Chasing the Worlds Fastest Man

The 2021 United States Parachute Association National Championships were held October 18-30 at Skydive Arizona. The aim of the event is to:

1) recognize and honor U.S. National Champions in the following disciplines:​ Artistic Events, Canopy Formation, Formation Skydiving, Accuracy Landing, Canopy Piloting, Mixed Formation Skydiving, Vertical Formation Skydiving, Wingsuit Flying, Speed Skydiving, and

2) to select the best competitors in the United States to form representative U.S. Teams from the appropriate disciplines for participation in selected international competitions.

Speed competitor Niklas Daniel at the 2021 USPA Nationals at Skydive AZ.

“Speed Skydiving is a new skydiving discipline with as simple a definition as it gets.  Achieve the fastest speed possible over a given distance. It has developed over the last few years and represents the fastest non-motorized sport on Earth. In essence, speed skydiving is the discipline where only one aspect of skydiving counts – freefall speed. The speed achieved by a human body in free fall is conditioned of two factors, body weight and body orientation. In a stable, belly to earth position, terminal velocity of the human body is about 200 km/h (about 120 mph). A stable, freefly, head down position has a terminal speed of around 240-290 km/h (around 150-180 mph). Further minimizing body drag and streamlining the body position allows the skydiver to reach higher speeds in the vicinity of 480 km/h (300 mph).” – FAI ISC website

Competitors are not allowed to wear weight and can only use standard skydiving equipment. Performance is recorded using a speed measuring device (SMD), a GPS tracker that is attached to each individuals helmet. For more information and rules of the event, please click here.

A new world record was set in round 1 by the current World Champion Kyle Lobpries (USA) with a speed of 512.97km/h (318.74mph)! Kyle broke his own record he had just set a couple of months earlier at the 3rd FAI World Speed Skydiving Championships in Tanay, Russia.

2021 USPA Nationals Speed Skydiving Results posted on SKYDERBY.

AXIS Flight School coach Niklas Daniel claimed second place with an average speed of 486.86 kmh / 302.52mph. Nik’s single highest scoring round was 495.36 kmh / 307.80mph, which occurred in round 4.

Nik reached a top speed of 502km/h (311.92mph), but unfortunately this peak in performance happened after the end of the scoring window. Joining the 500 club will have to wait 😉
Exit weight 100.8kg / 222.22lbs. Photo by Karl Mayer.

Nik’s gear of choice for the competition was a Cookie G3 helmet, Vertical Suits Speed Suit, L&B Optima II, Freefall Data Systems Color Alti, Cypres 2, UPT Micron (V316), PIG gloves, adidas lite racer adapt 4.0 shoes, and some strategically placed gaffers tape 🙂

Nik’s performance earned him a spot on the USA Team to compete and represent the United States at the upcoming World Championships in Eloy Arizona next year.

Silver Medal and USPA Team Patch.
2021 Speed Skydiving Podium. From left to right: Niklas Daniel, Kyle Lobpries, Anthony “TJ” Landgren. Photo by Kay Robinson.

Nik would like to thank his sponsors for their continued support. In no particular order: Skydive Arizona, Skyventure AZ, Cookie Composites, Cypres, L&B Altimeters, Performance Designs, UPT, and Vertical Suits.

Nik’s Camera Helmet 2021

Nik’s camera set up shown with a Sony 7r III and GoPro Hero 9.

Just over 5 years ago Nik posted an article called “The Greatest and Best Camera Helmet in the World“, in which he shared the ins and outs of his camera flying helmet. Nik’s opinion still stands today as he continues using his Cookie Fuel. However, camera technology has advanced significantly over the years and it is time for an update to the old post.

If you are in the market for new cameras and are looking for great side-by-side comparisons and tear downs, check out Trunk’s latest blog posts. These explain why I upgraded to the Hero9 and will be skipping the newly released Hero10.

Making the switch from Canon to Sony with a new arsenal of cameras and lenses. All safely tucked away in a travel friendly Pelican 1510 Case.

Firstly, Nik has made a complete switch from Canon to Sony. This was mainly due to the smaller and lighter Sony a6000, which was able to take better pictures than the Canon 7d. This was an upgrade in both picture quality and shedding some weight from the helmet. However, not soon after playing around with the a6000, Nik upgraded to the Sony 7r III. This again increased the overall weight of the helmet, but is totally worth it given the quality it produces.

Sony a7r III size comparison with a6000

Nik uses both cameras depending on what the job calls for. Below you can see a weight comparison between the two different set ups using a luggage measuring scale.

The weight of Nik’s camera helmet with the Sony a6000 and GoPro 9 is just over 4lbs.
The weight is significantly higher with the 7r III and bigger lens, just around 6lbs. FE 4 / 12-24 G for freefall, and FE 2.8 / 24-70 GM for air-to-air under canopy.

When video is the priority, such as during a competition, the set up featured below works quite nicely. The GoPro functions strictly as a back up, but it can also be used to take stills. Setting the GoPro to a wider shooting angle than the camcorder ensures that no grips go out of frame during a formation competition – especially during exit.

Helmet outfitted with a Sony FDR-AX700 4K HDR and a GoPro Hero 9.

The picture quality and image stabilization are quite good. In addition, the camcorder has some really cool slow motion features that can record up to 960fps.

Brianne Thompson doing a little head down carving over Skydive Arizona in Eloy. Shot with Sony FDR-AX700 4K HDR

Nik played around with various angles when mounting his articulating ring sight. The image below shows how the ring sight is configured and attached behind the GoPro.

The ring sight’s orientation is unobtrusive to shooting with either camera.

Because the action camera is located in his field of view, Nik does not use a plug in indicator light. However if you wish to use one, check out the latest and greatest from Hypoxic – BLU2PRO

Visually verifying the camera’s status with its built-in indicator light and rear screen.

Other great additions to the kit over the past few years.

Custom sunglass case by Levity

Gatorz Magnum Sunglasses

PIG High Altitude Glove (HAG) – also available in white for competitors and instructors.

Black Rapid camera strap for shooting on the ground.

Cookie Multitool

Below are examples of some recent work that was shot using the above cameras and gear:

Echoes in Time Parachutist Center Fold

To check out more of Nik’s work, please visit his photography website: https://niklasdaniel.photography

2021 Chicks Rock Boogie recap

On September 30th – October 3rd, Skydive Elsinore hosted its annual Chicks Rock Boogie. 2021 marked the event’s 20th anniversary, which had a space odyssey theme. Over the weekend Brianne and Nik of AXIS Fight School organized a variety of jumps including belly, free-fly, tracking, angle flying, canopy flocking, and even an 11-way hybrid with an orbiting wing-suiter. Jumping form Caravans, Otters, and a Skyvan, there was something for everyone. At night there were festivities, live music, and many opportunities to socialize. Brianne and Nik also participated in the night swoops event. Check out the recap video below. Looking forward to next year!

Sunset Canopy Flocking Jump by Brianne Thompson.