I don't know. Because we are 4 alpha... Nimmo: Yeah, 4 alpha males, and we don't kill each other, that's rough. Damian: That's already an achievement (laughs). Luis: That's an achievement right there. Nimmo: Because we are more than 40. After 40 you can work together. Luis: But I think that's the key, you know? You have things that bother you about each other, because we are humans. But we are old enough to either talk about it or understand that no one is perfect and you have to deal with humanity. Initial attempt diagram. 44 and 45 were cut off for the final record. One of the mottos of the record was "make head up great again". Why did you came up with it? When did it stop being great?Nimmo: That was because head up was kind of neglected. Head down records started in whatever it was... 21-way in Florida in 2001... when the 1st head up world record was in 2015 or something. That's 14 years neglected. For no reason. Head down has got massive, 164. Head up was nothing. So I was talking with Steve Curtis, a good friend of mine from Eloy. He thought "let's do a 30 way" the first one. They did 52! You couldn't believe it! Because it was just left on the shelf, blow the dust off and it was ready to go. So make head up great, bring it to the level it deserves. It is even more fun to fly, easier visually, it is more of human kind of orientation, it is better, for sure, its fun. Damian: That's funny that you chose the word "neglected" because I had a follow up question that used that word. Do you think it has been neglected in favor of head down? Nimmo: Head down is easier to build. Head up for sure its hard. You have to get in there, be humble and give it a try, and you have to work much harder. But visually it is easier, its more natural. People look like human beings not assholes and feet (laughs). But to be there you have to put a lot of work. Work really hard. But then it is super good. And it is so small! There is the 72-way, so we can get a head up record every year to get it up to 150 or something. I mean, it won't be like that but... What was in your opinion the biggest challenge of the record? What's the part that you've found more difficult? Was it the flying, finding the right people, nothing of it was really a challenge?Nimmo: The whole thing is this one big fucking package. So you just have to do it all. Was this harder than that? It doesn't matter, you have to do it anyway. Luis: The situation with the record is that it doesn't matter if we flew 42 way for 20 seconds and one person is missing. There is no record. Or 43 flew for one minute but the camera didn't work, you know? Or 2 planes were super good and then one plane just lost it and people don't arrive. So at the end everything has to work, like Nimmo says. The pilots need to work together so we have a good drop, then the base has to be solid and then from there you start to construct. The camera needs to be in the right place, take the right shot so the judges can validate it. So, I would say, there is nothing more important than other things, because without the pilots we could not do it, without the base we could not do it, without stingers we could not do it, without the second stingers we could not do it, without the pod closers as well, without the cameras you can not, without the oxygen.... Nimmo: Just before, until Sunday it was fucked up weather. And then hallelujah, we had blue sky. We were blessed with the weather. Again, that's another factor and you can't control it. But it would have been very frustrating that being the fucked up. But it wasn't. Luis: And then everyday you need a lot of work after the jump and before the jump. At nights, Gus can tell you, how much work he has to do to prepare the planes to be ready to go. Gustavo: Yes, because after every couple of jumps we need to exchange the oxygen bottles. Attach them to the plane, the regulators. And sometimes the plane runs out of oxygen, and people are waiting... It is kind of stressing, but at the end of the day you have to do it, and when it works it is very satisfactory. I was on the boarding area with my rig and I had to check and make sure that every airplane had oxygen to go up. Because I've been in many occasions in other records when you go to altitude, and they cancel the jump because one plane run out of oxygen. And we had all to come down. It happened many times. Minimum 4 times in 4 different events. Damian: It has to be frustrating. Gustavo: Specially if you are the responsible for that. Everybody wants to kill you (laughs). 43-way formation completed. Photo: Gustavo Cabana Who do you think is going to organize the record that will break yours? When and by how much? If that happens!Luis: What do you mean? In Europe? Damian: Yes. Luis: We will try to organize all the records in Europe. Nimmo: This is the best you could do. So if somebody wants to do it again... well, show me. In the history of records normally the dropzone or group that organized the previous one they do it again. The Arizona crew do the head up records. Rook Nelson does it with the head down records. Not because nobody else can do it, but because these guys really do it. If Rook said "fuck head down I am not going to do it" for sure someone will pick it up and try to run with it. But then, they don't have the experience. So it also makes sense to go with the guys who have done it once, twice, or five, six times. If somebody else tried to organize it I would never try to do anything against it, you've got to respect it. But the record is coming together, unified. We have to work together or we are going to get nothing. Unified, together, big. Not your own little shit. Question for Gus. The record is 43 people, plus cameramen. Gustavo, you were the wizard behind the lens -with Will Penny as second cameraman-. You were also in other records. How did you live each one of them?Gustavo: I always think that the cameramen are under pressure, but not the same kind of pressure as the participants. Normally in a record we have several cameras, so if one fucks up, the other one can have the shot. But in the formation if one fucks up there is no record. Our pressure is more about trying to be happy with us, with our job. The participants need to do their job to get the record, and I feel like I need to take the best picture I can to be happy with me. Also, I've been involved in records since many years, and what I like about them is that everyone come together, to do something together. It is not like in a competition where people compete against each other, and some are going to be happy and some are going to be losers. And not only jumpers, also people on the ground are helping you, your wife, your girlfriend, your boyfriend, whatever, are there to help you to make it happen. The feeling you have when is done is very unique. The feeling of unity and working together. I shoot almost every discipline in skydiving: Belly, canopy formation, head down and head up. And at the end I think that everyone has his own pace and feelings, but one feeling that for sure is great is that you are taking a picture of the best skydivers at that time in history. And it is a very good feeling to be part of that. It is cool. Everyone there worked hard to be there. It is not like "I want to do a record because I want to be cool". No, you need to work your ass off to be a record holder. European HeadUp Record 43 Way, June 23th 2017, Skydive Empuriabrava, Spain from Gustavo Cabana Assuming each one of these records is special, what made this one special for you?Gustavo: For me the most important record is the next one. It is not like this one is special, and the other one was less special. The record happened and it happened, it is in the past. Now you are looking forward to do something more. I think all of us are looking for that, looking to improve, to do it better, or bigger, or whatever, but looking forward, not backwards. Damian: Do you still see room for improvements, seeing that you are current record holders, that you have so much experience, and you are among the best in the world, do you still see room for improvement for what you do? Gus behind the camera, you guys load organizing... Nimmo: 100% man Luis: 100% Gustavo: If not you quit. Nimmo: We don't know shit. 20000 jumps and we feel like we know nothing. Sure. Luis: I learn everyday, even in these events (boogies). From the people, what I am doing. How did it work? What line I chose? Why I did that? How can I make it better, get it tighter? And that's how we do it, we think how to improve it, make it better, more efficient, we can dive better, we can build better, how can the base fly better, how can we fly better. Everyone for sure is looking at themselves in that video. And you are like "ok, I could have done this better, I shouldn't have gone that far, I need to do it earlier, the transition later". So I think everyone is criticizing themselves. At least me. I am looking at myself. I am looking at the picture, but I am looking at myself to see if I did a good job. How can I do it better next time? Nimmo: When you stop that shit you are getting old, and next step is death. So I am not going to stop that (laughs). You must keep doing this or you die. Luis: Or retire. Nimmo: Or retire. Play golf or some shit. Luis: And then you think about your swing (laughs). So, after this record, what is next? Is there any other challenge in the pipeline? Or are you taking a break? Was it enough for the moment?Nimmo: We never take a break, we are constantly freeflying and along the way we do these things. What is the next thing? I don't know, but there is always something coming up. Luis: I would say that record wise probably Nimmo would like to go to the next head down record. Not me, I don't like head down anymore. But for head up, when they decide to organize another world record I think we are going to put an effort, probably the whole team, to go there and be part of it. Damian: I suppose that being the organizers of the European record it is kind of natural for Fly Warriors to be part of the world record if they organize it somewhere else. Luis: Yes, well, we did a try-out camp for the world record in Empuria. In partnership with Steve Curtis, Sara Curtis and Antonio Aria. We saw how they organize it, and they saw us. And I think we've learned a lot. And they invited us to go there and help them organize. I didn't go, because I had other priorities financially at that moment, but the dropzone supported us. Nimmo and Raph went there and they were part of the organization of the world record. So I think that yes, we are going to be involved as Fly Warriors, even if it is only one or two. Gustavo: Or 4 Nimmo: Gus shot the fucking record. So it was 3 out of 4 of us in the record. I still like head down. Raph has lost a bit of the interest in big stuff. You've done it, you've done it. But there is always another one to do. You can always go a little bigger. Same shit, different day. Make it a bit better. I missed one and wish I've gone. So if they do another one for sure, I'll try to go. If I am not broke I'll go. Gustavo: The plan I think it is 200 for the head down next year. And the following year they are going to do a 100 for head up, for sure. One thing funny about freefly is that they never did a round number. In belly it was 100, 200, 300 and 400 which is the last one. But in freefly they went with 108, one hundred forty something, 164?. I hope this time they will do a fucking 200 and fucking 100. Why they can't be like the normal people? (laughs). Hopefully, let's hope for the best. The last question: Would you like to say something that I haven't asked about?Nimmo: We've been talking for a long time here. It is good that we are finished (laughs). Gustavo: It is the longest interview ever (more laughs).
  7. As one of the most experienced pilots in the world, Jarno McCordia is continually involved with things at the pointy end of wingsuit flight. Following on from providing details about the new wingsuit tunnel in Stockholm, he shares some information about a more personal project that aims to answer a question that continually bothers us as humans: “What happens if we strap rockets to it?” “In a way this project started back in 2005 when I first saw Finnish wingsuit pilot Visa Parviainen experimenting with the first set of small jet engines. I had been involved in helping him with some media stuff around 2010, and at that point it really sparked my interest. It had always been a secret longing, but at that point I really got inspired to try and turn it into a reality.” “Every wingsuit pilot dreams of flying with unlimited range and power - to turn yourself into a true flying machine. Visa took that and turned it into a reality. He worked for years to develop the idea, logging longer and longer flights, aiming for level flight and then the ability to gain altitude.” While Jarno concedes that other high-profile projects that utilise similar technology have helped to draw attention to his plans, it has taken a lot of work to get it up and running. ‘It took quite a few years, and many dozens of sponsor proposals to finally get the project of the ground. At the moment we are midway into construction on the fuel setup and engine mounts, our software engineer is almost done programming the custom onboard computer that will control and monitor the engines, and provide various safety features related to matching thrust and (automated) startup and shut down sequences.” “Engine technology and wingsuit design have both come a long way since Visa's first flights over a decade ago, and it is going to be exciting to see how far we can take it. We have a team of aeronautics designers helping with the engine mounting and fuel setup, and experts in construction making the gear. Visa himself has been involved from the start, providing us with a great deal of knowhow and practical information - as well as showing us his setup and design ideas.” Unlike the various rigid wing systems we have seen over the years, your plans appear to utilise fairly standard wingsuiting gear. What have you had to adapt? This is one of the main goals for the project. I’ve surrounded myself with a lot of experts in various fields and we are trying to design a set of gear that can be added to any normal wingsuit/parachute system. I will be using a bigger canopy due to around ten kilos of added weight I will have on landing, but thanks to recent advancements in ultralight fabrics and canopy design it will fit into my normal rig. So when can we all have one? I am not sure that buying a jump ticket and getting on a plane with a tank of Jet A1 strapped to your back and engines blasting super heated exhaust at 600 mph will ever become standard, but for me this is a dream project and I'm trying to get as many knowledgeable and skilled people as possible involved to help it become reality. An important personal goal is to develop a system that is as safe and easy to use as possible, and I think approaching the design process from the point of view of that anyone should be able to use it is a good place to start from.” How long until we can expect to see you in the sky? “We do have a date we're aiming for in terms of the first flights, but we are keeping that off the record for now. It is crucial to let safety, finalised designs and a thorough testing process dictate when we a ready to go. My biggest wish for the whole project was to make it safe, accessible and of course as awesome as can be.” Project manager & Pilot: Jarno Cordia Made possible by: IGOFX, AMT Jets, Phoenix-Fly Programming & Technical Setup: Martijn Decauter Technical Realisation & Construction management: Jean-Louis Becker / NL Ballon Aerodynamics Design, Tunnel Testing & Support: DNW Aero
  8. karlm

    Hybrid Valkyrie Available Now!

