Mixed Formation Skydiving (MFS) is one of the newest, most progressive skydiving disciplines out there and it is arguably one of the most fun!! On a freefall jump, skydivers perform a sequence of formations while flying in three different orientations: vertical head down, vertical upright and belly-to-earth (flat). The discipline debuted in the USPA Nationals in 2013 and has been growing in popularity ever since. In competition, teams of 2 are required to build formations in all orientations from the dive pool, as quickly as possible in the time allotted and a 3rd team member captures it all on video for the judges.
As this discipline is so new, competition rules are still evolving and this year they have introduced a new entry-level intermediate class into this discipline, where only one member of the team needs to be proficient at flying head down, allowing lower experienced skydiving MFS teams to compete which will hopefully allow this exciting new discipline to grow even more! There have also been several changes to the dive pools for each class with new mixed rounds and new blocks which creates both challenging engineering as well as very challenging flying!
We got the skinny from our very own, home grown MFS team, SIZE 9 on the ins and outs of competing in this super-cool discipline. Made up of 2 of our full time skydiving instructors and one of our full time pilots, this is Size 9’s second year together and at last year’s Skydiving Nationals, after only 30 jumps together, they brought home the Bronze!! Everyone here at Skydive Perris will be cheering them on at this year’s Nationals while they go for GOLD! We couldn’t be prouder to say they represent Skydive Perris!
TEAM SIZE 9
Cory Harrison: 3000+ jumps, jumping since 2014, originally from Maryland
Nico Giraldo: 3000+ jumps, jumping since 2010, originally from New Jersey
Matt Boyko (video): 800 jumps, jumping since 2017, originally from North Dakota
Team training – 130 training jumps, 3 hrs in the tunnel
Competing at Nationals – Advanced category.
When & how did Team SIZE 9 form?
[CORY] After watching a 4-way VFS team train during a trip to iFly Utah, I thought, “Wow. I wanna do that!” I started attempting to put together a VFS team. I knew that finding 4 other people that have the skills, and more importantly, the motivation to do the things necessary–was going to be very challenging, if not impossible with the scene at that time. I was talking with my roommate (who I had just pushed into coming along on a couple iFly Utah trips to learn how to fly on his head) about that frustration and he said, “Well how about we do MFS? You, me, Nico? Done.” I shrugged and said, “Alright, let’s do it.” We high-fived, laughed, and started planning.
All of this was motivated by wanting to get better at freeflying. I’ve learned that in order to effectively get good at something in a timely fashion, it’s best to set a specific and lofty goal. The path to reaching whatever the goal is usually becomes fairly obvious once the goal is specified. In this case, the goal was to start a team and compete at Nationals (which accomplishes the vague goal of “get good at freeflying”, but has much better specificity, and so makes it easier to narrow the focus and make lots of progress in one direction).
[BOYKO] I was a brand new free flyer wanting to get better and wanting to focus on a goal so Cory suggested we start a team together. An MFS team was born.
Tell us about Size 9’s journey so far…
[BOYKO] We started the team in hopes of convincing Nico to fly camera for us and Cory and I would train together and pull Nico in as we got better. However, after a bit of training and accumulating somewhere around 300 jumps, I put a camera on my helmet for some fun jumps and fell in love with the idea of flying camera competitively. I shared this with the team and Nico who was going to be the camera flyer was ecstatic because he wanted to be on the inside flying the draws so we switched. This was a bit of challenge for me and for the team. It was something I really wanted to do but I was still a new free flyer and wasn’t strong enough to get the best video or even good video. Between training in the tunnel and skydiving I figured out how to get acceptable video with the help of Cory and Nico giving me advice on exits and how to stay with them. We went to nationals last year a bit worried about our performance. We were the team with the camera flyer that had just gotten his B license. But, as a team often does, we brought each other up and on the one day we were able to do our meet, the three of us had the most fun flying together and had some of our best skydives that day. This year we came at it with a new state of mind with the intent to train hard and train efficiently. We are proud to call Skydive Perris our home DZ and can’t wait to get to Nationals!
[CORY] Our first year, we were just figuring it all out. I was applying the VFS stuff that I learned from Dusty Hanks, Hamish, Reese, Kai, and Argyle at the Utah tunnel. Beyond that, we didn’t have any formal coaching as a team, and we had little idea what we were doing or if it was right. The three of us didn’t really start training until just a few weeks before Nationals. I got there thinking we’d place low due to how little we trained. We had lots of fun. We were in and out of 2nd and 3rd place for a few rounds (I found this out later in the meet because I made it a point not to look at the scores and asked my teammates not to tell me; I just wanted to do my best and not trouble myself with the scores). We got third. I was pleasantly surprised and a bit taken aback. Sometime after the meet, my teammates pulled me aside and said, “Look, we know you want to do VFS this year… but this is fun. Let’s do it again next year and beat the Airforce team.” That sold me on it. It was a good time, it helped me work towards my goals, and it would be awesome to beat the cadets who I was watching get a full-ride on skydiving/freefly training via my tax dollars when I could barely afford to pay for jumps back when I lived in Colorado. Yes, let’s do MFS Advanced again, and let’s beat them.
We hit it a lot harder this year. We got one day of coaching from Andy Malchiodi (one of the founders of the discipline) mid-season. That helped a lot. We did just over 100 jumps compared to our 30ish last year. We tried to get more organized and disciplined about planning, flying, debriefing, etc. The added pressure this year of really setting out to overtake a fully funded team has definitely made for more challenging team dynamics, but we’ve worked through our differences and haven’t killed each other yet. We’re even having fun. How cool.
