Thinking of getting into competition and wanting to know what it takes to get there? We asked 5 of our athletes to give their top tips on getting competition fit in skydiving. We asked from a range of different disciplines, so if you are interested in anything from canopy piloting to speed skydiving, we’ve got great advice for you!
Our 5 JYRO Athletes
Let’s introduce our athletes to you! We’ve got Canopy Pilot Francesco Italia. Super cool dude from Italy who loves flying his Petra. His stoke level is high and we love him for it!
Josiah Rich, Freestyle ninja, from the good ole’ US of A. One seriously stand up guy who gives his all at every competition and training. If this guy isn’t at the DZ training, then he’s spinning it up at the tunnel.
Shane Turner is our pie-lovin’ Speed Skydiver. This guy has the biggest smile on his face all.of.the.time. We love Shane’s bubbly positive attitude to life.
Sondre Tømmervold is our VFS Norwegian flyer. A member of Blue Pelican VFS team, head up, head down, it’s all points to those guys!
And finally, Michele Silvi, member of Hayabusa. You’ve probably heard of that team. They’re pretty good at what they do…
We sent a bunch of competition related questions to these guys to get their tips and advice on getting competition fit in skydiving. These guys are true competitors. They train hard, are some of the best in the world and have the best attitude about our beautiful sport. So let’s get into the questions and answers!
What discipline do you compete in?
My discipline is canopy piloting, where I like to measure myself continuously!
We compete in FS 4 way.
VFS – Vertical Formation Skydiving.
What sort of training do you do? Skydiving, in the tunnel?
I train about 300-400 freestyle jumps per year, and about 50 hours in the tunnel per year, in addition to a lot of cross-training.
In skydiving the main training each competition includes a week of preparation for the competition! Unfortunately, I don’t have much time for out-of-work inquiries!
We do both depending on the period and competition, but of course we chose skydiving over the tunnel because we have the chance to fly our canopies more.
The team does tunnel training three days every week, off season, as well as one day training together in Norway’s top athletes centre Olympiatoppen. Just before and right after the season starts, when it’s still too cold to jump in Norway, we go to the amazing and efficient dropzone of Skydive Portugal in Évora. In the summer we jump 4-5 days about every other week at Norway’s national skydiving centre: Skydive Oslo.
Nothing beats simply going for a Speed Skydive. As a newish discipline we are constantly breaking new boundaries and getting faster each year. We are still pioneering the sport and, I believe it is unknown what could possibly generate the fastest speeds within the designated competition window.
So with an imagination and after many campfire discussions I like to do a lot of experimentation to see if there is any substance to any idea conjured up as we push uncharted territory with faster speeds than ever before.
Any time spent in the tunnel in a head down orientation is also beneficial to continue to feel the wind, its sensation and orientation flowing over your body. One must train the mind as well as the body in preparation for reaching top speeds.
Read Shane’s review of our Crossfire 3: Crossfire 3 Review: The Art of Having Fun
How much time do you spend training for competition?
Too much! About 20-30 total hours per week in the months leading up to competition.
About 20% of my free time is for skydiving, I know it’s a little … but I make the most of this time.
We make our training schedule according to the competition calendar, but in general it takes 6 months of training and preparation for a normal meet and one year for the FAI World Meet.
One could say that being on Blue Pelican is a 100% position. We don’t go a day without some sort of training, for the sake of becoming World Champions one day! It involves personal training at the gym, mental training, watching video of ourselves and the competitors, working in the tunnel or normal training with the team.
I spend countless hours thinking, planning and preparing for a speed jump. It has become a kind of obsession to figure out how to get more speed out of the limited 7,400ft (2,256km/h) of vertical height we get to achieve our goal. A passion for faster speeds on every jump and the feeling that this is just the beginning is the most exciting part of it all. Manifestation occurs every day.
You can be under the ocean and manifest your dreams in the sky and any time spent in the wind is time well spent. Experimentation becomes more limited as a competition approaches and a month out from a competition it’s all about fine tuning what you know works.
