Review: Indoor Wingsuit Tunnel
What's it like, flying in the WS tunnel?
The USPA Nationals just closed after a super-successful two weeks at Skydive Perris, CA. Here's a rundown of the last week’s events in formation skydiving…
Skydivers from all over the United States and the world are finishing their travels to Skydive Perris, CA to compete at the 2017 USPA National Skydiving Championships. This incredibly efficient drop zone has adeptly been managing the Nationals for over a week by now; VFS, MFS, Freeflying, Wingsuiting, and Speed Skydiving have finished their events and we are now preparing for upcoming rounds in 4-way. Halfway into the competition, the weather has finally decided to smile upon Perris Valley - the mornings are brisk, but we are expecting to enjoy sunny skies with temperatures into the 90’s all week.
Skilfully balancing team practice loads between 4 rotating Twin Otters at the south end of the hangar, the DZ is also managing the weekend regulars in its Skyvan at the north end. For as much activity which is occurring this sunny afternoon, Skydive Perris is a well-oiled machine, exactly as we’ve come to expect from this world-renowned dropzone. During the evening, all competitors meet behind the pool area for the 4-way draw, where Dan BC joins forces with Meet Director Scott Smith and USPA Controller Randy Connell to give the in-brief. As each team comes forward to receive their draws and respective slates, the place empties out as teams sequester into separate areas to prepare for the next day’s competition. The beer is flowing at the Bombshelter, but most teams focus on the task at hand. It’s go time…
It’s well before sunrise, yet the Bombshelter is already brewing hot coffee and churning out breakfast burritos for the competitors as we groggily infiltrate the dropzone. The sun slowly peaks over the serene California mountains as we prep our gear, dirtdive and get ready to go.
The caliber of competition this year is impressive. A glance around the drop zone shows each team in its element. Arizona Airspeed and SDC Rhythm XP are completing final dirtdives for each round, each intently focusing on perfecting team movements in unison. The Golden Knights have fielded two world-class teams this year for the Nationals, one comprised entirely of their own uniformed athletes and one team joining forces with Brian Krause ('BK') and Dan BC. Reigning world-champion team NMP PCH HayaBusa has traveled to our competition all the way from Europe, and Qatar is once again back on US soil. Airspeed Odyssey is a previous Airspeed line-up or world champions. Skydive Midwest NEXT, which won Intermediate Gold in 2015 and Advanced Gold in 2016, now joins the ranks in the Open Class as well. There are 15 teams in Open Class; 5 of them are registered as guest teams.
In the Advanced Class, Ranch 2nd Generation has returned to continue their impressive streak as a young team; Seattle Swift is competing for the first time as a non-guest team; and Air Force is back in full swing with two teams fielded from among its talented cadets. There are 21 teams in the Advanced Class; 6 of them are guest teams (non US). In the Intermediate Class, we recognize many team names from years past. Babes on our Bellies, Southern Mix, and Hard on the Kittens are back; many, many other names are new to the scoreboard.
There are 37 teams in Intermediate Class; 15 of them are guest teams. These are but a few of the many teams and personalities which populate this year’s event. As the day comes to a close, the scoreboard does not disappoint and several teams are in contention for the podium. Seven rounds are completed; three to go.
Rounds 8, 9, and 10 settle onto the books as 4-way proceeds into the early afternoon. It is a nail-biter for many teams. In the late afternoon, those teams that are contention for the podium (in all classes) must wait until the end of the 4way competition to conduct Round 10 A large audience gathers to watch as these jumps are judged live. In the Open Class, Arizona Airspeed and SDC Rhythm XP remain neck-and-neck until the end, when Arizona Airspeed squeaks out a definitive advantage in Round 8 and pulls ahead of the pack for the Gold. HayaBusa, the reigning world champions, earn the high score in Open Class (as a guest team), once again earning the respect of their fellow competitors and followers here at home. The world-renowned Golden Knights round out the podium in 3d place at this Nationals.
