British National Freestyle Champion Edward Cracknell shares the secrets to his success
Freestyle skydiving in its purest form boils down to a 2-way performance, where a performer and cameraflyer are free to do anything at all. The only hard rule is that they have to wear a parachute! Whatever you choose to do in the discipline is completely open. Through imagination a team will create a routine, which is just a collection of ideas executed through body flight techniques. This routine presents a form of art in the working time they have before opening their parachutes.
My journey so far
When I started University I joined the Birmingham Skydiving Club and did my AFF in 2014. This was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I continued to learn and progress, initially joining a 4-way FS team, but then started to discover the joy that is freefly. After learning the basics of FF1 I was ready to try some freestyle skydiving. I have always been into movement sports such as trampolining, so the idea of thinking up aerial routines that involve flips, twists and carving really appealed to me.
In 2016 Chris Mayhew and I formed NOVA and have been pushing the limits ever since. Our training schedule involves going to Skydive Empuriabrava to train with our mentor Will Penny each year and also regular team training at Skydive Hibaldstow. I started working for iFLY in 2018 and have been working full time in the sport since then. By working at the tunnel and being part of a dedicated skydiving team I feel that I have been fortunate enough to create the situation where all my career efforts are helping me push towards my end goal… World Champion in Freestyle Skydiving!
2019 was an incredible year for us because it really felt like all the hard work and dedication started to pay off and show in the flying. We became British National Champions and took fourth in the World Cup in Eloy, Arizona.
How you can get involved
Once you have your FF1, get out there and start flying in a dynamic way with a friend. Make sure to fly around each other while playing with different ideas. Think beyond just the set positions of belly, back, sit and head down, and consider ways of moving in and out of those positions while flying in proximity with one another as a 2-way.
The three main building blocks to any successful freestyle routine are:
- Tracking – Flying forwards on the belly or back at various different angles.
- Carving – Flying around a central point on the horizontal plane head up/head down and inface/outface.
- Eagles – Flying around a central point on the vertical plane
If you are doing solos, play around with flying in different positions and try various exits such as sit or stand while facing the tail or front of the aircraft and focus on getting an understanding of how to fly in the relative wind.
Create your own team
The key to forming a successful team is to find someone else who shares a similar mindset when it comes down to commitment on a few basic things: funds, time and goals. If you can share the same outlook and desire as each other then all that’s left is to find out if you are compatible. In any skydiving team a lot of your time is spent not skydiving. You will spend the majority of your time hanging around, watching clouds, talking, laughing, eating, drinking, planning, on holiday and so on. So make sure you genuinely enjoy spending a lot of time with a potential teammate or else the team dynamics will not work out for the long term.
Why compete? Is it for fame and fortune? Well, for me it’s always been a case of wanting to push the limits of body flying in my discipline and then needing to have the consistent chance to benchmark my progress relative to others in the form of a competition. There, impartial judges can rank and also give valuable feedback to provide direction and points for improvement for the following year’s training. Having a tangible goal to work towards forces you to be accountable for your action and inaction, plus it will make you work harder even if you are only doing this for fun.
Help and support
I am more than happy to offer my assistance to anyone that is considering starting this journey and have already been helping some teams form and create a plan. If you think you would like to join a team, or are already in a team and require some assistance, then reach out to me for any advice or to have me on board with helping you make the best decision you can in skydiving.
Competition has given me so much to strive for in our sport, as well as some big role models. I hope that the next generation of skydivers will consider taking this path to keep pushing our sport forwards and improve their skills.
By Edward Cracknell – Nova, Edward Cracknell competes in outdoor freestyle skydiving and wind tunnel competitions on a world-class level and is the current British Skydiving National Champion with NOVA teammate Chris Mayhew. Ed is also an instructor at iFLY Manchester. You can email Edward on firstname.lastname@example.org or visit edward cracknell instagram
First published in the June 2020 issue of Skydive the Mag.
Main Image: NOVA at Eloy by Chris Mayhew
Edward Cracknell & Chris Mayhew as NOVA, British Skydiving National Champions 2019