I started skydiving in June 1995, shortly after celebrating my 17th birthday. At that time, it was the normality to start with a static-line course, and so I did. I remember very well my first jump from the Pilatus Porter above the Belgian dropzone Zwartberg. It was the time where people still were jumping with sandals, not wearing helmets and the audible dytters strapped on the side of their googles. Students were jumping big canopies like for example Manta’s 285 sq/ft and the daredevils were jumping Stiletto’s 120 (just outrages!). After my first jump I was hooked right away and I started dreaming of becoming a real skydiver!
I made fast progression with the static line course and got a good offer to switch to AFF, as this would help me move things fast forward. I completed the course in 6 jumps and went for my first solo jump. At this time, AAD’s were not mandatory and nobody at my dropzone really bothered to use one (speaking of old school).
After I completed my AFF course, I tried several disciplines like FS, camera work, free-fly and I became a static-line and AFF instructor. It was clear that I had a big passion for FS 4-way (at that time still called Relative Work – RW). Although I never consider myself as a ‘belly flyer’, I believe that we are all FLYERS, and together we share the biggest arena in the World!
The AAD’s slowly got more excepted by the community and it was just a matter of time, that these units would become mandatory. I was still hesitating if I had to use one or not, but there was one jump in particular that made me see the real benefit of using a CYPRES. During a fun jump, we were doing sit-fly, one of my friends felt from above (got caught in my burble) straight on my head. I never saw him coming and didn’t expect him from that angle. It was a hard impact and it took me some seconds to recover. It was so obvious to understand that I could have been knocked out from such a blow. I landed okay, and ever since I am jumping with a CYPRES on my back.
My FS career started to take of early 2000, and because 4-way is a contact sport, using a helmet and AAD is nowadays just a no brainer. Things got more and more serious and in late 2002 I co-founded team Hayabusa. Together with Sven Ibens, David and Andy Grauwels and Bruno van de Eede we became weekend warriors! It was a dream team and we start moving quickly through the ranks. We started the first year with 150 jumps, which took all our free time and money, and slowly each year we could do some more training. It was a wonderful time and we shared great memories.
As things got more serious with Hayabusa, we were looking for good reliable sponsors. At that time I was taking care of the team sponsorship and I got in contact with CYPRES manager Kai Koerner. It was right away a good connection between him and our team, and this all happened back in 2004. Since then, Hayabusa is proudly sponsored by CYPRES! Just for the record; of course we didn’t started as fully sponsored athletes. Year by year we climb up the ladder and proved our value as team. This is something that people easily tend to forget. It is not just about getting sponsored equipment, it’s just as much about giving back!
By the time it was summer 2006, we really wanted to become professional skydivers and chase our dream, to become World Champions! At that same moment, the Belgian Army were looking for new athletes in their military skydiving team. David, Andy and myself took the opportunity and the challenge, to join the Belgian Army Parachute Team. We teamed up with Luc Verstrepen and Danny Jacobs on video (both already in the military team). The first year as pro’s (2007) we won for the second time the European championship, and our first FAI World Cup in Stupino, Russia. It was also the first time we were crowned Military World Champions (CISM). It was a great year to start and it turned out it was only the beginning. Of course we had our ups and downs, but we kept believing in our dream and potential.
After having won many competitions throughout the years, and losing the FAI World Championship in Dubai (2012) by just one single point, we never gave up our dream. Finally, during the world championship in Prostejov 2014, for the first time in history, Belgium won the World Championship! Finally, we could lay our hands on the famous Excalibur sword!! A dream came true…. It’s an achievement where we will be proud of for all our lives, but it didn’t came easy. Lots of sacrifices it took for many, many years. We all pay the price in one way or the other to achieve this dream. But having your family, friends, fans and sponsors on your side, it makes it so much easier! 😉
2014 was another great season where we won all the competitions we attended. After winning the FAI world championship in Prostejov (2014) and another military world title in Indonesia, it was time to step away and find new challenges in life.
I feel blessed to have CYPRES as a sponsor for so many years, and making new friends inside the company. For sure having support from the best companies in our industry helps to contribute to our performance and safety.
Feeling safe and protected allows me to focus 100% on my job. It doesn’t matter if it’s during a training jump, a competition or just fun jumps with friends…
Since 2015 I work as a full-time coach, sharing my knowledge and passion for flying! I feel it is a very rewarding job when you see the people progress and enjoying what they do. I coach all different kind of levels, from beginners to seasoned competitors. People that still need to start their AFF to flyers with 10.000+ jumps. It’s all about improving flying techniques as well as the mental aspect of our sport.
Obviously I miss to compete, and therefor I teamed up with the former World Champions from France. Together with Julien Degen, Mathieu and Guillaume Bernier, we formed the High Rollers. So far we had many epic battles with my former teammates and still going strong! Until we meet again…
Have fun, be safe!