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Did You Know...

... that indoor and outdoor world can live well together?
posted Mar 12th, 2014 - The Sun Path Products NSL News has mentioned earlier that a year of skydiving competition is not the same any longer. There used to be a winter season that consisted of hibernation and homework, possibly a training camp or two at a location that would allow skydiving at that time of the year.

The ambitious teams and competitors, who wanted to become world champions, had to move to those warm and sunny spots on the planet to train enough, and they did so. Any US 4way world champions were either located in Eloy or in DeLand. The French national teams had the Mediterranean area to keep the winter break as short as possible, or they traveled to the USA.

The winter break is not the same any longer, and 4way competition is not reduced to the summer season. Indoor training and indoor meets have kept the Sun Path Products NSL News busier than ever, and fresh news are coming in all year long. It has been a harmonic merger, and the indoor world keeps growing.

SkyVenture inventor Bill Kitchen
TURNING POINTS: Brave New Indoor World
We have all become so used to indoor training that it caught me almost by surprise the other day when my thoughts drifted back to the beginnings of the National Skydiving League.

The first NSL Championship was held November 1998 at Skydive DeLand. It was the same year SkyVenture Orlando opened its doors. Bill Kitchen was the inventor of a vertical wind tunnel, which would be able to support indoor skydiving training and attract the general public to body flight. He surely had a vision.

NSL and SkyVenture Orlando worked closely together from the very beginning and brought in teams and skydivers from all over the planet to train in Orlando. Of course, the local and regional skydivers in Florida had a big advantage with a new and unique training tool around the corner. It may not be coincidence that Florida generated two 4way world champion teams (DeLand Majik in 2004 and DeLand Fire in 2006) in the time period that followed the opening of SkyVenture Orlando.

World Meet 2004Rd. 1Rd. 2Rd. 3Rd. 4Rd. 5Rd. 6Rd. 7Rd. 8Rd. 9Rd. 10TotalAvg
Rank4way Open ClassB-P-C-189-15-16K-11-19E-F-7-5A-J-21-126-4-1017-Q-L-1H-14-313-22-ON-M-D-2TotalAvg
1DeLand Majik (US)29231730 18 19272119 2422722.7
2Maubeuge (FR)28221830 17 192320182421921.9
3Sky Panthers (RU)24211925 22 15 2819162221121.1

New owner: Alan Metni (right)
Alan Metni, member of the 1999 Arizona Airspeed 8way world champion team, saw the business opportunity after running Airspeed tunnel camps for several years in Orlando. Eventually he bought SkyVenture from Bill and began to build his own indoor empire, which now runs under the banner iFLY World.

Several other wind tunnels were built year after year at almost the same speed as leagues joined the NSL Network. Soon the National Skydiving League became an international 4way network, while wind tunnels popped up in many other countries as well.

Teams and competitors - and skydivers in general - saw the advantages of the new training tool and used it extensively. However, it was still mainly a training tool, and competition was only taking place at drop zones and from jump planes.

World Meet 2006Round 1Round 2Round 3Round 4Round 5TotalAvg
RankAAA/Open ClassN-20-16K-J-C-G-3D-19-B-6L-14-10F-17-M-2TotalAvg
1DeLand Fire (US) 2027 25 17 28 11723.4
2Gap Nice Icarius Autrement (FR)17252321 25 11122.2
3Sinapsi PD (IT)19262219 24 11022.0

FSL Tunnel Kicker group at iFLY Orlando
There was also a time when drop zone operators and skydivers in general saw the growing indoor operation as a threat to the sport. Those thoughts are not completely gone yet, even though there does not seem to be much evidence for a serious negative impact on skydiving in general. In fact, the tangible impact is more on the positive side, as the skill levels have increased dramatically for skydivers who include indoor training on their agendas. The result is a higher quality of skydives in general.

That's not all. There are many other ways in which indoor and outdoor skydiving can benefit from each other. The Florida Skydiving League went back to the beginnings and proposed a program to the same wind tunnel in Orlando that was now under iFLY management. The program was supposed to educate and train new flyers who would eventually join the 4way community in Florida. The same program would also support the teams growing out of the new indoor environment. iFLY Orlando would sell more tunnel time to the participants and to the whole 4way community in return.

Outdoor competitors at an indoor meet: World Challenge 2013
That's all good and very enjoyable, however, what made me drift back in time was the fact that this Indoor Cloud League is taking off just like the National Skydiving League did in 1998 and the following years. The project began at the end of 2012 with a regular monthly indoor duel between iFLY Orlando (Florida Skydiving League) and iFLY Seattle (Northwest Skydiving League). Right now, I can count six wind tunnels in three different countries that have joined the league, and new inquiries are coming in all the time.

I was very excited to see the growth of the National Skydiving League after 1998, and I am now beginning to become very excited about the potential of a well-organized indoor competition worl'd. Hey, it's still 4way competition that gets me going - well, 8way is great too, and the 16-footers can support it... Most of all, the success of the FSL Tunnel Kicker program in Florida is showing me that indoor and outdoor world both can live in harmony with each other.

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