    “Performance Designs has once again raised the bar. The flight characteristics seem even sharper than my standard Valkyrie. The canopy has amazing acceleration with complete confidence in the power of the rears or toggles to change directions or level out if needed. If you are serious about your chosen discipline and serious about canopy choice, for me, there is no better swoop machine to allow you to maximize both freefall and canopy time.” - Brian Vacher You love your Valkyrie. You've been jumping her for the past two years. She gives you the buttery smooth openings, with the responsiveness and power you crave! Now you're wanting more...and we're ready to give it to you! Introducing the Hybrid Valkyrie - everything you love about the Valkyrie but more. We incorporated sail fabric into the Valkyrie's ribs to give her more power, more responsiveness and longer swoops than an all ZP constructed Valkyrie. Think of her as a "Valkyrie on steroids" with more sensitivity in the harness and more stopping power than ever before. Available as an option when purchasing your next custom wing, the sail ribs are a great addition for the seasoned Valkyrie owner. And it gets even better, the Hybrid Valkyrie option is only $100. When choosing between the all ZP and Hybrid Valkyrie, keep in mind that the sail ribs will increase pack volume by about a half size in comparison to the all ZP Valkyrie. The overall lifespan of the canopy is similar to that of an all ZP wing. Photo by: Wolfgang Lienbacher The Hybrid Valkyrie is available to order now, contact your dealer and get your custom Hybrid Valkyrie ordered. Demos and stock canopies will be available in the coming weeks. Flight Characteristics and FAQs available here.
  9. Name: Anthony Landgren Age: 35 First Jump: 1997 Skydives: 20,000 Home Dropzone: Skydance Skydiving, Davis CA Tunnel Hours: 1000+- Sponsors: Liquid Sky Suits, Velocity Sports, Cookie composites & Icarus Nz Cut Aways: 12 Container: Velocity Sports Infinity Canopy: Perta 67, JVX 88 Reserve: Icarus 119,Icarus 1092 AAD: None Wingsuit: Havok,Tony suits Apachi Rebal Helmet: Cookie G3 and Cookie Fuel DZ: You started skydiving quite young, when you were just 16. When you did your first jump, did you ever foresee that your life would end up revolving around skydiving, to a large degree? TJ: I did my first jump at Parachute center in Lodi,Ca. After that first jump I knew that I wanted to skydive for a living. I figured with skydiving there would always be cool new disciplines starting and always be interesting. DZ: Many of the top flyers talk about how they initially struggled in their AFF training and that their skills had to be developed through constant persistence and that it was never something they felt came to them naturally. What was your AFF training experience like? Did you feel as though things came natural to you in the air? TJ: Aff was a little rough for me, I failed level two twice and for a second I thought this was harder then I initially assumed. I took a couple days to rethink what I was doing and whether skydiving was really going to be for me. My Aff jump master Yoni Bango said "Just arch and smile, and don’t forget to pull. YOU GOT THIS" The rest is history. Some things in skydiving came natural and other things took a little more time. I had to keep telling myself to just keep trying you’ll get it! DZ: You're considered an expert in both freeflying and in canopy piloting, which discipline do you find yourself having more fun in and do you see yourself leaning more towards any one discipline in particular? TJ: I love freeflying and canopy piloting a lot! I find myself learning more in freeflying, with all these new tunnels popping up witch makes it easier to fly 7 days a week. I spend most of my time at Ifly SF Bay. On the canopy side I haven't been able to really push my canopy in a long time. The DZ I was jumping at would not allow big turns. I left that DZ about a year ago and started jumping at Skydance in Davis CA. I didn’t realize how much I missed it. Now that I get to swoop all the time I would say I’m having so much fun on my canopy. With all these new canopies coming out from Icarus makes it a really good time to fly fast canopies. DZ: Which competitive teams are you currently a part of? TJ: NorCal Alliance DZ: In your opinion, what makes Norcal Alliance such a strong team, besides having skilled flyers? TJ: What makes us a strong team is the comunication with each other and the pure love for what we are doing. DZ: Outside of skydiving, what other sports are you most interested in and which do you partake in? TJ: Outside of skydiving I like to snowboard, wake board and speed flying. I would say out of those 3 I speed fly the most. DZ: You've got quite a number of achievements under your belt. Which of them stands out as your proudest and why? TJ: The freely world records! It’s awesome to see all your friend from all over the world on one big jump and also all the people I have coached over the years ripping on the big ways. Truly rewording. DZ: Your schedule is usually pretty busy, with something exciting almost always on the calendar. What events are you most looking forward to at the moment? TJ: Extreme Week in Norway! It’s an awesome country, people are friendly and the event is amazing. Seeing all the extreme sports in one place is epic! DZ: Outside of your home dropzone, what is your favourite dropzone to jump at and why? TJ: Wow, that's a hard question to answer. Do you base it on scenery,lots of jumps in a day or if they have a tunnel close by. I love Skydive Arizona for always having a plane flying and a tunnel running. For scenery, Torquay in Australia - the view is amazing and the ocean is so beautiful. First time I saw a kangaroo was there. DZ: In your opinion, which aspect of skydiving safety doesn't receive enough attention? TJ: Canopy piloting, I feel a lot of DZ are stepping away from this. I remember when DZs where building swoop ponds not filling them in. DZ: I believe you have a keen interest in Canopy Wingsuit Flying / XRW, this is a discipline that not many people may be aware of. What does XRW entail and what makes it so interesting to you? TJ: Xrw is when wing suit flying relative to a open canopy. It is so amazing watching a person in free fall while you are under a open canopy and talking to them like your on the ground. Nothing gets me more pumped up then XRW. When you are doing Xrw you normally want to load a canopy at 3.0 or higher. The canopy pilot exits first with the wing suits and 10-20 seconds after the canopy pilot will be about 90 off of jump run by this time. When the wing suit gets close he should be aproching on the canopy pilots head level after the wing suit pilot figure out the speed we can then try to dock. The wing suit pilot flies in and the canopy pilot tack the dock. You fly around for about 2 min break off is at 5,000 ft. DZ: You do canopy testing with companies who are working on new products. Are there any new products in the works that you've seen that you're excited for? TJ: Yes! I love testing new canopies. Icarus is playing with so many new ideas. I can’t wait for there new line of canopies coming out. DZ: Which disciplines do you see dominating the future? Do you think we'll see more cross disciplines where jumpers are merging various existing ones in unique ways? TJ: I believe dynamic flying is going to dominate the future. Its got all the cool things in freefly that keep us pushing the edge, sit flying, head down, carveing and a hole bunch of eagles. DZ: What are you hoping to achieve in the next 5 years of skydiving? Are there any specific accomplishments you're hoping to achieve? TJ: I would love to do another canopy world meet and win and do 2 way VFS, Oh and win a Dynamic comp but will see. DZ: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us TJ, and all the best with your flying! Keep killing it!
  10. admin

    Juan Mayer - Behind The Lens

    Name: Juan Mayer First Jump: 2000 Skydives: 10 000+ Helmet: Handmade Cameras: Nikon (Photos), Sony & Panasonic (Video) Container: neXgen (Aerodyne) Canopy: Pilot 150 Reserve: Smart 150 AAD: Cypres Wingsuit: Havok Carve We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Juan Mayer, one of the most prominent skydive photographers of this decade. From his early skydiving career and his early days in photography to his recently published book. DZ: After completing your skydiving course, how long was it before you decided that you'd want to focus on the photography aspect? Was photography something you had interest in prior to becoming a skydiver? JM: When I started skydiving, the AFF course didn’t exist in Argentina. I started with the static line course using a reserve canopy mounted on the front. My first teacher, Mario “Perro” Rodriguez, was an amazing instructor! I did 4 static line jumps and the feeling was completely overwhelming. A year later, I came back and continued with the same instructor but this time doing tandems. It was like I discovered a completely different world to photograph and after doing only 70 skydives, I started using a video camera on my helmet. At that time the GoPros, or any of those super small cameras, didn’t exist yet, so it wasn’t that easy. I already knew that I wanted to do skydiving photography but the main reason I started taking videos was because after spending all my money on those 70 jumps, I really needed to find a way to continue skydiving. So, at the beginning I started offering my service as a videographer just for half of the price of my jump ticket. DZ: What type of photography did you specialize in prior to skydiving photography, and were there aspects you had learned in those fields that allowed you to bring over into your approach to skydiving photography? JM: I was mostly doing wedding photography. Well, the best thing about doing social photography is that it allows you to practice a lot with your camera, then you really get to learn many things about your equipment. With skydiving photography its harder because in freefall we don’t have a lot of time to play with the setups and different lenses. This is why I always recommend learning from other photographers, especially non-skydiving ones and the most important thing is to practice a lot and make a lot of mistakes. It will give you the skills to really know your camera equipment. DZ: At what point did you notice that your photography could end up becoming a viable career for yourself? JM: That's a really good question, its hard to pinpoint exactly when. The more people asked me for photos, the more it showed me how much they liked them. I then started travelling to countries close to Argentina for different skydiving events. This is when, after almost 15 years in the army, I challenged myself to take a year’s leave without salary, to see if I could pay my bills with skydiving alone. Unfortunately I wasn’t getting the same level of income as I did in the army, but it was enough to get by and it allowed me to continue skydiving. So I quit the army and decided to follow my dreams while making a living out of skydiving photography. But I still remember travelling for the first time outside of Argentina with only 57 jumps. I went to Deland in Florida, and came across the Book of Skydiving Photography by Norman Kent. I remember that moment vividly, loving every single picture I saw and it really confirmed to me what I wanted to do. DZ: How did you go from jumping at Aeroclub Lobos in Argentina, to working for one of the largest and fastest growing dropzones in the world, Skydive Dubai? JM: It was a very long process and it could take me hours to share all the places and moments (good and bad) I went through before I got my contract with Skydive Dubai. Basically, I was following my heart; doing what made me happy, travelling a lot, learning from other videographers and meeting many good people. Just a few anecdotes, I remember sending hundred of emails to every dropzone around the world asking for a job and one day while driving to Lobos in Argentina I got a call from New Zealand telling me that they needed me to work there, but I had to be there in a week. So, even without knowing basic English I sold my car and moved to New Zealand, a place with a totally different language to mine. I lived there for almost a year, which helped me learn English, not fluently, but enough to communicate with others. I also remember going to Brazil to film different events where I met Craig Girard and asking him many times if I could film the AZ Challenge, which was a well known skydiving event at that time. After 3 years of asking I finally got an invitation as a one of the official cameramen, I really couldn’t believe it. DZ: What are some of your most memorable jumps with the camera? JM: I'm lucky, with so many years of skydiving, to have a lot of memorable jumps. But to choose a few of them, I will say, when I was filming one of my sisters doing her first tandem, it was a very special moment! Another memorable jump was documenting an 88 way formation at the AZ Challenge. As I was filming, I watched it being completed and I really couldn’t believe I was there, as a part of that amazing event and capturing it all on camera! And a more recent memorable jump, was in Dubai, when I filmed a skydiver that had an accident 7 years ago which left him in a wheelchair. Seeing his huge smile in freefall after 7 years of waiting for that moment was something incredibly rewarding, really hard to explain with words. I felt super lucky to be there with my cameras filming him in freefall, smiling for more than a minute nonstop! Over the course of more than 15 years of skydiving, I’ve had a lot of memorable jumps, but this is just why I really love photography, because it allows you to capture those seconds, those special moments, forever! DZ: Could you share with us, 3 of your favourite images that you've taken? DZ: Are there any specific disciplines that you prefer to photograph and if so, why is that? JM: I love to photograph any discipline. Sometimes during simple jumps such as with tandems or AFF students I’ve captured images that have made me super happy. But if I had to choose, I would prefer to photograph freestyle. I really think in our sport there is nothing more beautiful that a girl dancing in the sky! DZ: You list Norman Kent as one of your inspirations, and state that it was your goal to take pictures that looked like his. What aspect of Norman Kent's style have you always looked up to most? JM: Definitely, like I mentioned earlier, Norman Kent was, and still is, one of my inspirations and like every novice photographer I tried to emulate others, today I think I have my own style. But what I really like about Norman, is that he is not just focused on capturing a zoomed-in, square picture. He is always trying to show the beauty of the sky and how lucky we are as a skydivers to have such a huge and amazing playground, every single day. DZ: A topic that is hard to avoid with all fields of photography these days is the relation between art and technology. Do you feel that the internet has been a blessing or a curse with regards to being a photographer, and why? JM: Well, when I started skydiving photography we only had film, so we would take a photo, bring it to the store, and then wait a few days until the film was developed. So trying new things and learning different techniques was a long and costly process. We always had to be sure to use the right setup to get a good photo, because we couldn’t try again, especially when filming tandems. Today, with all the digital cameras, we can try as much as we like, which is really good in terms of money and time, but its also true that it makes us more lazy, in terms of preparing the right setups to take a nice photo. Anyways, the relation between art and technology is amazing for us as photographers. Today, within a few seconds, we can share our art and photos freely with million of peoples around the planet, which is a real blessing! DZ: You just recently published a book titled "Ultimate High: Skydiving Behind The Lens", could you tell us a bit about the book and what it contains? JM: Its a hard cover book with 104 pages of skydiving photography. I always wanted to publish a book with my photographs but wasn’t quite sure how to start so I met with designers and people involved with photography books. It was a very long process, choosing the photos, finding the right text, designs, meetings and more meetings, etc, etc, etc. But after 2 long years of hard work, it finally got published. My book contains photos that I took over the years of skydiving in many different places around the world. Most of them being special moments in my life as a skydiver, shared with friends. The book also contains narrative explaining my philosophy as a photographer and skydiver. DZ: The release of your book is no doubt a milestone in your life, what other goals do you have set which you hope to achieve in the future? JM: Yes it’s definitely a milestone! I have many goals, but the most important ones are to continue sharing special moments with friends and taking photos that makes me happy. And to mention a dream, I wish one day I can enjoy the sky with my little daughter doing freestyle! But of course it will depend on her, whether she likes skydiving or not :) DZ: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, we always love sharing your images. Do you have any last words for readers? JM: Thank you guys so much for giving me the opportunity to show a little part of my passion for Photography and Skydiving! Just some last words, NEVER STOP FOLLOWING YOUR DREAMS!
  11. admin

