AXIS provides bespoke education for Smart Skydivers: Now with (Gorgeous) Merits!
Ask anyone who’s been in the sport for more than a couple of seasons: the times, they are a changin’. For the first 15 to 20 years of sport skydiving’s popular heyday, there wasn’t any doubt that the party lay at the heart of the matter. In the not-too-long-ago bad old days, your standard sport skydiver would go about chasing boogies all season long — and chase the sun to find even more skydiving parties when her/his own season ran out. Beer, tent cities and magic-carpet exits ruled the day
In recent years — as you may have noticed — the sport is sobering up. Today’s skydiver has a different goal to chase: skill development. Suddenly, it’s not enough to simply jump out of an airplane with your buddies; now, you’d better be using that jump to get — well — better. This is the age of the skills camp; of the training trip; of one-on-one coaching. People just want more. And can you blame ‘em?
Enter AXIS — one of skydiving education’s indisputably premium brands. Brianne Thompson and Niklas Daniel, AXIS’s owners and instructors, are a pair of highly decorated skydivers who founded AXIS as a boutique instruction operation. The intentionally-small operation has been based at Skydive Arizona since 2010. In that time, Nik and Brianne have managed to actually revolutionize how skydiving is coached.
How’d they do that? In essence, by… Continue reading on SkydiveMag.com
Being competitors at heart, Niklas and Brianne do their best to improve on a daily basis. This applies not only to competitions, but also their business and life’s work – AXIS Flight School. AXIS has gone through an incredible online transformation, which could be called a “Cyber Grand Re-opening”. These changes have been taking place behind the scenes for over two years.
The AXIS website has always been packed with lots of useful tools and information. In order to make the site more user friendly and to keep up with the times more than a facelift was needed. In fact, we started over. Major improvements include a color coded menu system which is easy to navigate, condensed information on every page, and not to be overlooked – The AXIS Skydiving Repository. Here we developed a digital sorting system that categorizes all or our articles and reference materials for faster recall. Now users can search for categories such as solo skills, canopy, camera, and much more to find what you are looking for.
In addition, AXIS Flight School now uses sig.ma, a platform on which you can keep track of accomplishments, IDs, licenses, merits, etc. in a digital form. This allows us to send merits to students who have demonstrated their proficiency to our AXIS Coaches™ and acknowledge their achievements. Available Merits are displayed at the top of each web page, and their colors correspond to the new menu system.
Annette O’Neil and Joel Strickland made their skydive jump over Arizona, performing an incredible air dance before pulling their chutes. They also completed jumps in New Mexico, are currently headed to Nevada, and eventually, they plan on making skydives in all 50 states (even Alaska and Hawaii) over the next six months, making it the first time the challenge has been completed in one fell swoop.
PICTURE PERFECT: Man takes pictures, 15,000 feet up in the air
“Skydiving, as one can imagine, is dangerous enough, but try to imagine the added element of trying to capture the perfect picture, 12,000 feet up in the air. One photographer does exactly that, as a career.
“As a kid, I’ve always been pretty active, always enjoyed extreme sports, whether it was doing the skateboarding thing or riding bicycles,” said Niklas Daniel. “In this case, this was just another thing I wanted to experiment with.”
One can call Daniel a skydiving expert. To date, Daniel has made more than 10,000 jumps, and counting, and he is now known as one of the best behind the camera, at 12,000 feet.
Daniel’s love for photography began at an early age, and after falling in love with skydiving, he blended his two passions.
“The moment is very fleeting,” said Daniel. “So, if you have a shot in your head that you would like to create, it takes a lot of practice, a lot of training, also a little engineering to try and put that together.”
Daniel also described the difference between photography works that take place on terra firma, and those that take place up in the air.
“If you’re taking a photograph on the ground, depending on the subject, you maybe have the ability to take a test shot, take a look at the settings, and then be able to adjust until you get that right shot,” said Daniel. “Skydiving is more of sport photography, where they’re trying to get that perfect shot and it’s not something that you can recreate necessarily.”