“After the World Cup in 2019, there was a 10 way speed scrambles event where the competitors randomly were assigned to teams. I only had my skin-tight flex suit and I sunk out on a belly jump for the first speed formation. I had to borrow a student suit from the school for the rest of the rounds.” – Josiah Rich
Do you train with a team or individually? What advice would you give for training with others or by yourself?
Jumping and tunnel flying together with my teammate. Cross training in the gym, running, cycling, yoga, weights, etc all individually. Some tunnel flying individually as well working on specific tricks.
In my home dropzone I train alone, while before I have had the good fortune to train with my teammates Mario and Armando Fattoruso, certainly training together with teammates is more motivating for the mind!
We are a 4-way team so we always train together. My advice is always try to train with the same people to grow as a group.
Our advice is that any and all training is beneficial for your health and your advancement and performance in skydiving. In regards to learning new things in the tunnel/sky. I would say train what you would like to get better at.
If you want to learn how to sit and take grips, fly head down and do transitions, go to a coach that specialises in this kind of flying. If you want to get really good; the recipe is simple. Get a job in a tunnel, or join a team. Preferably both. And stick with it, this can work for anyone.
WATCH MASON CORBY HEAD UP WEBINAR
Being the fastest, I have always trained as an individual. It has always been a challenge for me to train with anyone else due to the speeds I perform at, however I enjoy jumping with team mates to film and support them in their own journey to reach 500+ km/h. When starting out a speed skydive can be very “noisy” and with that you can cover a lot of ground, unpredictably and in a very short time.
Like with any discipline, Speed Skydiving must be respected. If you were to train with anyone, choose an experienced skydiver and always seek DZSO approval. Both skydivers must be prepared to match speeds, which means both wearing the right gear and having 2 x audibles set appropriately for maximum height awareness. A visual aid is also highly recommended with several products now available that work well in conjunction with your 2 x audible altimeters.
What was your biggest achievement in competition?
Just making it there while dealing with everything else in life was a huge personal accomplishment. Having a higher difficulty score than Yo at the most recent world championship felt really good.
Surely in the 2019 World Cup in South Africa, it was the first result with my Italian team, but my personal success at Tanay Mondia 2020, where I won a bronze medal in zone accuracy, has given me so much satisfaction and I feel very proud!
Winning the FAI World Meet in Tanay, Russia is our last biggest achievement which is the most important competition for FS 4-way.
Our biggest achievement to date must be the 2019 Arizona World Cup. The year before in 2018 we had three members leave the team and got two new flyers in the formation as well as a new video-man. We still managed to get our highest average with just under a year of correct training. Our video guy didn’t bust a single point, and we got very few busts at all, we were in the zone. We are really looking forward to the next competition.
It was 2018 and I was competing at my first ever World Parachuting Championships which happened to be in my hometown, Gold Coast, Australia. The sense of pride just being there, participating in this event was unbelievable. It was truly a dream come true. Then to quickly become a front runner, leading the competition until just the final round when I had the potential of winning Gold or bombing out completely was a surreal and sensational experience.
I can still close my eyes today and feel the energy of that event. After the final round I achieved 2nd place, Silver at my first ever World Parachuting Championships. Since first deciding to compete in Speed Skydiving, being a part of the Australian Parachute Team in that time and place, with the rollercoaster of emotions and friendship forged will forever be etched in my heart. I am and will be forever grateful for that experience.
“Before joining the team I was jumping a 119 and when the team asked what size canopy I wanted to have for the new season I said 109. After a few months the canopy arrived and I was so happy I slept with it. When the first day of training arrived I opened the canopy and it was a 99!
When I realised what the team had done there was a look of fear on my face. Knowing the team trusted me (otherwise they wouldn’t have ordered a 99 for me) and feeling confident and safe to fly the canopy I took it for its first jump. When I landed I was the happiest guy in the world!” – Michel Silvi
What is the biggest challenge you have faced in competition?
