Catching up with… Gustavo Cabana

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There are few camera flyers out there that could rock their job in almost all skydiving disciplines… One of them is Gustavo Cabana!

Gustavo in a classroom running a camera seminar
Photo by Mariana Franceschetto

Having put a rig on his back for the first time 32 years ago in his home country, Argentina, Gustavo started on his journey always with an eye on how best to improve his flying skills so he could film whatever he wanted.

He’s the only camera flyer who filmed the biggest four skydiving World Records – the Formation Skydiving 400-way, Freefly Head-down 164-way, the 84-way Head-up and the 100-way Canopy Formation record. We think he did amazing J, but most importantly he did it always with a great vibe!

Young Gustavo, on his first trip abroad, to Paraguay, with about 50 jumps and his first Vector rig

Gustavo, how many jumps, what type, how long in the sport?

I did my first jump in December of 1988 thanks to the Club Argentino de Paracaidismo, and I now have over 25,000, 95% with camera. Around half are belly, canopy and freefly shooting and half are tandem videos.

You were born in Argentina, how did the move to Spain happen?

I was born in Buenos Aires, but all my grandparents came from Spain and I always knew that I’ll be the one to go back to the origins of the family. Before moving here I lived for a while in Brazil and the US. I was in San Diego in 2001, giving a camera seminar at the Parachute Industry association Symposium, when I met the Skydive Empuriabrava managers. They invited me to come and I did.

“The unique opportunity of jumping at A World Heritage Site: the Iguazu National Park with the largest waterfall in the world in the year 1993 and the first picture that I was proud of… the long spot gave us a perfect background, but didn’t allow us to make it back to Argentina, and we had to land in Brazil.”  – Gustavo Cabana

How did you come to join the elite group of camera flyers who can rock any discipline?

In my club we had Norman Kent’s poster of the first 100-way world record and then I watched “From Wings Came Flight”, where he showed all the disciplines at the time, and both inspired me to do what I been doing ever since … 24 FAI World Records to date in FS, CF and FF… I am so glad to have been in so many. I believe they help push the sport forward, making people desire to improve and to be able to be part of these unique gatherings… And what I like the most, is that there’s quite a few instances in sports, in which a group of people get together to work as a one team, not against other teams, or towards a monetary goal… It is just for the pleasure and satisfaction of making it happen!

I have always been impressed with Gustavo’s progression and talent. I think the thing that always stood out the most is that he was willing to step out of the comfort zone and go to student status again to learn new disciplines to keep up with our ever-changing sport. He is an amazing flyer and amazing cameraman. I have lots of respect for him in every aspect of his career. Go Gustavo, Go!!!

Norman Kent

Video: 736 skydivers

4 World records: 400 Way Formation Skydive, 164 Way Head Down, 72 Way Head Up and 100 way Canopy Formation.

“This one is a homage to the skydivers who worked for years improving their skills to take part in world record jumps. I hope to make the updated version “807 Skydivers” after the 200 HDWR 🙂 ” – Gustavo Cabana

Also I believe that, when deep inside of you there’s an honest desire and commitment to do something and you’re willing to make all the efforts and sacrifices that are necessary, the Universe will help you to make it happen and it made me cross paths with the people that helped me reach my goals: in my case they were Henny Wiggers and BJ Worth from the World Team for belly, Chris Gay for canopy formations, Jari Kuosma and Jarno Cordia for wingsuit, Fly4Life for angle, Rook Nelson for head down and the Fly Warriors for head up. I’ll always be grateful to all of them!

“I started flying wingsuits with a picture of a formation from below in my head… in 2008 I organised the EmpuriaFlocks, they built the biggest formation in Spain and I got my picture 🙂 – Gustavo Cabana

How did you get all those different skills?

Belly, canopy and wingsuit were the standard progression, jumping without a camera first, then shooting small groups and events and growing up from there. But to learn to freefly (I started in 2011) I spent all my savings in coaching, tunnel time and travel to fly at camps. It was a very big investment but it was the best investment I did in my life!

