This begins for me with a 500km rental car march across central Europe in a direct line between the two Hurricane Factories, in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. A journey through a brand new autumn, the kind of day where the leaves still cling to the trees and mark their passing with a final flourish of colour before the seasons walk on. This is the time of year when many turn their attentions away from the sky and into the tube….
Becoming a judge came about partly as a way for me (a member of a team currently focusing on sky competitions) to stay involved at the highest level indoors, but also because I believe that whatever happens within this industry’s organisational structure it is down to some concerted effort from the flying community itself to guide things in the right direction – or be forced to sit back and watch as money types fuck it up for profit. The people behind the Hurricane Factory have a commendable attitude toward the sport of indoor flying, and seem to understand the symbiosis between the needs of the enthusiast and the casual flyer - each helping the other to grow. I am basing my assumptions largely of the quality of the buffet the Hurricane Factory team presented at the closing ceremony of last year’s skydiving world championships - a fancy spread that being a hungry, hungry human I elected to spend more time getting to know than any of the actual other people.
There are many things to consider about what an affiliation with the FAI means for tunnel flying, and over the last couple of years I have spent time hearing out valid arguments across the spectrum of opinion. At one end of the scale is that the way we compete and progress is simply moving too fast for the great big brontosaurus that is the FAI. This argument follows that we are fully capable of managing these affairs from within our own population without having to constantly explain things to baffled back-in-the-day types who last competed in accuracy competitions or some such in the 1980s underneath a parachute the size of a tennis court.
The other perspective is that formal championship titles at national and international level are a worthy inevitability when considering the exponential growth of the tunnel industry, and that the established bureaucracy and professional esteem brought by the FAI will generate interest both within our community and from the outside world. Also worth noting is that for some the possibility of funding after selection to represent their country might mean the difference between getting a chance to be involved at this level or not. These seem to be reasonable arguments from both sides and somewhere in moderate middle is likely where the truth lies, but only time will tell.
In June, preceding the White Nights tournament in St. Petersburg, a collection of influential-ish sorts gathered to reason through exactly what indoor freestyle is becoming and the criteria under which one might determine who is the best at it. The podium in Prague can perhaps be viewed as what individual skill has become over recent years and where it is heading - with a merriment of different forms and methods on display coming from far and wide.
Leonid Volkov is a fantastic flyer with a theatrical style all of his own that lends itself well to an expressive competition format, and a list of personal nomenclature for his moves that defy explanation! He took home a bronze medal for Russia and likely could have achieved more but was repeatedly punished for going well over time - seemingly oblivious that punctuality is an important part of the rules. Pure skill counts for a lot, but to do well in artistic events you need to tick off a list of necessary elements that adhere to the format and, as the timing of your routine is the last thing the judges register, it can often mean an important difference. From a judging perspective there is also the question of how we view excess time. For sky competitions deliberated over via video the action simply freezes when the round is up, but the tunnel is right there in front of you. How does this alter the opinions of the judges when someone is one second over after a minor mistake or out by a county mile and still going as if they don’t know or don’t care how long a minute is?
David Reader representing Norway was a strong favourite on the way in but consistency escaped him from one round to the next as all the elements of a spectacular sequence of difficult moves didn’t quite come together all at the same time. When constructing and training a routine a crucial consideration is finding the correct balance between the very edges of your skill level and what you can consistently achieve under the pressure of the competition itself. Success lies in knowing when to hold back a little so you can send it home every time.
The first world title for this gig belongs to Finland with remarkable invention and creativity from Inka Tiitto. Presentation is, as proved by her results, highly important to what you score. At the pointy end, tunnel staff throwing some tunnel tricks that they have loosely cobbled together is not going to be enough for the medal positions. Inka likely attained a victory here because she demonstrated some amazing flying, offered up to the judges' scrutiny a considered and consistent routine, and crucially because she represents an important intersection of modern abilities and the pre-established expectations of what freestyle is, and has the skill to demonstrate how beautifully graceful flying in the tube can be.
Words above by Joel Strickland
The competition started with 6 participants but at the second round Lukács L.Laki from Hungary couldn´t continue. He entered the tunnel to inform and salute the judges (audience as well) that he couldn´t continue with the competition because he hurt his leg. We could see his disappointment, which is totally understandable, lots of training, sacrifices and dreams behind. But even with one round done there’s a lesson on how make things better for the next time like how control the stress.
Mateo Limnaios from France participated last year at the1st FAI Indoor Skydiving World Cup at Austin where he reached 6th place. Now with around 130 hours of training for this World Championship he reached the podium with a nice 3rd place. He knew the competition was higher and he did really well.
The two competitors from Poland, Maja Kuczynska and Soltyk Andrzej, conquered the 1st and 2nd place. Both of them were competing as well in D2W. Maja was definitely the audience’s favourite in this category. Clean in her performance with her elegance and flexibility. Maja has previously practiced gymnastics and participated in indoor skydiving competitions.
Congrats to all the junior and open competitors !!
Take a look the 1st round from all the Freestyle competitors below…
Words in italics by Lise Hernandez
More stunning WISC photos by Vania Da Rui here
Watch the Live Stream again on the WISC website