    Niklas Hemlin - Breaking Boundaries

    Image by Ben Nelson Niklas Hemlin of Arizona Airspeed ventured out with a goal in mind and captured his first World Record - but not in belly flying, in the new category, Head Up. Not many long-term and committed belly flyers transition over to freeflying later in their skydiving careers. Especially one that has invested most of their lives into belly flying. It's refreshing to see that the boundaries of belly flying and freeflying are starting to blend. Name: Niklas Hemlin Jumps: 15,500+ (just below 16,000) RW Jumps: 13,000+ Freefly Jumps: 100 ML: How many competitions have you been to? Niklas Hemlin: I have attended 35 national and international recognized competitions. You couple probably double that number if you were to include local and none recognized events. ML: How many medals have you won? Niklas Hemlin: More than 35. ML: Do you have any previous world records, if so, which ones? Niklas Hemlin: I do not have any belly big formation world records J This would be my first big-way world record. I have an un-official world record with Airspeed for the highest 4-way average from when we won the World meet in Dubai 2012 at 27.9 average points. ML: What motivated you as a young jumper and how did you get the idea to tryout to be on Airspeed? Niklas Hemlin: What motivated me as a young jumper was the next jump. I was head-over-heels in love with our sport and the whole nature of it…jumping out of a plane, plunging towards the ground in freefall, pulling your parachute, and safely land to do it all over again. Since then, my love is all the same and more intense than ever. I seem to effortlessly find new ways to keep my passion and intensity for our sport. It has so much to offer me and it is literally limitless. To me, it’s a lifestyle and way of life. ML: What is your new position on Airspeed? Niklas Hemlin: I used to be the inside center and now moved to the point position on Airspeed. Each position on a 4-way team comes with its own style and characteristics. Throughout my 4-way career, I have been floating around all the different slots and found that each offer its own challenges and satisfactions. It is always fun to be put in a situation to learn and refine a new style and to push yourself. To me, it keeps it all fresh and motivating. Performing any slot on a world-class level requires absolute dedication and focus. ML: You're more known in the community to be an RW skydiver, when did you start freeflying? Niklas Hemlin: I seriously started to freefly January 2014. I did do some freeflying back in 1997 here at Skydive Arizona after spending three months in Florida training with my Swedish 4-way team. Since then, I haven’t done any freeflying until I started up in the tunnel this year. I have managed to accumulate about 50 hours in the tunnel YTD and around 100 freefly jumps. I hope to meet my goal of 52 hours of tunnel for this year and 150 jumps. I’m a very goal oriented person and find it hard to keep my competitive spirit at bay. I had a goal of getting to a level in my freeflying that I could go and fly in the tunnel and in the air for fun and hold my own. I remember very vividly seeing people fly in the tunnel and in the air and wanted nothing more than to fly like them, effortlessly float through the air on all angles and on all their body’s flying surfaces. I looked so appealing and fun to me. Airspeed is my heart and soul and takes up a lot of time and dedication. It takes all you time and devotion to become a world champion or a world class flier in any discipline. That being the case, I felt I had to spend the 2014 season to learn freeflying before I transitioned back onto the team as an active member from being an alternate for the 2013 and 2014 seasons. ML: What motivated you to participate in the upright world record? Niklas Hemlin: To put myself in a situation where I HAD to perform. I remember seeing and hearing about the upright record and the headdown big-way scheduled for the fall at Skydive Arizona. I used it as a goal to progress enough to where I could at least participate in the upright warm up weekend. That was enough motivation for me to keep my focus and training. The warm-up weekend went well enough that I was asked to participate in the record attempt. To be honest, I was, and in my opinion still am, not very good on my headup. It is a challenge for me because I really struggle with getting the hang of it and become as comfort and fly as effortlessly as I see others fly. Image by Ben Nelson ML: Can you tell me what kind of struggles you had on the record jumps and how you overcame them? Niklas Hemlin: The most overwhelming part of the headup warm-up and record was my visuals. What is left and right headup is right and left headdown. Wow, flying headdown to the formation from exiting head up and then get there to transition back into headup. Oh boy, that was a mind f*#ker (teaser). To be honest, I did not figure than one out until the second day of the record. The second biggest challenge for me was to keep my mind at bay. I was filled with excitement and anxiety and had to calm myself and focus on my basics. Freeflying is not all instinctive and I have to think about what I’m doing and what I need to do. So, if I don’t keep calm and anticipate my flying, it all goes to shit. ML: How much of the Upright World Record principles were like belly fly big ways? Niklas Hemlin: I would say a good 99.9%. That was a huge advantage for me having so much experience with big-ways. That was the easy part. At least I didn’t have to stress out about that. ML: What would be your advice to other belly flyers about getting into freeflying? Niklas Hemlin: Lower your expectations and embrace the whole process of sucking. Do it for fun and understand it is nothing like belly flying, but at the same time, it is just like belly flying. For me, it was very healthy and humbling to “suck” at something again. It was very refreshing to be a student again and having to learn and unlearn. Being the guy in the room with the least amount of experience and, literally, being a safety hazard was a lot of fun for me. Just something about being in the early stages of something new and falling in love with it and not being able to get it out of your head. Oh yea, and it will improve your belly flying tremendously!
  12. Name: Roberta Mancino First Jump: 2001 Skydives: 7500 + Home Dropzone: Skydive Fano Turbolenza Base Jumps: 230 Tunnel Hours: not sure 100+ Cut Aways: 6 Container: Vector Canopy: 107 spectre Reserve: 106 PD AAD: Cypres Wingsuit: Scorpion Apache Tonysuit wicked Wingsuit Helmet: Tonfly DZ: You've been jumping for 12 years now, in that time which jumps stand out as the most memorable? RM: The jumps for the HTC commercial, IronMan 3, The freefly world records, Lodi sequentials, and those made at the many beautiful locations around the world. DZ: You're no stranger to tunnel flying and despite the media often presenting you as the attractive BASE jumper, you had already won some tunnel competitions by the time you started BASE jumping, correct? Can you give us a bit of your history with regards to tunnel flying and how active you are in the tunnels at the moment? RM:Yes I did. I started in Orlando many years ago when nobody was flying in the tunnel. When I started there were only a few of us able to fly head down and it was difficult to do 3 ways in such small tunnels. Now days I'm very busy with work, training other things. So unfortunately I can't spend much time in the tunnel anymore, if I'm lucky I can get in maybe 2 hours a year. But I really love being outside much more. DZ: With the expansion of tunnel centers, the increased use of tunnels for training, and younger generations being able to learn to fly and even compete. How do you think this is going to change the progression of competitive skydiving? RM: I think people will be much better flyers and in competitions it will be impossible to win against a team that does lots of wind tunnel training. One thing I really like about wingsuit and base jumping is that you don't need as much money for training, compared to if you have to buy hours and hours of wind tunnel time. DZ:What kind of training regime do you put in for a competitive BASE event like the ProBASE World Cup? RM:I was supposed to be training, but since I was so busy filming work related things over the summer, I didn't have the time to train at all. My training was the competition jumps. The last competition, I had a new suit and I was much faster with my scorpion, I realized that I've only done about 15th wingsuit base jump all summer. I hope I am able to train more next year. DZ: What is the most difficult aspect of competitive training? RM: In base jumping it's the risk. I think it's good to do many training jumps, but the risk can also be higher depending on the location. For example if you jump in The Valley, Switzerland the risks will be a lot higher than if you jump in Brento, Italy. In Brento you can do as many jumps as you want, since after the exit it's almost like a skydive. I find it's more difficult mentally than skydiving, especially when you're not feeling great. DZ: As a skydiving coach, what are the biggest challenges you face when coaching? RM: I love teaching girls, guys can be much more stubborn and rigid than the girls. Again, my work now doesn't let me have much time for coaching, but I do like my students. DZ: In the past 10 years you've won a number of competitions and been part of a few world records. Are there any competitions or world records that you currently have your eyes set on? RM: Not really. I don't think I'm a competitive person, I just love to fly and be a part of the events, for fun. I prefer coming up with ideas and filming something beautiful. It would be nice to jump from space or do the longest wingsuit flight, but those records take years and there is so much stuff to fly out there. I also love the ocean, so I'd rather put my energy into other things where there is not a really big sponsor to talk about. DZ: Between being a professional model, a skydiver and a basejumper. Which of these activities consumes most of your time, and which has allowed you to travel the most? RM: Probably base jumping now and all the underwater stuff that I've done for GoPro. I haven't wanted to just model for years now. I like to skydive in new places. DZ: Outside of your home dropzone, what is your favorite dropzone to jump at and why? RM: I love Puerto Escondido and I just went to skydive in Panama. I've been jumping at Perris just this month for work and it was very nice and easy if you like to do many jumps. My favorite drop zone still my home dz in Fano, because is very relaxing, people are nice, the food is amazing and many of my really good friends are there. DZ: In an interview with the USPA a few years ago you mentioned how you preferred group activity over freeflying. Have you seen a shift in the kinds of disciplines you're more interested in partaking in over the years, and where does your heart lie currently with regards to skydiving disciplines? RM: I just skydive for training now and to fly with my friends, I can't skydive every day like before and I think I spent too much time at the DZ so now I just want to go out in a beautiful place and fly over incredible locations that not many people have flown before. I love to freefly with people or wingsuit. I like to do fashion freestyle pictures and videos. DZ: Do you ever find that titles such as World's Sexiest Female Athlete distracts people from recognizing your skills as a flyer, or do you find that the modeling aspect runs parallel to your skydiving and BASE Jumping talents? RM: No, I don't think so. When people see me, it's because I'm flying. For many magazines, everything is amazing to them, even things that don't require much skill - like naked skydives. They don't understand how difficult different types of skydives are. DZ: In your opinion, which aspect of skydiving safety doesn't receive enough attention? I think skydiving is very safe, though it depends on what people do and if they are distracted while in the air. DZ: Which skydivers currently inspire you? RM: Jon Devore, Norman Kent, Joe Jennings, Graig OB, Jeff Habberstad - basically all the skydivers that made a beautiful career and success in our sport with something that is just so fun, and they all such nice humble people. DZ: Describe yourself in 6 words? RM: Funny, sweet, friendly, outgoing, passionate and caring.
  13. MissMelissa

