O.C. Man Makes USA Parachute Team, Competes for World Title

first_imgBy TIM KELLYBy his own admission, Brian Stempin was never much of an athlete.“In high school I was more interested in the chess team and building robots,” the 33-year-old Ocean City resident said.Thus, Stempin found it amusing when friends saw his brand new USA gear and asked if he was going to be in the Olympics.Not yet, as canopy formation skydiving is not an Olympic sport for 2022 in Tokyo. The uniform represents Stempin’s selection to the elite aerial athletes of the United States Parachute team.He and his teammates will compete against the best in the word Aug. 17-20 at the World Cup of Canopy Formation Skydiving to take place in Romania.Brian took a moment to talk to OCNJDaily.com upon his arrival in Bucharest and his reflection on the competition to come. His humility was on display as Stempin spoke of what was to come when the world-class skydivers from around the globe head for the drop zone.“I haven’t been skydiving that long (about four years) and there are plenty of people who are better than me. But here I am, competing at the highest level. It’s going to be quite an experience.”In canopy formation jumping, the athletes deploy their chutes immediately upon leaving the plane and build formations as quickly as they can by attaching or “docking” to the canopies of the other jumpers’ chutes. A skydiving videographer accompanies each of the four-person teams to record the action. In exhibitions, there have been much larger formations, including all 11 members of a team representing the Indian Air Force in 2012, and the largest formation yet achieved, a 100-person spectacular over Lake Wales, Florida, in 2007. At the Worlds, the competition involves four-person teams. As in sports such as diving or gymnastics, style points are awarded by a panel of judges to determine the winners.Ocean City resident Brian Stempin, center, with two members of his New England Wrapture team at their qualifying performance in the U.S. Nationals.Stempin earned his place on the USA squad when his team, the New England Wrapture, placed in the 2018 United States Parachute Association’s national championships, held in suburban Illinois near Chicago.For Brian, participation at the Worlds is more about personal growth, and not about winning a medal. “Really, just being a part of this event and traveling here is the important thing,” he said. “Any points at all that we score at this level and against this formidable competition will be a very good outcome.”He began skydiving at Cross Keys Airport in Camden County, as a result of a tandem jump purchased for him as a gift.“After that first time, I was immediately hooked,” he recalled. Stempin began working around the airport and went to flight school to obtain his own pilot’s license. He also began traveling to various drop zones within driving distance to participate and learn about canopy formation jumping. He became known as an up-and-coming jumper willing to drive any distance to take part in a formation team. To date he has 550 jumps under his belt.“That’s really not a whole lot for the amount of time I’ve been involved in the sport. Some people do that many jumps in a year,” he explained. What he lacks in quantity, he made up for in the desire to improve and to compete and ever-escalating levels. No conversation with a skydiver is complete without a question about the inherent dangers of jumping out of a plane thousands of feet above terra firma. “Well, we really don’t jump,” he corrected, “we just lean out of the door and let gravity take care of the rest,” he said.  “If you look at the statistics, there are very few deaths in the sport, and when the accidents are investigated, more than half of those are due to (human error),” he continued. “It’s extremely rare for deaths to occur because of things the person couldn’t control.”Safety checks are as much a part of the sport as learning how to pack the parachute, Stempin saidDuring the competition, his mind will be on working with his teammates.“It kind of feels surreal to be representing my country,” he said. The New England Wrapture team lining up in formation during the U.S. Nationals. Ocean City’s Brian Stempin and teammates in action. (Photos by David Wybenga, courtesy U.S. Parachute Association)last_img

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