Seniors of the Sky: Skydivers Over Sixty Set New Record!

Last updated 06 Sep 2023

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Congratulations are in order for the Skydivers Over Sixty crew, who recently achieved a new SOS record over in Toogoolawah! Here are some words and fun facts about the record jump, by Kelly Brennan.

They may have gained some metalwork in their bones and lost some original body parts, but our skydiving seniors showed just how to get a record done at Toogoolawah, QLD, on 30 June 2023. 28 men and 2 women achieved a new Skydivers Over Sixty (SOS) national record on their third attempt; a super-smooth 30-way, which they held for 3+ seconds.

Days 1 & 2: Warm-Up Jumps and Weather Holds

 Skydive Ramblers' Chief Instructor and SOS World Record holder, Ben Nordkamp, pulled together a team aged from 60 to 78, and their jumps were captured beautifully by the two camera flyers, Steve Fitchett and David Brown. Superstar cinematographer Shane Sparks was there too, but he was going hard in the formations themselves, instead of recording the action. He was one of three APF Masters of Sport Parachuting in the group, along with Dave McEvoy and Paul Osborne.

The team had a warm-up day of 15-ways, which were soon flying beautifully flat and quiet. These were done as formation loads from the two Ramblers planes, flown superbly by Benson Crick and John McEvoy. Sadly, day two was lost due to a combination of Air Traffic Control issues and weather.

Day 3: Record Day

Day three, Friday, had a fabulous start, with just one person out on the very first record attempt. The less said about the second attempt, the better. It was a schmozzle. And captain Ben read the riot act, quietly sharpening his axe in case they didn’t sharpen their performance.

It must have worked. The third record attempt was successful. All 30 people flew from the two Cessna Caravan aircrafts to their slots and took grips in plenty of time, with two video angles for Sandy Nieuwenhoven and the other judges to confirm it all!

SOS 30-Way Formation by David Brown

Day 4: The 'Cool Down'

Day four started out at a brisk 3 degrees and warmed to a balmy 5 degrees in time for the dirt dives. The group elected to keep jumping 30-ways, rather than splitting in half for smaller groups to make sequential records. They finished with a special 10-way skydive, with the 5 ‘Jumpers Over Seventy’ (JOS) in the centre, and their younger sixty-something mates on the outside.

As always, the event wasn’t just about the magic record or the fabulous publicity. It was an incredible atmosphere of shared purpose, friendship, and memories. Jurien Bay owner, Pete Lonnon, came over from the west as chief SOS groupie, reminding everybody – whether they asked or not - that he isn’t 60 yet. Retired Darwin jumper, Roger Clifton, helped boost the cheer squad. Roger was on the previous SOS record, a 17-way at Batchelor ten years ago. He was happy to see it broken so decisively. Nigel Brennan turned 70 during the camp, serenaded by his team-mates who’d loaded candle apps on to their phones. It was Tony Maurer’s last ever skydive event. He decided to bow out of the sport on his own terms, among friends. Around the bar, the cheeky pups who’d been playing oldie landing lotto during the day were long gone on the final night while the record-breakers rang the bell!

Thanks again to Ben Nordkamp and the Ramblers team for an awesome and safe event. Plans are already afoot for the next one!

SOS 30-Way Team by David Brown

What is SOS?

Skydivers Over Sixty (SOS) is a sub-group of Parachutists Over Phorty (POPs) - a global network of skydivers - and it isn’t officially recognised as an APF or FAI category for performance records. This means the successful skydive won’t go down as an APF record, rather a ‘Notable Event’, but it will still make the SOS record books. 

Fun Facts About The Team

Age Range: 60 to 78, with an average age of 65 (on the record jump itself, the oldest was 75)

Professions Included: IT, lawyer, surgeon, police, construction, truckie, farmer and several retirees

Experience Range: 640 to 10,000+ jumps, and 5 to 57 years in the sport

States Represented: 14 from QLD, 7 from NSW, 6 from VIC, 3 from WA, 1 from ACT and 1 from NZ

Injuries: Nil (apart from wear and tear on ageing muscles)

Frap Hats: 3 on the record load!

Record Load Skydivers

Stephen Smedley, Martin Klapper, Chris B, Paul Osborne, Andrew Mulholland, Nigel Ackroyd, Michael Connolly, Janine Hayes, Nigel Brennan, John Winkler, Peter McKenzie, Steve Cusato, Shane Sparkes, Mildred Spinoza, Bernardus Nordkamp, Jim Doyle, Mike Dyer, Kerry Hook, Farrell McKay, Stephen 'Chook' Chandler, Jeffrey Johnston, Tony Maurer, Gwyn Burton, Dave McEvoy, Geoff Bingham, Ian Wilkinson, Reginald Blain, Sandor 'Motzi' Molnar, Andrew Pearson, Kim Brooks. Camera: Steve Fitchett and David Brown

About the Author

Kelly Brennan (#F707) - Bigway Player and POPs Member

[Photo and Video Sources: Steve Fitchett and David Brown]