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Catching up with… David Grauwels

David Grauwels — by Lesley Gale
David Grauwels — by Lesley Gale

Brothers Dave and Andy Grauwels have been on HayaBusa since the very beginning in 2003. Once they won their first World Championships, at Czech Republic 2014, they have never been defeated since – an unbroken run of over 20 major competitions. We asked Dave how their brotherly dynamic works in the team, what's the secret of their success and about the philosophy of HayaBusa…

David and Andy Grauwels, World Champions, Hayabusa
David and Andy Grauwels, World Champions, Hayabusa

How many jumps do you have?

10,500

How old are you and how long have you been skydiving?

I did my first Static jumps in 1995 out of the Army balloon when I was 15, now 23 years ago.

How did you start?

Family affairs, the Grauwels Clan has always been famous for skydiving; most logical step was to start skydiving too as being the oldest of the newer generation.

When you were at school what did you want to be when you grew up?

At the time when I was younger I was always passionate about becoming a football player, at the time it seemed incredible to execute your passion as ‘work’. Throughout the youth division I did great, but was definitely not the best, and also my school results experienced major issues when I started combining school-football-skydiving. At age 17, I made my biggest decision that would influence my career later on, I quitted playing football and concentrated on Formation Skydiving.

Did you ever dream of being a World Champion? With your brother?

I started Skydiving in the first Airspeed era (1995), this new team with their white-green-purple jumpsuit and special painted Factory Diver helmets were a revelation to me, performing the best jumps in perfect harmony and synchronicity… Andy and I have been analyzing their jumps in slow-motion over and over again, watching every detail from exit launch to block execution and track-off, maniacally even. Hell yeah, we dreamed about becoming World Champions, but most of all about executing the same superb jumps. That team was our inspiration to later success.

What does your brother Andy bring to the team?

I have never seen a more talented kid skydiving as fast at the time when he was 16. Andy was meant to become the new Johnny Eagle (RIP), the fastest turning man on this planet. Technically Andy has it all; light enough to turn fast, strong enough to hold his ground, smart enough to remember different and difficult moves and he performs that move like a classical ballet dancer. Not many Outside Centers do what he can and shows it over and over again. And on top of it all: he brings the creativity in this team.

Andy & Dave with their biggest support, father Alex Grauwels
Andy & Dave with their biggest support, father Alex Grauwels

What do you bring?

Structure, planning, experience, solidness… I’m the guy that allows the 3 others to shine in their slots, making them working hard and go-fast.

Who is your biggest support?

The Grauwels clan is a big moral, understanding and supporting factor in the road that led up to the current success and as the head of it; our dad, Alex. From the early start, at times when we had it rough and through disappointing moments, he was always there, motivating us and most of all pointing out the possible awareness of becoming lazy, haughtiness and/or underestimating the competition… Things you cannot have IF you want to become or want to stay a world champion.

Brotherly stuff

Quick fire answers…

  • Who is the messiest brother? Andy
  • Who takes the longest to get ready? Andy
  • Who’s the biggest computer geek? Andy
  • Who gets more affected by a bad round? Andy is more emotionally affected, I’m more rational
  • Who likes winning more? Andy
  • Who gets their own way more? Dave
  • Who is calmest in competition? Dave
  • Who’s the hardest worker? Dave
  • Who has the best dress sense? Andy
  • Who's the most immature? Andy
  • Who is the best flyer? Andy
  • Who’s the biggest flirt? Dave
  • Who’s the boss? Dave

What are the pros and cons of being brothers on a team? Besides all the clichés like arguments and discussions? We are bound by blood and passion, that no-one or nothing can come in between us. We will always help each other no matter what and are lucky that our connection is so deep to overcome silly and childish misunderstandings or dissimilarities.

Hayabusa's philosophy – go fast or go home
Hayabusa's philosophy – go fast or go home

Describe HayaBusa’s team philosophy

Go fast and do better than the jump you just did even when you become tired or don’t feel like. Go fast or go home. Be humble and stay humble, no matter win or defeat.

Play the game by the book, don’t cheat or bend the rules in your advantage. Fair play, have a voice but never be mean, always have the bigger picture in mind. Be a role model for fellow competitors, youth and family. Respect the judges and judging calls.

In short: Gentlemen’s athletes.

HayaBusa 2004: coach Doug Park, cameraman Bruno Vandeneede, Flyers David Grauwels, Roy Janssen, (front row) Andy Grauwels, Sven Ibens – "We were young, eager, wild and fast"
HayaBusa 2004: coach Doug Park, cameraman Bruno Vandeneede, Flyers David Grauwels, Roy Janssen, (front row) Andy Grauwels, Sven Ibens – "We were young, eager, wild and fast"

What is your secret to staying at the top of the world for so long?

