Master of His Craft—Steve Curtis | D-20818 Receives the USPA Gold Medal for Meritorious Service
Above: USPA Executive Director Albert Berchtold, Steve Curtis and USPA President Chuck Akers. Photo by Anthony Armendariz.
The USPA Board of Directors began bestowing its Gold Medal for Meritorious Service, one of the organization’s most prestigious awards, in 1997. Each year since, it has received nominations for the award and chosen up to three “outstanding USPA members who, by their efforts over a period of years, have made significant contributions to the skydiving community.” At its summer 2023 meeting, the USPA Board selected Steve Curtis, D-20818, for the honor.
Curtis started jumping in 1992 and has since amassed more than 25,000 skydives. He is a USPA AFF and Tandem Instructor and a seasoned PRO-rated demonstration skydiver and stunt jumper. Known for his skill at flying on any axis, he has organized or participated in multiple world and national head-up and head-down large-formation records.
Between 1998-2016, Curtis was heavily involved in competition on the national and world level. He pioneered the discipline of freeflying and was a freestyle camera flyer for multiple teams. He was also a founding member of Arizona Arsenal, a seminal 4-way vertical formation skydiving team. Arsenal took gold in the first 4-way VFS test event at the USPA Nationals and remained a dominant influence in the discipline, going on to medal multiple times at subsequent competitions.
A master of his craft and a driving force in the skydiving community, Curtis began expanding his work off the competition field. Arsenal’s focus began to spread beyond competitive VFS into coaching, record organizing and stunt work for TV and film. Eventually, the team—with Curtis as a keystone—further expanded its efforts into the military field. He and the other members of Arsenal—which has increased far beyond the original competition team’s size—now provides high-level body-flight education and rigging services to both elite military skydivers and civilians. Throughout, Curtis maintained his deserved reputation as a genuinely caring person and a consummate professional who is always willing to help when he can.
Curtis chose to accept his award during the International Skydiving Hall of Fame Celebration Weekend, which took place in Eloy, Arizona, October 5-7. At midday on Friday, during the time allotted to USPA as an international affiliate of the museum, USPA President Chuck Akers welcomed the assembled crowd. Then USPA Executive Director Albert Berchtold recounted Curtis’ achievements—including lauding him as “an amazing skydiver and person”—and presented him with the 2023 Gold Medal for Meritorious Service, commemorating his exceptional achievement within the sport of skydiving. A visibly moved Curtis graciously accepted the framed 3-inch-diameter struck-brass medal hanging from a gold ribbon and thanked those assembled to watch him receive it.
The brass plate on Curtis’ award plaque, as well the brass plate added to the handsome wooden perpetual plaque that hangs at USPA Headquarters, contains an engraving that reads, “For achieving greatness as a pioneering freeflyer, multi-time vertical formation skydiving world champion, camera flyer and demonstration skydiver, and for sharing that greatness with others as an instructor and mentor.”