Above: The boogie-goers gather at Skydive The Falls.
The last weekend in August has officially become the date for an annual New York gathering of Skydivers Over Sixty and Jumpers Over Seventy. This was the third season that John Benoit hosted the four-day boogie at Skydive The Falls in Youngstown, which this year saw some 30 jumpers from 11 states, plus one from Vancouver, attend. Benoit computed that the group had logged around 87,000 total jumps and had 10 centuries—that’s a thousand years—of aggregate experience. The high-timer was John Dobleman from California with 14,150 skydives, but Johnny D’Alessio from Pennsylvania, at 84, was the oldest. Jim Beck from Brockport, New York, was the youngster at only 63.
The view of planet Earth for skydivers is always a fun factor at any DZ. Skydive the Falls doesn’t disappoint. The climb out over Niagara features the Canadian and U.S. waterfalls along with spectacular looks at Lakes Erie and Ontario. The event’s big bonus is a traditional Saturday-night jump into John and Jeannine Benoit’s backyard picnic. (Benoit maintains an Olympic-size garden; ripe tomatoes are still on the vines, certifiably organic.) The demo brings out the neighborhood, and this year two loads entertained the locals.
The event had a slow start. Winds and clouds grounded the group on Thursday and Friday. The early beer light was not entirely discouraging; the old-timers actually told some new jump stories. Saturday morning’s first load went up in a mostly promising sky, only to come down when breakoff altitude was completely socked in. But an hour later, a group was in the air and finally got a green light.
DZO Jason Berger could not resist announcing 20-minute calls where he commanded the JOSers and SOSers to stow their walkers, wheelchairs and other devices before gearing up. (Doug Lewis from Georgia eventually christened the event “the Viagra Falls Boogie.”)
The SOS group came within a couple of seconds and one grip of setting a SOS New York large-formation record. Because the weather holds limited the number of attempts, New Jersey organizer Hank Stapel decided to go for a six-point 6-way SOS sequential state record. Saturday’s three attempts resulted in only three points, but on Sunday morning they did a five-point jump and missed the sixth just as they reached breakoff altitude. However, the five-point jump still qualified as a state record for SOS.
The JOS group set a JOS New York Record for Largest Formation Skydive with a 12-way on Saturday. Texan Rick Poplinger organized the loads and filmed it, closing last. On Sunday, Dobleman and Texan Marshall Madden chose two 6-way teams for a speed-star competition. There was time for only one round. Dobleman’s team claimed victory while Madden’s team happily finished second (also mentioning that the other group was technically next-to-last.) The highlight was watching 12 skydivers hurry out the door—George Nisson was last out on Madden’s team and “got stuck,” in the co-pilot’s seat, of course. But the side-by-side completed formations looked respectable. In other fun jumps, Benoit handed out a 7-7-7 patch that he designed for seven JOS jumpers who completed a seven-point 7-way.
Next year’s event is already scheduled for August 22-25.
Doug Garr | D-2791
New York, N.Y.