Freestyle with Jake Carlton

Thursday, October 6, 2022

I’ve been in the sport for about four years and have around 3,300 jumps. XP Ascend has been together as a team for just over a year, and we have now completed two national competitions and one world championship – together as a team (with performer Jason Brigmon) we have done about 1,300 jumps. We found we were gradually doing more and more two-way skydives together, and had a pretty good dynamic so decided to aim for competition. Jason was originally the camera flyer for Axiom Freestyle, but wanted to move into performance. I wanted to get into competition, but didn’t have a lot of interest in being a performer and wanted to be behind the camera – so it was quite a natural thing. It was important to us to win the world championships on home soil, so this year our training was pretty heavy. We did around 940 jumps as a team, and somewhere in the range of 40 hours in the tunnel.

Photo: Joseph Thomas

The whole competition was really impressive. We didn’t really know who was going to turn up or what their skill level would be, but we really enjoyed everyone’s routines. The Canadians were fantastic, and the Germans too. The UK boys also flew super clean, as did the Danish. The French teams, of course, were excellent and a ton of fun to watch. For us, we are looking for two more world titles – in Norway next year and Israel in 2024. It is possible we may pick up the right individual to do something in Freefly, because that is a bit of a dying discipline in the USA. There is some upcoming talent, although is really challenging to get involved because of how hard the discipline is. We would very much like to help it move in the right direction.

Photo: Chris Bess

We did have a point in the middle of the year when we started asking ourselves what we were doing because things weren’t piecing together. It takes a lot of trial and error, feeling out what makes sense for each particular move, and then eventually you find the small changes or details that make everything fit. Sometimes you have to fly something 25 times just to develop an idea of how it is going to work, then after all those jumps, you find that it doesn’t. You have these big moves that you definitely want in the routine, but the question you have to answer is how do these things go together? Sometimes things just click into place, which is cool – but the majority of the development process is continual tweaking.

Photo: Joseph Thomas

One of the main things we talk to young new teams about is to make their routine simple and fly it clean because nobody cares about how many flip twists you can do if you are on the other side of the state from the camera. If you fill the screen and fly it clean it will score well. One of the things that stood out from watching back over the competition was our technical score. For us, it is all about flying the most technical thing that we could – but only at the highest level, it can be flown. We worked our way up with this in mind, and the result is our execution and presentation scores matched the others teams, but our technical score was higher. Our goal was to fly the most complicated stuff possible that we could present as well as everybody else. The opportunity to be able to work like this comes from 940 training jumps.

Photo: Chris Bess

We have been saying for a long time that we think that artistics should be the premiere disciplines, and along with our team goals we would love to be a part of continuing to grow the sport. We are aiming to broaden the knowledge of what is involved and make the competition scene bigger – especially as we have seen the numbers dwindle recently. It was really nice to see a decent amount of highly skilled teams on the world stage this year, and we are encouraged to see the growth so far. We are looking to continue this at home in the USA, and are pretty excited about what can be done and how we can contribute.    


Jake Carlton


Adventure, Tips, and Adrenaline

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