The National Skydiving Championships are being held in northern Illinois this month. Hundreds of jumpers are using the dropzone at the Chicagoland Skydiving Center in Rochelle. On this week's Friday Forum, jumpers talk about their love for the sport.
Steve Verner is a tandem jump instructor. He has perfectly styled silver hair and wears tight fitting athletic wear. He looks like he's ready to run a marathon or bike a long trail. But his passion is more extreme: skydiving.
"It is life changing. It brings people from all personalities and all walks of life together and we have a common goal—we just jump out of planes together and we have a lot of fun," Verner said.
But the group at the drop zone in Rochelle has hundreds, even thousands of jumps under their belts.
"Our drop zone is probably the smallest facility that's held the nationals so far, so it was a big deal for us," Verner said.
Judging is based on formations, artistry, and speed. Participants use cameras to capture their jumps and then upload that footage for the judges to watch.
"Each member of the team does something different and they re-grip," Verner explained. "When they re-grip-- that's called a point. And so it's how many of these things they can do in 39 seconds."
That's a tight time. Think of it as a high par in golf.
Christina Chan is from Hawaii, but competes for Team X out of Wisconsin. She says when her team isn't in the air this week, they practice on boards that look like skateboards or scooters.
"We do something called 'creeping' and that is just kind of simulating what the skydive is going to look like in the sky, but we are doing it on the ground," she said.
Verner says it can be difficult to make it a true spectator sport.
"You cannot throw a grandstand out of a plane so people can watch what you're doing," Verner said. "So as soon as we figure out a way to make it more and more of a spectator-friendly sport while they're actually skydiving, I think once that happens it's gonna turn up a bit on the financial side."
The tournament runs through Sept. 18th.