Skydive Chicago’s August Newsletter – It’s Been A Busy Year

A Letter From A.J. Johnson

Incredible.  Fantastic.  Stupendous.  Ridiculous.  Unbelievable. These are just a few of the words that come to mind when I look back over the last few weeks and the last few months at Skydive Chicago.  It’s been a incredibly busy year as we have had one of the most full and comprehensive event schedules that we have ever had.

While the length of the list of all the names who have helped this year would be so nice to add, you’d have to scroll down for an hour just to get to the rest of the newsletter!  That said, a massive thanks is in order to everyone who helped support SDC and gave of their time and efforts, whether they were paid employees or just your average jumper here lending a hand when they could.  It takes a village and this is the best village on the planet!

We’ve had some flat-out EPIC moments this year.  Our 10-Spots and A-License Club has been crushing it.  World Record try-outs for wingsuiting and vertical records happened. Freedomfest was the biggest I’ve ever seen it. We’re making a ‘jumpumentary’ about the Vertical World Record.  Summerfest was just as big as last year and we had a record event that didn’t let as many who came last year, come this year.  There was a S.O.S. World Record written into the books and the Vertical World Record produced some of the biggest vertical formation skydives to date.  Oh, and Gus and Sasha have made our Community Cook Outs the things of legend.  Simply put:  “It’s been EPIC!”

The best part of all that, you wonder?  It’s still not over and we are still going strong!  Rookiefest is right around the corner and we are still prepping for Nationals with all of our SDC sponsored teams and teams that train here.  It’s an exciting time to be a part of SDC and I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone.  Thanks for helping.  Thanks for supporting.  Thanks for working hard. Thanks for coming. Thanks for jumping.  Thanks for being a part of the the Skydive Chicago Family.  It truly takes all of us to get the job done and done well.  #WeAreSDC



The Aussies:  Community Cookout Legends

For the last few years, “The Aussies” have made Skydive Chicago their home.  While there are a gaggle of them roaming around Skydive Chicago at any one time, two have continued to stand out from the crowd year after year.  Gus Mitchinson and Sascha Sullivan are the official “Aussies” and they represent their homeland with style, grace, humility, creativity, and a metric ton of pure fun.

Known for the epic ‘Children of The Corn’ party, in which they brought a full bar, massive sound system, and decorations out into a clearing in the corn fields, they solidified themselves as the party planners around the DZ.  Seriously, you had to follow glow sticks wrapped around corn stalks to even get into the clearing.  Legends.  Their antics continued with the ‘Tour de Fridge’ where everyone rode bikes from location to location and had a beer at each.  Just your average dinner with these guys feeds about 20 people and you are always welcome to stop by their fire.

We decided to permanently hand them the reigns to the monthly Community Cookout at SDC this year.  Usually, it’s a Wednesday or Thursday night and we all gather under the Pavilion to grill and just hang out.  Nope.  Not this year.  The Aussies had a few plans for us.  Held up by VISA issues, it took longer for them to get here than expected. A.J. tried to fill in as best he could and move the Cookouts around the DZ.  There was the first one by the hangar with all sorts of decor and inflatables and then we all went to Herman’s for a night at his house followed by some cannon fire and a bonfire.  Then The Aussies arrived.

Cue the first Annual Volleyball Tournament at SDC.  #TotalBlast  They had a referee on a high perch, foods, drinks, seating, a scoreboard, and even a homemade trophy.  It was awesome.  Next up is the Bass Fishing Tournament.  Eight different teams set out to fish and catch as many as they could from The Pond.  SDC Rhythm’s fishing team took home the gold with the most inches in fish caught.  Oh, yeah.  Then we had a beach party that rivaled the beach scene from Karate Kid.  (Ok.  It was totally better, but you get the idea.)  Fast forward to the next Cookout and they had devised games of skill such as ‘Egg Engineering’ and ‘Shut it.  You’ll See What We Are Doing Next’ when everyone asked what the twelve 50-gallon red trash bins were doing there.

The point is, don’t invite The Aussies over if you’re not willing to have a good time.  Forget that; A GREAT time.  Thanks to Gus and Sasha for making each and every day better while they call SDC home and thanks for the Community Cook Outs.  We can’t wait to see what you come up with next!

10-Spot & A-License Club At Skydive Chicago

With such a great success rate, we had to bring back both of these programs this year.  Once per month, we have both 10-Spot and A-License Club at Skydive Chicago.  Each club meets and gives both belly and free fly jumpers a chance to increase skills while meeting new people at the dropzone.

A-License Club is a unique opportunity to ease yourself into the sport of skydiving. We understand that the hangar can be daunting and the idea of approaching others to jump is sometimes not as easy as it seems.  Lead by local organizers, days are filled with briefings, dirt dives and jumps of different technique. We also do goofy dives to mix it up! We invite jumpers from all drop zones to partake. Following the first day, there are brief seminars on topics that cover gear, canopy, exits, safety, competitive skydiving, formation skydiving and more!  After jumping, it’s time to head down to  famous Tiki bar, tended by the lovely Lisa, to enjoy dinner and drinks after. What do you need to do to be a part of it? Just show up! There is no registration fee. Just pay your jump ticket and let the fun begin.

