Cloud Dancer
The 1994 World
Freestyle and Skysurfing Competition

article by Tamara Koyn


The following material represents only my best effort to capture information that I have acquired at the 1994 Skyblazin' Competition. I do not guarantee that it is error free.

I arrived in Eloy, Arizona on Tuesday October 11, the day before official practice day for the competition. Competition was from October 13-16, 1994. The line-up of competitors was excellent--everyone had put in a lot of effort into costuming their jumpsuits. Coral Dorner, for example, wore a white jumpsuit with zebra stripes and a matching rig. Everyone in my division (women's advanced) alone made around 600 team training jumps. Everyone was serious. And it became obvious to me that I had talent but I didn't spend any money on my talent. I don't have any money. I made about 20 team training jumps with Jamie Paul with the rest of my 150 freestyle dives of the year as solos. Also, this has been my first year with divided skydiving interests--I had discovered the joy of Vertical RW (freeflying) last December [1993] at Skydive DeLand.

The competition got underway. In general, many of the freestylists and surfers used jumpsuits with dual wings on the arms, much like those of the Tony Sit Suit but made from cotton material and a little smaller. A few had ZP wings. It is easier for the freestylist to keep the arms held out to the sides perpendicular to the windflow and perform a variety of standing poses and movements without losing balance. Also, someone pointed out something very interesting about these wings...

An experiment with a worn F111 pilot chute and a ZP pilot chute was conducted in a windtunnel and it was found that the porous F111 pilot chute produced more drag. They went on to say: "Drag a bucket through the water in a swimming pool and then put holes in the bottom of that bucket and drag it through the water again--One will notice that the bucket is much harder to pull through the water with the holes." I haven't tried this myself. Anyway, this idea continued to include the idea that material wings are better than ZP wings because they have higher drag and they are less subject to unpredictable and jerky inflation and deflation when loops are performed. I had spoken to Tony Suits about this idea and they plan to do some tests.

Anyway, back to the freestyle... Roz Tomkins showed the grace that Dale Stuart showed in previous years and as she did her series of layouts and twists, her body sprung and snapped through the air much like that of a gymnast. Dale Stuart, on her very first compulsory round, looked like a computerized freestylist performing every move to perfection without as much as a single flaw. Her next jumps didn't go so perfectly and during some of her free routines she was actually falling off some moves.

As soon as Marco Manna left the airplane, he moved as if he were walking around a tube--slow back layouts while the legs walk through the rotation. He calls this move "Space Lab." This year Olav (last year's Men's World Champion) was the camera flyer for Omar, a Saudi Arabian who I believe has made over 1,600 jumps in his first year of jumping since starting in October 1993. And if you want to see the routine from a normal point of view, you will have to turn your TV upside-down! Omar exited immediately into a position with the head straight into the windflow with his chest facing upward. Olav was filming from below. Omar spread his legs with his hands overhead and then clicked his heels together several times. Many of the freestylists this year included moves which involved standing on the head. Amy Baylie stands on her head and changes from one stag position to the other stag position. I perform an exit during which I make a straddle with my head into the wind and then I perform a full twisting backloop starting and finishing in this head stand position. Dale Stuart performs what she calls a "Pop-out" loop in which she tucks into a regular loop and then snaps her body into an arch position standing on her head.

Another type of move also appeared among the competitors... Some of the men would start a spin and then change their body shape as they accelerated that spin. These type of moves truly looked like those of the spinning ice skaters. Dale Stuart performed what I believe she calls the "Layback Spin" where she holds one arm over her head, one leg is straight into the windflow and the other is bent and positioned behind the body. This move spins of course. Roz Tomkins finishes off her free routine in a spinning stag standup. It looks like she spins so fast that she generates enough lift to carry her upward like a rocket. (It is very difficult for camera flyers to fall faster than this move since standups fall very fast.)

Being a freestylist myself, I realize my discussion is slanted a bit towards freestyle but in skysurfing I enjoyed watching Rob Harris. While other skysurfers just snapped into their Helicopter spins and spun, Rob would invert holding his heading, I could see him feeling the air with the backs of his arms and then suddenly shift those arms beginning his spin. It was very humorous when Rob finished his compulsory dive by placing his hand with a Sony Handycam sticker on it over the lens. BTW, the event was sponsored by Sony Handycam and Outdoor sports.

Of the female surfers, Viviane truly looks like a lady poised on her board. While she is standing, her knees are almost crossed as a lady would while sitting in a chair.

One thing I must say is that the World Freestyle Federation works very excellently with the media. The ESPN TV program will air December 19. And I have heard that there may not be a video presentation of the meet prepared for skydivers so get your VCRs ready! Skydive Arizona was indeed a very good place to hold the event--good facility, planes, weather, etc. I stayed there for the month and the weather for October is statistically very excellent. It was unfortunate that Murphy lurked the freestyle meet and brought the winds and rain. On the last day of the event, it was raining in Eloy and we were dropped into Skydive Marana and then into Buckeye (Desert Skydiving Center, a center that requires an AAD or RSL to jump there) as organizers were disparately hoping to finish the meet. Also, the number of required jumps for the meet was also reduced. Instead of making 5 free round jumps, competitors needed only to make 3 free round jumps. (The competitors had already made three compulsory jumps.)

I think the judging was a bit difficult to understand. For myself, I admit, I missed a number of moves of my compulsory 2 dive and embarrassed myself. *blushing* I really wanted to redeem myself, gathered all my concentration and my "know-how" on controlling any performance anxiety that I feel, and I got up there and made a nice compulsory 3 dive. It is great to know that the psychological techniques for controlling performance anxiety really do work. (However, describing these techniques is the subject of another discussion.) Well, the judges scored my flailing compulsory #2 dive high and my clean compulsory #3 dive (during which I was closer to Jamie and more fluid) was scored low. I have absolutely no clue why the scores came out this way. Other competitors reported the same feeling and many puzzled about why Roz Tomkins had received low scores in spite of her smooth flowing performances.

A bit about judging...

A friend explained...When giving any test/competition, one is dealing with "validity" and "reliability." Validity--Is the test/competition measuring/evaluating what it is supposed to measure? Reliability--Does the test/competition measure or evaluate these criterion consistently?

The reliability of a multiple choice exam is fairly objective and easy to score by using a key or feeding "Scantron" forms into a computer. However, evaluating something like freestyle is considerably more subjective. In hopes to increase the reliability, many judges evaluate the performances. 9 judges evaluate Olympic ice skating with the high and low scores dropped. 5 judges evaluated the competitors at Skyblazin '94.

Cloud Dancer
© Copyright 1993, Tamara Koyn. All Rights Reserved.