With the cold northerly winds and snow clearly visible on nearby mountains it's very easy to take a short hiatus from Wingsuiting. Unlike Southern California, we actually have a pretty decent winter up North and you can notice a huge gear shift as everyone that frequents the drop zones trades over their skydiving rigs for a snowboard or skis.
I was lucky enough to escape most of the winter with a few trips down to Perris for coaching, along with the Next Level Camp in York, Western Australia and most recently another trip to Australia for their National Championships.
I hope everyone else finds it as amusing as I do that I'm unable to compete as an Australian although I was born in Australia and am still an Australian citizen. It's a long story, full of miscommunication and bueracracy..
So fueled by this interesting circumstance I decided to travel over for the competition and compete as a guest, just to let them all know that I am in fact an Australian!
Wingsuiting and in particular Competitive Wingsuiting is a very new sport. It was only accepted as it's own separate discipline with the inclusion of the first F.A.I Wingsuit World Cup in 2015. I wasn't able to compete since I wasn't able to represent Australia and I had not yet earned a place on the U.S.A team. It was a huge turning point and Espen Fadnes absolutely smashed the field, cementing his status as one of the best.
The reason I digress in to this short story is to explain where the sport currently is at. It's still definitely in it's infancy stage but slowly the mindset of the world is being changed. Older generations of skydivers don't understand us or have much of an idea of how technically advanced suits are now in comparison to when they first became a fad in the late 90's. Wingsuiting used to be for "people who can't Freefly" but now Freeflyers are the very ones that have started to realize the huge potential of truly 3 dimensional freedom that a Wingsuit can offer.
Things will change, eventually..
I had some very interesting conversations with the Australian Parachute Federation while I was in Nagambie. They understand how powerful Wingsuiting can be for introducing new people to the sport of Skydiving and see skill development and support for athletes as a huge and integral part of that.
I was super stoked to come away from my trip back "home" with an overall win and also the first chance for my Mum to see me compete. I apologize to everyone at the drop zone for her talking all your ears off!
Ciao for now.
The First ever Next Level Wingsuit Camp in Australia is done and dusted and what an awesome camp it was too! Wingsuiters from all over Australia converged on Skydive York in Western Australia for 8 days of epic-ness from January 19th through to the 26th and were treated with slightly warm and toasty West Australian summer heat.
The 8 day camp focused heavily on laying the foundations for safe Wingsuiting and covered everything from fundamentals through to Dynamic flying with structured briefing and video debriefs for every jump, along with several classroom presentations. Class time covered topics like Principles of Aerodynamics, Flaring techniques, Safety concerns and Hazards, XRW fundamentals, B.A.S.E preparation, Angle of Attack, Stagnation Point, Meteorology and more!
The Instructors for this camp were Matt Gerdes, Mike Steen, Noah Bahnson, Scotty Bob, Val Sobol, Luke Rogers and myself. It's so awesome to be a part of a team that is so passionate about education and that also brings such a staggering accumulation of achievements and years in the sport. There's not much that this group hasn't done as a collective whole.
Over the course of the 8 days we were able to identify the skill level of each pilot and tailor small group coaching scenarios so every pilot could improve their skills in a safe and structured environment. Working with different Instructors everyday ensured the coached jumps were always fresh and challenging and that different personality types would have the chance to experience the varied characters of all 7 Instructors.
Over 800 skydives were made in the 8 day period, excluding the Instructors who each made about 50 jumps. With this many jumps in such a short period it was obvious to all of us in the Next Level team that we would see a huge progression throughout all participants but the contrast is amazing to look back now from day 1.
All of this would not have been possible without the support from the Australian Parachute Federation and Squirrel who both helped with Instructor expenses and I think it's fair to say that the path has now been laid to help Wingsuiting achieve new levels of safety and competence in Australia.
A huge thank you must also go out to all the super awesome staff at Skydive York who bent over backwards to help make this such a successful and fun event, see you all again soon!
photo by Nicole Schafer
The Christmas Holiday Wingsuit Rally at Skydive Perris in California was a huge success and saw a larger turnout than any of us expected! More than 40 Wingsuiters made their way to Perris for the Lightning Flight event to be organized for jumps over the 4 days leading up to New Year's Eve. The All Star line-up of organizers included Keith Forsyth, Katie Hansen, Scotty Bob, Val Sobol and myself.
The idea of this event is to have a safe environment to work on flying in groups and adding degrees of difficulty for those who want more of a challenge. It's not really a coaching situation but by having an experienced Organizer we are able to make sure everyone is taking the correct considerations in regard to safety while still having a great time with their friends.
I flew with a different group of Pilots each day of the Rally and it was awesome to see so much stoke! As an Organizer it's important to understand skill levels within the group and create a jump that accommodates to everyone's needs. Group sizes varied in size but were usually from 5 to 8 people which is quite manageable and can open the door for some fun flying with moving formations and rotating bases. With the more advanced groups it's possible to get a more 3 dimensional flow going with large flares and diving turns. So much fun!
A big shout out must go to Taya Weiss who was our ground support for the whole event and got all of us crazies manifested on loads and really kept the wheels rolling. There's no way we would have been able to get 6 jumps done everyday without her help. Thanks Taya!
Here's an article I wrote for 90 Percent Magazine about the World Cup which was hosted at Skydive Fyrosity just outside of Las Vegas this year.