Up Close & Personal
name: Silvanus (Solly) Williams
education: Natal Tech, Durban, South Africa
family & marital staus: ingle, seven-year-old son.
number of jumps: 8,000
years in Sport: 36
teams: DeLand Equanimity, Optic Nerve, DeLand FX
slot(s): Inside Center
favorite competition: World Championship 1995 in Gap, France
funniest moment in skydiving: 24-way for our first jump in the States in 1987. My buddy and I leaving last out of DC3. My buddy had 40 jumps and I had 60 and remember we came from a "Fandango city" dz. On the way to altitude my mate mumbles that we shouldn't be doing this. I gave him the "everything will be all right" speech and pretty soon we were running down the plane following 22 people out the door. I could write a story on that dive alone as no one told me the base was going to be 1000ft below us by the time we left the plane.
skydiving mentor(s): Patrick Serget (1991,93), Frank Mahut (1987,89,95) and Airspeed.
hobbies: Sports in general, Moto-cross.
favorite book(s): The Bible, "Reach for the Sky"by Douglas Bader
favorite music: Anything from Angus Young (ACDC) to Bach and Beethoven, J.J. Cale and Lloyd Cole
favorite movie(s): Happy Gilmore
Where will you be ten years from now? I plan to be earning six figures as the NSL's CEO. On a more serious note I do believe that only God can answer that question but if I have my choice I would like to have a family and possibly still be working in skydiving. I have always sought out ne
best kept secret: Robbie actually has a bigger nose then me, just kidding. I spent some time in jail in Macon, Georgia. Wasn't even me that stole the car, I was just hitching a ride! As a kid I got into plenty of trouble as I could never turn down a dare. Fortunately wit
Solly Williams is a full-time coach and part-owner of Skydive DeLand in Florida. He competed with DeLand Equanimity, the South African national 4-way team. At the World Championship in 1997, his team won the bronze medal. Equanimity discontinued, but Williams remained in touch with the most competitive teams in the world as a full-time coach. In 1999, he was leading the Norwegian national 4-way team to another bronze medal at the World Championship in Australia. He is continuing his work with the "DeLand Norgies" until the next World Championship in 2001, where the Norgies will be challenging France and the U.S.A. for the gold medal. At the same time, Williams is working with DeLand PD Blue who are charging at the U.S. title in 4-way this year. Traditionally, the U.S. 4-way champion will be a serious contender for the gold medal at the World Championship. Williams may be facing a happy conflict of interests if PD Blue will succeed this year. Either way, Williams is one of the busiest coaches in the skydiving world. During the winter, he is busy coaching teams in DeLand and running the skydiving school together with his teammate Gary Smith.
Come summer, he begins travelling the world, primarily to Europe where teams are waiting to work with him. Williams' success as a competitor and the main driving force of Equanimity toward the biggest success of South African teams in skydiving history smoothly rolled over into his success as a coach. The Equanimity story itself could already fill pages. After spending 1987 in the United States, Williams returned home to South Africa with 350 jumps, wondering where his skydiving was going. He considered himself fortunate to get invited onto an 8-way team with probably the best jumpers in the country at the time. After a few camps with that team he quit for personal reasons and joined Gary Smith on an already established 4-way team that had a vacant slot. This same team went on to win the South African nationals three years later and was also the first team to represent South Africa at World Championships (1991) after the sports sanctions imposed on South Africa where lifted. This team disbanded after the world meet. Williams started a fresh new team in 1993 after taking 1992 off. Former Arizona Airspeed member, Gary Beyer, was on that team. Along with Beyer, Fred Whitsitt and Robbie Spencer, Williams went to the 1993 World Championship in Eloy, Arizona.
In 1995 Gary Smith had finished college and was wanting to be back in on the action, which worked out well as Gary Beyer's slot was now available. With Graham Harding as the videoman, the team became "Equanimity" in 1995/96/97. The scoring progression of the South African 4-way teams with Williams as an active member between 1991 and 1997 is showing the most consistent and significant upswing of all national teams in the world within this time period: 9.8 (1991) - 13.7 (1993) - 16.8 (1995) - 19.3 (1997). In 1997, Equanimity had looged a total number of 2000 team jumps. Only the French 4-way team had more (2600). But Equanimity had financed 90% of their expenses by themselves, while all the other medal contenders were mostly fully sponsored. Williams is remembering the Equanimity performance at the World Championship in Gap 1995 as one of the highlights of his career. Although they only finished fifth, they achieved their highest average that year with very little training. It was an optimum performance, which inspired all members to continue for two more years toward the bronze medal in 1997. Equanimity also threw the biggest party at this world meet. Deep inside, all Equanimity team members still feel that they may have won the gold medal in 1999 if they had continued after 1997. But Equanimity ran out of resources.