In the Advanced Class, Ranch 2nd Generation edges out Fast4Ward XP (a guest team) and Air Force Storm late in the competition to earn the top spot on the podium. The Air Force Academy cadets take home Silver, while Four Horsemen XP rounds out the podium in 3d place. In the Intermediate class, up-and-coming team STF VEGA XP takes home the gold, followed by the Cali4nia Raptors in 2nd and CoNEXTion XP in 3d place.
Deviating from previous years’ schedules, 8-way competition will begin on the third day this year. A low-key 8-way draw occurs later on Tuesday afternoon, and teams scamper away to begin their preparations for Wednesday morning.
The evening ends with a 4-way ceremony that recognizes those teams that dominated their respective classes. As each of them is called forward, there is much applause from the audience for their hard work. HayaBusa and Fast4Ward XP earned scores within their respective classes that would have normally entitled them to a spot on the podium – they are also recognized with certificates in front of the crowd.
The ceremony takes a reminiscent turn when the original members of Arizona Airspeed (Dan BC, Kirk Verner, Mark Kirkby, Jack Jefferies) are called to the front and recognized - those who won in the Open Class (Arizona Airspeed, SDC Rhythm XP, and the Golden Knights) are then awarded their medals by these renowned skydivers. The ceremony then recognized Arizona Airspeed and Phoenix XP (an all-female team in Open Class which is based out of Skydive Paraclete XP) as teams selected to represent the US at the 2018 World Championship competition in Australia. Capping the evening is a shout-out to any member in the audience who had won a world championship in the class. Over two dozen people joined the stage in the evening’s finale recognition. And the competition continues…
It is another early morning for competitors as the USPA Nationals shifts gears into 8-way competition. As the sun wanders overhead, teams are dirt-diving and checking their gear to prepare for the first round. The drop-zone still feels busy, but the pace has slowed a bit; only 2 teams take off in each Twin Otter this morning per round, as opposed to 4 teams per load during the 4-way rounds in the days prior.
In the Open Class, the favored Golden Knights face off with Fly-In Machine44, a guest team from the powerhouse of Belgium comprised of members of HayaBusa and ISR Fireflash. Qatar 8 is also in the field, along with Arizona Airspeed, SDC Rhythm 8 XP, and XP8. There are 9 teams in Open Class this year; 4 of them are guest teams.
Several familiar faces have returned in the Advanced Class. The French 8-Way Team (a American team paying a tongue-in-cheek tribute) faces off with Blocksmiths XP, the all-female 8-way team making a second appearance in Advanced Class. SDC Octomino XP has also returned, along with Spaceland Lite 8. In all there are 6 teams in the Advanced Class; one of them is a guest team.
The Intermediate Class is populated with new names, including SDMW Salty Margar8tas, CoNEXTion 8 XP, and 2L8. Christy Frikken makes a surprise last-minute appearance to fill out the roster for InterSpeedy8, a pick-up team based out of Dallas. There are nine teams in Intermediate Class; one team is a guest team.
In the late afternoon, the 8-way competition completes its 7th and last round for the day. After battling it out against Fly-In Machine 44 in the first few rounds, the Golden Knights have taken a decisive lead in the Open Class division, with Qatar 8 a way behind in 2nd place. The 'French 8-Way Team' paves the way in Advanced Class, and Air Force Rodisiac takes a definitive lead in Intermediate Class. It’s still a close competition however; 3 more rounds to go…
A brisk morning as 8-way continues into this 4th day of RW competition at Skydive Perris. We are graced with another great day of weather to finish up the last 3 rounds.
In Open Class, the Golden Knights dominate the competition to remain in the top slot. There are 3 guests teams in the top six places in this division; the Golden Knights are followed by guest teams Fly-In Machine44 and Qatar 8, then Arizona Airspeed takes 2nd place followed by guest team Amphibious Attack Tigers, finally followed by SDC Rhythm 8 XP in 3rd place.
In Advanced Class, 'the French 8-way Team' takes home American Gold, followed by Blocksmiths XP in 2nd place and Perris Air Sharks in 3rd. Intermediate Class saw AF Rodisiac in 1st place, SDMW Salty Margar8tas in 2nd, and Taking Care of Business rounding out the podium. Similar to the 4-way awards ceremony, this evening’s 8-way ceremony honored those teams whose hard work has earned them a spot on the podium, and it also takes time to recognize the accomplishments of its guest teams. Fly-In Machine44, Qatar 8, and Amphibious Attack Tigers are called to the front and recognized for their accomplishments in competition.
