Cross Referencing

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It’s natural to look at the grip you’re taking next –  but it’s far more effective to look at your clone for perfect positioning…

SDC Rhythm
SDC Rhythm 4-way, cross referencing for efficient flying (more points!)
Photo by Alex Bittner

There are several disciplines experienced skydivers practice that make formation skydives successful. One of the most important is called cross-referencing.

This is the positioning yourself relative to someone across your formation instead of focusing on the person with whom you share grips. This article will discuss several reasons why this technique is so effective. After understanding these reasons, it will be easy to explain how to apply this technique to your jumps.

Position and Angles

When we discuss cross referencing, the first thing we must mention is that a person can be in many positions even though they have the same grip.

Take a look at these 2-way open accordions:

All of these share the same grips, so they are technically the same formation. If you are just doing a 2-way, no problem. But if you start adding more people, you can see how this becomes complicated. It is easy to see which of the 4-ways below would be more successful:

If you are just looking at the grip, or even the person you are gripping, you may not be aware of what angle your body is flying at. By looking across the formation you can see where you fit into the big scheme.

Maintaining Levels

It is possible to build a stable formation between two people with just a few inches of level difference. But across a larger formation, the cumulative effects of this minor level difference can end up being several feet. This can lead to imploding formations – funnels!

The answer to this dilemma is again cross-referencing. By looking across the whole formation, you can match levels with everybody, including the skydiver on the opposite end.

SDC Rhythm in block 6, stardian, note the referencing
Notice how everyone is looking across the formation at their clone
Photo: SDC Rhythm, about to start Block 6, by Alex Bittner

Seeing Changes

Another great reason to cross reference is to increase your awareness of important events. If you are looking at your clone on the opposite end, you will clearly also see the center. You will know if there has been a key, someone is brainlocking, or an adjustment needs to be made. By knowing sooner that these types of events are happening, you will react faster, even subconsciously.

How to Cross Reference

This Jewel formation will only be successful if everyone cross references
Photo by George Katsoulis from Power Play, Skydive Perris

Find Your Clone

Now that we have discussed all the great reasons to cross reference, we can examine how it is done. Usually the easiest way to cross reference is to find your clone on the opposite end of the formation. This is the person who is mirroring your position. You should make eye contact with this person if possible, and set your position off this person – but also with a awareness of what the center is doing.

In the examples below, the blue shaded flyers should use each other for their cross-referencing.

Unsymmetrical Formations

There are instances where there are an odd number of skydivers in a formation or the formation is unsymmetrical. In these cases, you can use a grip line to set up off of, or somebody close to this grip line.

The dark blue skydiver should use the grip point as his set-up. By setting off of this point, he will be aware of the light blue jumpers.

To keep formations side-by-side like this, everyone must cross reference with their clone in the other formation – photo from Perris Power Play by Craig OBrien

In the Center

The examples we have provided so far assume that you are on the very outside of the formation. As you get close to the center, your clone may not be on the outside. The center two people might reference each other.


To make a straight 8-way accordion (or longer), reference with the next but one person parallel to you.

compressed acc
The head positions show perfect cross referencing in this compressed accordion
Photo by Norman Kent

Obstructed View

Sometimes your clone is obscured by many bodies. You should still make an effort to see that far across the formation – even if it is just a foot that you can see. However, you can also use a closer person as a guide.

This beautiful open formation requires lots of cross referencing to keep its shape
Photo by Juan Mayer of a P3 skydive over Perris

Go Try It!

Cross referencing will help you fly in the right position, maintain levels, and be aware of important changes in your jumps. Practice positioning yourself relative to the right person in a formation and increase your success. This simple habit will have you rocking your jumps!

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Meet: Christy Frikken

Christy Frikken teaches and competes in 4-way skydiving almost every day. She has been on many teams, including but not limited to SDC Rhythm XP, Perris Fury, Perris Wicked, Perris Force, and Perris Moxie. When she is not going fast herself, she is coaching others to go faster in the tunnel and sky. Check out for more helpful articles.

Christy is proudly sponsored by Sun Path, PD, Skydive Perris, Kiss, Vigil, Larsen & Brusgaard

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