By Jason Thompson - UK Parachuting
Freeflying is a skydiving discipline which began in the late 1980s, involving freefalling in various vertical orientations, as opposed to the traditional “belly-to-earth” orientation. The discipline is known to have originated when Olav Zipser began experimenting with non-traditional forms of bodyflight. Zipser founded the FreeFly Clowns as a two-person competitive team with Mike Vail in 1992, and was joined by Omar Alhegelan (1st ever FAI Freestyle World Cup & World Champion), Charles Bryan, and Stefania Martinengo in 1994. The FreeFly Clowns are also credited with opening the first school to teach freeflying, The First School of Modern SkyFlying.
Freeflying broke into the limelight in 1996 when the SSI Pro Tour added freeflying as a three-person competitive discipline at the second televised event (with Skysurfing), part of ESPN’s Destination Extreme series. 150 countries watched the FreeFly Clowns (Olav Zipser, Charles Bryan and Omar Alhegelan) as they took 1st place in all four international competitions along with other teams like, the Flyboyz (Eli Thompson, Mike Ortiz, Knut Krecker, Fritz Pfnür), Team AirTime (Tony Urugallo, Jim O’Reilly, Peter Raymond, Brian Germain), and many other pioneers of freeflying showed off their best moves. In 1996 and 1997, the SSI Pro Tour staged eight televised events in both North America and Europe with $36,000 in cash prizes awarded to freefly teams. SSI invited the 1997 Pro World Champions, the Flyboyz, to participate in the 1998 ESPN X Games as an unofficial exhibition. The resulting global television exposure made legends out of the FreeFly Clowns, the Flyboyz, and others. A once fledgling offshoot of the mainstream, freeflying now comprises fully one-half of the overall skydiving community.
Olav Zipser‘s Space Games used the space ball as a research and measuring device to provide a constant speed and direction from which individual athletes could be trained, rated, raced against each other and judged. The Space Games took FreeFlying to the next level from 1998.
Thanks to the efforts by Arizona Freeflight llc (Omar Alhegelan & Kama Mountz) who ran test competitions & wrote and submitted the rules for futures competitions; In 2000 FreeFly was accepted as a skydiving discipline by the International Parachute Commission (IPC) and the first official FreeFly National & international Championships were held worldwide.