What record was the most challenging?

The most challenging for me is head down, since all is inverted! Hahaha!

“164-way Head down World Record – 15 years after shooting my first world record, I was able to shoot my first Freefly one, super happy for this” – Gustavo Cabana

What’s your favorite place in the world to jump?

Skydive Empuriabrava: for me it has the perfect combination of beautiful backgrounds to make good images, quality planes and quality of life…

Personally I owe lots to this DZ since I developed two thirds of my career here, it gave me a job and at the same time allowed me to travel often to shoot events worldwide.

What’s your favorite skydiving moment of all time?

The day World Team built the 400-way on my 40th birthday. For me nothing will compare to the scale and the vibes of celebrating a record of that magnitude, with their insane logistics in a place like Thailand. Looking back at all the events we did there, looks more like a dream than reality… Definitely a very special time in our sport, and I am very grateful to Larry Henderson, the Air Marshal Bunchuay and all the people that made it possible.

“The day World Team built the 400-way was also my 40th birthday 🙂 ” – Gustavo Cabana

Which of your many projects was the most difficult?

Not really from the jumping point of view but the Empuriabrava Challenge 2013 was a real challenge for me. In 2011 I had built an oxygen system for the 5 planes used in the Euro head-down record… and then for the 7 planes at the Challenge, we did back-to-back 106-ways record attempts… which meant I needed to supply enough oxygen for 14 loads in a row, all with small tanks! I was managing the system with a couple of helpers, and at the same time shooting the four FS sequential world records they made during the event. Having been in a few record attempts with hundreds of jumpers and multiple a/c, where on jump run we had to abort because one plane run out of O2, losing time, lots of money and even a record, you can understand the pressure I had to not fail on that and shoot the records at the same time!

What’s the biggest problem we have in the sport right now? 

Costs… Not only of the equipment and jumps, also the environmental costs of our polluting aircrafts and travels that we like to ignore. I really hope that electric jump planes became a reality soon and help reduce them.

“Transitioning from back to belly / belly to back? All this and much more at the Airspace Shredfests” – Gustavo Cabana

What’s the biggest single thing we could do to improve safety?

Education. It make me real sad when someone gets hurt or dies under a good canopy. I’m from an era were jumpers died because of low or no pull, then more advanced canopies arrived and changed that, but 30 years already passed and still this is the first cause of injuries & deaths… Many accidents have to do with the attitude and wrong choices of the jumpers. I’m happy to see that education in that regard is improving a lot with more and more canopy schools opening and people doing canopy courses everywhere. Maybe canopy courses should be mandatory.

What advice do you have for wannabe camera flyers?

In skydiving we need to be aware at all times of what we’re doing, and even more when adding something extra on your head when jumping. To be able to do it safely it is very important to be a competent jumper first and then take camera flying one step at the time without rushing the progression. Learn and get advice from experienced camera flyers. Don’t get into jumps above your flying skill level, never let the desire to get a shot make you forget about the rest of the jump and maintain awareness of your surroundings at all times.

To create the most stunning shots as a cameraman you’ve to be as good or better as the target you’re filming. And that’s exactly what Gus does. The drive to learn and fly as the best in front of the lens, no matter which discipline

Henny Wiggers
“The Flight of the Phoenix was a very symbolic event for the World Team, and the most difficult and beautiful formation I shot in freefall” – Gustavo Cabana

What was the biggest decision of your life?

Leave my girlfriend, my home, my work, my family and my country and move to Brazil and the US to fly camera full time in 1996.