    The Harpers - A Lasting Passion for the Sky

    The culture of skydiving attracts an eclectic group of people and for me, some of those people stand out by character, resume and history. I recently met a couple that fascinated me because of their longevity and passion for the sport. They are Gerry and Debbie Harper and they are the DZO’s of Canada’s, Skydive Vancouver. Gerry and Debbie are still very active skydivers and involved in running their drop zone. Their enthusiasm after all of these years of skydiving was inspiring as many people get burned out, stop jumping because of relationships or just lose their zest for the sport and the people. And not only do they have the enthusiasm, they have grand goals of keeping their drop zone open in Canada even though there are many challenges to face. So I sat down and asked them some questions: First Jump Gerry: Christchurch, New Zealand on May 20th, 1967 Debbie: Lynden, Washington on June 17th, 1974 Total Jumps Gerry: 16,000+ Debbie: 5,600+ What inspired you to make your first skydive? Gerry: Doesn’t every kid want to skydive?! Debbie: It was something that had always intrigued me while I was growing up. In my travels I met a fellow who just started and was so excited, he told me where I could go. What keeps you motivated to stay in skydiving? Gerry: It’s simple. I still love it! One of our instructor’s once said, ‘As long as we keep jumping, we’ll stay young.’ Debbie: I think this is such an exciting time in our sport. I look at what the freefliers are doing and I am in awe! It’s challenging and inspiring. AND, I get to play in the sky with my husband and son everyday. How did you two meet? Debbie: I met Gerald [Gerry] when I went to make my first jump and he was my instructor. The rest is the age-old story! We lived together for several years then married in 1983. What has been your proudest moment in skydiving? Gerry: Representing my country (Canada and New Zealand) at World Meets! We won the Canadian Nationals in 1971 for Style and Accuracy, and I represented New Zealand in 1970, 1972 and 1974. Debbie: My proudest moment is when my dad came out to the DZ for the first time to watch me skydive. He came out only after I had a couple hundred jumps. By then, he knew he wasn’t going to talk me out of it. I was so proud when he watched me! (I landed in the ditch!) He offered to buy me a new jumpsuit. I guess he didn’t like the one I had, or thought it might improve my accuracy! Biggest accomplishment in the sport? Gerry: Winning Gold in the Canadian Nationals! Debbie: Getting the 30 way Color Concepts (organized by Roger Ponce) over downtown Vancouver in 1995. Who was your skydiving mentor? Gerald was mentored by Jimmy Lowe. We both thought very highly of Jim and considered him a friend. When did you open the DZ? We took over Abbotsford in 1977 in western Canada and is called, Skydive Vancouver. What inspired you to take on the challenge of opening a skydiving center? Abbotsford has been a drop zone since the 1950’s. Gerald and his friend, Rod Bishop, Canadian Team Member, were training students in the late 1970’s and grew into taking it over. What’s a cool fact about Skydive Vancouver? The first US/Canadian Nationals were held here in 1961 or 1962. In the past, skydivers always leased property to use for jumping, when this property came up for sale, the jumpers organized to buy the land before a blueberry farmer did. What is your season? And what do you do in the off-season? We consider our season to be March through October, although we often jump in February and December. Having slow time in the winter allows us to work the airplanes and getting gear ready for the next season. In the off-season, we like to take some time off- like going to the Puerto Escondido Boogie over New Years. Nothing hard core, just fun. You had stated that skydiving is fun, but what about being a DZO? It has its moments. We may write a book....if we ever had time! What was it like when your son, Jess first started jumping? Gerry: I never questioned it. He has always been capable. Debbie: Jess was determined to skydive from an early age. We ignored his requests because he was so young. However, he started asking questions to other Instructors. When they told us what was happening we knew we couldn't ignore him much longer. He did a Tandem at 8, Static Line at 16, then AFF. I knew it was inevitable that he would be a skydiver, but I never wanted him to run a DZ and I pushed him to get an education. He got a diploma in Mechanical Engineering, but he has been working at the DZ since he finished school. There was probably never any way of stopping him. Now he is my boss! Advice to new jumpers? Gerry: Don't be afraid to ask questions. Debbie: Slow is fast. Advice to not-so-new jumpers? Gerry: Complacency kills. Stay vigilant. Debbie: Remember why you got into this sport: because it is fun! Future goals? Gerry: We have seen a lot of DZs close for various reasons. We have to operate commercially in Canada, which has overburdened many small operators financially and created a paperwork load that many find overwhelming. Some have lost location due to building etc. We want to keep skydiving alive, available, safe and fun in the Lower Mainland. Debbie: To make more fun jumps and learn from the kids. Anything else you'd like to add? Gerry: I am happy to be jumping my Stiletto 120 and square reserve and not my 28' C9 and my unmodified 24' twill reserve! Debbie: I feel so very fortunate to have met and so many wonderful people in this sport. People I meet when I travel to other DZs and skydivers that come to our DZ; people that have become lifelong friends and people I met just yesterday. Customers who make 1 jump and skydivers I have learned from, some more experienced and some less experienced than me. Everyone adds a piece to the puzzle.
  14. Cookie Composites was founded in 2003 by Jason Cook and Jeremy Hunt, in Australia, with the focus of manufacturing high quality skydiving head gear and accessories in small series. In 2006 the company decided to invest in their industrial design department. Since then new methods of product development and manufacturing were introduced, improving the products and allowing the brand to grow. Today Cookie's products can be found all over the globe. Ricardo Sa Freire is one of the creative minds behind the very successful Cookie FUEL helmet. The talented industrial designer has been working with the guys at Cookie for almost a decade, having designed gear items that can be found in thousands of skydivers' inventory. We caught up with Ricardo to find out exactly what went on in the design and development process of the Cookie FUEL helmet. Dropzone.com: When you were approached by Cookie to do this design, what was the high-level brief? In a nutshell, what did they want in terms of design, cost and market positioning? Ricardo: I've had the opportunity of working with Cookie for the past eight years and together we have developed several products from helmets to accessories. All projects start the same way, we observe things. The market, the users, materials, new trends etc. Once we understand these factors we can begin to design something. In the case of the Fuel we knew it was time for us to design a new open face helmet that could provide all the great features it now does. We then set our minds to design the best open face helmet possible. It should be safe in the air, easy to customize and comfortable without forgetting about the aesthetics. Dropzone.com: Talk us through the basic phases or steps that goes into designing a new helmet, from the initiation of the project to when the first products roll off the line. Ricardo: Whenever you design an object, that will be directly used by a person, there are some steps you need to take. Considering that all your pre-project development is done (research and strategic decisions) you then start the conceptual phase. This is where the ideas and findings you previously came up with are explored. After filtering these ideas it's time to test them through models and prototypes. Once everything is up to our standards we move to pre-production, where we make a final assessment and give the final touches. During the whole process we have constant discussions over the concepts, looks, and solutions. We only move forward once the three of us are satisfied. Dropzone.com: When you set out to design the FUEL, did you start from the proverbial "blank canvas" or did you build on concepts that you've looked at before? Ricardo: The concept behind the Fuel was something that came up after a lot of talk between Jason Cook, Jeremy Hunt and myself. Way before we started designing it we knew all the features and options the helmet would have. When it came to the helmet's shape and looks we were very open about it, all we knew, was that, it had to tie up with the rest of our range specially the G3. We wanted people to put these helmets side by side and see they were related. Dropzone.com: Working with Jason and Jeremy on the project, were there specific areas (build quality, comfort etc) where each individual focused,or was everyone involved with all aspects of the design? Ricardo: All three of us have very different skill- sets and expertise, this allows us to cover a lot of ground during the development. Jason and Jeremy have the business/production engineering side of things really locked in. They know if we will be able to produce what we are developing in a realistic way and will also come up with elegant and intricate solutions like the G3's visor mechanism, the Fuel's cutaway chin-strap and may others. They are also skydivers, something I am not. I have been an industrial designer for more than a decade (designing mostly sports equipment) and I am very comfortable designing new products for the skydiving community. But even after learning so much about it by researching and talking to athletes I still trust their judgment when we are exploring options during development. Dropzone.com: Is there any added pressure when designing a safety device, where a prototype may fail a strength test and require a change in design? Ricardo: Cookie products are not safety devices however we understand the environment in which they will be used. We know how we want something to perform and shoot for that. Most of the times we get a better result than we were expecting but when we don't, we learn from it and come up with a better solution. The Fuel's cutaway chin-strap is a good example. After the concept was turned into a prototype and tested we realized that it held more weight than we expected and took less force to activate. So after testing it many times we realized that that was not ideal and decided to make some adjustments to have it performing exactly how we wanted. Dropzone.com: Where did you look for inspiration when designing the Cookie FUEL? And do you find that you are more influenced by natural or industrial elements? Ricardo: The Fuel's main design influence is its functionality. Of course we wanted a helmet that looked good but the final shape came from the idea of optimizing the features and comfort. So I wouldn't be able to choose only one of the two options. It is a tool with no unnecessary features like a turtle shell but it was though through down to it's minimal details like a high-tech component. Dropzone.com: What are the various trade-offs that you have to keep in mind during the design process? Are there any specific ones you'd call out that was particularly difficult for this design? Ricardo: Trade-offs are part of the design process and sometimes they can turn into improvements. During the development of the Fuel we came across moments were we had to choose between two directions but we normally do it after testing both so it never feels like you are missing something. But this also has a lot to do with the fact that we knew what we wanted to achieve from the beginning. Dropzone.com: Did you arrive at a bunch of concepts from which you guys chose the final candidate or did you pretty much work on a single design and evolve it to where you ended up? Ricardo: We have been working together for so long that we really understand each other and Cookie, as a brand, became what it is today because of this. The earlier projects had a lot of concepts and designs to choose from and that was necessary back then. But nowadays we have really matured in terms of design. We know how a Cookie product looks or should look, so now we focus on making it the best possible. And we will keep doing it. Dropzone.com: What, in your opinion makes the FUEL stand out from other freefly helmet designs available on the market? Ricardo: The Fuel delivers a lot in a low profile package. It's light, comfortable and allows you to customize it in a very fast and simple way. It is a helmet that will evolve according to your needs. You can choose to mount L&B; or Alti-2 altimeters, side mount Sony or Contour cameras and top mount GoPro cameras by choosing between the classic snap or the snag-free Roller-Mount all this combined with a cutaway chinstrap. The only thing missing was a chin-cup. But I am happy to say that we have just finished the development of a completely new chin-cup and cutaway system that will be presented in the next week or so. We are currently building stock before starting to take orders so keep an eye in our Facebook page for more info. Do you own a Cookie FUEL? Let us know what you think of the helmet.
  15. 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.
  16. Eliana’s huge smile is nearly as bright as the sunshine here in Arizona. Although she may be shy, she shares that smile on a daily basis. The warmth of that smile is inviting and uplifting to those around her. Most that have flown with Eliana would say they find her to be a gentle spirit in what is predominately a male sport filled with "A" type personalities. Her easy manner makes her approachable. Oh, and did I mention that smile…? My first experience jumping with Eliana was a real treat. Age: 29 Height and Weight: 5’6 140lbs. Birthplace: Passaic, New Jersey Marital Status: Single Team: Arizona Airspeed Position: Tail Jumps: 4,000+ Neither of us at the time were proficient free fliers, but we managed to pull off a three way. We had a lot of fun doing it and captured the jump with stills and video. I am happy to report that both of our skills have improved over the years, and we can actually be in the same skydive together! Not too long ago, Eliana, Craig Girard, Omar Alhegelan and I all went out and played a game of 'follow the leader.' We all giggled watching Omar and trying to imitate his flying, with us looking like fish out of water as he performed loops, spins and twists with ease. There is much to be said about this woman from New Jersey who had big dreams and made the sacrifices to achieve them. The following is a brief overview of that journey. Eliana was born in Passaic, New Jersey on Oct.1, 1974. Her parents, both from Colombia came to the U.S. in hopes of finding a better life. From the age of two to twelve her father moved the family back and forth from Connecticut to Rhode Island, always in search of a better job. After multiple trips to visit family in Colombia, Eliana’s father decided he wanted to move back to his homeland. The family took one final family trip to Florida to see Disney World, and her parents loved it so much that in 1988 they moved to Kissimmee, Florida rather than Medellin, Colombia. During Eliana’s senior year in high school she was unsure about what career path she wanted to follow so she decided to join the army rather than attending college like most of her friends. She said the army offered her financial aid for school which she really needed, the opportunity to do some traveling and also the opportunity to take airborne training. She asked her recruiter about it and he suggested Eliana request airborne school after basic training. Eliana was stationed at Fort Bragg in 1993 and it appeared as though airborne might finally become a reality. Upon her arrival to her unit she requested airborne school and it was approved. Unfortunately, shortly after she had her physical the army realized that she had less than a year left in the military. Eliana would need to re-enlist in order to be sent to airborne school. Eliana declined the offer, as she wanted to attend college. Eliana still wanted to skydive and so did some of her co-workers. After many attempts to try and get a group of people together she finally decided to go to the drop zone by herself. On October 1, 1995 she did a tandem jump in Raeford, North Carolina. While leaving the drop zone a member of the army parachute team who had been on the same plane ride up to altitude asked her if she enjoyed the jump and if she was going to go through the AFF course. She told him she loved the jump but couldn’t afford the course due to the fact that she was only an E-4 in the military. He told her about the 82nd Freefall Activity which is a military skydiving club. He said they had a static line program which was less expensive than the AFF program and that the jumps were discounted because it was a military club and she was in the army. Eliana told him she was definitely interested and he introduced her to one of the head instructors that happened to be standing just a few feet away. And so it began. On April 24, 1996 was discharged from the military and returned to Kissimmee, Florida where she attended Valencia Community College in Orlando jumping as much as she could afford. She worked in a few different places but finally settled down in a restaurant as a waiter and bartender. Eliana would make the trek to Titusville every weekend even if she could afford to make only one jump. In 1998 a Skyventure wind tunnel was being built in Orlando about 20 minutes from where she lived. A friend of hers from the drop zone suggested that she apply for a job there. Eliana felt that she was too inexperienced, but her friend insisted that she would be great for the job. When she gave the General Manager her resume the next day, she was immediately hired. While working at the tunnel Eliana became friends with the managers’ girlfriend who was also a skydiver. She was starting a 4-way team both for fun and to improve her skills. Eliana mentioned that she thought that would be fun and some day that she too would like to do the same. In December, 1998, Eliana started training with team Illusions, which consisted of Cecilia Ferrer, Cathy Hodge, and Rachel Vivier. Kurt Gaebel was their coach. They made about 50 training jumps together and had attended a few Florida Skydiving League (FSL) meets when Eliana’s mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Eliana quit the team, jumping, work and school and took care of her mother for the next four months until her mother’s death. In September, 1999, Eliana resumed her work at Skyventure and once again the opportunity to get on a team presented itself. She declined due to financial restraints, not having worked for four months. Team Kinetisis was still short one team member as the season started. When asked if she could fill in for the first meet of the season, she did and was hooked again. After the first two training camps some personnel changes needed to be made. Two of her tunnel co-workers joined the team and they became Deland Tunnel Rage (with Thomas Hughes, Glenn Mendez, and Kyle Starck). Deland Tunnel Rage was a very unique team because most of the members had very few jumps, with little to no experience in 4-way. Since most of the team worked at the tunnel and Glenn flew there regularly they all had very good individual flying skills. What they needed was to learn to fly as a team. The team agreed to hire Shannon Pilcher as their coach and they made 100 jumps throughout the year, did some tunnel time as a team, and competed at a few of the FSL meets. In October 2000 they competed at the US Nationals in Perris, California and won the gold medal in the intermediate class with a 15.3 average. A few weeks after Eliana returned from nationals, she received an invitation to jump with another team that was forming. The team was being considered for the US women’s 4-way team and would serve as the trial in that category. Lilac Hayes and Sally Hathaway from Skydive City in Zephryhills, FL and Sally Stewart from Skydive Arizona in Eloy, AZ were looking for a fourth member. Meanwhile, The World Cup of Formation Skydiving was to be held at Skydive Arizona in the U.S. Since there were no women’s teams that competed in the open class at the nationals, this meant that the US lacked representation in the women 4-way division. With only 30 team jumps together in November 2000, these women competed as Synchronicity at the World Cup and won the gold in women’s 4-way with an 11.8 average. Although they had only talked about doing this one competition for fun, they were now eligible to compete at the World Championships in Spain in 2001. The team agreed that if they were going to compete at the World Championships, they would have to train more. A plan was formed and they trained to go to Spain, hiring Joey Jones as their coach, making 300 jumps in a six month period, in addition to spending time in the tunnel. Their efforts paid off as they captured the gold with a 14.7 average. When Eliana returned from Spain a conversation ensued with Alan Metni of Arizona Airspeed. Alan had decided to retire, leaving a slot open on the team. Eliana jumped at the chance to try out. December 2nd Eliana received the call of a lifetime. She earned the slot and became the first and only female member of Airspeed! She started training with Airspeed Zulu that week which consisted of Gary Beyer, Chad Smith, Kirk Verner and Jeremy Peters. The plan was to make 1000 training jumps in 4-way and compete at the U.S. nationals in Chicago in September, 2002. The team experienced many difficulties throughout the year. Gary injured his shoulder while snowboarding, Chad quit the team and Eliana broke her ankle one month before the nationals so she was unable to compete. It was a disappointing set back. Since 2002 was the selection year for the World Championships in 2003, the national champions of 4-way and 8-way would get the U.S. team slots and would have the opportunity to compete at the World Championships representing the United States in Gap, France. Airspeed qualified in 8-way, and Eliana was selected as an alternate. By the end of November her ankle was strong enough to train with the team. In December 2002, 300 skydivers including Eliana attempted a 300-way world record in the skies over Eloy, Arizona. After 12 attempts they accomplished their goal. In January, 2003 the team began training 8-way. The team consisted of John Eagle, Craig Girard, Todd Hawkins, Neal Houston, Mark Kirkby, Steve Nowak, Dennis Rook, Kirk Verner, and Eliana. They made 800 training jumps by the end of August. In September, 2003, after a very exciting competition and a jump off round the team placed second behind the Russians. The team averaged 20.2 after 10 rounds and 20.1 after 11 rounds. Airspeed tied the Russians even on the 11th round, but the rules state that if the teams are still tied after the jump-off round, the gold medal goes to the team who had achieved the highest scoring round of the meet. Airspeed’s highest score was a 24 and the Russians highest score was a 26. In October, 2004 the venue for nationals was Lake Wales, Florida. The team competed in 4-way even though they hadn’t trained 4-way throughout the year. Airspeed Vertical with John, Craig, Neal, Mark and Steve came in 3rd and Airspeed Dragon with Todd, Dennis, Kirk, Jeremy Peters, and Eliana came in 4th. In 8-way competition the team fared better. They took the gold and Eliana became the first women to win a gold medal at the U.S. nationals in 8-way Opens. As 2003 was also a selection year for the 2004 World Championships in Croatia, the 8-way team qualified to represent the United States. Teammates John and Mark decided to retire from the team and were replaced with Andy Honigbaun and Mike Inabinet. The plan for 2004 is 800 to 1000 training jumps before September and to win the 2004 World Championships in Croatia. January, 2004 Craig, Dennis and Eliana traveled to Tok-li, Thailand to participate in the 372-way world record attempts. On January, 6 a 357-way completed and became a new world record thus adding a second world record to her credit. I asked Eliana what was the most difficult aspect of her journey. She offered that financially it has been extremely difficult, but she also offers that if you have a dream you need to find a way to make it happen.
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    Rigging Innovations - CPX Accuracy Rig

