Submitted by Albert Berchtold
Over the past 5-10 year several different swoop leagues have come and gone here in the US, ranging from pro leagues holding meets on public beaches, down to grassroots leagues operating across the nation. The one that seems to be holding on strong and showing steady growth is based in the Southeast.
The Florida Canopy Pilots Association (FLCPA) was started up back in 2004 by Justin Thornton and Chris Hayes, with input from PD Factory team pilot Ian Bobo. After a while, Hayes took the league over and ran it for some years on his own. The meets grew and the league developed the first versions of what would eventually become the open and advanced classes USPA uses today.
As the rules changed, the league continued to be a great place for many pro level competitors to test out their techniques as new courses, scoring rules, and weight limits changed. After the 2007 season, Hayes decided he was ready to hand his baby off. He passed the reigns to Albert Berchtold who was an eager amateur competing in the league at the time.
The Florida league has always focused on creating an environment conducive to learning. For each meet, the league provides a professional coach to work with the competitors and at the end of the season, 20% of the league amateur members “graduate” up to pro class.
As the knowledge has grown, so has the attendance. In the early days, each meet saw 6-10 competitors, but now they routinely see 30-40 competitors attending from all over the country (and sometimes from abroad).
The 2010 season just wrapped up with the last meet held at Skydive the Farm, GA.
Plans are on for the 2011 season, and the word is that the league may expand to include invitational pro events as well as the smaller regional meets. Keep an eye on the FLCPA website for more information and dates of future competitions.