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Up Close & Personal

name: Kirk Verner

email: kirk@flyxp.com

age: 57

education: Two years at college with a major in accounting.

family & marital staus: Divorced with three children, Alex (26), Jadyn (19), Trey (14). Happily in a relationship with Jeana Billings.

number of jumps: 30,000

years in Sport: 41

teams: Magnet Man, Perris Air Moves, DeLand Vertical Speed, Arizona Airspeed, Paraclete XP

slot(s): Inside Center with Vertical Speed, Outside Center with Airspeed

favorite competition: First 4-way gold medals at FAI World Meet 1995.

funniest moment in skydiving: Training jump at FAI World Meet 2001 in 8-way. Jack Jefferies brainlocks at a mirror-imaging sequence and repeats the wrong grip on me over and over.

skydiving mentor(s): Tom Piras, who knew early that I would be next becoming a world champion.

hobbies: Drawing with charcoal that he got for Christmas, Sailing

favorite book(s): Last Lecture by Randy Pouch

favorite music: All kinds of music, except country, rock-n roll, hiphop

favorite movie(s): Life is Beautiful

favorite place: Australia, Italy, with welcoming, friendly, and accommodating people

Where will you be ten years from now? Hoping to be on a boat with Jeana sailing around the world.

best kept secret: You have to be a maniac if you want to get everything out of you.

favorite quote:

"Beatles: All you need is Love"

Kirk Verner Kirk Verner
The NSL Profiles feature the most experienced Formation Skydiving competitors in the history of the sport. There are still not many even in this elite club of skydiving celebrities who have been training and competing throughout the whole time period of "modern Formation Skydiving competition" since 1985.

There is also no featured NSL Profile skydiver whose story was told while totaling a number of over 30,000 jumps. And there is surely nobody on the list who was still competing at a world championship almost 35 years later.

Kirk Verner would have deserved to get his NSL Profile published when he was still a member of Arizona Airspeed, together with Mark Kirkby and Dan BC, who are also still active in 4-way and 8-way training and competition.

Mentor Tom Piras - here with Jack Jefferies Mentor Tom Piras - here with Jack Jefferies
Kirk Verner's story begins on the east coast, years before the Arizona Airspeed project was launched, and he became one of the original members. The name of his first team was Magnet Man, which related to some remaining magnetic body parts after an injury. Tom Piras, DeLand Air Bears 4-way world champion of 1985, was coaching his team and soon became Kirk Verner's role model and mentor.

Their stories are identical between 1993 and 1999. However, Kirk Verner started a completely new career when he moved back to the east coast and became a part of the Paraclete XP wind tunnel business in 2006. He has added an uncountable number of wind tunnel hours to his over 30,000 jumps.

1994: Jack Jefferies - Mark Kirkby - Dan BC - Kirk Verner 1994: Jack Jefferies - Mark Kirkby - Dan BC - Kirk Verner
Finally, he has also collected a new world championship 8-way gold medal at the FAI Indoor World Meet, and Paraclete XP8 aims at winning the USPA Nationals 2019 and compete for the U.S. delegation at the next outdoor world meet in Tanay 2020.

Both the Arizona Airspeed story and the Paraclete XP career alone would have been more than enough for a new NSL Profile, and it will be difficult to cover it all together.

He also met U.S. champions Mark Harrington and Jack Jefferies in DeLand, who eventually joined the lineup just for the USPA Nationals 1991. It was the time when DeLand teams battled with Dan BC's west coast team Air Moves. DeLand Vertical Speed had won another one of these east/west-coast battles when Kirk Verner's mentor and DeLand coach Tom Piras told him that he will become a 4-way world champion soon - if he takes the whole road there.

FAI 4-way gold again 1997 FAI 4-way gold again 1997
However, Kirk Verner lost his mentor, who was "larger than life" and died in a skydiving accident in 1992. Kirk Verner moved on together with Jack Jefferies and finally discussed with Dan BC after the FAI World Meet 1993 how they could join east and west coast forces to become 4-way world champions, as Tom Piras did in 1985. France had won all 4-way gold medals ever since.