10-Spot is challenge based system aimed at improving overall freefly skills. Each month, a group of 10 or more flyers will are given a set of dives to engineer and successfully complete. This team environment is led by World Champion and DZO Rook Nelson. Rook challenges the group with technical jumps pushing everyone’s skill level. A challenge might be, “Is it possible to perform ten points without everyone taking the same grip?” Another might be, “Is it possible to fly a 3-way round through a 7-way round?” Rook looks to the group to come up with challenges of their own as well.

There is NO registration for this event but you must email to be put on the ‘list’.

Whether you are just starting out or want to get your ‘shred’ on, Skydive Chicago has the program for you.

Summerfest 2018

What has 644 people, 581 loads, 18,000 gallons of fuel, 32 organizers, 11 videographers, human foosball, a fiddle rocker, and 723 smoothies?  Yep!  You guessed it; SUMMERFEST!

Skydive Chicago’s reigning Boogie of the Year delivered its annual midsummer celebration of all things skydiving July 28 through August 5. Jumpers from all over the world gathered for a week of blue skies, family, friends, and nightly entertainment.

The festivities continued well after the last canopy landed each night: the week’s events, all hosted at Skydive Chicago’s Tiki Bar, included a guest illusionist and magic show, real-life foosball, big-boy beer pong, a sip and paint, live music (including a Fiddle Rock complete with fireworks and our own, Casey McGrath), and a masquerade party dejayed by our DZO himself, Rook Nelson. A full fireworks display and demo jump commemorated the final weekend.

Jason Russell of SDC Core said it once and he said it again, “Summerfest isn’t just a party boogie with skydives.  It’s also a chance to learn from some of the best LO’s in the business.  We spend time treating it like a skills camp as well and a fun time.”

That’s the beauty of Summerfest.  It is a place to have a party.  SDC works hard to make sure you have entertainment, music, and events to enjoy.  We also work hard to make sure that you walk away from Summerfest a better skydiver.  It’s all of that and then some.

Start making your plans now for Summerfest 2019.  We assure you;  We are doing the same.  See you next year!

Video edits and photos of Summerfest can be found at Skydive Chicago’s Facebook page.  Click here now to visit.  If you would like to purchase stills taken by Norman Kent at the event, please visit:

The Vertical Elite Go For The Ultimate Dream

On August 11, the Vertical Elite gathered at Skydive Chicago to attempt their long-anticipated goal of setting a new Vertical World Record.  There had been nine try-out camps across the globe that individuals had to attend, preform, and receive an invitation to even come to this historic event.  After all the invitations had been given out and the bench had been stocked, over 250 of the world’s best skydivers began to overcome the previous goal of 164 vertical skydivers linked in one formation.

Rook Nelson, DZO, has a quip that he says when competing, “I’m not competitive.  I’m just more competitive than you.”  While it’s humorous and true, Rook was quick to note jumpers were only competing against the record. “We’re meeting as teammates this time,” he explained. “We’re all after the same trophy.”

Jumpers began to show up days early to get in as much practice as possible before the Monday morning start.  When it was time, the group set out to make dreams come true but were quickly shut down by weather.  It was a brutal and frustrating few days of sitting on the ground and just waiting for blue skies.  People had spent years training and all they could do is nothing.

When the skies finally broke, it was ‘game-on!’  The group feverishly dirt dove and then went for it.  “So close!” came screams from the ground as on lookers watched a beautiful flock of nine planes launch jumpers out over and over.  With one last attempt left, the organizers made some tough choices and slimmed the group to 171 jumpers in an effort to still break the previous record.

Unfortunately, despite meticulous planning, strong flying, and an admirable display of focus and sportsmanship, the current record remained unchanged. Still, Nelson and others agreed that weather was the only real opposition to eventual success. And, despite the group’s narrow miss, for many of the Elite, the journey was a win in itself. “Everyone stayed safe,” Nelson added. “That alone is the most important mission to accomplish.”

“Wild. Crazy. Fun.” said jumper Jazmyne Martinez, of the road from her first tandem skydive to being part of the record-hopeful team. “Although we didn’t walk away with the glory of breaking a world record… we still achieved building the largest vertical formation in history.”

Jazmyne had it right.  There were incredible formations and people had a absolutely amazing time chasing down history.  There is one thing that you can be sure of in the coming future; We won’t stop until we break that record and we won’t stop after we break the next one.  It’s just what we do.

Stay tuned for a feature video edit of the event and if you would like to purchase stills from the photographers who captured the dives then visit: or

Cooperation Nets New SOS World Record

A group of 75 Skydivers over Sixty (SOS) met August 11-14 at Skydive Chicago, Ottawa, Illinois, in an attempt to beat the 66-way SOS world record formation set in April at Skydive Perris in Southern California. The group of 75 included 32 from the 66-way record formation as well as six international jumpers representing Australia, Canada, England, Italy, Germany, and Scotland. The rest were chosen from the roster of the four-point 57-way SOS sequential record that was achieved at Skydive Deland in Florida last year.