Daniel said in order to be a good aerial photographer, you’d have to be a great skydiver.
“Not is it enough that I have to fly my own body or my parachute for example, but I have to be able to do that without having to think about it that much that I can now focus on the shot,” said Daniel. “In addition to that, I have to be very aware of my closing speeds with other people, the distance I’m away from them and I also have to remain altitude aware. I can’t look at my altimeter constantly, because that would ruin the shot.”
Equipment is also important. Daniel’s helmet works as his rig, and his tripod is his own body.
Over the years, Daniel has documented other people’s jumps, along with the formation of skydiving teams. He has also produced training video. Daniel said some of his favorite pictures to take are during competition with his team.
“I really enjoy the pressure of having to get a specific shot, and then being able to present that to the judges,” said Daniel. “That’s been my expertise, but I also really enjoy the off-the-wall projects, so whether someone wants to light a parachute on fire or something kind of more in that direction. Something you don’t see everyday.”
Besides doing what he loves everyday, Daniel also gets to share his passion with others who might not get the chance to. He and his wife, Brianne, support “Operation Enduring Warrior” by donating their time to help wounded veterans enter the sport of skydiving.
View original post on Skydive Arizona website here. Interview by Melissa Lowe.
Skydive Arizona is a big drop zone with many extraordinary people from local to visiting jumpers, staff, pilots, instructors, ground crew, maintenance, manifest to teams, event organizers and load organizers!!! The Featured Friday series is aimed at getting to know the people that make Skydive Arizona work and rock!
Today, we meet a woman with a stacked resume including earning the USPA 2015 Regional Achievement Award. This woman has blazed (no pun intended) the trail continuing to inspire skydivers of all disciplines. Meet co-founder of Axis Flight School, Brianne Thompson!
What/who inspired you to make your first jump and why?
Ever since I learned that you could jump out of an airplane, anytime you wanted, I knew it was something I had to do. My parents were scuba divers, so as a young person, I knew that there were places on this planet that would educate you to do “dangerous” things. All I had to do was locate one of those places for skydiving.
Where & when did you learn and what kind of student were you?
I actually learned here at SDAZ in the summer of 2000. I tormented my parents for years, begging for them to let me go skydiving. I even asked if I could get a fake ID to get around the minimum age of 18. They were less than enthused. So, for my 18th birthday in December of 1999, my dad and I did a tandem together for my 18th birthday. Needless to say, I was hooked. The school gave me flyers about how to go about becoming a student. I was on the website everyday, trying to figure out how to pay for it, when I was going to do it, etc. I was still in high school at the time of my jump. So, once I graduated and got all of my graduation money, I took all that, in addition to working two jobs, and scheduled myself for my A-license in August of 2000. I think I got my A-license in about 10 days. Fun fact, Matt Greis was one of my AFF instructors. Pretty cool.
Many may not know your history in competing in 4-way. What piqued your interest in competing, why 4-way FS & how long did you compete?
When I was a student during August, there were days that it was literally me and Airspeed on the plane. At the time, they had two 4-way teams. I got to watch them train, practice, prep, all that. I thought they totally looked cool because of their matching equipment, I had no idea that they were the best team in the world. Let alone, that same day I learned you could actually compete in this crazy thing called skydiving. Mind blown! So, because I enjoyed skydiving so much, I knew I wanted to compete in it. But, with my limited experience, I figured you needed about 10,000 jumps before I could even consider doing something like that. Those guys have matching jumpsuits and stuff, that is kind of a big deal. When I had about 75jumps, a jumper approached me in the loading area and asked “Would you like to do 4-way?” I told her I wasn’t very good, I only had 75 jumps. “That’s ok, we will teach you”. And that was it. She became one of my first teammates, and I competed in Nationals that year. My first Nationals was 2003 in Lake Wales, FL. After that, it was competitive after competitive team. I was on the US Team from 2006-2010 for women’s 4-way. I went to my first world meet when I had 900 jumps in Gera, Germany in 2006, Maubeuge, France in 2008, and Russia in 2010. Fun ride.
