A regular skydiver, Jeff Schrompf is used to careening to Earth from several thousand feet in the air. Last year, the instructor made more than 500 jumps, and views the extreme sport “like an everyday thing.”
But sailing down to terra firma with 107 other daredevils in a record-breaking head-first dive on July 31 was far from ordinary for the 31-year-old St. Catharines man.
Skydivers from around the globe were flown to a height of 18,000 feet before jumping and hitting speeds of up to 180 mph over Ottawa, Ill. during the Skydive Chicago event.
Once they started plummeting to the ground, the skydivers were tasked with finding each other mid-air and making a precisely-arranged formation by holding hands. It’s the highest and biggest jump Schrompf has ever done. “It definitely felt different,” said Schrompf, who owns a local roofing and siding company.
“There were a lot more people in the air. There’s a lot more to think about. There’s a lot more stress.”It took seven attempts, but the free fly world record was broken Friday. The previous record was 69 skydivers in a formation, set two years ago.
The tension was more than just in the air. One false move and skydivers were replaced with one of 50 alternates waiting for their chance to be part of the event.
Free fly is one of the most dangerous skydives that takes precise timing and great skill, which is why Schrompf went through four training camps in Arizona, California and Illinois to qualify.
Schrompf, who has been skydiving for three years and is an instructor with Skydive Burnaby in Wainfleet, said he wanted to challenge himself.
A typical group free fly dive involves up to six people jumping from 13,500 feet in the air. Like rock climbing and mountain biking, skydivingives him a kick, said Schrompf, a married father of two young sons, aged six and three. “It’s just a real sense of freedom and adrenaline.”This isn’t the first record for Schrompf.
He was part of a group of 21 skydivers in Montreal last month that smashed the Canadian record for a formation free-flying skydive.