Maja Kuczynska – Bigger than the Sky
Stunning routine by Maja Kuczyńska
On 28th November 2016, sixty-five awesome ladies built a world record head down formation over Skydive Arizona. As a beginner to vertical big way skydiving, this was an incredible journey for me! This was true also for many of the other ladies in the world record team, with roughly 80% of the participants having never been on a vertical record.
My friend Elise and I started our journey in Skydive Spaceland with a warm-up camp run by Amy Chmelecki, Sara Curtis and Anna Moxnes. This was my first introduction to big way. We both found it extremely overwhelming and felt the world record was a million miles away from our skill level and we only had only a few weeks to go. The organisers were incredibly supportive and encouraged us to come back for the world record camp, regardless of our doubts.
After a 3 week break from skydiving, we arrived in Eloy with a fresh attitude and an awesome environment full of positive energy for the warm up skydives. We did 10 warm up jumps over 2 days and it was clear that there was a lot of old and new talent participating… to build a world record would certainly be a challenge!
On day 1 of the record attempts I was placed in the super float slot in the skyvan. This meant I was docking on the outside of the formation. This gave me a greater opportunity as a more inexperienced skydiver to show that I could approach and dock on the formation, once the centre had built. Although I never managed to take a dock on the first day, it was perfect opportunity for me to practice my approach and flying on level with the formation. I received lots of help and advice from the organisers and skydivers more experienced than me. This encouraged me to fly better and made me even more determined to make it onto the record. We were initially attempting 72-ways, whilst Mikey Carpenter was running the support group of 15-ish-ways. The record attempts were going from 18 to 19,000ft with oxygen, using a Skyvan and three Otters.
Day 2 of the record attempts was an interesting one for me. Whilst dirt diving I ran into the mock up giving myself a large lump on my head (right in front of the Red Bull cameraman!). I had managed to survive my first 4-plane vertical formations but injured myself whilst dirt diving. However, there was a lot of progress being made on the skydives and we were all hopeful and positive we would build the record.
Day 3 brought us cloud, which started high at 18,000ft but slowly descending throughout the day. On jump 4 we only managed to get 14,500ft but surprisingly this was one of best jumps yet! We had already unofficially broken the current record of a 63-way. I also had my second disaster where my jump suit zip broke, so I had to improvise with the help of some of the girls. At this stage we had one jump left, but with the weather getting worse it was agreed we would take it through to tomorrow, technically the backup day, with many girls showing incredible commitment by changing flights and travel plans.
“Some girls battled bloody noses, freezing at the door and sinus infections. We were tired, but enthusiastic. We wanted this record. We’d been working our asses off! … When the left trail headed out to the loading area for the last jump, we did our traditional huddle. I said to my group, “We've earned this record. You never know when you're going to get it, but now we're out of time. We HAVE to build it! Who's with me?” Everyone erupted in cheers! We took a deep breath together and yelled, “World Record!“… It was ‘groundhog day’ as we boarded the plane, grabbed our oxygen hoses, and snuggled into our routines….
“The energy was high, but focused. When we exited, everything seemed smooth. The formation built quickly and before you knew it, the formation was flying. Everyone was docked… for 8.5 seconds. We did it! We finally did it! We conquered the world record marathon and the reward was so sweet!”
“This record breaking jump was a special one because there was lots of new young talent involved. These ladies had to learn fast, be brave, trust us and be 100% committed. From training jump 1 to jump number 26, the new girls looked and felt like different flyers. I am extremely proud of each one of them!“
“I am really proud of all the ladies that participated in this event. It takes a great deal of commitment to train for something like this. Over three-quarters of the participants were new to records this year and had not been on any previous world records. Although we only increased the existing record by a small amount, this record flew for nearly 8 seconds. That “electricity” that we all talk about that goes through a formation when everyone is in synch, on and flying….well it was there and it was real! Congratulations to the 65 new record holders!”
Ana Maria Aponte
Magali Folkner Braff
Paula Victoria Rodriguez Habeica
Kim van der Horst
Barbara Van Gerven
Link to video of World Record jump by Anna Glamapple
Link to Highlights video of World Record jump by Red Bull