The Spring Fling—which started at the Florida Skydiving Center in Lake Wales back in 2004 with only 18 participants—has grown to be the world’s largest annual gathering of canopy formation skydivers (aka canopy relative workers or CRW dogs). The 2018 Spring Fling, which returned to Lake Wales this year, attracted 112 participants from 10 countries. Eighteen jumpers came from the European Union alone. And the event has gotten longer, as well. Previous Spring Flings took place over three or four days; this year’s event expanded to nine days.
The extended schedule allowed for more training of CRW “pups” (new canopy formation skydivers), a greater variety of small and specialty dives and two days devoted to large formations … a little something for everyone. This year, Chris Bohn joined the growing event’s traditional organizers—Eric Gallan, Chris Gay, Brian Pangburn and Jim Rassmussen—to help them handle the larger volume. Facilitating it all was DZ Manager Betty Hill, whose “whatever you need, we will make it happen” attitude helped 163 loads of jumpers get in the air during the event.
The first weekend started with 4-ways so the experienced jumpers could knock off the winter rust. In addition, training began for the zero-CF-time pups. After classroom training in the mornings and one-on-one instruction in the air in the afternoons, all 12 pups made great progress. By Monday, most of the pups found themselves on 16-ways. Three of the pups even participated in a 50-way by the week’s end! Dominic Matrone, a teenager with only 49 total jumps and one CF jump at the beginning of the event, was one of those high achievers. His parents, experienced skydivers Aleth and Frank Matrone, encouraged Dominic to attend the Spring Fling, since they felt it would provide him the safest possible introduction to the CF discipline. By the end of the week, Dominic, on his 67th total jump, docked on his father during a 49-way!
The Matrones’ faith in the Spring Fling organizers was borne out … all of the new jumpers learned to safely dock on larger formations without a single wrap or cutaway. Texas pup Nathan Arkwell said, “Before arriving at Spring Fling, I had about a dozen CRW jumps and nothing bigger than a 4-way diamond. On my second day here, they were organizing me into 16-ways and teaching me how to get better at spotting and getting into my position. On Thursday, they started me on a 25-way diamond and got me all the way up to being a part of a 49-way diamond! When I arrived, I did not expect to be able to make it into a formation so large, but thanks to the coaching and tips from all of the experienced CRW dogs, I did it!”
Bad weather rolled in midweek, which allowed the participants the time for seminars on topics such as 2-way competition and CF piloting skills. After the seminars, everyone had the opportunity to enjoy campfires, pool parties hosted by the Raw Dogs group and a surprise Brazilian barbecue hosted by the contingent of jumpers from Brazil.
On days seven and eight, the jumpers went big, starting with 25-ways and ending with 49- and 50-ways. Through each series of jumps, the formations grew more stable. The Spring Fling organizers continued their tradition of rotating jumpers into and out of the large dives, and 67 people cycled through the three 49- to 50-way jumps. These were the largest formations CF jumpers had flown since the 100-way world record in 2007, which coincidentally also happened at Lake Wales and included 22 jumpers from this year’s Spring Fling.
Marion and Andreas Jankowsky from Germany, one of the three married couples at the event, said, “Coming from Europe we just planned to get an early start into our CF season. But in fact, we met the most friendly people with enormous skills who let us experience so many great jumps. We never expected to log three new personal records in only two days! The organizers did such a great job combining absolute fun and maximum safety. The many helping hands on the ground made it the perfect event.” In the spirit of marital togetherness, the organizers arranged for Marion to dock on her husband on the 50-ways.
The camera flyers—Bob Felt, Heikki Kammonen, Kevin Keenan, Yuliya Pangburn, Thomas Rohde-Seelbinder, Tim Telford, Michael Tomaselli and Denis Zhuravkov—captured amazing photos and videos, and since they were all experienced CF flyers, they also cycled into the large formations.
The CF community is renowned for its family-like support system. Many showed up with extra rigs and canopies for others to jump. More than a dozen experienced jumpers dedicated their first days at the event to making one-on-one training jumps with the pups. GSE-1 (ground support extraordinaire #1) Sarah Bromley distributed her homemade brownies, took a gazillion photos, facilitated a raffle to distribute the event prizes (including jewelry she made herself) and helped to corral everyone to ensure the event flowed smoothly. Eduardo Guillen said it best: “Spring Fling is always reunion time with our good old and new friends, with that special closeness that few human enterprises promote. That is CRW for us CRW Dogs.”
The seven-jumper Polish contingent made its second group trip to Spring Fling after attending in 2017. Marcin Bak said, “After last year’s visit to Spring Fling, we all knew that we’d be back to this great boogie again. There is no better place to develop your CF skills.”
Everyone left the event with big smiles and great photos and memories, sure to return to the 2019 Spring Fling March 9-17 at Skydive Sebastian in Florida.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brian Pangburn, D-18122, began canopy formation skydiving in 1994. Since then, he’s competed in all CF disciplines and has co-organized the last few CF world records. Pangburn now focuses on teaching and coaching CF.