July 22, 2017
Walking into iFLY Naperville on a random weekend in June, didn't feel quite so random. There were 2 handfuls of kids in the tunnel, flying head-down, flipping 'pancakes', and carving around the tunnel in perfect synchronization. "Wow," thought the crowd of onlookers, "these kids can't possibly be first-timers"!
Mike Wittenburg, along with his two young ninjas, 12-year-old Kaleigh and 10-year-old Noah of team iFLY Aspire, hosted a Flight School Shred Camp over the course of three days. Ten kids came together from cities all over the United States - Seattle, San Diego, Denver, and Illinois. The Wittenburgs' goal was to get these kids together, kids that normally only see each other once or twice a year during IBA competitions, out of the competition environment and let them have fun, while still in a safe, learning environment.
The camp was not limited to those with only higher-level skills, any kid that was at least a Level 1 rated flyer, all the way up to Level 4 or Pro, was able to take part. The kids flew 10.5 hours during the camp, at the cost of only 80 minutes per kid.
By the end of the week, each flyer had progressed substantially. While most of them had previous experience getting coaching in the wind tunnel, few were used to getting to fly with so many other people their size and skill level! Just in the first flight session, the kids were flying 4-way Dynamic and 10-way Head-Up. After a few days of working on group flying skills, combined with Mike's expertise in organizing, the participants were performing extremely advanced manuevers - infinity flips (where grips are crossed and flyers have to 'burble' over and under one another to transition), 5-way Shufflers (a Dynamic flying move), 10-way Head-Up Sequentials, and a "very intense" game of tunnel ball complete with a bracket. "Putting on this event was one of the most enjoyable things I’ve done in all of my skydiving career," says Mike.
While flying was the main focus of the camp, the Wittenburgs organized additional activities outside of the wind, to have more fun and create additional bonding opportunities. They went to the park with kites, frisbees, and footballs, swam in local pools, played laser tag, went bowling, and watched movies. "I was amazed they flew that much and still had energy for after-tunnel activities," says Mike. He adds, "it was amazing to see the friendships grow throughout the camp. You know, skydiving has boogies, where skydivers get to just have fun together and develop friendships, outside of a serious competition environment. I was concerned that these young kids and budding flyers are only meeting up for competitions, so I wanted to show them, at a young age, that air sports are much more than competitions." We would say he was successful!
The Wittenburgs are already forming plans on hosting again next Summer. Interested in joining the fun? Contact Laura of the IBA at firstname.lastname@example.org!