Published: October 1, 2019
Watch on of Beau's accuracy rounds from the US Nationals here
How long have you been skydiving and at what point did you take a serious interest in canopy piloting?
Ive been skydiving now for 10 years, infact i just had my 10 year anniversary this month. Its funny i remember being told on my aff course, that i was a bloke and oneday would get into swooping because all we wanted to do was fly fast and impress girls. But i remember thinking "nah i'm pretty happy just jumping out of the plane" at the time i never really understood what it was. Infact ive never really been interested in fast cars or motorbikes , but around 200 jumps the group i was hanging around with started tinkering with high performance landings. I was lucky enough to get on a canopy course with some guy called Michael Vaughan, now a legend of the sport and CP. Here i got a bit more exposure and a pathway to swooping. I spoke with a few legends of the game and they basically said if i wanted to get better, I needed to go to a national championship as this was the way forward. So at about 600 jumps i entered my first comp, learnt heaps in the training camp and after this experience i came home wishing it was next year already and simply wanted more!
You've progressed at an exponential rate over the last few years, what do you think has been one key factor to your successful progression
I dont know if its been an exponential rate, ive definitely experienced a lot of 2 steps back and 1 step forward at times, but unfortunately in canopy piloting this is often the way it goes. In terms of knowledge though, this is always moving forward even when you dont have a good comp or have a frustrating landing. So to answer the question in two words I'd say, "getting coaching", but also from different people to find out different thoughts and techniques and establish what worked for me. Also staying as current as you can and injury free. You certainly cant progress from the hospital bed.
What has been the biggest challenge for you along the way?
Canopy piloting or swooping is such an individual game, so a lot of the time the biggest challenge was myself. Realising that you cant become a world class swooper over a weekend or even a few years or learning better habits. I used to get so frustrated after a bad landing, but have learnt that this is the way of swooping; its challenging and requires patience and long term commitment. So my rules now for comps or training are 10 mins to highlight what I could've done better, mentally rehearse that, highlight what I did well eg good setup, there is always something you did well then 5 mins to beat yourself or the judges up in your mind and get over it, or once I'm packed. The next jump is always a new opportunity.
The competition side of things is also very challenging with the rules, but having fun and a clear head definitely make this easier. In fact I love competing often more than training. It's the time to show off all your hard work and enjoy bringing your best.
Swooping has given you a chance to travel around the World, where has been your favourite place to jump outside of Australia?
The trip I just got back from in North Carolina USA was my (insert word for carton) time overseas swooping and competing. It was a great dropzone and pond, however my absolute favorite place to swoop would have to be funny farm in outback Queensland. The pond is epic and everyone is just having fun throwing down freestyle moves and getting wet. I hope to be back sometime soon. There is also a competition called the Pink Open in Klatovy, Czech Republic, its an epic place by the looks, so Id love to go there and compete.
You deal with risk and danger daily as a firefighter, as well as under a high performance canopy, what is your number one tip when it comes to calculating and managing the risks in your life?
Definitely recognizing that the risks exist. The reality is we all have a perfectly functioning parachute, but we are the ones choosing to increase speed and throw our bodies at the very unforgiving ground. I think those that dont give swooping the respect it deserves can come unstuck and injured. Practicing aborting drills or fire fighting drills in a controlled environment and making mistakes helps you to perform when the pressure is on and you are spearing yourself at the earth traveling 150km/hr. Staying current and putting in the time under your wing is also very important for managing the risks. I get a bit frustrated when people tell me they are putting in the time under canopy and when I ask how many hop n pops they do, it is such a low number. Flying among other canopies certainly has its merits, however nothing beats having the sky to yourself and developing flight techniques in a more controlled setting. I liken it to learning how to freefly in the tunnel with a coach versus learning to freeflly in the tunnel in a 4 way; it's too busy as you are managing so many other variables.
To get to the top in any sport, you have to be disciplined and determined, what keeps you motivated?
I honestly just love the challenge of swooping and the feeling of going fast over the ground or water. Dragging water is definitely where its at, so being over a pond is very motivating. At the moment the thing that motivates me the most is the 2020 World Championships in Siberia. I've always wanted to represent Australia so this would be a dream come true. It means coming top 8 at the nationals next year, which will be challenging but achievable.
Of the three disciplines in swooping, speed, accuracy and distance, which is your favourite and why?
Speed and distance are awesome because they are pure power events and its nice to see how fast or far you can actually go under canopy. However, I think zone accuracy shows a lot more about the canopy pilot as it's about controlling the power and requires a bit more finesse ; not to mention you get to drag water. I put a lot of time in to training this discipline at the US nationals, so am looking forward to this event come nationals next April. One you left out is FREESTYLE, this is just pure adrenaline, its fast, its fun and usually its very wet.
Where do you see the future of swooping with the growth of events such as Swoop Freestyle?
Swoop freestyle has certainly helped bring canopy piloting to a wider audience and of all the disciplines in skydiving is probably the most spectator friendly, which has helped its success. The new mutant harness has taken swooping on a slight tangent, but even the best pilots in the world are struggling to fly them with the current competition rules. Perhaps if the rules change and or canopy manufacturers make a canopy designed for the harness things may change. Unfortunately i dont think swooping or skydiving for that matter will ever be mainstream, I hope i'm proven wrong but in a way that's what makes our sport so special. Id like to think there will be a bigger circuit for swoop freestyle around the world and maybe one day it might make the Olympics, but i guess we will have to wait and see.
You have an immense amount of knowledge and experience, which you give back to the local skydiving community through coaching and events, what's your number one tip for someone looking to get into swooping?
GET COACHING and stay current. There is a distinct difference in what you think you're doing versus what you are actually doing. Ive had to unlearn bad techniques thinking i was doing the right thing, but only because i got coaching. If you think you have worked it out you should probably quit, because there is always something to improve on. Enjoy the process as its a long term investment, like all skydiving disciplines you need to persist. One of my coaches once told me you can get caught up in training, but the last jump or swoop of the day should always be fun, where you go and just drag the s**t out of the pond; I always remember this. Ultimately you need to smile under canopy as its such a beautiful place to be.
So next time you're under canopy and you've popped your toggles, take a deep breath, enjoy the view and make the most of the time under your wing. #Purewildflight