Kirk Verner, Jack Jefferies and Dan BC invited several highly talented 4-way competitors for the open slot, including Dawn English, Craig Buxton, DeLand videographer Howy Nordstrom, and also Pete Allum, who had already committed to the new Sebastian XL team project though. Finally there was a try-out in DeLand in December 1993, where Mark Kirkby was selected for the first and original Airspeed lineup. Kirk Verner remembered that it was too obvious that Mark Kirkby would be the choice: "It was an easy pick."

He told the NSL News that the first Airspeed lineup then tried to find sponsorship from a drop zone. They were asking for 750 training jumps in the two years leading up to the next world meet in 1995 where they were hoping to finally beat the French 4-way world champions of 1987, 1989, 1991 and 1993.

2,000 jumps in 4-way and 8-way in 1999 2,000 jumps in 4-way and 8-way in 1999
He said that Skydive DeLand offered Airspeed 400 training jumps for this 2-year period. Skydive Arizona owner Larry Hill had just moved from Coolidge to Eloy and countered the east coast offer with an unlimited number of training jumps to host the future world champions, and Airspeed added Arizona to the team name. Kirk Verner and Jack Jefferies had to move to the west coast, and Arizona Airspeed was born.

The original Arizona Airspeed 4-way team accomplished the goal and won 4-way gold in 1995, then defended the world championship title successfully two years later.

The Eloy offer was literally unlimited. Kirk Verner remembers that he made over 2,000 training jumps in 1998 alone, and then the same number again in 1999. It was the time when Craig Girard had moved to Eloy, as well, and the 8-way project was added to Arizona Airspeed's agenda. Kirk Verner made 1,300 jumps in 8-way and the rest in 4-way. His original Airspeed lineup won 8-way gold medals in 1999 and missed the 4-way title for double-gold by six points.

Last Airspeed 8-way gold in Rijeka 2004 Last Airspeed 8-way gold in Rijeka 2004
The original Airspeed lineup was done with 4-way at the end of the 1999 season and continued only with Airspeed's 8-way lineup. Kirk Verner and his original three team mates added 8-way silver in 2001. Only he and Mark Kirkby then won another silver medal in 2003. Kirk Verner was eventually the last original team member in the lineup that won Airspeed's last FAI 8-way gold medals in Rijeka 2004.

The 8-way gold medal in 2004 was also the last one for Kirk Verner at Skydive Arizona. He staid for one more year before accepting a job offer at Paraclete XP, where the new career story began.

Tim and John D'Annunzio were building and operating the only wind tunnel in the United States with a 16-foot flying chamber, and Kirk Verner became their prominent and popular signature coach. It did not take very long until Kirk Verner's passion for 4-way and 8-way competition and his wealth of knowledge and competition experiences materialized with overwhelming success in business and athletics for Paraclete XP.

However, Paraclete XP's 4-way and 8-way lineups were never able to claim the top spot in the Unites States, and Kirk Verner explained what it takes to get to the very top: "Skydiving ruins you for everything else. It transcends people from one point to another. You have to be a maniac if you want to get everything out of you, gotta be a fanatic, live the extreme, the full life, and you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you get the prince..."

New Paraclete XP8 gold in 2019 New Paraclete XP8 gold in 2019
He remembered that he and his world champion team mates would work for McDonalds just to make it happen. It is amazing to him how many champions Arizona Airspeed have produced based on this philosophy.

Things have changed, and resources are better compared to the early Airspeed days. Paraclete XP owners Tim and John D'Annunzio have been supporting the athletic part of the business, and they have finally added Skydive Paraclete XP, the drop zone in Raeford, to their portfolio.

Kirk Verner and John D'Annunzio put together a new 8-way lineup and won the USPA gold medals last year. It was not only a team for the meet. XP8 continued with indoor training and won the first set of FAI 8-way gold medals at the FAI Indoor World Meet.

They are still not done. XP8 is planning to win the USPA Nationals again this year and qualify for the FAI World Meet 2020 in Tanay. That's where Kirk Verner would have the opportunity to add another FAI gold medal to his collection - 27 years after his first 4-way gold medal in 1995...

NSL News Update on 19 December 2023