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The A Class was introduced by the National Skydiving League at the Shamrock Showdown 2002, and it became popular in the international NSL Network very quickly. Even this year, when 4-way Formation Skydiving competition slowly begins to regain some momentum at the apparent tail end of the pandemic, the A Class was the most popular category at several events.
Kirk Verner and Steve Hubbard eventually even tested the new category together at Paraclete XP's Indoor Cloud League event in April, where the A Class has been offered to teams and competitors since the start of the Indoor Cloud League in 2012.
It is a fact now that U.S. teams and guests will have the opportunity to compete in USPA's Beginners Class this year, as the June 2021 issue of Parachutist confirmed officially.
For the first time, USPA is hosting a beginner 4-way formation skydiving competition at Nationals. It's almost like a skydiving version of "Field of Dreams." (For you kids who don't get the reference, Google it.) The test event - which is designed to help those with little competitive skydiving experience get involved - takes place at Skydive Arizona in Eloy in October.
For many years, would-be competitors have contacted USPA and expressed a level of intimidation about getting started in competitive 4-way FS. They felt that the entry-level class - 4-way FS Intermediate - was a lot to take on, and that learning 16 random formations and 16 block formations created quite a high barrier to entry. These jumpers would point out that several other skydiving organizations (such as British Skydiving and the Australian Parachute Federation, as well as USA's own National Skydiving League, which is well known as the springboard for competitors looking to get started with 4-way FS) all have a competition class lower than USPA's lowest class. Shouldn't USPA take a page out of their playbooks and follow suit?
USPA decided to take a look at it and used a variety of ways to ask the membership whether they would support such an addition. The resounding response was, "Yes!" Staff brought this information to the Winter 2021 USPA Board of Directors Meeting and presented it to the Competition Committee for its consideration. As is typical when adding a new event or class, the committee decided it would be best to start with a test event. The committee then discussed the idea with 2021 USPA National Championships host Skydive Arizona, Meet Director Randy Connell and FS Chief Judge Jim Rees. Everyone agreed that it was both possible and desirable to include a beginner test event at the 2021 Nationals. The full USPA Board unanimously approved, saying, essentially, "Play ball!"
The Competition Committee then sat down and decided on the rules, adapting the intermediate class rules to make the barrier to entry significantly lower. (If you'd like to see the nitty-gritty details on the rule changes, they're available at uspa.org/scm). The biggest differences are that the beginner class will consist of six rounds instead of the 10 in intermediate, and the number of block formations in the beginner dive pool will be halved to eight from intermediate’s 16. The beginner-class dive pool will be comprised of blocks 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 19 and 21 and all of the random formations. This mirrors the NSL's A Class dive pool, and since a lot of jumpers already compete in indoor or outdoor NSL leagues, they'll already be familiar with it.
The USPA membership showed significant enthusiasm for the addition of a beginner-class test event, but the proof is in the pudding. It's now up to the competitors to show that there's enough support to add it as a permanent class. As they said in the movie, "If you build it, he will come." The USPA Competition Committee, Board of Directors, Competition Department, Skydive Arizona and meet management have built the field. Let's see how many of the 1919 Chicago White Sox come to play.