As one of the most highly anticipated boogies in the Australian calendar, Mumbles Burning Van 2023 certainly did not fail to deliver. Here's an insight into what went down, and why Mumbles 2024 should be on your list, by Jessy Bell and Lucy Clacher.
What is Mumbles?
If you don't know what Mumbles is all about, in simple terms, it began as a memorial event held to commemorate Mark "Mumbles" Kirby, lost to the sport in 1983. The event has now evolved into a rolling memorial event to celebrate the lives of all our friends lost to the sport, and as Club President, Hamish, said on the final night, the club has never seen so many people grace the grounds of Hillman Farm.
Thinking back on the the fiery week Mumbles 2023 was, a couple of things are certain: the vibes were totally unmatched and we gave our friends Mel Porter and Jay Driscoll, who we sadly lost this year, one hell of a send off - in true Mumbles style.
Tuesday evening saw the 126 registered participants and an all-star list of coaches start to arrive at the farm, from all over Australia (from Darwin Parachute Club down to Victoria), New Zealand, Dubai, the UK, the USA and beyond. The night served as a good warm up, giving everyone a chance to set up their camps, say hello to old friends, introduce themselves to new ones and get excited about the five days ahead.
Come Wednesday morning, things didn't kick off until around 11am thanks to the weather, however spirits were high and the weather hold was used efficiently with coaches organising groups and "coffee jumps" being constructed. Once the skies opened up, the plane loads were turning and burning until sunset, with participants setting the eagerness bar high with their hunger to jump as much as humanly possible. The team from APX Suits were set up in a marquee next to the hangar, not only displaying their amazing new suits, but delivering much sought after caffeine and providing extra space to pack also, including reserve repacks by rigger Mark. Shani and Nick in the kitchen were keeping everybody well fed, and Leonie and Mollie in manifest were running a very tight ship indeed!
G Train was the man to turn to for zoo jumps, once again defying physics and proving that he can fall as fast on his belly as a vertical flyer. Sian Stokes flew over from the UK to lead the flat flyer jumps from the front, losing her voice half way through the boogie from the absolutely stellar job she was doing!
Jimmy McCarthy also flew over from the UK, joining the freefly coaches ensemble, alongside Lane Paquin and Gil Guevara from the USA, with Lane joining the Mumbles lineup for a second time after being a crowd favourite in 2022. With the enormous amount of angle and freefly fiends registered, these boys needed support, so weapons Amy Jamieson and Doni Gales flew over from the East Coast, and local residents Jake Stacy, Bruno Rumbo and the Brazier boys (Vinny and Jez) represented WA.
Vinny Jones and Bubba were driving all things canopy, assisting with landings and producing some impressive XRW displays, and in the wingsuit department, Scotty P and Woody both flew in to coach a mega wingy turnout.
Camera flyers Cam Puttee and David Collins were busy doing the Lord's work behind the lens; intricately navigating the art of getting the shot, jumping on as many loads as humanly possible and delivering some swooping goodness before supplying their tender juicy morsels of footage to the chef de jour, All Beef Productions. Paddy was extra busy from sunrise to sunset every day, cooking up some truly delectable edits whilst also producing an original song, specially for the boogie *chefs kiss*. These were stirred in with skits, hot tips and other antics from Bebop Creative, with MCs Gus Pabst and Danny Mogo sprinkling in their extra special seasoning and picking out a whole array of new cameo characters from the ingredient bag, who had everyone in equal fits of shock and laughter. Special mention goes to Rhonda, who is clearly an expert at caravan tetris and has a flair for entertaining.
Jumps and Swoops
Apart from another minor hold on Saturday morning, the weather for the majority of the event was absolutely pearler, with clear skies and light winds allowing for an impressive amount of jumps and swoops each day. The packing mats were constantly in use, the manifest loads were filling up at lightning speed and the pilots were putting in an absolute shift keeping the planes running hot. There were more angle jumps than you could imagine, a healthy number of starcrests and belly jumps, and lots of mixed discipline jumps, including unicycles, wingsuit rodeos and pool noodle jousting.
All of these epic jumps contributed to the club beating its own record of 38 loads in one day, which was set last year, with an incredible 42 loads in one day, thanks to not one, not two, but three planes in the air, with John in the 182! Our legendary pilots Yul and Austin put in the work daily and had to settle the matter of who got to fly the Yellow Grand Caravan over the Blue Caravan each day with a good old fashioned game of "Bull, Rattlesnake, Pistol" - a slightly different take on scissors, paper, rock.
On the final day, a daring plan to break the WA State head down record was attempted. Whilst the attempt was unsuccessful (although very close), the premature celebration whilst watching the footage on the packing mat culminated in a successful beer fine! The participants were robbed by one second of a grip hold. A valiant effort for a one and done attempt, but that means they'll just have to attempt it again next year.
Now the sky was pretty epic, but the ground was equally as epic if you were in the mood for some swoop noises and freestyle. There were "blindmans" and "miracles mans" galore, plus a mind-numbingly spectacular blindman from Lane right into a stack of zorb balls, which, along with some other activities, earned him the crowd favour to undo his self-nominated beer fine.