Managing the mental and emotional aspects.
Read more: 5 Ways Meditation Can Be Valuable in Skydiving
The biggest challenge was always at Tanay Mondia 2020 where I changed my canopy, from SLeia 69 to Petra 69 (never tried a Petra before – FUCKYEHAAA) and my brain was in saving mode (a scary moment)… but myself, my friends and teammates worked together and managed to do something good.
The after-party :D, jokes aside there is always a bit of stress in round 1 but probably the biggest stress was to fight against good teams point by point until the end.
Biggest challenge in a competition.. I guess the nerves? Maybe? Or perhaps long days? VFS doesn’t jump mid day because of the sun, so we sometimes (most times) have to come back to the dz a second time to maybe do more comp jumps.
The biggest singular battle I’ve had during a competition has been with my own headspace. When a negative thought grabs hold it can be difficult to let it go. I have always had a positive outlook and it was a new experience to get the negs. It has been important to develop a technique that I can fall back on to dissolve any negative thoughts. I continue to manifest a positive mindset, along with a winning attitude to find myself in a flow state. In that way I am always striving to perform at my best.
Do you have a particular fitness regime? If so, what exercises do you do? Are there any particular exercises that you would recommend for competing in skydiving?
Everyone’s body is different, so focus on improving your weaknesses in training, and play to your strengths in competition. Overall fitness is so important for high level flying. I spend a lot of time in the gym, running, and biking leading up to competition to make sure certain muscle groups are strong for flying.
Upper back and legs are always a focus for me, but know your own body and where your weaknesses in flying are and then focus on those areas in cross training.
Read more: Managing Energy Levels in Skydiving: 5 Key Ways
I am constantly training all year round. I like running and functional training my entire body. It is very important for my mind also!
Physical training is really important, especially mobility and flexibility training. Yoga, Pilates, running and not so much heavyweights help us to perform jumps in the best conditions.
We have a greater focus on core exercises. Our current video guy has been several years on the Norwegian National gymnast team and acts as our physical coach. He was even helping before joining the team with exercises aimed at getting a stronger core. This is really helpful when flying at greater speeds and can be helpful for belly flying too, I might add!
Doing any exercise is beneficial. I find variety is the easiest way for me to continue any fitness regime. Finding something you enjoy is rather important for longevity and exercising in nature is a double win. Next is always trying to improve the way you breathe.
Breath work is often underestimated and can easily be misunderstood. I believe the ability to feel the world around you is particularly important with Speed Skydiving. In a single jump you will have air rushing over your body faster than most ever will and to be able to desensitise your body to the ferocity of sensations is to feel it more and more until it becomes normal.
Each new level of speed offers new sensations. The more you expose yourself to that sensation or feeling the more it becomes the norm and minimise any muscle reaction to the new forces felt.
Do you follow a diet during training? Any tips on good food to eat?
Yes, keep track of what you eat and how you feel after you eat it. Over the years I’ve honed my diet to the stuff that gives me energy and makes me feel good. Lots of veggies, some fruits, lean meats, etc. I love sweet potatoes; those are the best for energy and making me feel good. Everyone is different though. Pay attention to your body and adjust as needed.
Yes during training I always keep to a good diet – salad/rice/chicken/fish, I avoid sauces as they are difficult to digest. I take just one day a week to enjoy pizza, pasta and any other good food…unfortunately.
We try most of the time to eat healthy food and during training we don’t eat so much but just some fruits, energy bar, small snacks and a lot of water during jumps.
We don’t follow a particular diet, other than trying to eat healthy. Eat enough vegetables. Drink enough. Don’t overindulge. Try to stay away from sugars. The captain’s a vegetarian. Myself, I do intermittent fasting during the summer, but that’s more of a way of eating rather than a diet.
Have you heard of meat pies? They’re the best!! Seriously, we all know how to eat properly within reason so my simple advice is to keep hydrated. Water up! I’ve tried eating a big breakfast to hold extra weight through the day but honestly I’ll take comfort over feeling heavy.
