Updated: Dec 10, 2019
SESSION IV | Sunday 2 February 2020 | 14:15 - 15:15 | Santa Clara| Panel Discussion |
At first glance one is tempted to look at the number of competitions held in indoor skydiving and conclude that all is well. They are held around the world and throughout the year. National and international competitions, sanctioned by a governing body or simply put on by the tunnel operators, they offer plenty of opportunities for everybody ambitious enough to put his or her skills to a test - and for a select few to excel at regular intervals. But there could be more!
That indoor skydiving would evolve into an array of different competitive disciplines and events was not a foregone conclusion, at least not until the second generation of wind tunnels arrived in the late 90s. Only after the airflow had been improved significantly – by changing from the archaic single propeller pushing air up from below the skydivers to multiple props pulling it upward from above – were conditions identical to those in terminal velocity free fall.
Formation Skydiving World Champion teams from the USA were the first to fully integrate tunnel time into their training regimes. At SkyVenture facilities in Florida and Arizona, the notorious overachievers went beyond improving their own skills with every minute they spent in the 14-foot-wide column of air accelerated to as much as 150 mph. They also encouraged their peers from around the world to join them there. Tunnel training camps staged at different facilities soon turned into informal and from there into formal competitions. An outdoor sport had gone indoors to advance the athletes’ performance level further. New challenges were eventually added too.
An international competition held under the title Bodyflight Bedford World Challenge in England developed into the first and dominant fixture on the annual calendar, starting with its inaugural edition. From the 12 4-Way Formation Skydiving teams and the 11 2-Way Freefly teams entered in 2006, participation in the World Challenge increased to more than 80 teams competing in 4-way and in a new artistic/dynamic events ten years later.
Starting in 2012, more operators set out to establish a proprietary brand for the competitive events held at their tunnels. From the Battle of Bottrop to the Charlewar to the Clash of Champions and on to The Wind Games, the draw of each competition was the well-found balance between the leading-edge and the traditional formats, the atmosphere the organizer was able to create at the venue, the slick pre- and post-event marketing plus the better-than-average communications, and – at least in one case – the prize money of 200,000 US$.
Only The Wind Games at Windoor in Empuriabrava have withstood the test of time. They will go into their seventh edition from 30 January through 1 February 2020. And of the seven disciplines contested in 2019, one was again a world premiere: Relay Race. The Windoor organizers excel in creativity when it comes to defining the new challenges in indoor skydiving.
With the 2014 World Cup in Indoor Skydiving held in Austin, USA, the first competitions held under the auspices of the World Air Sports Federation, FAI, the first benchmark in international participation for four events established. Only five years later, 18 national 4-way teams in the men’s division, 9 in women, 7 in vertical and 4 in juniors – as well as 120 skydivers competing in the artistic/dynamic events – made for a record entry at the 3rd FAI World Championships in Lille, France.
While competitive indoor skydiving appears to be flourishing almost everywhere, there is plenty of room for further improvement in key areas. This session of Indoor Skydiving 2020 | First Global Summit by FAI looks at all of them.
There is considerable variety in the formats of indoor skydiving competition. All of them have been tested - with varying degrees of success. From full-blown FAI World Championships to The Wind Games and on to the IBA Global Kids Challenge, a brief look at the rules governing the competitions confirms that there is plenty of common ground. But even more congruence would benefit them all.