    Douglas Spotted Eagle caught up with Bill from Rigging Innovations during the 2013 PIA symposium and chatted a little bit about the new CPX accuracy rig. DSE: We're going to talk a little about one of the new accuracy rigs that Rigging Innovations has just come out with. So we're going to talk a bit with Bill. You are a world champion in style and accuracy and some 4-way and a few other things? Bill: A little 8-way when I was on the Knights and some accuracy. It was a long time ago, but I can still claim it I guess. DSE: A world champion is always a champion. Tell me a little about the new CPX rig? Bill: Yeah, the CPX is a new accuracy rig and unfortunately all the years of accuracy containers, you know they're a lot bigger - we've got bigger canopies. So normally you just sort of accepted that you would have a big, uncomfortable rig on your back. So what Sandy did, what Rigging Innovations did, was design something with the newest technology and the newest bells and whistles on an accuracy rig. I went to the world cup in Dubai a year ago and I said that just because you're jumping accuracy doesn't mean you need to wear an uncomfortable rig. It's hard, I don't know if you've ever gone to a world meeting and gone tent to tent, it's kind of hard. You go in there and you try to show your product, and at first I tried to talk to people - they don't want to listen to me. They're on a break, these accuracy jumpers want to take their naps; they're older like me. So Firefly said to shut my mouth and put the rig on them, so I put the rig on them and they'd call everybody over in the tent and they'd feel it, and it's a comfortable rig. And the things we've got on the rig, the bio-yoke is more effective than on the Curv because the size of the rig. When you put the big rig on it has even more feel than the smaller rig. It takes the rig and distributes the weight with the bio-yoke, so you have that heavier rig more comfortable, and it fits you. If you put it on, usually the bigger rig sloshes around but not this, we've even got people doing style with them because it stays so tight on the body. You've got the bio-yoke, the curve that fits the lower part of your back and then the rest of the things that we have on the newer rigs. There are grips on the handles so you get a good grip, even when wet. We've got non-slip on the stainless, as you know a lot of the rigs now days have a slippage problem. With the way Sandy has designed this, it doesn't slip at all, and accuracy jumpers usually want their rigs tight and not to slip, because everything we do in accuracy is related to your canopy and how it feels. If you get any bit of movement, it'll affect your competition. On the back we have some new things, the pilot chute has a little protector flap. When you're in smaller aeroplanes, you'll often find that it gets bumped around and slides out. All it is, is a small little flap that goes over the pilot chute and holds it in place and keeps it from coming out, so it's always in the same place and ready for you to pull. It's just a little thing, but it makes it awful nice. Next, on the backflap - again sometimes you get caught in a small plane, and I know that one time in the 70s I exited the aeroplane and went into a dive and my main opened, because I had bumped my flap and it had came up. Now this rig's backflap has magnets in so even if you knock it out, it'll go right back. Riggers will also appreciate that a lot of the time plastic breaks, but you can see that there is no plastic in here, which also helps aesthetically, as the rig is then flatter. Then there are some standard features, the tab if you want to have your collapsing pilot chute you can using the magnet. The suspension points for accuracy rigs are a little different to most other disciplines in that we don't want to be suspended back, but rather facing straight down. The designer has been doing these rigs for more than 20 years, so he has all the old technology but has also added the new technology to the CPX. DSE: I'm going to interrupt you for just a second there... One of the things we've noticed during these interviews over the years is that a lot of the audience are brand new skydivers who are trying to do that sponge thing, you know - soak it all up. Explain what accuracy is for the newer people. Bill: Good question. When I did started skydiving you did accuracy which still wasn't as popular as a style event, and then you had the long haired guys who were doing RW, we don't even call it RW anymore! So when we started accuracy, you're trying to land on a target. Now days we land on a tuffet, which was designed from the stuntment and stuntwomen who would need something soft and safe to land on. When I started jumping, the dead center measured 10cm and they measured out to 10 meters, now they measure electronically with the dead center being 2cm which is measured outwards to 16cm. You have shoes that are shaved down to a point so when you come down, you try and put your heel on that dead center and it's then electronically scored. You do 10 rounds of accuracy and then your total after those 10 rounds is how the winner is decided. DSE: And you're basically just doing those as hop and pops don't you? Bill: Yes sir, we get out at 2500 feet, open our parachute immediately and then setup your pattern. Most accuracy events now days are done as a team accuracy event which is usually done with 4 or 5 man teams. You get out at 3600 to 4000 feet and then set your stack out and land as a team, they will then take the score of the team and add them together for your score. DSE: I ask about the altitude because someone said earlier, "How do you get 10 jumps in when you go up to 13 000 feet". DSE: I interrupted you earlier, is there anything else on the rig you wanted to show us? Bill: Bill That's all the details about the new rig really. I guess you could say that we've taken an old uncomfortable rig and made a modern comfortable one instead.
  18. In the early mornings when most people are still sleeping, one will find Nina and the rest of her teammates making the first load at 5:30 am. This occurs only after a good warm-up and stretching session. I asked Nina how it was she started skydiving. She told me that her family has a vacation home next to a drop zone in Switzerland and when she was a little girl she watched the skydivers. This was back in the day when people were still jumping round canopies. For Nina it was never a question if she actually wanted to skydive, it was matter of time and money. Name: Nina Kuebler Swiss National Team Position: Outside Center First jump: 5/14/91 Jump number: 5000+ Nina's skydiving career started after she completed Medical School in 1991 at the age of 29. Nina says that had she started skydiving earlier in her life it may have taken on a different direction, rather than becoming an orthopedic trauma surgeon. Being one of the few females in a profession dominated primarily by males, served to pave the way for Nina to participate in what is primarily a male dominated sport. It takes the same type of dedication, focus, courage and discipline to become one of the top female skydivers in the world, as it did in surgery. In 1999 Nina started her first year of serious 4way training. During that time she had the opportunity to meet and work with Dawn English and Joey Jones (Generation FX, World Cup Champions 4-way 1998) in Titusville. They served as mentors and were a great inspiration to her both in skydiving, and in her personal life. Nina offers the greatest thing she learned from them was that who she is as a person, was not defined by what she did in her academia career. Nina explains that the difference in Dawn and Joey's teachings was that she did not always understand the directions given by Joey. Dawn would explain the same thing in a different way, which enabled her to perform the movement correctly. Nina offers that perhaps it is because women process information differently than men. In comparison the same holds true in her many years of experience as a trainer of young surgeons. As one who skydives on a daily basis, Nina has the chance to see all kinds of skydivers. It has been her experience that women as a group have more difficulty landing their parachute than any other portion of their skydiving. Nina is quick to mention that this holds true for her as well, and she assumes this is because women fly their canopies with more conservativeness than their male counterparts. She states that many seem to accept the fact that women just are "naturally" unable to land properly. What she has noticed, for example, is that women inherently tend to look at the ground upon landing rather than looking to the horizon. Having given people that simple piece of advice has resulted in immediate improvement. Nina's career as a surgeon took a backseat to skydiving after competing at the world meet 1999 in Corowa. At which time Nina and her teammates decided to actively pursue fulltime skydiving. The team has been training for the most part at Skydive Arizona since October 2000. Team Endeavor is basically self-funded and all have sacrificed home, jobs, finances, and relationships with friends to pursue the skydiving dream. The past 2 years have been particularly successful as the team took on 2 young team members with jump numbers totaling 140 and 800 respectively. These 2 young jumpers had no 4-way experience but with 1,800 training jumps, in addition to the exemplary teachings of Dan Brodsky- Chenfeld, the team finished in first place at the SSL meet held at Lake Elsinore with an average of 20.33 in July 2003. Team Endeavor will participate in the Swiss Nationals slated for August 15-17th 2003, and the World Championship in Gap France Sept. 7-14th 2003. The team will return from the World Championships for a bit of rest and relaxation before taking on new students at Skydive Arizona, the tunnel in Perris Valley as well as Skyventure in Orlando. They will continue to train during this time in hopes of securing yet another gold medal for Switzerland. Nina lives in Eloy and enjoys a simple, uncomplicated life in the desert. She is in hopes of continuing to share her knowledge with others by taking a more active role in coaching individuals and teams.
  19. admin

