2012: USPA Competition History – Revised, Updated, and Corrected

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USPA Competition History: Revised, Updated, & Corrected          

By Pat Works for the National Skydiving Museum Displays at Eloy, Az.

Sources: Dan Poynter, Mike Turoff, Pat Works, Skratch Garrison, Jim West, Uwe Beckman,
Norman Kent, Clifford B. Dobson, Bob Boswell

Parachuting competition dates to at least 1930 in Russia, where jumpers demonstrated who could land closest to a target. In 1948, the Federation Aeronautique Internationale named American Joseph Crane to chair the newly established Commission Internationale de Parachutisme (CIP), now known in this country as the International Parachuting Commission (IPC). The first FAI sanctioned World Parachuting Championships took place in Yugoslavia in 1951, with five European teams competing. The U.S. fielded its first team to world competition in 1956.

4-Way Sequential Formations-- In USPA competition, the first 4-way sequential event was introduced at the 1970 U.S. National Skydiving Championships in New York. < REF. Clifford B. Dobson >  As Jim West recounts it, “Competition four-way Formations were brought about by his Greene County Sport Parachute Center (GCSPC) in Xenia, Ohio with USPA Conference Director Ken Glover, Competition Committee Chairman Mike Schultz, Ken Heisman and the PCA/USPA.” <Jim West >

At the early competitions, the 4-way clock for points started after an initial 4-way was completed. Ohio jumper Clifford B Dobson said, “In 70 thru 72' it was no contact exit and then 2 formations for time. Skratch Garrison authored the initial 4-way rules along with Jim West and Ken Glover, the USPA Mid East Conference director at the time.”  Cliff recalls that 4-Way “didn't go to the hog flop until 1973.”   Bob Boswell, a GCSPC staffer adds, “Then the first formation was followed by a mandatory back-loop.” After that the 4-way team started doing the assigned formations. Named for their shape and whimsy, they included the star, line, accordion, caterpillar, and a few others. Competitors on the USPA Competition Committee add new formations annually. 

 “The 1970 4-Way Nationals were won by the Wahoo team from Nebraska. The 1970 Wahoo team was Tony and Larry Fugit, Jim Sanders and Duane Bihnke. For the 4-way event in 1971, it was the Fugits, Sanders, Bihnke and Me (C. Dobson). The other teams placing were the Green County Team and the Thunderbow (GQ [1]Security)  Team”  < Clifford B. Dobson, Bob Boswell & Jim West, CGSPC >

1967 - 10-Way Speed Star-formations --  introduced in 1967 In California, speed star competitions were popular there, Florida, Texas, and elsewhere.  Then working with a council of relative workers, USPA opened the style-accuracy centric nationals in 1972 with the first USPA 10-Star nationals opening the USPA door to formations.  The first FAI sanctioned World Parachuting World Cup of RW took place at Ft. Bragg, NC, in 1973. The FAI 1st World Championship in Relative Work took place in Warendorf (Germany) in September 1975.

1974 Competition Not-Round Formations (genesis of Formation Skydiving ) -- Carl Boenish captured the majesty of non-round formations with his 1974 photographs of Ken Gorman’s early formation flyers in Seattle Washington lit the flame for sequential formations. Mr. Gorman’s dive plans and dirt-dive techniques spread like wildfire (Pat Works has Gorman’s original hand-drawn formations dated 1973.)

1975 Competition  8-Way Sequential Formations ---North American Sequential Sweepstakes Ft. Lewis Ws, 1976, was the original 8-way meet. The dawn of sequential formation skydiving came in 1975 with "Wings" filmed by Rande DeLuca and Ray Cottingham at the Gulch. In 1976 BJ Worth convinced the FAI IPC to do the 4 and 8 way formats.

1977 1st FAI 8-Way World meet Competition -- In 1977, Mirror Image won the first 8-way Sequential Formation FAI World Championships in Gatton, Australia. The team members were BJ Worth, Jim Captain, Hod Sanders, Dave Sheldon, Curt Curtis, Mike Gennis, Gary Carter and Roger Hull. Bob Taylor was an alternate and Rande Deluca was the dive photographer. Source Skratch Garrison.

1979 Competition 1st USPA 8-Way Nationals -- In the USA Mirror Image won the USPA 8-Way Nationals in 1979.  Craig Fronk, Mike Gennis, B.J. Worth, Garry Carter, Marty Martin, Mike Eakins, Hod Sanders, Jim Captain, Source: Parachutist- Sept. 1979

1995 Freeflying Pairs Competition --  The first USPA Freefly  (trial) event was held as part of the Nationals  at Eloy, Az. in 1995.  Based on the  ESPN X-Games format of "freeflying pairs" the first "Freefly Nationals"  was held as part of the1998 USPA Nationals at Elsinore, Ca. At Eloy in 1994, USPA held “The first Exhibition Event of Sit Flying”

1983  Canopy formation  Competition was added in 1983. Canopy piloting became a medal event at the 2005 Nationals in Perris, California, and the XX-most recent event, <Not Correct> vertical formation skydiving (SIC) , became official in 2007 when USPA included it in the national skydiving championships at Skydive Chicago in Illinois. Meanwhile, the original freefall style and accuracy landing events, often called the "classics," remain a part of each U.S. Nationals and World Championships.

 USPA sanctioned skydiving competitions  (Source USPA)

The USPA Constitution binds USPA "to sanction skydiving competitions, to document officially all state, national and world skydiving records set by citizens of the U.S., and to select and train the United States Parachute Team for world competition." 

Formation Skydiving 

On a freefall jump, teams perform a designated formation or a sequence or series of formations and/or intermediate maneuvers (inter) drawn from the dive pool. Competition categories include 4-Way, 8-Way, 10-Way and 16-Way.

Vertical Formation Skydiving  

On a freefall jump, teams perform a designated sequence or series of formations in a head down or upright, vertical axis.

Canopy Piloting         

Skydivers fly their parachutes through a prescribed course over water and land and are judged on their speed, distance and accuracy.

Freefall Style and Accuracy Landing           

Freefall Style consists of competitors performing a prescribed sequence of maneuvers in freefall as correctly and as quickly as possible. In Individual Accuracy Landing and Team Accuracy, competitors aim to land on, or as closely as possible to, the center of a target.

 Artistic Events    


Freeflyers favor vertical freefall, either head-down, stand-up, or a sit position, as well as all the movements in-between. Formation Freeflying involves two or more and includes lateral movement and up and down movement to work with other freeflyers.


Freestylists perform a sequence of moves for compulsory and creative points during freefall. Freestyle tends to utilize fluid, almost ballet-like movements.

Canopy Formation    

Skydivers in a canopy formation are under open canopies, not in freefall as with other kinds of skydiving such as formation or skysurfing. Once out the door, they open their parachutes and then proceed to build different formations by linking together, there can be anywhere from two to a few dozen jumpers in one formation. They connect by putting their feet on another parachute, on the parachute lines, or on another jumper's body. Competition categories include 2-Way Team Sequential, 4-Way Team Rotation, 4-Way Team Sequential, and 8-Way Team Speed.





September 2012, Pat Works