The evening’s ceremony also recognizes Pat and Melanie Conatser and Dianne Conatser for their contributions to 2017 USPA Nationals and for their work within the sport of skydiving as a whole.
It is now the 5th day of RW competition, and we’ve moved on to 16-way. Although the teams are bigger, Skydive Perris is beginning to feel roomier - we started Monday morning with over seventy 4-way teams; we now have 7 teams competing in 16-way, one of which is a guest team.
Several experienced teams have joined forces for the 16-way event, including team members from the Golden Knights and Paraclete XP (GKXP), Arizona Airspeed, and a mash-up known as Lite 350 Monster Mash. Deguello and Dallas Disturbance are back for the competition, along with an all-female 16-way team known as Blocksmixteen which is comprised of Blocksmiths XP and several others. A slower-paced day ensues; there are only 6 rounds of competition in 16-way (instead of 10 rounds), and there is only one team per load on the Twin Otters. The competition concludes in the late afternoon; when all is said and done, GKXP dominates the competition, followed by Arizona Airspeed then Lite 350 Monster Mash. Aside from the 10-way draw, no festivities are planned for the evening, as both the 16-way and 10-way awards will be combined during the RW banquet planned for Saturday evening.
It is the last day of competition for the 2017 USPA Nationals, and the atmosphere is decidedly lighter than in previous days. It is time for 10-way competition. As teams get ready to compete, people walk around in pirate outfits, shark costumes, and a toy baby makes the rounds. Several teams write entertaining phrases or draw pictures on their slates, and in addition to the intricate one-point skydive, they dirt-dive scenes which they will play out after they are done holding their formation for 5 seconds. There are 13 teams competing in 10-way; 3 of them are guests. Similar to the 16-way competition, there are only 6 rounds of 10-way, and two teams at a time take off in each Twin Otter load.
Many of these teams competing are pick-up teams; one, inTENtional chaos, is all female. The Golden Knights and Arizona Airspeed are the favorite contenders for the top spot in this competition; however, a video bust for the Golden Knights sends Airspeed to the top in the first round. The Golden Knights end up battling it out for 2d place. Rhinoceros Kisses and Dirty Dishes take third place.
The competition ends in the mid-afternoon. As many head off to their hotels to sleep or pack, the Bombshelter serves up drinks to many competitors who wait for the evening’s festivities. It is the last evening of the USPA Nationals, and Skydive Perris does not disappoint. Bringing in a live band and serving up a great banquet to competitors, the DZ sets up a dining area outside near the pool. Soon the festivities begin. Winning teams in 16-way are recognized first, as GKXP, Arizona Airspeed, and Lite 350 Monster Mash take the stage. Members of Blocksmixteen and inTENtional chaos are then invited on-stage in recognition of setting national records for their efforts as all-female teams.
At this point in the evening, the judges are recognized, along with Scott Smith, the USPA Meet Director. The C.G. GodFrog Award is then brought onto the stage - this year’s winner is the Perris Sharkettes, who completed all of their skydives in shark costumes! Winning the Judges' Choice is Rhinoceros Kisses and Dirty Dishes, who entertain judges during the rest of their flying time after completing their formations. (You can see their videos on OmniSkore.com.) Winners in 10-way are then brought on stage and recognized in front of the crowd. Finally, several competitors in the crowd who have received the highest number of medals from the individual events are brought to the stage, including members of Arizona Airspeed and the Golden Knights.
The 2017 USPA Nationals has finally come to a close - the evening ends with beer and camaraderie at the Bombshelter. The USPA staff and Skydive Perris has coordinated over 18,000 individual skydives over the past two weeks, and their operations have been flawless. It is another feather in the cap for this fantastic drop zone and the USPA as a whole. See you at Chicagoland Skydiving Center for the 2018 USPA Nationals. Until next time…