To try and capitalize on some of these impressive swoops, a slip 'n' slide tarpaulin was rushed out between landings and quickly sprayed with water - key words "rushed" and "quickly". Sounds fun right..? Well, that would be a question for those who tackled it, either taking the whole tarp with them for the duration of their swoop, breaking off a section of the tarp, or flying face first down along the tarp. Despite the obvious failures of the non-slippery slip 'n' slide, the landings were arguably more entertaining and no swoops were injured, so perhaps it was not such a failure after all?
Mumbles is known for not only its day activities, but also for its impressive night-time schedule, with DJs Jared, Chris, Dan, Richo and Paulie delivering dirty beats on the dancefloor, and Gus and Danny coordinating and delivering the best organised fun that has ever existed, night after night. Coordinating a large group of people is hard enough, let alone when the large group in question is skydivers, and with a few beverages thrown into the mix, so hats off guys!
The event-wide relay races took place over Thursday and Friday, with teams beginning with the sky component, passing their inventive relay batons between four people before break off height, prior to bringing the relay races to the ground on Friday evening. As always, the relay shenanigans provided incredible entertainment for both participants and spectators alike, with winning team member Lone Hallum quoted saying, "Yes we did win, totally annihilated the others". Now that's some big win energy!
Saturday evening saw the highly anticipated marron race take place. As always, the race was full of suspense, with some marron falling on to their sides right at the start line and others "racing" ahead at an almost eye-watering pace...for marron that is. Peds Rumbo, representing major boogie sponsor Orange Mining, had the best luck as he backed the champion marron, and in turn Peds was crowned the new "Marron Barron"!
The Final Day
By Sunday afternoon, the place was looking a little "derelict", with black leather boots, silver face paint and intimidating looking costumes beginning to circulate for the "Mad Max" themed party night. A whole host of spectators and partygoers made it to the farm just in time to watch the sunset coach load coming in to land through orange flares streaming from the top of the caravan, creating a mesmerising vortex behind Heath Baird, which was captured in an exceptional shot by photographer Tai Morton on the ground. This was backed up by an insane display of pyrotechnics and canopy control, and Rob Vader's fabricated mutant motorbike (with a casual flame thrower) was the perfect prop to complement the group photo, just as the plane soared overhead. It really was quite the spectacle!
After some emotional speeches, poem recitals and special edits in memory of our friends Jay and Mel, along with Chief Instructor Paulie reading a recently received heartfelt letter from Mark "Mumbles" Kirby's mother and Philip Hope reading some loving words received from Mumbles' sister, it was time to light the caravan on fire and send the beautiful murals, painted by Chris Bro, up into the ether. Friends and families of Mel and Jay had the honour of shooting the fireworks to ignite the bonfire this year, and as the fire grew larger and hotter, this gave everyone an opportunity to pause, reflect and remember those loved and lost.
On the topic of fire, the resident DJs were delivering some absolute fire mixes over at the dance floor, where crowds gradually started migrating to get their boogie on as the bonfire continued to burn bright. Once everyone was sufficiently warmed up, the three-legged race set hearts racing further, with drones, fireworks and fallen comrades all in the mix; definitely not a race for the faint-hearted!
The flaming pea pit was next on the schedule of events, with a huge hum circle around it giving everyone the warm fuzzies, in ode to Byrnesy. Hillman's resident stuntman and pyrotechnics lead, Nick Stint, got the heart rates up once again however, as he tore a stunt car straight through an old caravan exploding with fireworks. Yes, exploding. With fireworks. The party then continued throughout the night and til morning for almost everyone, celebrating what had been an absolutely incredible week at Mumbles Burning Van 2023!
This Mumbles was a feat of human performance, dedication by the completely volunteer-run committee, and good times with a whole lot more fire than usual. Huge thanks to the committee, The Harringtons who free-lease us the space where dreams are made, the APF and WAPC, DZSOs Hamish and Bubba, Chief Instructor Paulie, the amazing sponsors (including Sivvy's beer fine sponsorship), coaches, camera flyers, ground photographers, jumpers and packers, Skydive Australia, our pilots Austin, Yul and John, manifest masterminds Leonie and Mollie, Nick and Shani in the kitchen, All Beef, Bebop Creative, APX Suits, Gus and Danny, Chris "Bro" Sandes for his beautiful murals on the caravan, Jessy Bell for her contributions to this article, Stints, the DJs, those who came to the busy bee, Mark the rigger, and really everyone who comes together, helps out and makes this beast what it is! It's pretty unbelievable, but next year it will be even bigger, so start prepping yourselves...now!!
About the Authors:
Jessy Bell is the WAPC's Media Liaison Officer, and controls all things social for Hillman Farm Skydiving Club.
Lucy Clacher is a Tandem/AFF Instructor and Course Trainer. Originally from the UK, Lucy learnt to skydive whilst travelling Australia in 2019 and has been working in the industry ever since.
[Photo Sources: Cameron Puttee, Jake Stacy, Tai Morton | Video Source: All Beef Productions]