So if you need to empty your bowels, do it. If wind needs to escape you, do it. If you’re not comfortable then your mind won’t be completely on the job. Clear your mind of everything that has no relationship with the job at hand. Release your fears and go for it!
Is competition mentally challenging and if so, what do you do to prepare for it?
I think 80% of competition is mental. It’s by far the biggest part of the competition. Mental preparation is a huge part of the game. Train like it’s a competition jump, with all the focus, every time.
Yes, the competition has an enormous mental effort. I can deal with it well because I have a very fun relationship with my mates from home, and we always joke and laugh, even 2 minutes after leaving the plane. I think this is my secret!
For sure competition is challenging and you will always feel the pressure, only experience can help you to handle it better and if you lack experience you can use some meditation techniques to calm down.
Competition is probably a mental challenge in every discipline, but formation skydiving is always a mental game. Visualising, thinking two-three steps ahead, all day everyday training, getting a high self confidence that this is what we’re good at. This is what prepares you for the competition.
Maybe meditation might help during the competition, in addition. We have to look into that. For now, we’re just focusing 100% on the training and our plan for the next year, before the World Championship in Arizona 2022.
Competition is fun! When it becomes a chore, it will be very hard to find your flow state. When your spirit is high, and your light is bright; the pressure of competition, the job at hand, becomes surpassable. Train well and train hard. The knowledge that you’ve done the best you can before you arrive at a competition means that when the door opens on jump run you have what it takes, the tools and mind set to be the best you can be.
So now, you can use that knowledge, find your flow state and send it into whatever will be.
And lastly, if there was one piece of advice you would give for getting ready for competition, what would it be?
Competition is a brilliant way to learn about yourself. As you prepare for competition, create good habits (even in the little things) because those habits stay with you even on competition day. The more habits you train, the more they will carry you to your best performance.
Before each competition I recommend doing a good week of no-stress training, and analysing what’s good and what needs to be improved! Like it was the big rehearsal before the prom!
You can be ready for a competition only with experience, so the biggest suggestion we can give is to always try to compete even if you don’t feel prepared because you will earn experience competition after competition.
Come to the competition drop zone early. If you’ve traveled from a different part of the world then having some days to get into the new time zone. Do warm up jumps. Not hard training, but kind of zooming into the competition shape. If that makes sense? Remember to do some fun jumps too!
The final piece of advice I would like to give anyone getting ready for competition is each morning, find a way to cleanse yourself of the day before. Skydivers are brilliant at being present while jumping from planes but to wake up in the morning and see the day fresh, can be difficult when dealing with a multitude of emotions.
Whether on top of the score chart or anywhere else, this is a new day and nothing else matters. It takes only one skydive to lose it all. So enjoy today. Enjoy the fresh air, breathe, look up. Ground yourself and go make the best day of whatever is presented to you. End your day with a smile because no matter the day, you are alive, skydiving and fucking amazing! Fuck yeah!
“I add that for me competition is first a challenge against myself, and continuously improving my performance. My motto is “Se insisti e resisti, raggiungi e conquisti!” – If you insist and resist, you reach and conquer the result!” – Francesco Italia
FOLLOW OUR ATHLETES ON SOCIALS!
Josiah Rich: Instagram
Francesco Italia: Instagram
Michel Silvi: Instagram
Sondre Tommervold: Instagram
Shane Turner: Instagram
WANT MORE COMPETITION ADVICE?
Check out the IG takeover Cedric Veiga Rios did for us: Cedric’s Stories.
Nick Batsch joined Dean on an episode of The Lunatic Fringe podcast. Listen to Nick’s podcast.
Karine Joly and Greg Crozier from AirWax Freefly chatted with us in one of our Woogie Webinars: Watch their webinar.
And if you want to know more about skydiving competition rules, head to the FAI official website: I want to learn more about skydive competition
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