    Omar Alhegelan - Prince Of The Sky

    As the sun rose over the desert I hurried for the hangar, knowing full well that time is always in high demand for a world champion. I am greeted as always with a smile and I watch as it dances in his deep brown eyes. Omar, always the epitome of manners, gives a full on hug with gentle reminder to those around him to not forget to greet others with sincerity. He hands me a resume of which I cannot use, but I glance over it and learn more about the complexity of the man standing before me. I am left amazed for there was much I did not know about him, and the knowledge only served to raise the bar. To say that he is well educated would be an understatement, his experiences as diverse as a man twice his age. He is a man of many layers that can only truly be seen by spending much time in his presence. He is a traveler, an educator, an actor and a businessman. He is soulful, mindful, spiritual and deeply private. He has lived in several countries on different continents and speaks five languages fluently. He speaks others only conversationally and therefore discounts his knowledge of them. He is engaging and happy, that happiness carries over to those around him. As a skydiver, he offers help to all that would ask, and is quick to offer correction when errors are made, especially if it compromises safety. Omar is committed to the continued development of freeflying and thusly available to all for comment. His goal is simple, the perpetuation of the sport of skydiving. In his unassuming way he greets people daily at Skydive Arizona, many having no idea who he is, or of his achievements. He comes across as a "regular Joe" and many are astounded when they learn of his identity. His many accomplishments have never caused him to be arrogant, for it is his belief that anyone can do the same. It requires dedication and the right mindset. He has spent the past 10 years skydiving and tells me frequently: "It's nothing that 10,000 jumps won't fix!" I laugh at his gentle humor. With 10 National and World Gold Medals, 5 skydiving World Titles, 3 BASE World Records, his humility is refreshing. Jumping with the least of us is often times what brings him the most rewards. "How great it is to make someone's day by simply jumping with them?" And he does! When not in training mode one may find Omar painting in his studio, or just hanging around the café to converse with the passers by. His hobbies are many, from water sports to multi media art, and philosophy. He believes in having balance in all things in his life and works toward that end. He believes in giving back to this sport and encourages all to do the same. Whether it is simply by answering a few questions for the people who come to watch, or by rewriting rules, Omar is ready to help. He is a great role model, a gentleman, but moreover a true ambassador to the sport of skydiving. If by chance you happen to meet up with him, ask him to jump because he would like nothing better. Just a word of caution though, he can fly anybody like a "cheap kite" just ask Sangiro. It's on video!
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    Max Cohn - Generation Freefly

    Max Cohn is the chief instructor of Generation Freefly, a human flight school whose home base is The Ranch Parachute Club in Gardiner, New York. Max has over 5500 jumps and has been in the sport for more than 7 years. This year he is running as a write-in candidate for USPA national director. Dropzone.com spoke to him about where he came from and where he's headed. If you don’t mind, can I have your jump numbers, the gear you jump, and your canopy progression? I have over 5500 jumps. I did my first jump in 1995 (tandem). I began AFF in May 1996. I jump a Mirage G4 with a Precision Aerodynamics Mircroraven 135 reserve. I jump an Icarus Safire II 101. My first canopy (after student status) was a Paraflite Robo Z 205 (300 jumps). Then, while I was working at Action Air Parachutes in the summer of 1997, I had the opportunity to jump many sizes of Sabres, Monarchs, Spectres and Triathalons, sizes ranging from 190 to 135. I finally landed a good deal on a Sabre 135, which I used for about 400 jumps. After I lost my Sabre 135 on a baglock, I jumped a Chute Shop ZP 125 for a few hundred jumps. Then I settled into an Icarus Safire 108. I’ve been jumping Safires for 4000 jumps or so. Give me an intro on what Generation Freefly is, and what you’re trying to accomplish. Generation Freefly is a freefly school. We strive to teach students about human flight and safety. For four years, we’ve taught thousands of students at our home campus (The Ranch Parachute Club) and all over the world at various drop zones and events. We are here for the skydiving community and to promote human flight in all forms. What do you like best about working with students? My favorite thing when working with students is seeing them make personal improvement. Freeflying (and skydiving in general) is not easy to learn. It is very rewarding to be able to help people in their learning process. In addition, it is really great to be able to meet so many wonderful people from all over the world. If you could give one piece of advice to a beginning freeflyer, what would it be? Accept that learning to fly will take time. We only get so many seconds per jump and so many jumps per day. Try to learn something from each skydive and build upon it for your next skydive. In light of accidents involving inexperienced freeflyers, would you like to see a licensing system for freefly put in place? We have to stress safety in our sport constantly. That is the most important thing. It’s a good idea to have some sort of license systems, like the current 3-D award. It gives a structure for people to reference from. I am not sure how strict of a license system we need. That will be determined by communication of the skydiving community and the USPA. What would you like to see skydivers doing to improve safety? I would like to see skydivers continue to stress safety every chance possible. Programs such as [USPA] Safety Day are great ideas. In general, I think that if every skydiver takes the attitude to never get complacent, then we will be better off. Also, I think that every skydiver should be able to accept constructive criticism. It is all about safety. If you could change one thing about skydiving, what would it be? In a perfect world, I would change the fatality rate to 0%. What is competition’s place in this sport? Competition is very important. It helps give our sport a focus. It becomes a celebration of what we can achieve in the air. Competition helps us push the limits of what we can accomplish in the sky. Would you like to see any changes in the way competitions are conducted (for example, drug testing, scheduling, etc.)? I think the biggest thing that we need to improve competition is to listen to the competitors. If we always value the opinions of those participating in the events, then the glitches along the way will hopefully be worked out by communication between judges, officials and athletes. How often do you do dedicated belly jumps? When I fly, I utilize all of my body’s surface areas, including my belly. In many of my skydives, both with students and in my personal jumps, I implement belly flying in various ways. I participate in traditional RW jumps here and there. Usually, all of my skydives are not ‘one body position’ type skydives. I like to mix it up as often as possible; belly, back, head down, upright flying, tracking, etc. What do you see yourself doing 10 years from now? My desire is to continue to grow as a skydiver and as a human being. Human flight will always have a place in my life and I plan to always be as active as possible. I also look forward to many new exciting experiences in life. Other than skydiving, what is the most important thing in your life? That’s an easy one, my family. Other than skydiving, what is your greatest accomplishment so far in life? My personal greatest accomplishment in life, other than skydiving, is graduating from Colgate University in 1998. Four years of education (in the blistering cold upstate NY weather) and I made it through with a degree in sociology. My marks were pretty good too. Max is running as a write-in candidate for USPA national director. “I think it is important that younger members of our association show an interest in our government,” he says on his reasons for entering the race. “If we want to keep the USPA strong, we all have to participate in some form of another, to keep in self-governed.” Ballots are due at USPA headquarters by Dec. 31. -- Jessica B.
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    John DeRosalia - Peak Performance

    John DeRosalia recently helped Sebastian XL place fourth at the 2001 World Air Games in Spain. Peak performance in sport is about achieving personal bests in competition, when it really matters. What you do in training is irrelevant, it is how you perform at the Olympics or World Meet which will put your name in history. Often mental toughness can make the difference at this elite level where technical ability is similar. A skydiver himself, John is the only licensed psychotherapist in the sport dedicated to working with peak performance. He also has a successful private practice in New York, where he works with athletes, musicians, writers, and business professionals. Why is there a need for peak performance training? For most people, old and faulty belief systems interfere with our ability to achieve peak performance. These systems damage, limit and narrow our belief in ourselves and our abilities. They rob us of the joy we used to feel about making our dreams come true. They tell us, 'Don't bother trying. You'll never get there anyway. It's just a waste of time.' What's the secret to believing in ourselves? Think of a child at play. Children don't 'try' to learn or succeed. They just learn and succeed. They're not playing at being firemen. They ARE firemen! Adults find it more difficult to dream and think positively and joyfully about our goals. We've lost the courage to dream because, over the years many of us find that our enthusiasm for life somehow vanishes. That's when it's time to fearlessly look inward. We all have a passion for something. Sometimes it just takes a while to uncover or rediscover it. How do we get in touch with that passion? I begin by helping people reconnect to what they love to do and why. Only then are they able to achieve a level of personal excellence. Once they discover a goal they're passionate about, we design a realistic plan to achieve it. Hypnotherapy is one of the tools I use because it puts people in alpha and theta brainwave states; highly receptive levels of consciousness where suggestibility is at its maximum. Working in these states of consciousness enables me to access dynamic and creative centres in the brain that are generally unavailable during a normal waking state. Powerful, positive suggestions can be programmed into the unconscious that greatly stimulate the ability to learn, improve and even perfect technical skills, as well as increase confidence and self-esteem. Why is picturing success important and how is it done? In order to be successful, you need to have a clear picture of what your goal looks like. You also need to be very certain about why you want to accomplish this. To be able to picture success requires learning and practicing some mental skills such as visualization and imagery which can help you experience and benefit from achieving the goal even before it occurs." Ultimately, peak performance isn't just about technical excellence. It's about the purpose behind the whole experience-your deepest motivation. Remember that success comes in many forms. Realising a goal you've set - even if that goal is just to enjoy yourself - is success. What should a skydiver do when negative thoughts interrupt their mindset? Positive images are a good place to begin. If you're having negative thoughts in the plane, you can 'change the channel' by replacing the negative thoughts with positive or neutral ones. Think about anything else; a great skydive, the band you saw last night or an exciting movie. A technique I sometimes use is to pretend I'm a great skydiver (I get a clear picture in my mind of my favourite skydiving hero) and then I ask myself, 'What would he be thinking now? How would he be acting now?' Then I act and think as he would. Pretending you're someone else can produce amazing results because you wind up doing things that you couldn't normally do. You temporarily forget your limitations and then they're not limits any more. Why is mental training important? Mental training helps to ensure that, at least for the duration of that skydive, negative thoughts won't return. If you've practiced, you can learn to get rid of self-doubt the first time it invades your mind. This isn't to say that those thoughts don't warrant your time and energy at a later point. It's important not to ignore your feelings. But for the time being, you need to concentrate on the task at hand. The point is to have a number of mental techniques at your disposal. Carpenters don't walk around with just a hammer in their tool box. When negativity invades, and it does for everyone at some point, you need to be well prepared. What other tools are useful? Try looking at a situation from a different perspective. I have my own way of looking at things. So do you. Most of us believe that ours is the only one. But you can make a mediocre experience into a great one just by thinking about it in a different way. We move towards what we see - and if you see a mediocre skydive, that's probably what you're going to create. That's why you hear smart people say, 'Don't practice mistakes.' It's not a good idea to watch a video over and over, focusing on the errors. If you make a skydive with ten mistakes and one good point, take a quick look at the mistakes, learn what you can from them, but then delete them from your mind and magnify the good point. Fix it in your head. You're not changing the reality. You're just being selective about the reality you're choosing to hold onto. What's the most powerful peak performance tool? My 'miracle tool' is a Personal Vision Statement; a written description of the goal, its time-frame, the steps you'll take to achieve it, and a list of reasons that make it important to you. Writing this out can be time-consuming but it's worth the effort. Most people have thoughts, ideas and dreams of what they'd like to do. But thinking about something is only the first level. Putting your thoughts into words is a second, much more powerful level. A recent study revealed that over 90% of Olympic gold medal winners had their goals down in writing. The third level is taking action in the direction of your goals. The idea is to begin living your dreams and not just thinking about them. Thought, word, and deed are cornerstones in every major philosophy and religion throughout time. The idea in peak performance is to reach for the highest thought. Mental Training for Skydiving and Life Why is this tool so powerful? It forces you to answer the question, 'Why am I here?' That's the hardest question for most of us to answer, which is why it's usually the one we're afraid to ask. What keeps each of us moving toward what we want to achieve is our level of passion. If you desire peak performance in any area, you first have to access the passion behind it - the passion that created the goal to begin with - and then you have to constantly draw on that passion as fuel, especially when the going gets tough. If you want to run a certain time in a marathon or achieve a level of excellence in skydiving - or whatever it is you aspire to - you have to face the fact that there will be days when you don't want to train. But if you hold fast to your highest thought, which ultimately turns out to be your deepest and most compelling motivation, then you can continue through the difficult times. And then anything becomes possible. John was talking to Margaret Winchell Miller (MM28@aol.com) Contact John DeRosalia at skymind@pobox.com for his book, Mental Training for Skydiving and Life, and performance enhancement tapes
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    Chuck Blue - SkymonkeyONE

