Skydiving Competition: There’s Still Time!
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Saturday, July 13, 2024
Skydiving Competition: There’s Still Time!

Skydiving Competition: There’s Still Time!

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Want to be better at skydiving? Then think about attending the upcoming 2021 USPA National Championships as a competitor or even a spectator! All members are invited to watch this incredible skydiving competition that’s taking place at world-class DZ, Skydive Arizona in Eloy, October 15-30.

Curt Bartholomew, the 2019 USPA National Champion of Canopy Piloting said, “Competition unlocks a level that would otherwise be untouchable. It pushes your mind into a state of focus you can’t achieve in training, and you find your parachute achieving things that you thought weren’t possible.”

Even if you aren’t a hardcore competitor, the experience of attending Nationals is valuable! Did you know that you can compete in 2-way pro-am canopy formation, advanced and intermediate 4- and 8-way formation skydiving, and advanced mixed formation skydiving at Nationals with only 100 jumps and a B license? And all the other events require only a C license (and 500 or 1,000 high-performance landings, respectively, for advanced and open canopy piloting). That’s because Nationals is more than a competition; it’s a learning experience!

Below is a short breakdown of the categories and disciplines that you can compete in (or watch) at this year’s event:

The categories are separated into open, advanced, and intermediate. Most of the disciplines have categories to separate the pros from the amateurs, which levels the playing field and gives up-and-coming skydivers the opportunity to experience competition.


Canopy Piloting (CP)

Canopy piloting is a high-speed discipline involving small, agile parachutes piloted by highly trained and practiced skydivers. The “swoop” runs are held over a stretch of water—for safety reasons—and can be watched from just a few meters away from the ground. One of the most exciting disciplines, canopy piloting features those who accelerate their parachutes by making one or more steep turns and then plane out over the surface of the water to enter the course. Three classic disciplines—accuracy, speed and distance—decide the overall champion of canopy piloting. The three courses are all 10-meters wide and the athlete has to pass the entry gate below 1.5 meters with part of his body to start scoring.Originally called “blade running,” canopy piloting is a somewhat new sport.

Canopy Piloting – Freestyle (CP-F)

In recent years, canopy piloting-freestyle, which shows artistic elements, has become more and more popular. Similar to canopy piloting, competitors swoop over a stretch of water, however, in CP-F, there are no required gates or a course—the water area is the playground. Competitors execute tricks, either predefined or personalized, and are judged on their level of difficulty and ability to execute.


Formation Skydiving (FS)

Formation skydiving is the art of building formations or patterns in freefall. In this discipline, jumpers fly in a belly-to-earth orientation in teams of 4, 8, 10 or 16. The 4-Way VFS jumpers fly head-up and head-down, and in 2-Way MFS jumpers fly head-up, head-down and belly-to earth! In either case, these teams receive a randomly drawn list of formations that are to be completed per round. When a team correctly completes a formation, its earns a point. The team with the most points wins. 10-way is also a belly-to-earth-orientation discipline, however instead of earning points, the team of 10 exits the plane and the team that builds the first point the fastest, wins. The judging is based on the videographer's material and is done objectively. Only the technical performance counts.

4-way FS

8-way FS | Photo by Elliot Byrd.

10-way FS

16-way FS

2-way mixed formation skydiving (MFS)

4-way vertical formation skydiving (VFS)


Artistic (AE)


Artistic Events consist of a series of compulsory and free routines performed during seven skydives. Freefly teams are comprised of three jumpers—a camera flyer and two performers— and freestyle teams are comprised of two jumpers—a camera flyer and one performer—who create dance-like routines (think “gymnastics floor routines”) and incorporate all dimensional axes during the freefall part of a parachute jump. Some rounds are free rounds, which is up to the competitors to choreograph, and other rounds are compulsory—which means performing moves drawn from a dive pool the night before competition. Judging criteria are separated in technical and presentation items, and teams that score the highest—based on technicality, creativity and how well the camera flyer keeps the performers in frame—wins! 

Artistic Freefly | Photo by Chad Ross.

Artistic Freestyle | Photo by Elliot Byrd.


Canopy Formation (CF)

2-way sequential
4-way sequential
4-way rotation

Although the official name of this discipline is canopy formation, it was originally called “canopy relative work” or CRW (pronounced “crew”), and many still use the old terminology today. In 4-way and 2-way sequential CF, teams of skydivers, supported by a skydiving videographer, have one or two minutes, respectively, from the time of exit to score points by completing designated formation while flying their parachutes. A point is scored for each formation correctly completed in accordance with a draw made at the start of the event. For each competition jump there are either four or five different formations in the jump sequence, which is repeated during the jump to score as many points as possible. USA holds the world record of 12 and 23 points, respectively. Let’s keep it going!

2-way sequential

4-way sequential


Speed Skydiving (SP)

In essence, speed skydiving is the discipline where only one aspect of skydiving counts—freefall speed. The simple goal is to achieve the fastest freefall speed possible. A new discipline, it represents the fastest non-motorized sport on earth. USA also holds the women’s (Maxine Tate) and men’s (Kyle Lobpries) world speed records. The speed achieved by a human body in freefall is conditioned of two factors, body weight and body orientation.


Wingsuiting (WS)

Winguit Performance Flying
Wingsuit Acrobatics

Over the years, wingsuiting has swept the world off its feet and is ever-growing in popularity. Improvements in suit design have exploded recently, and in 2015, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (the governing body for world air sports) recognized this exciting discipline. In wingsuit performance, three different performance parameters of a wingsuit pilot are measured (slowest descent rate, fastest horizontal speed and farthest distance flown) and the scores are combined into a single result. All measurements are measured using a GPS device within a competition window (3000m to 2000m AGL). This is all conducted over a minimum of three separate skydives using identical equipment, with each skydive dedicated to a task.


Acrobatic wingsuiting has teams of three (a camera flyer and two performers) who combine aspects of formation skydiving and artistic events all while wearing wingsuits! Team members must execute compulsory maneuvers during some rounds, while on other rounds they put forward a custom routine, designed by the team.


Classic Accuracy (AL)

Literally, a classic. Simply put, this competition measures who can land closest to the target over a number of competitive rounds. 

Photo by Lindy Leach.


Come on down to Skydive Arizona this year! Try out competition for your first time or even just come to check out what the best of the best look like. If you still need more reasons to attend, check out this article we published in 2020 (which unfortunately went to press before the pandemic shutdown): Five Reasons You Should Attend Nationals.

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