Above: Daniel Lepot.
For skydivers of all disciplines, ages and nationalities, the concept of “fun” translates into one word: boogie. At Jump Florida Skydiving in Lake Wales, the 2023 CRW Extravaganza was just that and more. The canopy formation (aka canopy relative work or CRW) boogie, which ran from October 19-22, attracted about 70 jumpers from across the U.S., as well as Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, England, Finland, the Netherlands and Poland. It was a joyous reunion of friends who see each other only on rare occasions such as this.
In canopy formation skydiving, participants open their parachutes at high altitudes and fly together, creating formations by holding onto each other’s canopies. Though the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (World Air Sports Federation) changed the official name of the discipline decades ago, most participants still call it “CRW” (pronounced “crew”) and refer to those who practice it as “CRW dogs.” At this boogie, load organizers Andy Draminski, Eric Gallan, Chris Gay, Jackson Hoffman, Travis Johnson and Brian Pangburn carefully engineered a wide variety of fun and challenging jumps with compatible canopy sizes and wing loadings to assure success for both CRW dogs and those new to the discipline (“CRW pups”).
The load organizers did an amazing job of cranking out over 70 different organized group jumps, filling more than 900 slots during the four-day event. There were smaller, straight-forward dives for the pups and larger, more complex sequential and multi-piece formations to challenge the more experienced dogs. All this activity took place in the picture-perfect weather that makes fall in Florida famous. The organizers brought in two dedicated packers to help everyone keep up with the rapid-fire pace of the jumps, as well as four videographers to provide footage for dive analysis and debriefing.
Photo by Daniel Lepot.
Photo by Michael Tomaselli.
One of the highlights of the weekend came when LuLu Ferrell, sister of jumper Paul Ferrell, traveled to Lake Wales from her home in Mississippi. She had recently encountered some health challenges, including losing her hair to chemotherapy, and wanted to make a tandem jump. Her first tandem jump on Saturday was so inspiring that she actually made a second that same day! Afterward, members of the Them Toadsuckers group awarded her a coin signifying membership in their legendary CRW organization. That night, Paul Ferrell furnished pizza for all the CRW dogs and saluted his sister LuLu’s accomplishment by shaving his head to match hers.
Jump Florida Skydiving was an excellent host DZ, with great event slot prices and cheerful ground staff and pilots. Lake Wales is a longtime favorite location for canopy formation events because of its wide-open spaces and miles of alternate landing areas (which CRW dogs occasionally need).
It took a lot of vision and planning to ensure that this complicated event ran smoothly. Since 2001, Crystal and Jackson Hoffman, along with Sarah Bromley, have managed this task beautifully. Following the first CRW Extravaganza at Carolina Sky Sports in North Carolina, they have produced it every year since, sometimes in North Carolina and sometimes in Florida. This year, Mark Evans, Kim Goodin, Natalia Hay and Jason McClure provided the extra eyes, ears, hands and feet needed to support the effort. The support staff filled in all the gaps between the jumpers and DZ to ensure that the large, fast-paced event ran efficiently. Next year, the canopy formation community will have large shoes to fill, as the Hoffmans announced that they will no longer be organizing big skydiving events. After 23 years of coordinating the CRW Extravaganza, the Hoffmans will leave the organizing to others and will focus on having some well-deserved fun at events in the future.
About the Author
Kevin Keenan, D-22164, made his first jump in Dickenson, Texas, in 1971. He now lives in Titusville, Florida, and is active in both canopy formation and formation skydiving. He holds Fédération Aéronautique Internationale World Records for large formations in both disciplines, as well as Parachutists Over Phorty Society, Skydivers Over Sixty and Jumpers Over Seventy records.