It’s not even arguable: The phenomenon of human flight is rooted in a spirit of playful imagination for all of us. Even so, some teams express that imagination more than others. Take Deland-based Fly4Life as an example: For this quartet of Venezuelan athletes, imagination is everything.
“We don’t like to repeat jumps,” laughs Luis Prinetto, one of the team’s founding members. “You can see in our videos that our jumps aren’t perfect because we do any given jump only one time–maybe one-and-a-half times–and then we change everything up and make it completely different. That’s a very big part of being able to keep loving what we do.”
“If we commit to doing a jump only once,” he continues, “It makes us more creative–we can easily add more or to change something or say okay, that was cool, but if we do it this way instead. We’re free to create instead of trying to make the same jump perfect.”
“Perfection is not necessarily bad, but it is just boring,” adds Luis’s longtime good friend (and Fly4Life co-founder) Manuel “Manny” Guevara. “Sometimes we are about to get to altitude and we still have no idea what we are going to do and it is totally okay. There is no leader. We just get out and express.”
And “express” they most certainly do. These days, Fly4Life is known worldwide for its inventive style, its beautiful collaborations and the megawatt smiles on the faces of its members. Skydivers the world over want in on that high-octane fun, so they flock to the team’s highly regarded skills camps.
In 2014, cameraman Richard “Richie” Scheurich and Claudio Cagnasso came up from Venezuela to–in Luis’s words–bring “a huge desire for learning, talent, and a great vibe”. Any camp participant will tell you that the quartet forms a magical combination; clearly, each teammate shares a vibrant enthusiasm for teaching at the highest level.
“For us, it’s all about progression,” Manny enthuses. “Maintaining a constant forward movement by learning the many different sides of the sport. We try to keep learning all the time. Once people think they have learned everything, that’s the end of it. As long as our minds stay open and ready to progress, we’ll be here. That’s true freedom.”
“When we get together,” Claudio adds, “Since we all love the same thing, we all bring this special energy. The way we skydive–the things that we do–the jumps that we do–it’s never monotone; never repetitive.”
That never-a-dull-moment approach poses some nail-biting safety challenges. In the high-speed, high-stakes environment at the bleeding edge of angle flying skills camps, one wayward athlete can create a very serious safety problem for the other jumpers in the sky. That said: Fly4Life’s camps enjoy a rather unique reputation for safety. That is most certainly by design, and the team aims to keep it that way by carefully crafting skills-appropriate groups of limited size.
“[Balancing participant skill levels] is really challenging,” Manny explains. “It is really important for the people that the group is actually matching skill-wise. We have to use all our experience to ensure the harmony of the groups. We spend quite a lot of time on it–a lot of thinking and moving around, going through Facebook and re-reading all the questionnaires that we ask people to fill out when they register.”
One of the key points on that questionnaire is a very direct question: Is your gear equipped with an AAD? If the answer is no, there will be no Flying-4-Life for you. The team is deadly serious about participant safety, and a cornerstone of that commitment is their AAD requirement for all participants. They practice what they preach, of course: Each of the Fly4Life team has a CYPRES on his back.
“With the style of flying that we are doing,” Manny insists, “It makes no sense not to use an activation device. We are constantly flying next to each other at high speeds, doing moves that could end up going a little bit in different directions. A bad crash could happen at any moment–somebody just being a little bit lost or unaware, or getting out of balance–and the smallest freefall collision could cause somebody to end up being unable to pull the main canopy.”
“I would add to that,” Luis interjects, “That we have all passed through the unfortunate experience of having dead friends who jumped without an AAD–or watching really bad accidents happen to friends but they were saved by an AAD, when they could have been in the first group. We are flying at very high speeds, very close to each other where a mistake could mean a serious accident or even death. Even though we do our best to keep it safe, you never know. That’s why we have CYPRES.”
“One thing that we love about the sport is that it makes us disconnect,” adds Richie. “But that’s also the dangerous part of it. When we focus on safety in the camps, people seem to enjoy it more and keep steadily progressing. People learn more when they feel secure. They’re more confident.”
Fly4Life camps, that rotating cast of confident, enthusiastic jumpers learns a lot. Over the past couple of years, such continuing education has resulted in a significant uptick in participant ability. The Fly4Life guys couldn’t be happier about that collective progress.
“Our lowest group on the last camp was what I would consider a few years ago one of the top groups,” Manny smiles. “In a couple more years, I can see that the camps are going to be completely different. What we are doing is a lot more complex than what we used to do just two years ago. It’s growing every season.”
It’s evident from our conversation that it’s not just the jumpers around them that are evolving. Fly4Life is also growing as a team–and, though they have absolutely no intention of abandoning their vocation to teach the people to fly efficiently, they plan to shift some of their collective focus to team projects during the coming seasons.
“Our focus has been on teaching for a long time,” Richie says, “And now it feels like it’s time to create something for ourselves–something bigger, a bigger project–because now we finally are starting to be able to spend more time together as a team.”
“When we are jumping with a group of people at our camps, we don’t really fly for us,” Luis explains. “We just focus on the people around us and what is the best way to encourage that group to progress. We have to take a break and work on a few ideas we’re excited about–mixing up all the disciplines and really showing the world what it is that we do.”
Quite evidently, the future is bright for the Fly4Life fellas–but this is a quartet that specializes in living in the moment. “What we’re thinking about now,” Richie adds, puckishly, “Is jumping. We’re going fun jumping right after this call.”
CYPRES is proud to support Fly4Life in their tireless quest to advance the sport (and keep the whole skydiving world smiling). To check out their camp schedules or book private coaching, reach out to them through their website at teamfly4life.com.