Henny Wiggers made his first jump in 1981 at the age of 21, and almost 25,000 skydives and an International Skydiving Hall of Fame induction later, he is still one of the most active skydivers you will find. He’s spent his time in the sport pioneering several emerging disciplines and technologies, as well as building the skills to fly his body and canopy in whatever way a skydive might call for. His incredible versatility has led to medals in a variety of disciplines, including canopy formation, formation skydiving, para-ski, freestyle, skysurfing, wingsuit flying and speed—and it’s also the reason that when your world record needs a camera flyer, regardless of discipline, Wiggers is the one you call.
“Henny is at a world-class level in many skydiving disciplines, including being a high-end professional cameraman.” —Tom Sanders, Parachutist profilee #200
Nickname: The Alien
Height: 1.76 meters
Birthplace: A small farm in the very small village of Diepenveen, Netherlands
Marital Status: Divorced
Children: Two lovely daughters
Pets: Husky and Sucky (auto-mower and auto-vacuum-cleaner)
Occupation: Technical manager/skydiver
Education: Institute of Technology (Technical Science)
Pre-Jump Superstitions: None. No reason to.
Hobbies: Skiing, speedriding/flying, soaring
Favorite Food: Italian and Asian
Rock, Rap or Country? Rock, although I like all kinds of music
Life Philosophy: Work hard, play hard!
Jump Philosophy: Enjoy and always try to improve.
Team Name: VFS Fun Rebels (indoor)
Sponsors: Airtec CYPRES, Alti-2, Performance Designs and Sun Path Javelin
Container: All Javelins
Main Canopy: PD Valkyrie 75, Sabre3, Stiletto, all up to Zero 285
Reserve Canopy: PD Optimum 113, 126
Home Drop Zone: Skydive Teuge (National Skydiving Center of the Netherlands)
Associations/Club Memberships: Skydive Teuge, KNVvL (Royal Dutch Aeronautical Federation), USPA, SOS, mile-high
Total Jumps: 24,658
Largest Completed Formation: 156-way FS. I filmed all records after that up to the FS 400-way, CF 100-way and WS 46-way.
Number of Cutaways: Too many. I’d estimate 45, due to CF experiments and first-generation high-performance canopies.
What is skydiving like in the Netherlands?
Like most other countries, though it’s super flat so there aren’t so many special locations. I’m fortunate to live a mile from the biggest DZ in the country, so I can jump almost every day (work and weather permitting).
As someone whose skydiving background covers so many areas of the sport, what is your favorite?
My favorite, by far, is camera work. That’s regardless of discipline, but preferably under canopy. In recent years, my focus has been mainly on angle flying and freefly.
What was your canopy progression?
Back then I had to do 100 jumps on rounds (including Para-Commanders) before being allowed on a square Strato Star. I was part of the first generation in Europe to jump high-performance (zero-p) canopies. Although I was on top of developments and evolutions, I didn’t have a strong drive to downsize dramatically. Keeping jumping was (and still is) nicer.
Is there one jump that stands out the most?
I’ve jumped all around the world, so fortunately there are many, but the North Pole expedition in 1993 and La Tortuga Island, Venezuela, in 1990 were pretty special to me.
How long do you plan on skydiving?
As long as my body (and maybe brain) permits.
What do you like most about the sport?
Being part of one big skydiving family with a huge blue playground to share, where you can always keep learning and improving.
What do you like least?
Losing friends due to actions too close to, and therefore over, the edge.
What are your future skydiving goals?
To keep jumping and keep enjoying it to the max. I still aim to participate in vertical records before I get too old.
What safety issue do you notice most often?
Personal overestimation. What hotshots with a lot of experience do looks easy and simple, but it’s not.
How did you become interested in skydiving?
When I was a young kid, I often passed the airport with my parents and sometimes saw round canopies in the air. I always had it in mind to look at the earth from above when I was old enough to do so. That’s what I did and never regretted it.
Any suggestions for students?
In the beginning, jump, see, listen and spend as much time as possible in the sport to be current and safe.
What’s the most bad-ass thing you can do in the air?
Practically anything you can think of.
What kind of skydiving student were you?
I feel I’m still a student. I keep learning, with constant new disciplines and developments. Over the years I was an early adopter of all the new disciplines, so that was a lot of starting all over again.
What is your favorite jump plane?
The fastest. Actually, I would prefer a rocket going straight up.
If you could do a fantasy 2-way with anybody, whom would it be with?
My father. He was suddenly gone, way too early, and I never had the opportunity to share with him my passion after motocross, which we shared together.
Were you a hard child to raise?
No, I respected my parents a lot and they were more kind of friends. I had an awesome childhood being raised on a farm with a motocross track.
The toughest thing to do in skydiving is:
Keeping up with the younger generation.
Suggestions for USPA:
Keep fighting for airspace and DZs.
Best skydiving moment?
Exiting a helicopter at sunset in Austria (coincidentally flown by Felix Baumgartner) at a para-ski competition overseeing the Alps—always an awesome view.
The wingsuit proximity jump in Austria where I broke my upper arm hitting a tree branch during opening.
After a hula-hoop jump, another jumper had the hoop trailing between his legs under canopy. I flew above him, dove down behind him and stole it with my leg and brought it down.
What did it take to be inducted into the International Skydiving Hall of Fame?
In my country, not so many people are aware of the hall of fame (yet) and therefore not many know. I’m not inducted because of my number of jumps but mainly for my contribution to the federation boards and committees, helping develop some new disciplines, starting the swoop sensors and some other things.
Explain Henny Wiggers in five words:
Passionate, driven, versatile, competitive and inexhaustible.