Even though Williams doesn't really have any major mentors/heroes, certain 4-way jumpers in their time inspired him. Patrick Serget (1991, 1993) and Frank Mahut (1987, 1989, 1995), both members of former French national 4-way teams, where ahead of their time in terms of skills, considering that they didn't have windtunnels to use in those days. He also admired Airspeed for being such a slick outfit.
Currently, Williams and Smith are both still competing as player-coaches with Optic Nerve, a weekend team founded by eye-surgeon Dr. Joel Shugar, which placed first at the U.S. Nationals 1999 in the Advanced Class. With most of his jobs in DeLand, Williams has now settled in Florida. He bought a house to accommodate visiting skydivers, and another one for himself near the dropzone. His part-ownership with Skydive DeLand has made his commitment to sunny Florida even stronger. A close look at the personal issues is showing a colorful life with strong desires and beliefs. Williams was born on the Island of Phuket in Thailand, where his parents were missionaries. He acquired the nick name "Solly" in the army. Prior to that, nicknames ranged from Sally to Silly and Sully. At the Natal Tech (Durban, South Africa) he studied Civil Engineering for four years. He worked an additional five years in this field as a contracts manager for a company specializing in underground reticulation work before starting to work full-time in skydiving in 1992. He made his first jump in May 1986, at the age of 24. After he finished his military service and college, he got posted to a construction site near this remote farm town in the middle of nowhere.
Thast's where his jumping career got under way. This tiny little town (Vryheid-Freedom) had a "fandango style" club with a Cessna 182 and static line round parachutes. He knew little by then that he was to make a great friend and future team mate at this club: Gary Smith. Smith was a skinny young kid with 100 jumps who grew up in this farm town and jump mastered Williams on some of his earlier jumps. Williams has been interested in sports in general. He raced moto-cross before starting to skydive. He still has a passion for dirt bikes and plans to get back at it again next year. He is also snowboarding, playing tennis and golf. He has been watching good technique/form in all sports. This has helped his coaching skills in skydiving.
Williams has a lot of funny stories to tell: "There was my spotting a 20-way over a lake in Virginia, way over the lake. It was a 20-way which built to about 13 when they noticed that the late divers where tracking right past the base, rather then trying to dock on the formation. That got everyone's attention and pretty soon an impromptu 20-way tracking competition aiming at dry land ensued. I became quite popular for my spotting skills then."
Then there was the time when his team was in one of the hangars at Skydive Deland killing time on a weather hold back in 1995: "On the opposite side of the hangar was the French 4-way studying video and obviously really focused on trying to defend their world champion status. An argument broke out in our team over who had the biggest nose. Pretty stupid, huh! We cut templets out of cardboard to use as a standard measuring device and pretty soon the semifinals were over and it was down to Robbie and I in the final. Little did we know that we were creating such a commotion in the hangar over the competition that we didn't realize the French at this stage had discarded their debriefing station and were also quite interested in seeing who was going to win(or lose). Or perhaps they were wondering who allowed these guys to come and train in Deland in the first place. We were a little embarrassed, I guess."
Looking into his future, Williams is planning to be earning six-figures as the National Skydiving League's CEO. Well, the CEO position is already taken. But the NSL would be happy to pay Williams the six-figures as the Sports Director. But seriously, Williams believes that only God knows about his future. But if he had his choice, he would like to have a family and possibly still be working in skydiving. Having a successful family life seems to be a possible future challenge for him. It does not worry him, where and when that may happen. He is currently settled in Deland and has no plans of moving. His seven-year-old son Aston is still living in South Africa. He is planning to make his first trip to the United States in 2001.
Induction of Solly Williams into Skydiving Museum's Hall of Fame Class of 2022