For the first time, USPA is hosting a beginner 4-way formation skydiving competition at Nationals. It’s almost like a skydiving version of “Field of Dreams.” (For you kids who don’t get the reference, Google it.) The test event—which is designed to help those with little competitive skydiving experience get involved—takes place at Skydive Arizona in Eloy in October.
For many years, would-be competitors have contacted USPA and expressed a level of intimidation about getting started in competitive 4-way FS. They felt that the entry-level class—4-way FS Intermediate—was a lot to take on, and that learning 16 random formations and 16 block formations created quite a high barrier to entry. These jumpers would point out that several other skydiving organizations (such as British Skydiving and the Australian Parachute Federation, as well as USA’s own National Skydiving League, which is well known as the springboard for competitors looking to get started with 4-way FS) all have a competition class lower than USPA’s lowest class. Shouldn’t USPA take a page out of their playbooks and follow suit?
USPA decided to take a look at it and used a variety of ways to ask the membership whether they would support such an addition. The resounding response was, “Yes!” Staff brought this information to the Winter 2021 USPA Board of Directors Meeting and presented it to the Competition Committee for its consideration. As is typical when adding a new event or class, the committee decided it would be best to start with a test event. The committee then discussed the idea with 2021 USPA National Championships host Skydive Arizona, Meet Director Randy Connell and FS Chief Judge Jim Rees. Everyone agreed that it was both possible and desirable to include a beginner test event at the 2021 Nationals. The full USPA Board unanimously approved, saying, essentially, “Play ball!”
The Competition Committee then sat down and decided on the rules, adapting the intermediate class rules to make the barrier to entry significantly lower. (If you’d like to see the nitty-gritty details on the rule changes, they’re available at uspa.org/scm.) The biggest differences are that the beginner class will consist of six rounds instead of the 10 in intermediate, and the number of block formations in the beginner dive pool will be halved to eight from intermediate’s 16. The beginner-class dive pool will be comprised of blocks 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 19 and 21 and all of the random formations. This mirrors the NSL’s A-class dive pool, and since a lot of jumpers already compete in indoor or outdoor NSL leagues, they’ll already be familiar with it.
The USPA membership showed significant enthusiasm for the addition of a beginner-class test event, but the proof is in the pudding. It’s now up to the competitors to show that there’s enough support to add it as a permanent class. As they said in the movie, “If you build it, he will come.” The USPA Competition Committee, Board of Directors, Competition Department, Skydive Arizona and meet management have built the field. Let’s see how many of the 1919 Chicago White Sox come to play.
Photo by Blair Anessi.
Building a Long-Distance Team
The members of one recently formed team are in a long-distance relationship. Alex Bingham lives in Kentucky and has 230 jumps. Sarah Dillman lives in Wisconsin and has the most jumps of the team: 825. Tommy Fitts lives in South Carolina and has 215 jumps. Mitch Rufer lives in Illinois and has 150 jumps. They met through various SDC Rhythm XP events and workshops and decided to form a team to compete at the beginner 4-way FS test event at the 2021 USPA Nationals and other competitions throughout the year.
The team members committed to a disciplined practice schedule at drop zones around the country and held its first full team practice at Skydive City Zephyrhills in Florida in April. They’re in the process of coming together as a unit, and already know how they want to debrief their jumps. (Stay positive, point out what went well and what they want to work on in future jumps.) USPA will follow this team and others through their training and at Nationals.
If you are interested in learning more about competition, join the USPA Competition Page on Facebook. There you can network with other competitive skydivers and maybe even form a team of your own.
FS 4-Way Beginner Test Event Dive Pool