Catching up with NFTO

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NFTO Skydiving Team – Not For The Ordinary, an apt name for this killer group of champions…

A happy team at the end of a hard training camp at Skydive Algarve, 2019-2020

“NFTO are a really strong team, leading the charge of FS in British skydiving, both in open and female”

Pete Allum

NFTO are reigning indoor and outdoor British Champions, winning the Open category two years running as a female team. We interviewed everyone to get a rounded view of the team as well as the gossip!

Bronze medalists at the 2019 World Cup 2019, Female 4-way
Photo by Willy Boeykens

NFTO competition history

  • Bronze, World Championships 2016, Female 4-way
  • Bronze, Indoor World Cup 2016, Female 4-way
  • Silver, European Indoor Championships, Female 4-way
  • Gold, British Outdoor Nationals 2018, Open & Female 4-way
  • Silver, World Championships 2018, Female 4-way
  • Gold, British Indoor Nationals 2019, Open & Female 4-way
  • Gold, British Nationals 2019, Open & Female 4-way
  • Bronze Parachuting World Cup 2019, Female 4-way
  • Gold, Wind Games 2020, Female 4-way
Anna, enjoying every minute of it
Photo by Simon Brentford


Jumps: 4,500

Previous team history: World Cup Bronze 2013 – Bodyflight Isis

How Anna describes herself: Focused, hardworking, fun-loving.

How her teammates describe her:  Driven (all of them said this), fast (2), athletic, team player, tenacious, sassy, energised, a lady.

Something about you most people don’t know: I used to compete at Pony Club as a kid, in mounted games (not as rude as it sounds, and a great team sport!) and Tetrathlon (running, riding, swimming and shooting – my shooting was rubbish).

Pet hate: People picking their nose.

Training in Arizona before the World Cup 2019,
Photo by Simon Brentford

What’s is the secret of keeping a team going for so long?  

Anna: We’ve kept going since 2015 due to a massive drive to succeed, the support of our wonderful sponsors, and importantly our loved ones.  Gareth [Hicks] has been an incredible supporter and advocate for myself and the team, and without him I and the NFTO name wouldn’t have got to where we are.

How do you integrate new team members? 

Anna: Integration is key – lots of comms, including them early in the planning process, being good teammates, and getting them to love the brand!   

How will you cope now with the lockdown? 

Anna: We just have to deal with the situation, and concentrate on doing what is right, which is all sticking to the guidelines and helping stop the spread.  While we can’t train together, we’re concentrating on getting even fitter & stronger, and focusing on doing much more visualizing.  For me it’s almost a good thing we’re not training, as work is super busy for me as an Army Doctor. As much the team is basically my life and love, there are bigger issues in the form of COVID-19 right now, and I need and want to do my bit.  

What are you doing to fight the virus?

Anna: I’m working super hard but I really don’t mind as I feel we are making a difference. I’m not seeing so many patients face-to-face now – a lot more is over the phone to reduce the risk of spread and exposure – but the patient workload is still heavy.  I’m also running and managing my practice and its amazing staff. We also spend time advising the local chain of command as the local Medical Subject Matter Experts, and are making sure that Army personnel deploying with the COVID Support Force supporting the NHS are fit to go.

What’s it like?

Anna: It’s busy, at times sad when you see the news, but a fascinating time. It’s fundamentally changed the way we work at primary care with a rapid shift to remote or phone working, and the introduction of e-consulting and other new technologies. There is a huge amount of amazing work being done across the Health Care sector in both the NHS and MoD, from care homes to GP practices to hospitals, with innovation and absolute dedication to the cause. My biggest admiration goes to ambulance crews and the hospital clinicians  – they are seeing sick patients face-to-face every day, selflessly putting themselves at risk and making some really tough decisions – they have my utter respect.

Vana taking a break from the slopes

Inside Centre: VANA PARKER

Jumps: 8,000

Previous team history: 

  • 2001– Team Verve, South African Female Team
  • 2003 – 2014 – Voodoo. SA Champions and British Champions (Open)
  • Tanay 2020 [now to be held in 2021] will be my 10th outdoor World Championships!

How Vana describes herself: competitive, motivated, thoughtful, experienced (old!).

How her teammates describe her: Strong (3), caring, lady, warm-natured, sporty, classy determined, well-spoken, strategic, dedicated, family.

Something about you people don’t know: I have 18 animals at home including 2 alpacas. All, except the alpacas, are named after skydiving formations.

I have to ask! What are their names?

Dogs – Mika and Zigzag. Hamster – Donut. Chickens: Zipper, Star, Murphy, Crank, Yuan, Hook, Opal, Bunyip, Caterpillar, Zircon, Ritz, Piver, Viper. Alpacas – Boris and Jason.

Pet hate: Viruses.

NFTO with coach Roy Janssen
It’s so important that the coach is part of the team” – Vana

Who coaches you?

Mostly Gary Smith and Roy Janssen, our current coach. Both are exceptionally good. It’s so important that the coach is part of the team and also believes that you can reach your goals.

What are the strengths of NFTO?

