By: Sharon Aron Baron
One local resident took home the gold at the 2014 U.S. Parachute Association National Skydiving Championships in Chicago last week where his team won first place for the advanced 4-way formation event.
Competing against 15 other teams, Tamarac resident Ron Hill, 41, a skydiver for over 20 years, was part of a five person team called Dallas 350 consisting of four jumpers and a videographer.
The National Skydiving Championships is the country’s biggest, most prestigious skydiving competition, drawing more than 500 competitors from across the country for 10 days of breathtaking skydiving in multiple events, including formation skydiving, artistic freestyle, landing accuracy and much more.
In the advanced 4-way formation, skydivers attach themselves to one another by grabbing each other’s limbs, or by the use of “grippers” on their jumpsuit while free falling through the sky. The goal of formation skydiving is to build a formation of multiple skydivers arranged in a series of geometric patterns.
Before the competition, the meet director reaches into a hat to randomly pull out the proposed formations. With only one hour of preparation on the ground, they leap from an aircraft more than two miles above the ground and then race against the clock to form the prescribed geometric formations in free-fall before opening their parachutes. The team videographer flies above the team to catch all the action which is then verified and officially scored by the judges.
“It’s a two day competition where we have to do ten jumps,” said Hill. “We tried to do six to seven jumps the first day but the weather didn’t cooperate, so we did five jumps the first day and the five the second.”
When Hill’s not jumping out of airplanes, he works as a dangerous goods analyst for FedEx, and on the weekends works as an instructor at Skydive Spaceland in Clewiston, FL. He began skydiving while living and working Memphis over 20 years ago and has since completed 6,300 dives.
Hill, who has lived in the Mainlands Seven for three years along with his wife Heather, who also happens to be a skydiving instructor, flew back to Dallas once or twice a month to practice with this team at Skydive Dallas where he was also one of the coaches.
Skydiving can be an expensive hobby and there isn’t much in the way of prize money after winning a national competition.
“A shiny medal and bragging rights for one year.” he said
And the sport isn’t for penny-pinchers too with prices ranging from $20 and up per minute drop for experienced jumpers, to $150-$200 for tandems where the skydiver is connected to an instructor with a harness.
“It can be an expensive hobby, but the the drop zone [Skydive Dallas] paid for all of my jumps because I was coaching the team.”