Tell us a quirky fact about yourself, something people don’t know

I didn’t start talking until I was 3. My parents were worried, but the doctors said I didn’t speak because I didn’t want to… Recently I found out about a condition called “Asperger’s”, and that definitely applied to me. My older sister now calls me ”Little asparagus” 🙂

I have had the honor and pleasure of knowing and working with Gustavo for over 20 years. During that time he has always been able to capture that magic photo or video to show the world the beauty of what we do in the air. Gustavo’s talent and professionalism is only outdone by his  qualities of an amazing person and a true and loyal friend

Chris Gay
“Crossing the 100 Way Canopy Formation world record from the front, with a top view showing the alignment and crazy visuals of this formation” – Gustavo Cabana

Describe yourself in 5 words or less

Loyal. Perfectionist. Tenacious. Handyman. Music-lover.

Who’s been the biggest influence on your life?

My Grand Mother, my Mother and my Father all influenced me in a very positive way with their love and caring, their passion for travel, photography and music. They were always encouraging and helping me in all the endeavors I took.

Whom do you admire, who are your mentors and why?

In general I admire people that don’t give a damn about what people say, and do their thing and make it better for the rest to enjoy. My mentor and biggest influence in the sport is Norman Kent. It’s pretty amazing that from the first time that I met him in ’95 when I was so nervous that I couldn’t even speak, to be able now to call him a friend, and to have shot tons of events and records together, including the a recent head-up world record, when we were joking: “Eeeh… let’s not f*ck up! We are the only 2 photographers for a 108 way!”

2-way portraits with Norman Kent at his 60 cycles celebration. Thank you, Master! – Gustavo Cabana

Do you have a motto, or favorite quotation?

Yes, this one from Charles Bukowski:

“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise don’t even start.”

What’s your pet hate?

People that can’t stop talking and the fake side of this social media times.

Video: Shredfest 2019

“Shredfest is an Invitational freefly event sponsor by the Airspace Wind Tunnel. The objective is high level flying, in small groups with maximum fun. This fourth edition was organized by Matt Hill and Michele Cnops, hosted by Skydive Algarve “– Gustavo Cabana

Who are your sponsors?

I was fortunate to be able to choose the best equipment available from the beginning: starting with a Vector 2 with PD canopies that I bought second hand in 1990. Then, over the years, I just asked UPT and Performance Designs for their support and they offered it. Later I added Cypres, Larsen & Brusgaard, Tonfly and Cookie, continuing with the highest standards in the industry. Thank you all!

“A big way head tracing jump to end another day at a Fly4Life camp in Deland, with some Florida clouds and Daytona beach in the background… head-up is the new head-down 🙂 ” – Gustavo Cabana

Gustavo has a incredible ability to deliver amazing images from any type of jump – even if the jump was not great, somehow he always delivers a great shot

Luis Adolfo Lopez-Mendez, FLY WARRIORS

Anything you would like to add?

As a photographer, you work closely with magazine editors, since they provide us with a window to the rest of the world to show our photographs in a proper way. I would like to thank them for their work, especially the quintessential editor, the late Mike Truffer who I and skydiving in general owe a lot.

Also a big thank you to the organizers that in this times of GoPro Heroes and screen captures still hire professional photographers to properly cover their event.

“A Big thank you to the organizers that still hire professional photographers ” – Gustavo
Image, Gus by Raymond Adams

You can see more of Gustavo’s amazing images at his website – gustavocabana.com.

“I never saw so many skydivers with tears in their eyes like after flying a crw formation at night over the great Pyramids of Giza, and I never was so thankful for a jump” – Gustavo Cabana

Hall of Fame 2022

Gustavo will be inducted into the Skydiving Hall of Fame 2023. Everyone is welcome to attend the ceremony, Saturday 7 October 2023, at the Marriott Phoenix Chandler hotel, Arizona, details here.

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Meet: Andreea Pistea

Andreea started skydiving at 16 years old and the step between hobby and passion was almost immediately made. Nothing changed in the years that passed.

She is a USPA coach, AFF Instructor, Multiple World Record holder in big-ways, former captain of TNT 4-way team and a Romanian Airclub athlete.

Andreea enjoys FS, wingsuiting and freefly. She flyes Sun Path, Aerodyne, Squirrel, Cookie Helmets and Cypres.

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