Vana: Team dynamics – we work well together, are all happy to work hard and enjoy doing it. There is also a good mix of talent and experience.

How important are team dynamics? 

Vana: Having good team dynamics is everything. When I started jumping in South Africa I was SO keen. My nick name was EB (Energiser Bunny)… it then got changed to PB (Pushy Bitch) as my ‘enthusiasm’ meant I pushed my teammates too hard.  I was fortunate to be offered a place on the South Africa Open team in 2003 but on the proviso that I calmed down and became a team player. I have worked hard to be a valuable team player ever since.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever heard? 

Vana: Gary Smith always says that we all learn at different speeds – never doubt yourself or the team.  

How important is the female 4-way category to the sport? 

Vana: I could (and possibly will) write a book on this topic. The category has been fundamental to the number of talented, experienced female skydivers that you see today. Before 1999 there were one or two women competing in FS internationally. Female teams have been inspirational and great role models for women in a previously male-dominated sport. More women are competing at a higher level now.

How different is a tunnel meet?  Is the energy different without Simon?  

Vana: The team enjoys all competitions and puts maximum energy and effort into them. Everyone competed outdoors before indoors. There is something very special about landing together after a competition jump. Simon is very much part of the team and it is strange when he is not with us. If he can, he comes to support and if not is glued to the live stream and always sends messages and comments.

How long is the team commitment for? 

Vana: Forever or at least until we win a gold medal at the outdoor World Champs.

How did you feel when the World Champs 2020, were postponed to 2021?

Vana: A mixture of sadness and relief. Sadness that we are not going to compete this year, but relief that it is postponed, not cancelled. That gives us the chance to decide whether we want to commit to another year. As it stands, that answer is YES! We’re going to continue! However, there are other variables that have the potential to interfere – money, what’s happening in the world, etc. The truth is, we have unfinished business, we still want to be World Champions!

Beautiful Siân enjoying a fun jump over Panama
Photo by Milko


Jumps: 7,000+

Previous team history:  Full Stop, with player/coach Milko. We won all of the intermediate categories in the UK. Bodyflight 4-way female. Isis 4-way Female. 4Mula. Volition UK 4-way female indoors, Silver Worlds

How Siân describes herself: Determined, Approachable, Fun, Ditsy, Blonde.

How her teammates describe her:   Talented (3), friendly, funny, fast, hardcore, busty, dotty, beauty, speedy, skills, fun.

Something about you most people don’t know: I can play the flute.

Pet hate:  Bad washing up, in particular dirty cutlery. This makes me sad.

NFTO, Wind Games Champions 2020

You brought an injection of speed to NFTO. How does a team fly faster without losing precision?

Siân: Find the team speed and work from there. There is no point having an individual speed if it’s different to the team speed as you lose the rhythm.

What’s your plan to beat the French at the rescheduled World Championships?

Siân: The plan is not to focus on other teams; instead concentrate on our own competition, be the best team WE can be on the ground but also in the air. We cannot dictate how another team performs but we can dictate our own performance, including positive mental and physical attitude.

How are you training in the off-season in Northern Europe? 

Siân: All the time. Gotta take every opportunity  – training never stops (see video)…

Traning hard… really hard…

Why are you so competitive? 

Siân: Love the personal challenge/scared of failure! You try living with Milko!

What’s the medal you’re most proud of and why?

Siân: Winning British Nationals 2018! I had joined the team just a few weeks and it’s fair to say we were the underdogs. We had no real expectations for the podium. However, with a few weeks’ hard intense training and the belief from our incredible coaches, Roy and Gary, we managed the gold! From round one there was only 1 point in it, which continued pretty much the whole comp, the pressure was on, thanks to Satori for the experience.

Who’s the fastest flyer?

Siân: Obviously Simon, after all he has competed in Speed 😉 Simon’s top speed was an impressive 265mph!

Who takes the longest to get ready?

Siân: Simon – he takes ages in the shower, and he has the least hair (go figure).

What is the most important ingredient for 4-way success?

Siân: Have fun! Remember why we do this, we spend every penny we can, what’s the point if you don’t enjoy it? But also remember to embrace it as a team, you won’t always get on, you may not be the best of friends everyday but having a good team bond will help with success.

Julia – champion and mum
Photo by Rob Lloyd


Jumps: 8,500

Previous team history: 8 times National Champion 4 way Open – 7 times with Satori and once with Airkix. National Champion in 8 way Open (Ex Presidents). Bronze Medal World Cup 4 way Open (Satori). World Champion 4-way Female (Airkix). World Record 4-way score (Airkix).

How Julia describes herself: Determined, enthusiastic and pragmatic.

How her teammates describe her:  Focused (2), Ninja, fast, calm, small, talented, hard, wise nails, determined, driven.

Something about you people don’t know: I can be really shy.

Pet hate: People who faff.

Training at Skydive Algarve, 2019
Photo by Simon Brentford

What makes British female stars shine so brightly? No other nation has female teams wining the Open Nationals:

Julia: I think the reason why there are so many strong female competitors is because there are many strong females to aspire to be like in the sport. Those women give a lot back in terms of coaching, articles imparting information and advice. They also run events giving females opportunities to excel in the sport such as large formation events.

