Skydiving festival set in Sierra Valley |

Skydiving festival set in Sierra Valley

The Fourth Annual International Skydiving “Freefly” Festival comes to Northern California for the first time ever, Sept. 13 – 19, hosted by Skydive Lake Tahoe.

“Freefly is to skydiving what snowboarding is to skiing,” Alpine Meadows resident Charles Bryan said.

Bryan and his partner, Mike Vail, are the owners of Skydive Lake Tahoe who, between themselves, have logged more than 11,000 jumps. These numbers put Vail and Bryan in a class reserved for only the most experienced skydivers and place them among the few who dare to freefly. They are both World Championship flyers. Bryan won six gold medals in 1996 and holds the speed record for skydiving, having reached 327 mph.

“Traditionally, skydiving was done on your stomach,” Bryan said. “Boring. We’ve taken it to a new level with freefly. You fly on your head in different dimensions, over, under and around people.”

Bryan said the freefly festival started in Arizona with about 50 of the world’s most experienced skydivers trying to push the limits of their sport. The following year, about 150 people attended the festival.

“They jumped their brains out,” Bryan said.

The following year, even more people attended and a video, Chronicle III, was made to document the event. This is the third of the world’s only skydiving video film series.

This year, the event will be held 45 minutes from Truckee at the Nervino Airport in Beckwourth, Calif. in the midst of the Sierra Valley. Skydivers from New Zealand, Australia, North, Central and South America and Europe will participate in the event, making hundreds of jumps each of the six festival days. Competitions include air races, sky ball jumps, tracking dives and tube jumps.

There is no cost for viewing the festival events, and the sky balls and tube jumps will increase the jumpers’ visibility from ground level. Those interested in trying a jump of their own can do so through participation in the student program which offers preliminary tandem jumps from 13,000 feet above the ground. From that height, the views are unsurpassed, Bryan said.

For those who simply haven’t got what it takes to jump, Skydive Lake Tahoe will also offer observer rides for a first-hand view of people jumping from an airplane.

For information concerning the freefly festival or other Skydive Lake Tahoe events, call (530) 832-1474.

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