Dozens of daredevils soar high above the Stateline, as they stare down their fate from a bird’s eye view. The first ever Wingsuit Flying National Championship has landed in Rochelle.
“U.S.P.A. (United States Parachute Association) has national championships in many other disciplines and this is the first time we’re doing wingsuiting, because it is such a growing discipline within our sport,” spokesperson for the U.S.P.A, Nancy Koreen, said.
There’s two separate competitions for the jumpers to compete in: performance, where an individual showcases several different skills, and acrobatics, where a pair of jumpers go through a choreographed routine as they glide through the sky.
“It feels like you’re flying, for sure. And you can definitely see yourself traveling across the ground, which is really cool,” Sarah Chamberlain, a member of Team Flatspin from Connecticut, said of what it feel like to fly through the air in a wingsuit.
“It’s very challenging and you’re very goal orientated when you’re up there,” Chamberlain’s teammate, Jeff Harrigan, added. “It’s not so much about the exhilaration. It’s more about what you’re trying to do on that jump.”
The two say that before they fly through the sky, they have to practice on the ground.
“Before each jump, we usually do what’s called dirt diving, which is kind of like a dance on the ground,” Chamberlain explained. “You try to simulate what we’re going to do up in the sky on the ground.”
“We’ll just walk through the whole thing, just mocking it up on the ground, whether it’s a front loop, (we’ll) just mock it up like leaning forward, (and for a) barrel roll we’ll roll over like that,” Harrigan added. “It really just looks like we’re doing a dance.”
As silly as it may look, they say it really helps them visualize what the jump will look like in the air, helping them always find some way to make their jumps better.
“Every jump, you feel like there’s something else that you need to work on,” Harrigan admitted. “So you want to go up and do it again and improve on it. So that’s probably the most enjoyable and rewarding part of it.”
“For me, any jump is a good jump, so I’m pretty happy no matter what,” Chamberlain said laughing. “But if you do well, it’s even better, and if you don’t do well, you have something to work on.”
The competition runs through Sunday, October 4th and is free and open to the public. To learn more about wingsuiting or skydiving, you can go to uspa.org.