What the hell is a flaj? Is it related to a fahrvergnügen? Why are there two? Are the Swedes just punking us with this?
All actual questions heard in our offices every year when we see what comes out of Elsinore. But, we thought, enough flajjing around, we should really ask someone who knows what Flajflaj is all about—i.e., Flajflaj creator, Peter Nilsson.
“Flajflaj does mean something, but it’s clear to you only if you take part. I can’t explain it. However, I like that no one seems to get it right and everyone keeps asking. I have seen it spelled and heard it (mis)pronounced in every way I think. For us who create it, the meaning is clear.”
Here’s what we do know: Flajflaj is a two-week freefly skills camp that began in 2007 by Peter and his friend, Niklas Lellky, because they were broke and wanted to freefly. Not unlike—possibly, probably—you and the person next to you. They found some students and emailed DZ managers including the infamous Melanie Curtis, who was at that time running events at Skydive Elsinore in California. Melanie “hit it out of the park with her emails, so we went to Elsinore and we will never leave.”
Peter calls it a “skills-boogie” because it has that carnival, ‘Work? I’m not familiar with that word,’ peace-love-and-freeflying vibe. Camp runs Monday through Friday so participants have weekends to relax, sightsee or just jump on their own. At its core, though, Flajflaj is about developing freefly skills. Coach-to-student ratio is astronomical by other camp standards (1 coach for every 3.3 students last year)—and these aren’t the local scrubs either; 2016 coaches included Amy Chmelecki, Domi Kiger, Luis Prinetto, Mike Carpenter, Will Penny and a metric crapload more superstar freefly names.
“I have full faith in us as a team and we all work toward the same goal, of giving back to the sport. But I also want to give to the coaches, so we make sure they have time to play every day as well. I think this is part of what makes it special. Everyone gets the role they want and everyone is happy and stress free.”
Freefly utopia, right? The guy who created this whole thing must be totally LTDing it and reaping the rewards of one of the most massively successful events in the skydiving world, right? There is a sobering truth to be told: Skydiving can’t fix life.
Peter responded to our questions about Flajflaj hours after he buried his beloved mother’s ashes. “When I don’t plan Flajflaj lately I have gone through a massive depression, but that may not be what I want defining me. Nonetheless it’s true. I had a shoulder injury 2.5 years ago and have not been able fly at all. Before this, I did only skydiving for pretty much 17 years. I have [more than] 1,500 hours of coaching freeflying in the tunnels and [more than] 6,000 jumps.”
No one has attended every year of Flajflaj. “Now, not even me. This year I was very sick, to the point I thought I’d die. I had to stay behind. This was year nine, camp 13 and the good thing is, now I know Flajflaj will survive me. My great friends Marius and Marie agreed to partner with me and take control during my absence. It has been tough for me, but I have had full faith in the concept and our team.”
“As long as people want more, we will deliver. I am forever committed to Flajflaj and this is my purpose in life. To share the love and make freeflying available in the best way I can.”
“I love our sport and our people and Flajflaj is to give back, to everyone. It is what I wanted growing up in this sport and it’s what I and my coaches see works the best. … [We] train some really really good ninjas each year. There is place for everyone. 2017 is our 10-year-anniversary and we have some big plans, so anyone who wants to come out and celebrate with us, make it happen! I will be back for this one and we will make magic once again!!!”
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