The foundation we made from early 2003, doing so many competitions indoor and outdoor. HayaBusa was present when the indoor championships were up-and-coming. We were young, eager, wild and fast; difficult for our coach (Doug Park) to tame. We trained at the French headquarters in Maubeuge; moved to Skydive Spa who firmly believed in our talent and the work we were putting in, and at the exact time upgraded to the Belgian Army, the third phase of the team’s history: becoming professionally in every aspect what a team needs to keep on developing.

The World Championships in 2010 were our biggest disappointment in the team, a promise never to have again, and then in 2012 experiencing that ‘click-moment’, yes we can become world champions in the future. We already added coach Gary Smith to the HayaBusa family too. Adding Dennis in 2011 and Gary to the team in 2012 seems to be the tipping moment in history, and now adding Bob at the end of 2014 only made us more dangerous for our competition. This team has it all: long lasting experience in the center, in a perfect mix with young, hardworking, talented flyers on the outside of the formation, overseen by the best coach, supported by the Belgian Defence… Who wouldn't like to drink this cocktail?!

HayaBusa winning the 2016 World Championships, Skydive Chicago. "Who wouldn't like to drink this cocktail?" – Dave Grauwels
HayaBusa winning the 2016 World Championships, Skydive Chicago. "Who wouldn't like to drink this cocktail?" – Dave Grauwels

What advice do you have for newcomers to 4-way?

Formation Skydiving is by far the best discipline throughout time IF you are a team player. Are you a team player or an individual person? – This is a very important question to answer before joining or raising a team. And then besides all the other clichés: enjoy learning, failing and developing. It takes time, money and trying.

Any tips on keeping a team together?

You need to ride the emotions that come with it; it’s easy to quit while losing or not having fulfilled the expectations. Don’t quit, but re-adapt if needed.

What are the most important competitions for you this year, and why?

Every competition is important for HayaBusa; the pressure is high 'cause the world wants to see the champions get defeated and the underdogs win after such a long winning-streak. It's perfectly normal and understandable, and sooner or later it will happen, but the next champion needs to be ready to do some amazingly fast and synchronized jumps because we will not hand it out easily. We are putting all the focus now on the World Championships in Australia, and making the switch super fast to perform as the best at the World Cup at Bahrain right after.

HayaBusa at Flight Fighters competition, Gravity, home of the 3rd World Cup of Indoor skydiving 2018
HayaBusa at Flight Fighters competition, Gravity, home of the 3rd World Cup of Indoor skydiving 2018

What is the biggest change going from outdoor to indoor (and vice versa)? Do you have a different muscle memory for the blocks?

Levels, distances and weights (rig) change going from indoor to outdoor. Changes in motion and a faster speed, mentally and physically, from outdoor to indoor.

What is your training plan to prepare for the 3rd FAI World Cup of Indoor Skydiving in Bahrain soon after the World Skydiving Championships in Australia?

First reset the body and mind, we will be on our peak-moment after 2 years of training, and then fly slow again in the tunnel to adapt to certain pictures, fine-tune block-moves, check all the exits, before gradually increase the speed again. It will be short, but intense with only a few hours to make that switch.

What are you most looking forward to about the World Champs in Australia?

The date it starts.

"We are HayaBusa; we win together, we lose together… let’s have fun and f*cking kick it" – Dave Grauwels
"We are HayaBusa; we win together, we lose together… let’s have fun and f*cking kick it" – Dave Grauwels

What are you most looking forward to at the Indoor World Cup, Bahrain at Gravity?

Standing at the door, round 1 being the last team in due to the ranking, watching your opponents fly hard, and thinking: damn, do we need to top that?…

But then the helmets of my buddies come together, we pat each other on the back and then realize; we are HayaBusa; we win together, we lose together… let’s have fun and f*cking kick it.

What’s more fun for you, tunnel or sky?

Tunnel: feeling all those eyes staring at you, knowing the expectations are high… We are part of their show, a gladiator in the arena… Macho-level -> Extremely high.

Dave tracking off from another blistering HayaBusa skydive
Dave tracking off from another blistering HayaBusa skydive

What is your favorite HayaBusa memory?

Winning the European Championships in 2005 at Stupino, Russia… my first tears in the sport, some more would follow later. So unexpected, but nevertheless beautiful… made us very emotional and is still able doing that, looking back at that video.

How long will HayaBusa keep going?

If it’s up to me, it will never stop, members will change, and plans will get updated but the philosophy and history of this team will always stay alive.

Anything you would like to add?

Thank you for your support throughout the years Lesley, you’ve always been a big help for spreading our moments and experiences of the team to the skydiving community, we never underestimated the voice of the media. Thank you to our fans, friends and family, being there, helping us, supporting and cheering…

David

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