A Hungry Man

Today's freestyle event brings the 2019 FAI World Canopy Piloting Championships to a conclusion. The coverage available through the organizers' Facebook page is again spectacular. Round three should be coming up shortly. I strongly recommend that you watch it too, either live or as a recording later.



It started off at 07:00 UTC with the first round and 39 pilots showing only the one move they had submitted in their "drama sheet." A highly appropriate name, indeed, as it takes up on the progressive build-up of drama over the course of the competition, both in terms of the number and the degree of difficulty of the moves shown at the different stages.


One of the lessons I learned through the brilliant commentary by co-hosts Julie Teague and Peter "Irish" Sutton: despite the discipline's name, it is not an anything-goes performance based on you-pick-them moves that will win the gold in this competition. There is structure to the madness: an annex to the rules lists and describes those moves that can be performed. Specifically, I learned that while a "Blind Man" is okay, a "Hungry Man" is not. It can only be performed after formal approval is given.


Well, I still got to watch one of the pilots taking the toggles between the teeth (!) and rubbing the tummy while dragging other parts of the body through the water. That is the anarchic freestyle spirit that we know from other – very much comparable – sports such as skateboarding or snowboarding. Why suppress anyone's artistic freedom and limit the desire to push the envelope?


As was pointed out repeatedly by the commentators, freestyle should be about making a statement and a splash – the bigger the better – and this World Canopy Piloting Freestyle Championship did just that for me. It may have been less of an aquatic extravaganza with huge on-site audiences than what I had seen from Swoop Freestyle in Copenhagen, DEN, and Jeddah, KSA. But to this spectator at least, it looked more of a genuine sport than some of the slapstick produced by landings on and in the water, which need to be complemented by Baywatch-style rescue missions to keep anyone from drowning.


I was looking for the Swoop Freestyle rules to compare them with the ones governing this freestyle but couldn't find anything online. In any case, the caliber of what I have seen today would surely fill the gap left in case there would not be another Swoop Freestyle FAI World Championship taking place in the future.


Again, this story was well told by the crew of The Stream Team. And it was an exceptionally good one too: Curt Barthalomew, a standout pilot known beyond the skydiving community because of his gold and silver medals at The World Games 2013 and 2017, claimed his first freestyle world title - and his wife Jeannie made it to fourth place. There is outstanding media potential in following legends as they grow (b)older - and in portraying sports where there is absolutely no gender gap.


Roland Hilfiker

ISGS Organizer and Moderator

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