Above: Carmen Juneau, Jean deLadurantaye, Vincent Coulombe and Jeff Denis practice their 4-way sequential skills. Photo by Michael Tomaselli.
It’s hard to believe that the CRW Spring Fling has been going on for 20 years. Starting with 10 participants in 2003, it has steadily grown to become the world’s largest canopy formation (aka canopy relative work or CRW) pilgrimage, with 163 participants from 12 countries attending the event from March 18-26 at Skydive Sebastian in Florida this year. To celebrate the 20th Spring Fling, the organizers offered all CF disciplines—parabatics, 2-way and 4-way sequential and rotations jumps and big-ways (36-ways and jumps of various sizes leading up to them).
A 16-way diamond flies over the Sebastian coastline. Photo by Michael Tomaselli.
For those who have not experienced the world of CF, imagine a nine-day event where you start the first day with fresh AFF graduates and work on freefall skills, one-on-one. On day two, you integrate these new AFF graduates into jumps with experienced 4-way competitors. Then you pause for a day to hold a 4-way scrambles competition. As the week progresses, your participants move into 8-ways and finally into 36-way, multi-point sequential dives that some of your new AFF graduates take part in. That’s essentially what happens at the Spring Fling and events like it.
As usual, the nine-day Spring Fling started with one-on-one coaching for the CRW pups (jumpers with zero CF jumps) and gradually led to some of those pups safely docking on 36-plus-ways by the end of the week. For the sixth year in a row, no pups were involved in a wrap or had a cutaway ... that’s more than 70 pups over those six years! “I have to say, it was hands-down the best skydiving event I’ve been to,” said British coach Matt Kite. “The quality of training across all disciplines was exceptional.”
For the first two days, a 2-way competition skills camp for the more seasoned jumpers ran concurrently with the pup training. Both mornings started with an introduction to 2-way seminar, and six three-jumper teams—each consisting of two performers and a videographer—formed. The jumpers rotated through each slot, including the video slot, since it is important for competitors to be knowledgeable about all the positions on the team. The 2-way event focused on encouraging more jumpers to train and compete by helping them to create a training routine and a structure for their progression.
After the 2-way camp and pup training came the four-round Zoo Bar 4-way sequential competition. (The title refers to the judging, which takes place at the DZ’s onsite bar by the competitors themselves after jumping hours). Fourteen 4-way teams participated. In comparison, participation in 4-way sequential at the 2022 USPA Nationals was seven teams. The organizers hope that fun events such as the Zoo Bar competition will help boost participation in 4-way sequential CF at Nationals in years to come. While the 4-way competitors were busy, the other half of Spring Fling participants worked on refining their 9-way skills.
As the week progressed, the formations kept growing. By Saturday, the focus was on 36-way sequential practice in preparation for this November’s sequential world record attempts. And for the first time at any CF event, there were enough talented jumpers to launch back-to-back formation loads (36-way and 25-way) with completely different participants.
CF is now safer than ever and more jumpers are becoming interested in participating. The Spring Fling is only one of more than 50 CF camps being offered in the United States and Europe in 2023. There has never been a better or safer time to learn canopy formation than now. Those who are interested in joining this fun and challenging world, can find local opportunities on the worldwide calendar at rawdogscrw.com under the Upcoming Events tab.
About the Author
Brian Pangburn, D-18122, is a renowned canopy formation coach who organizes the annual CRW Spring Fling. He is a canopy formation world record holder, a member of Team Fastrax and a Flight-1 instructor.
Diamonds in the Rough
This year’s CRW Spring Fling had a record number of women—25—in attendance. The women made use of the event by conducting 9-way base training, kicking off their first training event for the upcoming women’s canopy formation record attempts (dates to be determined). Although weather limited the number of training jumps, a morning 16-way diamond formation and its two women videographers set the Florida Women’s Record for Largest Canopy Formation.
Records aside, it is special that 18 women shared the camaraderie of boarding an airplane and jumping together, since there are usually just a few who see each other far across the formation. The women who manage the DZ, ran the event ground support and approved the record as judges shared their enthusiasm for earning a true all-woman record. In the memories of the participants, the last time so many women flew together in any formation was in 1997 during the 25-way women’s CF world record, which still stands. Cheryl Michaels, the formation pilot of that record-setting jump, was present as a judge, offering her wisdom, lightheartedness and support as younger jumpers took on new roles in the changing landscape of skydiving.
Hanna Albrecht | D-37065
The record-setting women pose for a group photo. Photo by Garth Baker.