You had 4 years away from skydiving. After just 7 hours training you won the Wind Games! How do you change hats so easily from Mum to Champion?

Julia: I think it’s mostly down to experience. I’ve been training and competing in 4-way since I was 18. It’s in my blood and I don’t think any amount of time away from the sport would change that. In terms of changing hats, I’ve learnt through experience, that when you are training or competing, you focus and do not let other distractions get in your way. It’s not easy but needs to be done; otherwise what’s the point being away from my children?

You have an aggressive style of flying; hard stop, full speed to full stop in the next point. Where does this come from? 

Julia: My skydiving style, how I approached and executed a skydive, changed a lot when I was on Airkix and coached by Dan BC. He taught me the aggressive flying style you mention and it’s never left me. Coaches now talk about flowing through the moves, being lighter on grips, which is definitely different to my style. 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be on a top team? 

Julia: Never give up on your dreams. Accept that it’s a long journey so make sure you enjoy every moment. It takes a long time to find the right opportunity – I started skydiving in 1992 and I won my first AAA National Championships in 2006 – 14 years later. The right opportunity will come up, you just need to get yourself known, get yourself on a team even if it’s not the right team so you are visible at competitions and let people know what your goals are.

A happy Simon landing after a great jump
Photo by Rob Lloyd


Jumps: 4,500

Previous team history: 

  • 2015 National 4-way team (camera), World Air Games Dubai (4th)
  • 2012 Speed Skydiving Mondial World Championships Dubai (6th)
  • 2011 Speed Skydiving World Cup, Saarlouis, Germany
  • 2004 National Champion (team flyer) – The Wizards Sleeves 
  • 2019 National Champion 8-way (camera) – MicroClim8
  • 3 x Speed Skydiving UK National medals

How Simon describes himself: I am a human being. Or: helpful, geeky, smartish, Christian, alive

How his teammates describe him:  Genuine, hilarious, kind, skilled, funny, caring, ditsy, thoughtful, completely barking mad!  

Something about you people don’t know:  I was banned from watching Superman on TV as a kid because after each episode, I would jump from the top of the stairs and bounce all the way down. 

Pet hate:  Dog owners who scoop their dog poop up into little plastic bags, then hang them on tree branches.

Training at Skydive Algarve
Photo by Simon Brentford

What do you prefer, tunnel or sky? 

Simon: The sky, it’s how I connect to the world and to God. In particular, I like to team train over Skydive Algarve. Even as I was training weeks ago, I would look at the sea, the scenery and think, just WOW! Now that world seems so far away. When I do my government-sanctioned daily exercise runs and walks, I appreciate the sky in a different, but equally beautiful way.

Did your skills as a cameraflyer have to develop with the team?

Simon: When I joined NFTO, I said my objective was to find the limit of my ability, the point at which I could get no better. I’ve yet to find that limit, I keep improving and that journey is what inspires me. I am constantly changing the way I fly with different line-ups, different ideas and statistically analysing my footage.

Is it true as a camera flyer that if you’re doing a good job, nobody notices? 

Simon: I’d like to challenge that – if you’re doing an exceptional job, it should be apparent. Words such as ‘smooth’, ‘consistent’, ‘steep’, ‘clear’, should be mentioned.

How do you avoid busts?

Simon: I can let the team know when they might not be presenting their grips to the camera. I can be in the right place to reduce the probability of losing points through camera angles, grip separation or centre-point busts. A good camera flyer should know the formations. I visualise the formations; where I might be caught out, if it’s going to change fall rate and any problem grips. 

What is your role as the camera flyer?

Simon: To see the bigger picture. I see my role as being the glue between the girls. 

I see my role as being the glue between the girls”

How does it feel when the team does a tunnel meet and you have to stay home?  

Simon: Oooh, good question! Obviously, I watch all their tunnel meets and gesticulate wildly even though it doesn’t make a difference. 

Who has the best competition head?

Simon: We all have a heap of competition experience that helps us stay focussed, deal with problems, manage the pressure and perform. As I write this, I can visualise my mood, focus and presence that only exist leading up to and including the competition environment. I don’t think any of us are perfect but together, when NFTO competes, it is to a certain extent, like we merge. 

Winners at the 2018 Open Nationals, Skydive Hibaldstow
Photo by Rob Lloyd

NFTO Sponsors

A big shout out and thank you to our sponsors! They are amazing! 

NFTO team at the 2020 Wind Games in Empuria – Gold medalists, Female 4-way

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Meet: Lesley Gale

Lesley has been in love with skydiving for 35 years. She is a multiple world and national record holder and a coach on 20 successful record events worldwide. She has over 100 competition medals spanning more than 25 years and has been on the British 8-way National team at World events. She started Skydive Mag to spread knowledge, information and passion about our amazing sport.
Lesley is delighted to be sponsored by Performance Designs, Sun Path, Cypres, Cookie, Symbiosis suits and Larsen & Brusgaard

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