United Parachute Technologies (UPT) is hopping on the skills-camp train, offering small-group learning environments to jumpers around the country. The first camp will be Aug. 11-14 at Chicagoland Skydiving Center; disciplines will include angle leadership, mixed freefly sequentials, multi-dimensional wingsuit flight, head-up formations and big-way skills, and intros to formation skydiving (FS), freeflying, angle-flying and canopy flocking.
There will also be a 10-way FS challenge organized by Nik Daniel and Brianne Thompson of AXIS Flight School and Sandy Grillet and his son Nick. Each coach will take their 10-way team through traditional FS and belly-dynamics* skills Thursday and Friday and a 6-round competition Saturday. The real fun starts Sunday, when Nik and Brianne will combine their teams to compete against Nick’s and Sandy’s combined team in the ultimate big-way challenge: AXIS versus Grillets.
* What the hell is belly dynamics? This new event combines intricate FS formations with belly curving, over-under and slot-switching maneuvers.
In the name of healthy competition, smack talk and shenanigans, we asked both sides some pre-challenge questions. Let’s see how they face off.
Brianne Thompson and Niklas Daniel
Sandy and Nick Grillet
All of the U.S. (Sandy) and Skydive Arizona and Skydive Carolina (Nick)
Years in Sport
16 (Brianne) and 12 (Nik)
Since the beginning of time (Sandy) and 12 years (Nick—although he’s been around the sport since birth)
Best personality traits?
Our best personality trait: skipping over silly questions. Next.
Nick’s enthusiasm and Sandy’s abs. [We might be making one of these up.]
What elements went into creating the dive pools for the Vector Camps?
We came up with jumps that we ourselves would like to try and do. We wanted to come up with jumps that were challenging and fun.
Creating a new dive pool is a pretty easy process, you can take ideas from existing dive pools from any discipline, FS, FF, MFS even dynamic flying in the tunnel. The challenge and difficulty comes from seeing what will actually work or is even possible. Thinking things out in your head or looking at a jump on a piece of paper is different from actually taking it to the air and seeing what it actually looks like.
What makes these skydives challenging?
Keeping your sanity while trying to perform something that violates all previous FS rules.
This kind of flying will require a pretty good skill set which will allow people to focus on the sight pictures and the references instead of thinking about how to fly their body. It will challenge everyone; the coaches will have to figure out new ways to communicate information as the jumps go on, while the flyers are being challenged on their flying and the never seen before dive pool.
How would you describe belly dynamics?
We can’t get into that right now because we’re limited on space, and it would sound very convoluted and a lot crazy. Ask us after the event. We might have a better description.
It is a mix of all portions of skydiving, traditional FS grip taking, with a feel of the FF movement jumps and the proximity non-contact tunnel flying that is becoming so popular.
With this diverse group of coaches, how does [your team] have the upper hand in this comp?
How does it not?!
Experience! The old man was skydiving when the Dead Sea was still sick and Nick grew up around the sport. Add Nick’s skydiving, competition and tunnel to the mix and we have a strong hand!
What skill sets should jumpers focus on to prepare for this event?
Keeping an open mind. We are hoping to venture into new territory that builds upon our current skill sets, but goes a bit further.
Brush up on the ability to reference while you fly. You will have to be able to sit still while looking over your shoulder to see behind you while maintaining a slot or a heading, as well as be able to move around the sky while looking somewhere else. These jumps will require a lot of discipline.
What type of flyers do you want on your team?
Jumpers looking for a good time.
People who have a good attitude, are willing to try something new, are open to new information and are competitive!
How do you feel about the statement that the Grillet team is nothing but an old man and a boy child?
How do you feel about the statement that AXIS consists of only one person? You never see both of them in one place, right?
We’ll tell you a secret: we have actually seen them both in the same place at the same time and we thought the universe was going to explode … so watch out!
Does your team anticipate Sandy being the leader of the Grillet Family, or has the son taken over the kingdom now?
There was a kingdom?
Who do you think wears the pants on team AXIS?
Easy question. Brianne!
Nik, since Brianne has swooped through flames and been deemed a SkyGoddess, are you riding her coattails from here on out?
Well, it is a pretty sweet ride.
Brianne Thompson | Photo by Robert Justin Carmody
Nick, is being in the same industry with dad like having him as your elementary school principle, always hoping he doesn’t find out what you did?
That was what it was like when I first started, everyone knew me and knew my old man, so I had so many eyes on me. Then I realized that my dad started skydiving in the ‘70s and with all the people he knows, the stories he has heard, the stories he has been a part of—there isn’t anything I could do that he hasn’t seen, done or heard of before!
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