The Art of Freefall RW, Impact of

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Impact of The Art of Freefall Relative Work

Pat Works, D-1813, has been a member of USPA for 50 years, three of those serving as a national director. Works was on the forefront of relative work (RW, now called formation skydiving) in the 1970s and founded the C.G. Godfrog Good Vibes Award at the USPA Nationals. He was also instrumental in developing vertical relative work (vertical formation skydiving) in the 1990s and brought freefly to a world audience as a judge and competitor in the X Games. Along with his myriad skydiving accomplishments, he wrote the seminal books, “The Art of Freefall RW,” “United We Fall” and “The Art of vRW: The Way of Freefly”.
Parachutist Magazine, Sept 2012, Issue 635, p.11

The  Art of vRW cover

The Art of Freefall Relative Work cover

Profile Interview Question: Parachutists’ Brian Giboney, “The Art of Freefall RW” has been to skydivers what Ben Hogan’s “Five Lessons – The Modern Fundamentals of Golf” has been to golfers. Looking back to when you were writing it, did you think it would have the profound impact on the sport as it has? 

Works: “Yes and No.

NO! I was oblivious to anything but getting the book published. The worldwide adoption of my 1975 "The Art of Freefall Relative Work" (2 editions, 6 reprints and translated into four languages) startled me a great deal. The international respect and attention I was accorded as the master and professor was a surprise and honor. I was elated my books led to extensive world travels and a succession of training camps, including the first USA RW training camps. I was proud to have both the SEALS and the Army Parachute Team as my students. I had a knack for training by sharing discoveries: no-contact, Skydance, relaxation and attitude as sure paths to flight for the joy of flying. Unwittingly, Jan and I became jump-celebrities. But while it is agreeable to be respected, celebrity can be a less-than-pleasurable thing for this Texas boy. Admiration and high regard is hard to accept and tough to adjust to when all you’re doing is “your thing”.

YES! On the other hand, I’d expected some effect on our sport was assured because I had preceded my prescription for the “art” of flying with years of groundwork constructing a nationwide congress of RW alpha dogs to legitimize our pursuit. I called it The RW Council, and began publishing RWunderground, a subscription newsletter for UWF-Cover-Amzwhich we had many contributors and that Jan and I produced on our kitchen table. The newsletter became a vehicle for articles and discussions surrounding the development and then promotion of formation skydiving as a competition discipline. Eventually the newsletter and its articles by various contributors around the country evolved into "United We Fall", my second book. To my mind, "United We Fall" has had more relevance and impact on skydiving today because of its influence on the genesis of formation relative work.

The "Art of Freefall RW" was successful because of good timing. In the 1960s-early 1970s, an infant RW was disrespected and disdained as “just Fun Jumping, certainly not authentic parachuting” with a conviction that real parachutists did style and accuracy (S&A). All parachuting competitions were S&A events; fun jumps were not on the dance card. There wasn’t a word for relative work until the mid-to-early 1960s. Contact freefall parachuting consisted of baton passes or aerial grab-ass, and the lone book on parachuting technique was Russ Gunby’s “Sport Parachuting - a basic handbook of sport parachuting” (1960) which described the two basic-stable positions and how to make turns. Contact RW remained elusive. At any parachute club that you traveled to, finding enough fun-jumpers to make a three-way was a Big Deal indeed. One of my goals with RWunderground and then "The Art of Freefall RW" was to describe how to do relative work skydiving, make its participants feel like part of a fraternity, and promote it as a legitimate competition discipline.

The book, being the first recipe book which told would-be flyers how to be RW skydivers, evolved into “The Bible” for performing those skills. I am pleased that it has done much more than I originally anticipated.