Wingsuit Progression Series
A series covering WS skydiving, from your FFC through Exits, Skydiving with Others & Safety, by Matt Gerdes & Taya Weiss...
Tom Baker, the first skydiver ever to do a back flip landing under canopy, is not only a world record holder but also one of the humblest skydivers I know…
Tom Baker – the Swoop King – moved to Florida in 2008 to attend the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute. Looking for something more to pass the time he took a job at SkyVenture Orlando. Soon after becoming hooked on Indoor Skydiving he took his first leap into the sky and the rest is history. Tom has completed 7,960 jumps, earned his USPA Pro rating, IBA trainer level 3 and has countless amount of time in tunnels around the world.
World Record Holder
Teams and Industry Support Member of Antigravity XP vertical wind tunnel Dynamic 4-Way Team and a few other teams in competition. Sponsorship: United Parachute Technologies (UPT), Tonfly, Erathr3
Copenhagen Swoop Challenge
What drove you to start skydiving?
I started skydiving just months after getting a job at SkyVenture Orlando (The original Orlando tunnel then changed to “IFLY” Orlando) I was very curious after being exposed to indoor skydiving and decided I had to try the real thing. I was simply drawn to this sport of human flight in an inexplicable way.
What has been your most stressful skydiving moment so far?
My most stressful moment was on jump 11. I showed up to Skydive Deland ready to rent a student rig, and as I'm reaching for the container a frequent flyer of the tunnel interrupts me. Then he tossed me a brand new UPT Vector without question and said, “jump this.” I told him it was too much and didn't want to put wear and tear on his gear but he insisted. Really, I was unsure of just grabbing someone's rig and jumping without ever seeing the parachute. After what I'm sure was an excessive gear check, I still truly didn't know if the container was filed with a parachute or bag of @!*&$. Now on jump run the other jumpers are exiting the aircraft and I'm still unsure of the contents of the container debating on riding the plane down or jumping I worked up the courage to jump. Once I stepped out into free fall and deployed the parachute it was without a doubt one of the most relieving deployments of my carrier. I had put faith into a friend for 1 jump and in the process learned so many lessons.
What do you feel is your most accomplished moment today skydiving?
Just a few days after my 8-year anniversary of my first jump and in the very same Drop Zone, I finally put the “ginger flip” to dirt and standing up the landing. Over 18 months hard work, sweat, freezing days on the pond and countless days of frustration the monkey was off my back. August 6th, 2017, we can finally stamp the “ginger flip” and truly landed trick.
The Ginger Flip
What do you feel is next in your career?
Continuing to innovate and try new ideas, I love being challenged and doing something that hasn't been done before or labeled “impossible” The list of ideas and potential projects I have written down continues to grow every day and checking them off simply takes training, time, and hard work.
Where do you think is in the future in regard to indoor skydiving?
The future of Indoor skydiving in my opinion is endless. One-day Indoor skydiving will reach a point where we can see true Olympic level of athleticism.
What do you mean by that?
Purely from a “potential performance” stand point I don't think Indoor skydiving has come close to its potential for the level of consistent competition. The majority of Indoor Skydiving (and Skydiver) athletes today must work at least full-time job to supplement our addiction of human flight. Leaving very little time to train not only our body flight, but body maintenance and nutrition as well.
On the contrary, professional motocross riders, football players and of course Olympic athletes and dedicate 100 % of time on personal health and training because of the support of either the team or outside endorsements. A few indoor skydiving teams and individuals are labeled as full-time athletes but yet must still supplement income other than just being a full time competitor and athlete in order to live, eat, pay bills, and of course compete. One day soon I would like to see 100s, ideally 1,000s, of Indoor Skydiving athletes & teams to have similar opportunity and level of training to create a more even playing field of competition opposed to the few heavy hitter teams.
In order to accomplish this, we need to completely restructure the way we think of Indoor competitions in the U.S. the way we market them, how we present them, and showcase the athletes to allow the competitors to truly train full time and make training more approachable. The current U.S. model of competition seems to have plateaued and yet other countries and leagues have made some progress. We need motivated people in place on a corporate level to make this progress instead of standing around the glass ranting about what could be. I would love to see all tunnel competitions and leagues to work together towards one direction but first we must have a common goal starting from the top.
I plan on forever continuing my progression in the tunnel, and sky to improve not only myself but, also stay progressive to give my students the best knowledge and information I can. I will fly for the rest of my life (hopefully one day being the old guy at the DZ telling stories of “back in the day”) and would love to share the experience of body flight with those who chose to as well.
If you are interested in training with Tom please email him at email@example.com
Make Sure to follow Tom on Instagram @0tombaker to see what Projects and adventures he has coming up.
Article originally on Pussfoot.com