Upright Formation Camp

November 30, 2018
Photo of the formation group.      Over the Thanksgiving weekend, skydivers from all over the country traveled to Skydive Arizona to participate in a Head-Up Formation Camp organized by some of the  most experienced skydivers in the industry; Sara Curtis, Steve Curtis, Amy Chmelecki and Mikey Carpenter. The purpose of the camp: to train participants in preparation for the Upright World Record 100 Way Attempts at Skydive Chicago taking place July, 2019. Over the course of the weekend, the group made 14 jumps from 16,000ft. 
     Formations this size require two airplanes and simultaneous exit of the groups in each plane. Skydive Arizona provided the group with a Skyvan and Twin Otter for the weekend. 46 people participated although there were a few swap - outs as cuts were made. Formations of this size require each skydiver to be in the elite level of the sport. The larger the formation, the higher the stakes become. A small mistake can have deadly consequences, which is why the organizers took safety precautions very seriously. Overall, the camp was very successful and all the participants went home with new skills and knowledge to bring  with them to the World Record try-outs that begin January 2019. 
Red Bull Athlete Amy Chmeleki lands her parachute after a formation jump.
    Amy Chmelecki and Sara Curtis have both been in the game for some time (each of them hold double-digit records) which makes them exceptionally capable of organizing these events so I wanted to pick their brains a little bit when it comes to large formation skydiving: 

What motivates you to hold these types of camps?
Amy: World Records are a great platform for the global skydiving community to work together as a team.  If successful, the outcome is a physical symbol of skydiving's evolution.  I love that!  Also to go a little bit more behind the scenes, I love sitting in my dinning room with Sara Curtis drinking tea and planning these supper fun events!

Sara: I like empowering people to come together as a team and perform their best under pressure to push skydiving disciplines to the next level.
 
How does a camp feel in comparison to a try-out?

Sara: A camp is less pressure, more forgiving of mistakes.  Both camps and try-outs are opportunities to learn, but the tryouts are more competitive like the actual record.

Amy: During a tryout my goal is to find the very best flyers for the record attempts.  That means I want to see who can fly all the different slots, who can take the most pressure, who is listening the most, who is most focused, who are the best team players.  During the camps I am in %100 teaching mode.  I have seen people come to a camp not even close to ready, then train their buts off and stick it on the record.  The feelings between the two types of events are similar, as we are always teaching, but the tryouts are a little bit more down to business.

Other than being a skilled skydiver, what other traits do you think contribute to being a successful participant in a big-way formation?

Sara: Being a team player.  Keeping your ego in check.  Willingness to listen and learn from others. 
 
Amy: Commitment to the team goal. Being able to preform under pressure while cold, tired and slightly hypoxic. Being a flexible team player. Being able to hustle hard while staying humble.

What is something you really like about organizing this type of event?
Amy: On the ground I really enjoy meeting the new flyers and seeing old friends.  In the air I love the visuals of a big way and the intensity of the vibe.

Sara: Its challenging, even for really good skydivers.  Everyone has to work together.

What is something that is really difficult about organizing this type of event?

Sara: Logistics of the formation, filling slots last minute when people have illness or minor injury or life events that prevent them from coming.  When lots of people are involved its a lot of follow up and organization!
 
Amy: When someone is being unsafe during the jump (free fall or canopy) and will not recognize it.  It does not happen much, but when it does it gets me flustered and uncomfortable. 
Skydivers leaving the airplanes.

Both women were very please about the way this camp played out and each of them are stoked to begin the try-out process. Check back here in January to read more about the head-up formation try-outs at Skydive Arizona!  

Photo Credits: Bruce Griffith
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