What/who inspired you to learn to freefly?
There was never one person. When I was a little, baby skydiver, I always wanted to learn to freefly. I even got 2 freefly coach jumps when I had about 60 jumps. For me, I just had to focus on one thing at a time, and that was competitive belly 4-way. I dabbled a lot with freely in the tunnel and would do a goof off jump every once in a while, never really learning or advancing. But, my biggest influence is Niklas Daniel, my totally awesome husband. He was a tunnel instructor and so was always a freeflier, so to speak. He has been my biggest influence and coach for freefly and VFS. He has taught me the most.
You are now a member of the 4-way VFS team Arizona X-Force. What inspired you to learn VFS?
See previous answer. In addition, because of my competitive 4-way background, it was only natural that I wanted to do VFS. In fact, I pretty much learned to freefly just to do VFS in a way. Because of the VFS discipline, I was more motivated than ever to learn to freefly.
Was it a hard transition going from FS to VFS? What skills translate from each discipline?
No and yes. Meaning, the principles of 4-way are the same, regardless of orientation. You have to cross reference, you have to be level, and you have to stop, all before you take a grip. That is universal. However, the flight skills needed to even begin VFS are significantly more advanced, for sure. You have to be proficient in head-up and head-down orientations. So the individual skills needed for VFS are definitely more advanced. In addition to finding 3-4 other teammates with similar proficiencies.
You have many achievements! So many we’re just going to link your BIO HERE! Is there any achievement that stands out that you feel most proud of?
I have 2:
1) Starting AXIS Flight School with Nik. I am most proud of that. We began AXIS because we were sick and tired of the rifts in skydiving. Belly vs Freefly, freefall vs. canopy, tunnel fliers vs. skydivers. So stupid! We believe you need a respect for ALL aspects of skydiving. It is fun to be able to competitively do many of the disciplines of this sport, then be able to teach them as well.
2) Working with the Operation Enduring Warrior Projects. It has been so cool to teach these individuals, with varying injuries, to skydive and fly their bodies with complete control. So awesome. Todd Love was our first OEW student, and we have had a handful of completely awesome students from this project after him. We have seen this project go from theoretical to happening all over the country. Many of these students working towards their B licenses and beyond. Wicked.
You are one of the coaches here at Skydive Arizona and co-founder of Axis Flight School. In a nutshell, what does Axis Flight School do and how can one get in touch with you?
AXIS Flight School is a coaching entity that teaches ALL aspects of this sport. From individual skills to learning to compete. We coach in the sky, the tunnel, and canopy skills- hence the name AXIS: For all AXIS of flight. We believe that everyone should respect all disciplines in the sport. You may not do all of them, or they all may not appeal to you, but you do need a healthy respect for all of them. We teach that. Our entire goal is to bridge that gap from the young jumper just off of A license, to becoming the next world champion. That is our goal. In addition, we believe it is the responsibility of the more experienced people in this sport to be nice/ approachable/ cool to the younger jumpers.
Any advice for newbies?
Get coaching. Stay patient. Get coaching. Get on a team.
Anything else you’d like to add?
This sport has so much to offer. If you find you feel “stuck” or are not sure what comes next, don’t sweat it. Give us a call. This sport is so diverse that it might be a bit overwhelming. There is something here for everyone. You just may need a little help with finding that thing that appeals to you. After your A license, it gets better. The A license is only the first step, not the entire goal. You may be the next world champion. We look forward to finding out.
Show #221, June 29th, 2016 on Skydiving Safety (The segment starts at 1:11:00)
Skydive Radio is the world’s leading internet radio show dedicated to the sport of skydiving. Weekly episodes include commentary, feature interviews with industry insiders, listener-contributed photos, and e-mails from an audience that spans the globe.