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.
USPA recognizes its members for contributions to the sport of skydiving and to USPA.
The Regional Achievement Award is to honor an outstanding member of a USPA Region who, by their efforts over a period of time or one outstanding act, has made a significant contribution to that region’s skydiving community.
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.
The Operation Enduring Warrior Skydive program began in 2013 (it was then called Operation X-Wing) to facilitate initial skydiving training for combat-wounded veterans. Since then, nine students have earned their A licenses through the program. But just like other recently A-licensed skydivers, many OEW jumpers came off the high of reaching this milestone and found themselves asking, “What’s next?” The world of skydiving is so full of possibilities for new jumpers that deciding what path to take can be overwhelming.
To figure out how to best encourage graduates to continue to learn, have fun and make wise decisions, OEW asked its alumni what kept them interested in the sport and coming back to their drop zones on weekends. From these interviews, OEW organizers learned that the new jumpers needed to feel comfortable in their home drop zones’ environments and that relationships with local jumpers played a big role in whether an adaptive skydiver chose to call a particular DZ home. So OEW decided to start a mentorship program to help graduates maintain currency and proficiency while beginning to explore different disciplines in the sport.
There’s No Place Like Home
OEW-program hosts Lone Star Parachute Center in Luling, Texas; Skydive Arizona in Eloy; Skydive Paraclete XP in Raeford, North Carolina; and Skydive Suffolk in Virginia are very supportive of the program and its adaptive athletes. However, after initial training, graduates often find themselves without a familiar drop zone close to home. Todd Love, a triple amputee who began skydiving in 2013 and is OEW’s first graduate, said, “I look for how accessible [a drop zone] is. If it’s not, then the only way I’m going is if I have a good friend who can help me out with all the logistics of skydiving as an adaptive athlete. It can be a bummer going to a drop zone that doesn’t have a bathroom I can use.”
Love also shared his thoughts on selecting people to jump with: “I always try to choose other skydivers who can have a positive ability on my own skydiving capabilities. I look for people who are professional not just in skydiving but … about everything they do. It sounds silly, but watching how people drive their cars, how they eat, how they speak or how they listen are all very revealing of their states of mind. There may be hints in their habits on the ground that may foreshadow their behavior in the air.” Love emphasized the need to find good communicators to jump with and added, “If there is a lack of communication, then step up and be the voice that can bring clarity to the plan of the skydive.”
Finding a Mentor
Along with the feedback OEW received from interviewing its graduates, it also had a chance to witness the positive effect of mentorship first-hand. When Tyler Anderson, a 2015 graduate of the OEW program at Paraclete XP, attended a B-license canopy course through AXIS Flight School at Skydive Arizona, he brought along his mentor, Justin Avila. (Recognizing that canopy control goes hand in hand with avoiding injury and staying in the sport, OEW recently began offering B-license canopy training for its graduates.) Anderson met Avila—a fellow wounded veteran with more than 500 jumps and a Coach rating—through school outside of the OEW program. At the canopy course, the OEW staff recognized that Avila’s support and guidance was a big part of Anderson’s success at progressing in the sport after earning his A license.
Additionally, Love attended some of Anderson’s canopy classes, providing additional support. Love’s guidance was also useful to new OEW student Donna Bachler. Though at different stages in their skydiving progressions, both Anderson and Bachler commented on the value of having another OEW Skydive graduate and adaptive athlete available to them as a resource.
A single mentor can provide an invaluable support system, as well as guidance and motivation, to a beginning skydiver. For OEW graduates, the most effective formula for achieving skydiving progression and success involved mentorship by fellow veterans. OEW graduates and current students call drop zones all over the United States home. If you’re a military veteran skydiver and would like to be involved with OEW, email firstname.lastname@example.org or search for “Operation Enduring Warrior” on Facebook.
About the Author
Iveta “Murv” Muravyeva, D-33208, is a pilot and a skydiver with more than 14 years of experience in both fields. She joined Operation Enduring Warrior in 2012 as Operation X-Wing’s program director with the goal of connecting wounded veterans to the skydiving community. She’s worked closely with AXIS Flight School at Skydive Arizona, as well as the staff of Skydive Suffolk, to develop the program.