    At 39 years old, Chuck is pretty long in the tooth as compared to most of his fellow swoop competitors. At 5'7" and 153 pounds he is not a very big guy either; don't let that fool you, Chuck is more than capable of taking care of business. He is a second generation skydiver who grew up on dropzones. A former serious 4 and 8-way competitor, CRW dog, and vidiot, Chuck now spends the majority of his time managing the Raeford Parachute Center School and swooping. Recently retiring after just over 21 years in the military, Chuck has gotten "serious" about skydiving. Nicknames:SkymonkeyONE, fiesta boy. Age:39 Birthplace:Opelika, Alabama USA Marital Status:Divorced. Seriously involved to a sweet girl. Children:Not yet Occupation:Manager of Raeford Parachute Center School, skydiving instructor, professional swooper< Education:three years college, tons of Army crap Hobbies:Riding and hot-rodding my Harley, all water sports, snowboarding Team Name:A team captain in the PST series, sponsored by Performance Designs. Formerly with Team Cobalt (Atair Aerodynamics) Container:Javelins Main Canopies:Performance Designs Velocity (75, 79) Reserve Canopy:Performance Designs 106R AAD:Cypres, except during pond swoop meets Home Dropzone:Raeford Parachute Center, North Carolina; Skydive Opelika, Alabama Year of First Jump:1981 Licenses and Ratings:AFF-I, SL-I, Tandem-I, BirdMan-I, professional "student" rigger and jump pilot (since age 6) Total jumps:3,300 plus a bit RW:2200 CRW:about 400, lots at the bottom of RW jumps. Demo accuracy:400 Tandems:just over 400 Canopy swoops:well over 2000 Total Cutaways:4 in 22 years Most people don't know this about me:I am just as good on water or snow as I am in the sky. Out of all your skydives, is there one particular jump that stands out the most?Man, I can't nail it down to just one. First skysurf in the state of North Carolina (1990)? A military freefall jump at 3:00am where I was blown backwards at over 50 MPH under canopy and almost got fried in high-tension power lines? What do you like least about the sport?The fact that so many dropzones feel the need to charge for services and instruction that used to be part of the first jump course. This makes me sick. What safety item do you think is most important and most often neglected?Most important nowadays? Simple, the audible altimeter. Most neglected? I would say a hook knife. We all need to get back in the habit of jumping them. How did you get interested in skydiving?Hard not to get interested when your dad is a DZO takes you to the DZ ever weekend as a child. Any suggestions for new students?Yes, shop around before you commit to any one school. Once through your training, attach yourself to a group of more experienced jumpers and learn from them. What the hell is a Skymonkey and why are you number one?A skymonkey is a member of the loose-knit band of jumpers that jumps with the Green Beret Parachute Club or at Raeford. I am SkymonkeyONE because I coined the term while teaching classes there. Kip Lohmiller, the former club manager(now also retired), is SkymonkeyTWO as he and I teach together most of the time. Nobody else is numbered. There are now hat-wearing monkeys at a variety of other dropzones that I have visited. Were you a hard child to raise?Absolutely not; I was very well mannered. Now, my sisters were a pain in the ass! What's the toughest thing to do in skydiving?Stay up with the Jones's. Someday I am going to own:My own dropzone. Most embarrassing moment in freefall or at a dropzone:I was skysurfing into a demo back 1991 and my main (a monarch 135) opened so hard I shit myself. I was barely conscious, landed, shucked the board, then walked straight to a porta-potty where I promptly cleaned up and disposed of my undies. Nice, huh? What's the most bad-ass thing you can do in the air?I don't know; 18 points in time? Swoop my canopy the length of the dropzone? Tandem a guy 6'8" and 275 pounds? What kind of student were you?A very quick study. What's the dumbest thing you have ever done?Very nearly blew myself up by attempting to cut the "unleaded gas only" restrictor out of my truck's gas filler neck with a TORCH! Unbelievable. I have no idea what I was thinking. What is your most significant life achievement?Earning the green beret. While in freefall, what was your strangest thought?"Why can't I see out of my goggles and why can't I move my left arm?" This after regaining consciousness after being knocked out by a flailing jumper trying to swoop a 12-way I was videoing. I woke up at 8 grand, covered in blood, and with my lip busted wide open with a buddy right in front of me ready to pull me out. Nobody I knew jumped an AAD back then so I could have very easily died. Please explain you passion for canopy swooping?I have always pushed the limit with parachutes. I had a new Excallibur the month after it's introduction, then "the next best thing" every time something faster came out. I don't get any greater satisfaction than when I make a nice, carving turn over the top and rip it across the pond or through the course. Swooping competitions are the one thing that erases the line in the sand separating RW and freefly folks on most dropzones. In my opinion, that is the best, most diverse crowd of people I have ever jumped with, bar none. What's skydiving like with a 65 square foot canopy over your head?Things happen very fast and you really have to pay attention to who is below you in the sky. What advice would you give to someone with 300 jumps trying to break into canopy swooping?Ask questions of the accomplished people on your dropzone, attend competitions and seminars when possible, do not ignore people like myself, J.C. Colclasure or Andy Farrington when we are trying to school you. Lastly, do not downsize too rapidly just for the sake of vanity. Explain Chuck Blue in five words or less:Skymonkeys in flight, afternoon delight! Submitted by Carlos Azul (Chuck's alter ego)
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    Carl Nespoli - The Unknown Stuntman

    Carl Nespoli may not be a name that you associate with skydiving stunts (yet), but he has participated in some of the best known skydiving and aerial stunts ever performed. Carl is often the unknown skydiver in front of the camera or in control of the team that's working in the background to ensure the safety of the likes of Troy Hartman and others. Dropzone.com spoke to Carl after he recently participated in a plane-to-plane jump organized by his friend and mentor, Joe Jennings. Keep your ear to the ground, Dropzone.com believes we'll be hearing a lot more from Carl in the future. Age: 37 Jumps: 1,000 First Jump: 1986 Rig: Javelin J5 Canopy: Spectre 170 Cypress: Yes Residence: California Born: Brooklyn, NY USPA License: D Home DZ: Perris Favorite Discipline: Sky Surfing Reserve Rides:7 Married/Girlfriend: Single Web Site: http://www.aerialstuntman.com Dropzone.com: So Carl, I never realized all the stuff you've been in until I looked over your homepage. What did you do with Charlies Angels?? Carl: I was the aerial stunt crew assistant to Joe Jennings. I assisted in Joe's camera work, assisted riggers, and ground control. Dropzone.com: Dropzone.com was one of the first to report on this plane-to-plane jump you did with Joe Jennings. Tell us about that stunt and what you had to do with it. Carl: I was in the porter which was acting as the recovery for the target aircraft with the jumpers. We had come up with an automatic drogue deployment system which wasn't always guaranteed to work. So I had to be the official drogue man and take it out and make sure it didn't catch on any of the catch points. Prior to exiting I had to turn on 5 pov clamshells to capture the divers coming into the aircraft. I had to take it out backwards hold on to it's bag and make sure the static line was fully out before letting go of the bag. I had remarkable video of both the skydivers and the bag deployment. Dropzone.com: So the plane was going straight down when you exited? Carl: No actually the plane was flying correctly when I exit then he would cut the engine and feather the prop. Dropzone.com: Did they have a cut away system? Carl: Yes, at about 4,500 feet the pilot would use a 3 ring cutaway process similar to that of a cutaway system on a rig. Then start the engine and land safely. Dropzone.com: I noticed you helped with Senseless Acts, we are also interviewing Troy Hartman - do you have anything to say about Troy after working with him? Carl: Absolutely, troy was the first person that put me out on my skyboard. To get the opportunity to work with him was pretty incredible. Rob Harris was obviously the main person who first inspired me but troy was the one that got me on my first skyboard. So to work with him was definitely a privilege and an honor. My duty on Senseless Acts was to oversee Troy's safety. Troy had to look good memorize lines, carry up different povs, battery packs, etc.. I made sure his board bindings were on tight, and things were safe. During the different stunts he was doing I would just simply isolate him 5 minutes before going up and just go over a couple of safety measures and bail out options. On the burning canopy stunt Troy had to go up with 2 povs a burn suit a motorcycle helmet, knives, a flare gun holster, so many things. There were actually a few things I had to veto. There was a 3rd POV that was optioned and I had to relocate his cutaway handle to actually stick it out more because of visibility concerns due to the helmet he had on. They also wanted to put a flare gun on his wrist which I had to veto as well. Dropzone.com: How's work going? You working on anything new right now? Carl: I am bidding on a job, waiting for an answer. There is a Leno spot coming up at the end of the month where they will be jumping into NBC Studios. There will be ground to air communication, Jay will have communications to Troy Hartman - he will be playing like a human video game. This was originally set for November but due to presidential elections and Olympics the communication systems weren't available. I don't know if it is finalized yet, but that is the last I heard. Dropzone.com:We've been having an ongoing discussion on dropzone.com about having to avoid certain living things when coming in for landings. Have you ever had a problem with animals during any of your parachute jumps? Carl: I've had obstacles but they weren't living. Shrubbery and such. That's why I jump a Spectre, it's more of a technical canopy. Dropzone.com: Do you have any skydiving role models or inspiration? Carl: Rob Harris, Patrick, and Joe Jennings, definitely. I had about 6 jumps and saw the video. My first jump was in 86 but started back in 94 it was towards the beginning of the new year and gave it up for a few months, then started just before November and after that Rob passed away and I saw Joe's work. I was instantly inspired and started to pursue Joe. 2 years later he finally gave me the opportunity to meet him. My first project with him was IMAX where I was jumping with Joe Jennings. Dropzone.com: What is the worst injury you have had from skydiving? Carl: I had double canopy out, had my main entangled in my reserve and landed backwards in a fetal position. I actually walked away and got back on the aircraft - that was jump 26. I was in a high spin had a slider hang-up, grabbed both handles, pulled my reserve, it was pilot inexperience and pilot error. Dropzone.com: What do you like least about the sport? Carl: The fact that it is perceived as a dangerous sport. That people don't really know much about the sport. Dropzone.com: What is the coolest non skydiving thing you've done? Carl: I hate to be corny, but became an uncle to my nieces and nephews. Dropzone.com: How do you go about getting selected for movies? Do you advertise yourself, have an agent, or what? Carl: All of the above. I advertise, I'm with an agency, and I go on auditions very similar to what actors go on. Dropzone.com: ESPN Recently axed skysurfing from their X-Games because sponsors didn't feel like it had an "automatic consumer base" what do you think about that? Carl: I am very very curious to see once the public gets wind of this how their reaction is going to be. Dropzone.com: What do you think can be done in the skydiving community to make it a more accepted sport? Carl: Show more of the accomplishments in skydiving and less of the accidents, glorifying the negative part of the sport. It is human curiosity to want to see the accidents at the auto race and see athletes get injured but I think that is the media that just capitalizes too much on how dangerous skydiving can be. I attribute the confidence I have from skydiving to help me conquer other things in life. Dropzone.com: If you could take anyone in the world skydiving with you, who would it be and why? Carl: I'd like to take my mother, I'd like to show her and have her experience what I experience and have her worry less for me and actually be more happy and see what I am crazy over. She has a hard time with the sport. Dropzone.com: If you could wave a magic wand and change something about the sport of skydiving what would it be? Carl: The egos that skydivers of one discipline have towards skydivers of another discipline. For instance how the freeflyers treat the people doing RW and such. Dropzone.com: Finally, what is something not many people know about you? Carl: I have never forgotten the people that had inspired me, Rob & Patrick specifically because they are no longer with us. Any so called fame I achieve or recognition, I put it in perspective; those are they guys that are responsible for any type of recognition that I receive.
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    Troy's Senseless Acts and Others

