ROCHELLE –– Gliding through the air like a flying squirrel two wingsuit skydivers earned spots on the U.S. Wingsuit Flying Team. The team will compete at the 2018 World Championships in the Czech Republic.
Alexey Galda and Joe Ridler, who both train at Chicagoland Skydiving Center, earned the team spots after their respective third and fourth-place finishes at the U.S. Parachute Association National Skydiving Championships at Skydive Perris in California in September.
Galda, 30, works as a physics research assistant professor at the University of Chicago. Ridler, 37, is a quality control manager for Jansy Packaging.
With the growth of wingsuit skydiving over the past few years, more skydivers are taking up this exciting discipline. In wingsuit skydiving, jumpers wear technologically advanced suits that are specially designed to increase their horizontal glide across the ground, allowing them to soar like birds through the sky at horizontal speeds approaching 200 mph.
A wingsuiter uses his body to control speed, direction and lift while in flight. In the performance flying event, individual competitors are scored on their horizontal distance, flight time and speed as they zoom across the sky.
Ridler explained during the world championships each solo jumper will have three jumps per round with a total of three rounds. Categories per jump include time, distance and speed. Each jump will feature one category that is judged from 3,000 meters to 2,000 meters.
During time the wingsuiter must see how fast they can soar, distance is how far they travel and time how long they can stay in the 1,000 meters.
“It is an honor whenever you are able to have the opportunity to represent your country,” stated Ridler. “It is a nice challenge to compete against the best in the world. The people you meet come from all walks of life and backgrounds but you all have one thing in common and it is not common. While you are competing against people you may have only met 24-hours prior everyone is a best friend by the time you leave. And that is what I enjoy the most.”
Ridler first skydived in 2005 and three years later took his first solo jump. In 2013 he began wingsuit flying.
“Wingsuit flying is the reason why I pursued skydiving to begin with. As a kid I wanted to be a pilot but around the age 12 or 13 I found out I was color deficient and that stomped out my dream,” explained Ridler. “While looking online I found a video of winguit flyers zipping through the air and knew I wanted to do that.”
Ridler has previously competed in the World Championships in November 2016 in Florida and the 2015 FAI World Cup in the United Kindgom. Galda also competed in the first FAI World Championships in November 2016.
While his passion for skydiving and Wingsuit flying has taken him to different corners of the world he will always return to Chicagoland Skydiving Center.
“They have some of the best staff at any dropzone I have ever been to,” exclaimed Ridler. “They’ve been awesome! We tend to push their limits and at the same time they accommodate our requests. Alexey and I may sometimes need to be dropped off farther away so we have more space to come in practicing our landing. I am happy and honored to jump at Chicagoland Skydiving Center.”
Galda added, “Regardless of whether it is a World Championships or a local skydiving competition somewhere in Europe, I make practice jumps almost every weekend at Chicagoland Skydiving Center in Rochelle. Doug Smith, the dropzone owner, has always been very supportive of my training and the sport of wingsuit performance flying in general.”
Galda picked up skydiving in 2013 making his first jump at Chicagoland Skydiving Center.
He explained, “I have been practicing different forms of airsports since 2009: paragliding, speed-flying, kitesurfing, etc. In Spring 2013 I decided to try skydiving because it seemed like a fun sport with a large variety of different sub-disciplines. I always enjoyed flying, and so putting on a wingsuit and essentially becoming a wing myself has been my ultimate goal ever since I started skydiving.”
Galda will also represent the U.S. in the second FAI World Cup of Wingsuit Flying in Nevada this November.
“With the skydiving season almost over here in the Midwest, I only have a few weekends left to practice. As for the 2nd FAI World Championships in August 2018, there will be many other competitions prior to that, and so I just have to keep working on improving my results,” added Galda.
Founded in 1946, the United States Parachute Association (USPA) is a non-profit association dedicated to the promotion of safe skydiving nationwide, establishing strict safety standards, training policies and programs at more than 240 USPA-affiliated skydiving schools and centers throughout the United States. Each year, USPA’s 39,000-plus members and hundreds of thousands of first-timers make nearly four million jumps in the U.S. USPA represents skydivers before all levels of government, the public and the aviation industry and sanctions national skydiving competitions and records.