posted Mar 18th, 2005 -
Look up! Teams to drop over DeLand
The Shamrock Showdown 2005 features world-class sky diving
By Charlene Hager-Van Dyke | Sentinel Staff Writer
DELAND -- The DeLand Airport will take on an international flair this weekend as hot-doggers from around the world converge on the sky-diving mecca for the state's first competition this year.
Twenty sky-diving teams will participate in the Florida Skydiving League's Shamrock Showdown 2005, eight of which will be competing against each other for points to go on to the nationals in California this September.
"This is the league's season opener; the first meeting of the regular season," said Kurt Gaebel, president of the DeLand-based National Skydiving League.
While there are six top contenders in the country, Gaebel said all of the U.S. teams have the opportunity to qualify as a national team.
The six top teams are Air Speed Velocity and Air Speed, both from Arizona; the United States Army's Golden Knights; Team Fastrax of Indiana; and two of DeLand's home teams, the DeLand Majik and DeLand Fire. A third DeLand team, DeLand Jamba, also recently formed and will participate.
The line-up for the DeLand Majik, the world champions, has changed markedly from previous years with the departure of members Gary Smith and Joey Jones. Original Majik members Solly Williams and Doug Park filled the two open spots with Florida competitors David van Greuningen and Robert Healy.
Jones is taking time off from competing to coach, and Smith helped form the new DeLand Fire team in January.
In addition to Smith and another DeLand resident, Ian Bobo, DeLand Fire also is made up of two former members of Arizona Blade: Thomas Hughes and Natasha Montgomery.
The annual competition usually draws a number of onlookers who flock to the airport grounds and crane their necks while watching the teams land. And monitors will be set up at the airport to allow spectators to view the aerial formations up close and personal, while their feet remain on solid ground.
"We always have a good crowd of several hundred people here to watch," Gaebel said. "We've already had a number of calls inquiring about it."
Guest teams from all over the world also will participate, mainly eyeballing the competition, while training here in DeLand's milder climate.
"They come here for the weather from Italy, Sweden, Belgium, Germany, Austria and Norway," Gaebel said. "This time of year they can't train at home."
Jumps will start at 8 a.m. each day and wind down at sunset Saturday and about mid-day Sunday.
And while organizers are keeping their fingers crossed the rain stays away from the area, they wouldn't mind some cool weather, Gaebel said Thursday.
"The cooler temperatures usually are even better because it doesn't get cloudy later in the day."
Charlene Hager-Van Dyke can be reached at email@example.com 386-851-7927.