    "They thought she had just paralyzed me, it was very frightening " Hartman is best known for his appearances on MTV's Senseless Acts and numerous television commercials. In this candid interview he talks about his broken neck, Senseless Acts, and various other skydiving (and non skydiving) related issues. So who was she and was she worth almost getting paralyzed? Read on to find out.... Age: 29 Current Number of Jumps: 4500+ Year of First Jump: 1992 Rig: Javelin NJ w/PD113 reserve Main Canopy: Velocity 96 Cypress: yes Current Residence: Sherman Oaks, CA Highest USPA License: D Home DZ: Perris Favorite Discipline in Skydiving: Base Jumping Number of Reserve Rides: 4 Web Site: http://www.troyhartman.com/ Dropzone.com: Troy, you recently had a pretty bad accident while doing a stunt - you ended up breaking your neck while performing it. When did all of this take place? Troy: April 29, 2000 Dropzone.com: How are you doing now? Troy: I'm fully recovered actually. Dropzone.com: How long were you out of skydiving due to this accident? Troy: 3 months Dropzone.com: That's it? Troy: Yeah, the doctor wasn't happy he wanted me to be out for 6 months but I was doing stunts again within 3 months. Dropzone.com: When can we expect some new episodes of senseless acts? Troy: Well, MTV is claiming they are going to pick us up for fall but I'm not sure yet. Dropzone.com: Well then, what kind of exciting things are you working on now? Troy: Just trying to sell the show concept to other networks, channels - trying to continue my field of expertise in another format. I'm not sure what that format will be. Dropzone.com: So MTV is history? Troy: Yeah, they have pulled the plug due to money Dropzone.com: You are in May's edition of Playboy with E!'s Wild On host Brooke Burke - what's that like? Troy: It was cool, great exposure - much bigger article than I expected. In my opinion it was really well done. I feel the writer portrayed me in the correct light, so I was satisfied with it. Dropzone.com: You know Brooke did a tandem for a Wild On episode, did you have anything to do with that? Troy: Yeah I heard about that, I think I saw it but no I didn't have anything to do with it. Dropzone.com: So you haven't met her eh? Troy: Nope. Dropzone.com: I heard about this plane vs cow incident that cost you your Air Force career. What kind of plane did you crash? (In Playboy's May interview) Troy: A T-41. A modified cessana. I was out screwing around with a buddy of mine. We could go check out the planes whenever we wanted and I got a little carried away with buzzing things. Dropzone.com: Speaking of hitting cows, have you ever had a problem with animals while landing under a canopy? Troy: Huummmm.. not really. Well, indirectly, I landed in Colorado one time, and they had these electric fences for the cows which I didn't know were electric, I tried climbing one of them. Well I'll just say I learned a lesson from that. Dropzone.com: Ouch! That must have been a shocking experience. Your girlfriend is a jumper, has she shown any interest in doing stunt work? Troy: Yeah she has, her take on it is that she would do it if there was a reason to do it. If there was a format she was able to learn. Dropzone.com: How would you feel about her getting into it? Troy: I know that she is very concerned about her safety & conservative, she never gets over her head. I've never seen her say she wants to try something that was completely beyond her ability. I wouldn't even worry about it. I'd be like go for it, do your thing. She'd be more conservative than I would. Dropzone.com: It must be every skydiver's dream to have their jumps & gear paid for, but also get to appear on national TV on a regular basis. How has all this fame affected you? Troy: Well, it's um. I don't know - it hasn't too much. The biggest thing that has affected me, for a while there I'd show up at the DZ and my main concern was having jumpers look at me and say "this is the guy that is going to make our sport look bad" my main concern was that other skydivers would say "oh yeah he did that stunt that he shouldn't have" I would show up at the DZ feeling like I should hide for fear of people coming up to me and telling me that I shouldn't have done a particular stunt. I'm finding out now that just about every skydiver that watched the show liked it & respected it. When you become a public figure, people want to see you a certain way. I'm just starting to realize most things people have to say are positive. I've found out that I'm still accepted with people in the sport. Dropzone.com: So do people notice you on the streets? Troy: Yeah I don't get that very much. I get that from younger kids, the real demographic. I'm certainly not a public figure head. Most people don't even know my name. They say "oh, you're that guy!" Dropzone.com: Have you heard from any skydiver wuffos? Or stories of people you inspired? Troy: I get a lot of those actually, I get a lot of emails from people who say I started skydiving because of you. For the sport it's a good thing. The jumpers under 100 jumps have no problem coming up to me and asking me about things. Experienced jumpers can do most of the stuff I can do on the show anyway, but they aren't going to go "woah" because they know how that stuff works. Dropzone.com: What is the wildest thing one of your fans has done? Troy: I would say pretty much most of the time its people emailing saying "wow that is awesome, I want to do that." I tell you what, one time I was signing some autographs in Redondo beach for the IMAX film I did- I was in my neck brace, clearly had a broken neck - this one girl tackled me - just took me out, it scared everybody. They thought she had just paralyzed me, it was very frightening ... I was like "oh my god" you just don't know - you can't predict what someone will do.I felt helpless, there was nothing I could have done. She was just like "I love you" she looked like she was like 17. I have no idea what she did it for. Dropzone.com: That's nuts! Looking back on the stunts you've done aside from the broken neck fiasco, is there any one that you thought "I shouldn't have done that" ? Troy: Yeah. The only one, believe it or not, I would do any of them again - even landing on the train, the one I wouldn't do again was when I landed on the roof of sahara hotel in Las Vegas. It wasn't really considered a stunt, it was just something to open up the show with - it wasn't even something we pumped up. This was a very tight landing area, smaller than the pro rating. There were many obstacles, air condition ducts, etc... I have people from basic research check out the place to see if it is safe or not so I hadn't even seen the area up close very far in advance. The only hotel that would have let us was sahara, and out of all of them it was the worst one. When I came in to land, the wind shifted and the head wind turned into a tail wind. I was under a big canopy, but it could have been much bigger. I sprained my ankle - that was the worst of it but it could have been so much worse. Dropzone.com: Why don't you check your own places out instead of having others do it for you? Troy: A lot of times it is a time issue, I'm working on one stunt and I have a scout team out preparing for another one. They don't' want to waste my time. Once they do get clearance, then I do get to take a look at it but that is after they've made a decision on it. I can back out up to the last minute but I've felt that if all the conditions are right, and if the ground crew says it is safe if you do this then I would do it. I'm actually not a super confident skydiver - I have less confidence in my abilities than what my abilities probably are, most of the stunts I did I would probably do again because I do know now that I can do them - but sometimes I need these guys to have an outside look to tell me I can do this. I sorta have to rely on them to give me that extra confidence. I feel that at this point in the game I feel like I need to make some of these decisions. I don't think the show would have been quite as good if I had been the one making all these decisions, because I would have turned down most of these stunts. Dropzone.com: How do you come up with an idea for a stunt? Does MTV suggest it or what? Troy: Yeah, 90% of the time MTV the producers.. they're sharp, they know what can and can't be done. They do a lot of research, they will approach me with an idea. If it is even remotely possible, I will just say "yes, that can be done - now lets talk to the right person" Dropzone.com: How long does it take from when they come up to when you do it? Troy:Sometimes it's 2 months, the parachute that we lit on fire was actually planned the day before. Dropzone.com: On that jump, did you have two reserves or what? Troy: On that jump : Yeah, that was my second reserve. It was a typical 3 canopy rig. Dropzone.com: Has there been any stunt that you wouldn't do? Troy: Yeah, it's funny because the only one that I clearly said no was they wanted me to ride a bull. I know there are plenty of people that would say there were things that were way worse than riding a bull. I don't know, the control variables are so limited when riding a bull. With skydiving most of the things that go wrong are under my control, but with riding a bull it's not like that. Dropzone.com: So what do you think about riding horses? Troy: I don't have a problem with that. I've ridden them since I was a kid. Dropzone.com: Even though they have a mind of their own as well? Troy: Well, You're not strapping their balls up.. you don't know how they will react in that type of environment. Dropzone.com: True.... Dropzone.com: With all the snafus going on with skydivers and health insurance, do you know if MTV will stand by you if something goes wrong with a stunt? Troy: Well they took care of me for my neck injury, but it was the bare minimum - they paid me workman's comp, it's just a standard procedure. They took care of my hospital bills. You would pretty much expect that in any situation. If I lost my arm or became paralyzed I don't know how far they would stand behind me. I think when you get involved with production companies I'm sure it says somewhere in the fine print it says they aren't responsible for anything. I'm sure it could get very ugly. I had plenty of people tell me I should sue MTV because it was their negligence. I just said forget it, I'm fine - I don't want to make a stink about it. Dropzone.com: Has there ever been a day where you didn't want to get up and "go to work"? Troy: Oh yeah, sure... I was good with doing a couple of days of stunts a week, I never minded going to the office or going on scouts. I love my job as long as it didn't overload me with 3 stunts in one week. When I had to do 3 stunts in one week I just didn't want to wake up for the 1st day because I knew I had 3 full days ahead of me. The 1st day was always the worst. It seemed like such a long tunnel to make it to the end of the week. There were only a few weeks like that, Vegas, Tahoe, and the Grand Canyon - I did 4 stunts out there. It was a long week, a very long week. If I can focus on 1 thing very well and even smile on cue I do good, I've learned to relax - the one thing I had a hard time doing was thinking about 3 stunts and not getting overloaded. I did 45 stunts last year, I don't know many stunt guys do 45 different stunts. If they do - they are doing a lot of the same thing over and over again. I'll just say I was on heavy sleeping pills the last 6 months before the show was over because I was so concerned. Dropzone.com: Do you have any skydiving role models or inspiration? Troy: Patrick. I started to see his weaknesses as I got to know him. I found a few of his weaknesses in skysurfing. It made me think "oh this guy is human, he isn't immortal" He was like a god to me. He was one of the most talented out there. The thing I most respect about him was no matter how much he jumped he never got burned out. He would always do a sunset jump, he would jump with whoever it didn't matter. He would just keep on going, I couldn't believe his persistence. I think he took some dumb shortcuts that caught up to him, and I try and learn from those because I get lazy too. Dropzone.com: What is the worst injury you have had from skydiving? Troy: Knock on wood, I haven't had anything bad. Just sprained my ankle early on when I was skysurfing. I had a binding come loose so the entire torque of the board was on my one ankle. Dropzone.com: What do you like least about the sport? Troy: Sitting in the airplane. Dropzone.com: So packing doesn't bother you? Troy: Packing I don't mind, because I have space - for me it's like mowing the lawn, it's a thoughtless thing - it gives me time to think, most of the time it is on fresh cut grass, I'm outside. But I can't stand getting on an airplane with turbine fuel blowing at me being all cramped up with everyone, that's why I turned to base jumping. Dropzone.com: What is the coolest non skydiving thing you've done? Troy: Humm.. gosh I'm trying to think. I absolutely love snowboarding, nothing has given me the incredible feeling of back country sking and snowboarding really does something for me. Dropzone.com: Speaking of skiing, I read somewhere that it was because of your skiing friends that you got into doing stunts. Do you keep in touch with those same friends ? Troy: Oh yeah, I see them every winter. I go up to the mountain and hook up with each other and put in a day of skiing. They still live in mammoth which is where I'm from. Dropzone.com: Do they skydive any? Troy: I had one friend that got into it did about 60 jumps and then quit doing it. I got my sister into it as well but she got out of it. Dropzone.com: How do you go about getting selected for commercials? Do you advertise yourself, have an agent, or what? Troy: In this business you almost don't even need an agent with the skydiving stuff. It's good to have an agent to negotiate a deal and not get ripped off, if you don't have an agent they will make you feel like you are getting a lot of money - skydivers with your talent you're worth a lot more than what an ad agency would pay you. They do casting calls where they call the DZ and get people to come out to the casting call. I've seen it a lot of times where people were at the DZ when they called, they went down by the truck load and 2 or so got picked. Then again a lot of the production companies find the aerial cameraman and then they have the camera man send them a group of people to select from. In my opinion that is the best way. Joe Jennings and I do a lot of work together, he suggests me right away, but I do feel that also limits other people.. so I see that as a negative as well. Dropzone.com: ESPN Recently axed skysurfing from their X-Games because sponsors didn't feel like it had an "automatic consumer base" what do you think about that? Troy: I saw it coming. I really did, I was in the sport from the beginning. It was so strong in the 1st year and 2nd year, but the 1st year was so exciting - it never grew after that. The way they produced it and aired it and the moves, yes it grew in skydiving but failed to grow outside. Vic and I struggled our assess off to get a sponsor. We wrote to every company - sports drinks, sunglasses, everyone that might could benefit from having a skysurfing team.. we hammered them for years - we'd keep going back, they kept saying no though. I said you know what, if they don't want it - the sport is going no where. You had the 14 year old rollerbladers making millions then you had us - we were at the top of our sport, a much more difficult sport - we were spending more money to get into it and we were having to spend our own money to compete. Dropzone.com: What do you think can be done in the skydiving community to make it a more accepted sport? Troy: Um... I think skydiving needs to be more accessible, I don't know how that can be done - I think that is a too good to be true kinda statement. It would be great if DZs were in the center of cities, it would be great if tandems were 100 instead of 200. I've seen skydivers feel they were different than the rest of the world.. I don't know if it lends newcomers to feeling like they could get into it. Skydiving isn't easy, but it certainly isn't the most difficult thing. Until a bunch of the barriers are broken down, I don't think they are going to buy the product. The general viewing members don't relate to the product. Dropzone.com: If you could take anyone in the world skydiving with you, who would it be and why? Troy: Awe man. You know what, my dad. I'd take my dad but he won't go with me. Only because the way I grew up, in doing things his way - following him for so long, I know he is proud of me I feel he did all the right things for me growing up but I feel I need to enlighten him a little bit. Let him see my environment. Dropzone.com: If you could wave a magic wand and change something about the sport of skydiving what would it be? Troy: These questions always get me.. I try to come up with some deep response but never do. I'd have to say, I just wish it could be done in more places. It was more accessible, like I said before. Dropzone.com: You've got some shirts called Oddbird what's the story behind those? Troy: Well it was a company I started, we liked the name - we started to promote the shirts, it was kinda a failed venture. We just didn't put enough effort into it. I never have had dreams of owning a DZ, I'm not a big business man. I like the way I'm making my living now, I don't want to oversee a bunch of things. Dropzone.com: We are also planning on interviewing Carl Nespoli, who worked with you on senseless acts. What do you think about him? Troy: Carl in my opinion is the one person I would absolutely want to have at every stunt. His job might not be 100% necessary but his personality is - just having him there for his attitude just makes all the difference. He does look at the small things others would oversee, but I could just get away from everyone else and sit down and just talk to Carl. Dropzone.com: You almost choose skysurfing as your favorite discipline but changed to base jumping, why was that? Troy: I love skysurfing, when I'm out of the plane. Maybe the reason I didn't like the plane ride was because I skysurf. That is the one thing every skysurfer hates because of the plane ride up and putting the board on on the way up it inconveniences the other jumpers, I really don't like to do that. Dropzone.com: Finally, what is something not many people know about you? Troy: Um... hmmm. The first thing people don't realize about me, well the thing is people don't realize about skydivers. Skydivers aren't daredevils, they come from every walk of life, but the rest of the world doesn't know that - there are so many people that think I'm just crazy & don't care about anything, but the truth of the matter is when I'm not out doing this stuff I'm very into going to movies, hanging out at home. I have my cat. I'm not a out on the town big partier. I'm so entirely not, I much more enjoy going up to the mountains and going up and hiking and being by myself. I' love to spend a lot of time alone. For me it's therapeutic.
  25. admin

    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!!!!