The concept of marrying the West Coast SOS jumpers and the East Coast SOS jumpers was formed during an SOS event from the previous year. Historically, there has been little interaction between these two groups. Organizers T. J. Hine (East) and Rick Poplinger (West) got together to work out the logistics.

This event also was different because it was an invitational.  Available jumpers that were known to the organizers and had revealed abilities to form bigger formations in the past were invited. This caliber of jumpers, led by upcoming inductee to the Skydiving Hall of Fame, Roger Ponce de Leon, proved to be a winning combination. It took only six jumps to put the polish on the group’s efforts and set the new record.

On Day 1, the jumpers broke up into four groups to do three 18-way and 20-way warm-up jumps. Record attempts began in earnest on Day 2 with 76 divers using two Skyvans and two Otters at an altitude of 17,500 ft. Hine, Poplinger, Ponce, and Mike Raibel acted as plane captains, and three jumps were made without success.

The first attempt on Day 3 proved eventful, but not in a good way. One jumper sustained an injury and had to pull out entirely. Another had a reserve ride and missed the next attempt, with the count at 74, but with rented equipment, she was able to participate in the final jump of the day.

That’s when a record formation of 75 jumpers was built, which is a whopping 14% larger than the standing world record and … no one was cut!

On Day 4, the group of 75 tried twice to attain a second point but came up short and ran out of time as the DZ was very busy. The 200–way head-down record attempts were going on at the same time, but for now, the old-timers have the bragging rights, having achieved their world record goal.

The SOS group was well taken care of on the ground by Deb Lehnherr, who made sure they were signed up at manifest and that everyone had cannulas and was aware of team meetings, etc. In the air, photographers Norm Kent and Brian Festi chronicled the success.

Ponce designed the formation and also carried with him a small vial of ashes belonging to renowned skydiver Carolyn Clay, who died May 31 at age 68, so she could symbolically participate in the event.

By T. J. Hine and Rick Poplinger

If you would like to purchase high-resolution photos from the event taken by Norman Kent, please visit:

The 2018 USPA National Skydiving Championships Are Almost Here!

It’s almost time and Skydive Chicago is putting the final touches on all their teams as they get ready to head to Rochelle, IL on September 4th through September 17th.  This is the last weekend to train and we have a busy schedule all weekend as the teams get one last set of jumps in before they take to the skies and go for the gold.

Skydive Chicago has both sponsored teams and teams that regularly train at SDC that we will be cheering on as they each try to put their names in lights.  Our VFS team, SDC Core, will be going for yet another gold as the FS team, SDC Rhythm XP, try to take home their medals as well.  MFS Team, Revolutionary War, will make it’s first attempt to rise above their competition as well.

Both SDC Core and SDC Rhythm XP have also been training and coaching other teams that will be competing as well.  Two different VSF Teams, Ecliptik and Vertical Shift, will be there to show the world that they have what it takes to make an impact in their divisions.  Rhythm has specifically been training off-shoot teams such as Rhesiliance, Rhevolution, Kaboom,  and Jet Stream Tango.  Another team called, Groundwork, will also be joining in on the FS side of battle as well.

All in all, Skydive Chicago has been the training ground for the most teams ever and we couldn’t be more proud to support all of them at the 2018 USPA Nationals.  #GoSDCTeams!

If you’d like to learn more about the 2018 USPSA Nationals then please visit:

Skydive Chicago’s 9th Annual Rookiefest Is On The Horizon

This is the Nationals for beginning skydivers! All rookie skydivers from any dropzone are welcome to participate in this 3-way scrambles style competition.
Teams change each round based on a random draw, but will always include one experienced ‘coach’ (members from SDC Rhythm XP, SDC Core, Rook Nelson and more!). Scores will be judged by an officially rated judge and prizes are awarded to the top three individuals.
The winner will take home a Rookiefest Trophy that will give the DZ bragging rights that they produce the best students.  We invite jumpers from all dropzones to participate. At the end of the first day join us for a brief seminar on topics that cover gear, canopy, exits, safety, competitive skydiving, formation skydiving and more! In the evening come to our famous Tiki bar to enjoy dinner and drinks.
Rookie skydivers can participate in up to 2 Rookiefest Competitions, provided they meet either of these criteria:
• Less than 200 total jumps OR
• Less than 2 years in the sport as a Rookie
REGISTRATION (includes event t-shirt): https://coming soon
• Pre-Registration (Ends Sept. 20th): $50
• Registration (Spet. 21-28th): $55
• PLUS 5 jumps @ $25 each
Discounted Gear Rental:
$25/jump (Can only use for the 5 comp. jumps)
*includes: rig, helmet, jumpsuit and packjob
• Friday, September 28th
6pm: Deadline for registration
9am-6pm: Manifest open to complete registration, pay account, sign waiver
• Saturday, September 29th
8am: Manifest opens to complete registration, must be completed before briefing (Please try to complete by Friday evening if possible)
8:30am: Meet time for briefing (in auditorium)
• Sunday, September 30th
9am: Competition Resumes
Awards ceremony immediately following

Hi, we use cookies to improve and personalize your browsing experience and for metrics and analytics about our website and other media. If you would like to learn more about the cookies we use, visit our Privacy Policy.