Wingsuit Progression Series
A series covering WS skydiving, from your FFC through Exits, Skydiving with Others & Safety, by Matt Gerdes & Taya Weiss...
Altitude Brothers Jonny & Andy Kilpatrick make a plan to swap the rat race for an angle trace!
“After a year of saving, planning, negotiating and bickering we are on the edge of an adventure that will take us to Freezone Russia, for 55 hours of tunnel coaching for the next two months.“
As a pair of relatively inexperienced skydivers, a mere 1,000 jumps between us, would 55 hours of coached tunnel time be enough to turn pro? How quickly will we progress and what challenges will we face?
That’s the questions we asked each other not long after being bitten by the skydiving bug. There we were, sat in the Sports Bar in Alvor after a day’s jumping at Skydive Algarve, cold Sagres in hand, staring in awe at the dynamic freeflying skills of the Ninjas featuring on one of the many screens dotted around the venue, wondering if we would ever be as good as these guys!
The answer of course was 'we don’t have a clue but damn we’re gonna try'. Yes, that wasn’t our first beer of the evening!! Like many good drunken ideas created in a clouded somewhat fuzzy reality, would it still be as realistic in the morning? Well for us it was as realistic and as exciting as it was the night before. Unbeknown to us at the time a fair bit of planning, risk and sacrifice would be required.
Understandably leaving the comfort and security of a well-paid job is not an easy decision to make. The same thoughts go around and around in your head each night coupled with every man and his dog wanting to give their opinion on the matter. Will this work? What happens when the money runs out? The biggest challenge we found was just making the decision to go and give it a shot, no matter what the end result, committing to it with everything we have, but it’s one thing committing and another making it happen.
The biggest challenge we found was just making the decision to go and give it a shot,
We had to start thinking about the logistics.
We agreed on a date, March 1st 2018 which gave us around 10 months to save and start mapping out the trip. As everyone knows tunnel time is very expensive in the UK so that limited our options; we knew we had to leave the country if we were going to make our money go further. We had heard good things about Freezone in Russia and after talking to a few other tunnels we felt our money would work harder for us there. All in all, it took around 6 months to get the exact deal we wanted, with countless emails and phone calls being exchanged with Roman our soon-to-be-coach. Something to consider when booking large blocks of tunnel time is the schedule and how to make it work for you within the timeframe you have set. We wanted 55 hours over a 2-month period and on paper it seemed doable. It’s not until you start to factor in the available time slots, your current fitness level, the need for rest days and the hours you want to cram in, that you realise the complexities of your time frame verses your objective.
I also don’t think we really understood the financial sacrifices we were making when we made that big decision. You get used to a way of life; jumping when you like, holidays, nights out, pack jobs, etc, but to be able to fund this project we had to reduce our monthly expenditure by nearly 75% and save as much as we possibly could. This was a very painful part of the experience; moving house to reduce costs, selling the beloved VW Camper, staying in, no more trips away, not seeing friends and no more weekends jumping down at Hinton or Dunks. In addition, we reached out to the industry’s leading manufactures and asked for their support, all of which were happy to help and excited to see what the final results would be.
Relationships, both with our girlfriends and each other were put under a lot of pressure and we know that the coming months will be difficult too. Being brothers makes it easy for us to say what we want but also tends to lead to conflict and roadblocks.
Being brothers makes it easy for us to say what we want but also tends to lead to conflict and roadblocks
What has helped motivate us during the last few months was seeing everyone’s reaction to our plans and how excited they are to see what happens and what they can learn from our journey…
That was the last 12 months and now after a year of saving, planning, negotiating and bickering we are on the edge of an adventure that will take us to Russia, the outskirts of Moscow to be exact, teaming up with Freezone and working closely with Roman Semenov our tunnel coach for the next two months.
This is where the challenge begins, can we become good enough flyers to compete seriously with 55 hours of coached tunnel time each? What impact will the two-month timeframe have on our ability and our bodies? At this point it’s an unknown but we're both stoked to see what happens and where this time, money and investment could lead. We will be documenting our journey on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and will be posting a video diary on our website which we are hoping will answer many questions asked on the DZ about tunnel time, the investment and the progression. Whether it's sit fly, head down or more dynamic flying, the question of progression still stands and we hope our experience will inspire others.
Our bags are packed, notice served, hotels booked and fitness training begun. We land in Russia on the 1st March and have our first session in the tunnel on the 2nd. Click on the links below to follow, add, request, tweet and be kept up to date.
Finally, a special thanks to our sponsors for all your support at the beginning of this adventure
Cookie, United Parachute Technologies, Performance Designs, Vertical Suits, Akando
Jonny & Andy Kilpatrick