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Wednesday, September 1, 2021

With the USPA National Parachuting Championships coming up October 15-30, you’ll have the chance to see competitors in both individual parachuting disciplines—canopy piloting and classic accuracy—demonstrate their skills. I’ve been competing in canopy piloting for about 17 years now, but in 2008, I decided to try classic accuracy. I had never jumped an accuracy-style wing, and how these canopies flew piqued my interest. So, I borrowed a Parafoil 282 and gave it a go. After a few dozen of the most terrifying jumps in my life, I decided to enter the event at the USPA Nationals. This is where I got a true taste of what the discipline is all about.

Since then, I’ve continued competing in CP and have gone to a few classic accuracy camps here and there. At first glance, the disciplines are polar opposites—one features generally young jumpers flying the fastest parachutes in the world; the other features more mature jumpers flying the slowest—but if you dig below the surface, you’ll see that they have a surprising amount in common.

While they are individual competitions, there is a team dynamic. While jumpers in both disciplines compete as individuals (unlike, say, canopy formation or formation skydiving), they also have a team dynamic that bonds them. Countries, manufacturers or DZs may even field teams. Individuals—whether on a team or not—may compete, train or perform demos together or otherwise work as a unit for various reasons.

Both disciplines are filled with fierce competitors. Though the accuracy demographic may skew older, age is no matter when it comes to having the drive to achieve, dedication to being the best you can be and the strong desire to win. This drive to compete is strong and alive in both groups. When canopy pilot Curt Bartholomew and accuracy competitor Cheryl Stearns prepare for a competition, their focus and drive are so similar it’s scary. The excitement after a successful jump and the agony after a poor score are also the same.

Gear nerds abound. You probably won’t find members of formation skydiving team Arizona Airspeed looking to change their gripper size from one meet to the next, but you’ll certainly find CP and accuracy competitors looking to modify or change their parachutes, equipment or weight from one meet—or even one round—to the next. You’ll also see harness changes, changes to audible settings and even cutting up shoes to enhance competition performance! Sometimes these changes seem neurotic, and many would argue that there’s a heavy placebo effect, but whether you’re hanging around CP or accuracy competitors, you’ll hear open discussion about what they think works and what they think doesn’t. Auto enthusiasts love to talk about car modifications, and canopy folks love to talk about changes to their parachutes. 

These are strong communities. When a newbie shows up to try out CP or accuracy, it’s amazing to see the more experienced folks take the newer jumper under their wing. Everyone helps one another, shares tips and tricks, assists with assessing problems and keeps everyone in the community representing the discipline safely. They care for one another.

If you’re currently an active CP competitor and thinking you want to try something new, give classic accuracy a try. It is not slow; it is not easy; and I guarantee you will find it challenging. You’ll probably feel right at home.

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