USPA National Canopy Piloting Championships at Skydive MidwesT

September 2nd through the 7th of 2022, Skydive Midwest hosted the United States Parachute Association’s Canopy Piloting National Championships for the first time ever. Hosting a national competition has been a long-time goal of the owners, Keith and Megan George.

Canopy Piloting is a discipline of skydiving that involves performing advanced parachute maneuvers over a purpose-built pond of water. The skydivers are judged in 3 category events: Speed, Distance and Accuracy. The parachutes used for these events are small and specifically designed for both speed and performance. The athletes can achieve speeds over 100mph across the ground/water!

CANOPY PILOTING: Consists of 3 rounds in each of the below events

Zone Accuracy

The goal is to land in the accuracy zone/grid after dragging a foot through as many “water gates” (the space designated between 2 buoys) as possible. 10 points are deducted if a stand-up landing is not achieved.

Distance

The goal is to begin by dragging a foot through the water prior to gate 1 and then continue flying the parachute as far down the course as possible.

Speed

The goal is to navigate through a curved course across the ground in the fastest time possible. 

Freestyle

The goal is to perform a pre-declared trick or combination of tricks while maintaining contact with the water. 

Freestyle Swoop

Example: Laying the canopy over and touching the endcell of the canopy to the water is called a “wingover”.

More than 50 competitors from across the nation (and some from abroad) arrived at SDMW for the opportunity to demonstrate their skills on the highest platform of skydiving competition. The event was truly a spectacle to see; an extreme sport within an extreme sport. Expertly skimming across the surface of the water, carving through a speed course at 100mph, popping their parachutes up and planting their feet in the accuracy pit. It’s an exhibition you can see in only a handful of places across the globe. There are very few skydiving centers in the US with ponds built to the specifications of competition requirements. The SDMW pond was constructed purely to provide jumpers in the Midwest an opportunity to compete, train, learn and grow as athletes. 

Hop&Pop
Swoop Nationals
Alex Hart

One of these extraordinary athletes is the owners’ oldest son, Austin George. Austin has been skydiving and working at the family business since he was 16 years old.  Now 25, Austin has been developing his canopy piloting skills and competing regularly in regional meets put on by the Midwest Canopy Piloting Association and the Florida Canopy Piloting Association. He competed in his first USPA Canopy Piloting Nationals in Arizona in 2021, where he earned a 2nd place finish in Zone Accuracy.

Austin George
Austin George Skydive Midwest

This year, the owners of Skydive Midwest had the joy of watching their son compete on home turf. At the end of the 5-day competition, Austin stood on the podium in front of his family, friends and fellow competitors to receive 3 medals in the Advanced Class. He earned a 3rd place finish in accuracy, 2nd in distance and 1st place overall. Watching a proud father hug his son on the podium was a special moment for the local skydiving community.

Austin Keith Hug
Austin Podium

The George’s are not only a skydiving family, but they are all competitive skydivers. Keith, Megan and Ryan George are all National Champions in 4-Way Vertical Formation Skydiving. Megan is a National Champion in 4-Way, 8-Way and 16-Way Formation Skydiving. Austin’s recent victory in Canopy Piloting has rounded out the family’s growing collection of competition medals. The family’s passion and drive for competition is what fueled their dream of hosting a National Championship at Skydive Midwest.

Since the bid was accepted by the USPA’s competition committee in December of 2020, preparing for the event has been an undertaking of an unimaginable scale. In the spring of 2022, the pond had to be drained and widened to increase safety and better accommodate the space requirements of Canopy Piloting Freestyle. The George’s and their sons worked to excavate and refill the massive pond with the help of the local skydiver community.

The manpower required to host an event of this kind is truly remarkable. A panel of 8 judges and 4 judge’s assistants had to be assembled. A Chief Judge, Meet Director and Technical Course Director were also needed. The role of Technical Course Director was filled by the owner’s youngest son, Ryan George. Groundcrew, pilots, manifest coordinators, and riggers all played a role in the success of the event, in addition to the staff required for the business’s regular operations. The Yorkville/Union Grove Fire Department also attended each day of the event with paramedic staff to ensure expert care in the event of an injury. 

 

Canopy Judges
Canopy Banquet

A surprise hurdle presented itself only a few days prior to the event. A Temporary Flight Restriction was announced to take place during the event, due to a presidential flight into Milwaukee General Mitchell airport. The TFR would ground all general aviation and almost brought the National Championships to a halt. A waiver was requested and granted to Skydive Midwest so that the competition could continue. A secret service agent was required to ride along on the competition flights to supervise the operation during the TFR. 

In the end, after months of planning and work, the event was a huge success. It was an incredible honor to be able to host such amazing athletes and watch them do what they love. During the event, new state, national and continental records were set! This year’s Nationals was also the qualifier for the World Cup of Canopy Piloting in 2023. The US Team representatives were selected based on their performances at this competition. We want to wish all of the remarkable competitors a sincere congratulations and good luck at Worlds next year!

 

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