Photos by Mark Kirschenbaum/Hypoxic
During the third week of October, more than 100 skydivers from 20 countries gathered at Skydive Arizona in Eloy to attempt a three-point total-break sequential world record. A phenomenal leadership team highlighted the group’s international composition, with Martial Ferré (France), Niklas Hemlin (Sweden/U.S.), Milko Hodgkinson (U.K.), Dieter Kirsch (Germany), Mikhail Markine (Russia/U.S.) and Joey Marshall (U.S.) coordinating and inspiring the prospective record-setters. The flags of all countries represented decorated the hangar and provided an inspiring vision of togetherness and teamwork.
Laying the Groundwork
A total-break record is particularly challenging because it requires all of the jumpers to drop their grips between points, increasing the difficulty of maintaining levels and horizontal proximity. For the initial jumps, the organizers separated the group into two sets based on whether the jumpers would be in the base or the outer formation. This allowed the participants to build muscle memory by repeating specific movements that would be required of them during the record attempts. The separate groups gradually combined into larger practice groups and successfully built the first two points by the end of the second day!
The leadership team fueled the group’s momentum and focus through every dirt-dive and jam-up, demanding accuracy on every facet of the skydive while creating an environment in which the culturally diverse participants would roar with bouts of laughter. You could hear a pin drop during every walk-through, and then chants such as, “There’s no speed like … Airspeed!” or “There’s no crazy German like … Dieter Kirsch!” would burst out of the group.
Have Fun and Just Skydive!
Soon the team—full of energy like a wound-up spring—was ready to begin the true record attempts. They donned oxygen, ready to climb to 18,000 feet AGL in optimal weather, with light winds, full sun and nearly cloudless skies. With each attempt, the team worked harder, getting closer with each jump to the ultimate three-point formation. The base provided a reliable and consistent exit and fall rate, giving the team a great target to converge upon. The team also gained efficiency, achieving a first-point build of the 100-plus-way in as quickly as 43 seconds!
On the last day of the event, with only three attempts left, the coaches delivered an inspiring speech. They reminded the team that sometimes, when trying so hard to achieve a feat, nerves and energy can work against you. Their message to the team was simple: “Go out there, have fun and just skydive!”
On the second skydive of that last day, the next to final attempt, the energy was buzzing. Anticipating the skydive, more than one jumper remarked, “This is the one.” As the super floater left and the planes emptied, the points began to build in a quiet and confident flow. Point one … complete. Point two … complete. Point three … complete? The team held the last point as tightly as they held their breath in the debrief to follow.
As Kirsch and Hemlin stood before the group with the video on the screen paused over the third point, the judges came forward to give the group the final thumbs up! A roar of celebration filled the hangar. They had done it! Hugs, tears, laughter and cheers filled the hangar.
Pending ratification by the Féderátion Aéronautique Internationale, the 108-way is the FAI World Record for Largest Three-Point Full-Break Formation Skydive. USPA has certified it as a U.S. Open National Record (in which 51% or more jumpers are USPA members). For many on the team, the jump was both their first successful 100-way and their first world record. The celebration that followed matched the energy of the jumps themselves, and the team members from around the world came together as one to hail their achievement.
About the Author
Laura Galdamez, M.D., D-41824, began skydiving in early 2020. She works as an emergency medicine physician and was a member of the team that set the 108-way total-break sequential world record.