Skydive Perris has not only been incredibly helpful in supporting our training this year, but it has provided us the grounds and resources over the past few years of working/jumping there to make massive progress in the sport.
P.S. Last year at Nationals, we were talking to a couple of the guys from the MFS Open team Revolutionary War. I explained that when we read the MFS draw rules in the competition manual, the interpretation was that there could be mixed rounds (where there is both flat and vertical formations in the same draw) in competition. Accordingly, we trained mixed rounds and had a lot of fun doing it. We were disappointed to see there weren’t any mixed rounds in the draw. They explained that’s just the way that it has always worked. They mentioned that they can play a role in shaping the competition, so I suggested adding an Intermediate category, that could be essentially what the Advanced category was (two back/belly rounds, the rest vertical), and including two or three mixed rounds in Advanced. Hopefully this would grow the discipline by making it seem more accessible with an Intermediate category, and making the Advanced category a better stepping stone to the Open category. They seemed to like the idea and said they’d put it to the folks that make the rules. This year, when we looked at the MFS section of the competition manual, we saw that the changes that I suggested were made–almost verbatim! Big thanks to the guys from Revolutionary War and the USPA representatives that made those changes! It’s been a lot of fun training the new Advanced draw.
Who have been your mentor’s and/or coaches?
[BOYKO] We have had coaching by Andy Malchiodi towards the beginning of summer and it was the best thing we could have done. TJ Landgren has also been very helpful to us this year.
[CORY] -Dan BC, duh. The guy isn’t just a world class skydiver, he’s a good person that I look up to not just for what he has accomplished in the skydiving world, but for how he interacts with people.
-Leland Procell. Taught me how to back/sit fly, and is just another one of those really stand-up humans that will bend over backwards to include people and help them reach their goals. He’s also a pretty good flyer. Go figure.
-Walter Green. He taught me rigging and was a really good friend when I really needed one.
-Jim McCormick. He put together free events to teach the younger jumpers at Mile Hi basic FS skills. I learned a fair chunk about exits, approaches, breakoffs, etc. from him.
-Dusty, Hamish, Reese, Argyle, and #jessehallskibase from the Utah tunnel. I wouldn’t have made the rapid progress that I did without their tunnel coaching.
What draws you to the discipline of MFS?
[CORY] It’s so flippin’ cool! You get to do all the different orientations on one skydive! It’s really challenging sometimes, which makes for way more fun than I’d have on most of the kinds of jumps available when just showing up at a dropzone without a plan. Getting to use the skills that you worked hard for is pretty satisfying.
[NICO] I like MFS because flying all orientations in one round is so much fun!
[BOYKO] Its constantly changing, no two skydives are the same. The speed changes make for very fun skydives as everyone has to be on the same page and flying together
What do you enjoy most about being on a competitive skydiving team?
[BOYKO] For me I’d say sharing in progression has been the most enjoyable. There was a point this year that a switch got flipped for the team. We weren’t three people flying their slot, we began to flow and fly with each other. I’m in tune with the team as a camera flyer and am able to read them as they fly to ensure we stay together, the guys on the inside are so smooth and easier to predict which increases our success rate!
[NICO] I like being on a team because of being able to consistently jump together and watch how we improve as a team.
[CORY] It’s fun to exercise those hard earned skills while working towards a goal. You know that everyone is invested in doing well, and that even the “bad” jumps are going to be way better than your run-of-the-mill skydive.
[To Boyko] What is more fun, flying at the pointy end of the plane, or jumping out the back of it?
[BOYKO] Ah that’s a tricky question. I love doing both. I enjoy jumping with my friends and progressing my own skills in free fall but I also love flying airplanes and progressing as a pilot. I learn new things often doing both and that makes the day to day that much more fun!
How did the name ‘Size 9’ come about?
[CORY] Nico: “So I need new shoes. I can see that both of you also definitely need new shoes….”
Matt: “OMG team shoe shopping?!!! Cory?!”
Cory: “Okay, fine.”
Before we left the dropzone we had started one of those bad jokes that keep building. “We should all get the same exact shoe model.” “…we should get the same size, regardless of whether or not it fits everyone…” And so on.
The first store we walked in had light-up shoes. Matt and Nico lit up like giddy school girls at the prospect. Nico asked what the largest size is that they would have three pairs in. The lady responded while kind of laughing at our ridiculousness, “Um… I think the largest we would have in that is like a men’s size 9.” Matt and Nico’s ensuing girlish yelps of excitement and laughter (I think Matt literally fell to the ground laughing) must have startled the poor employee. I engaged in a hearty facepalm.
Nico/Matt at the register: “Cory! COME ON! SIZE 9! That’s it! That’s our team name!”
Me: Another facepalm while shaking head.
Nico/Matt: “Come on! Say it! Size 9!!”
Me: Removes hand from face, rolls eyes. “My teammates are idiots… *sigh* … Size 9.” Shakes head again.
[BOYKO] Oye. Well it was a couple weeks before we left for nationals last year and we were discussing team names as we had not landed on one that we all liked. We had narrowed it down to a couple but just couldn’t decide. At the end of one of our training days Nico mentioned he was in need of a new pair of shoes, it just so happened I needed new shoes as well. We were discussing what shoes we each wanted then shoe size came up… a size 9 shoe would fit all three of us. A bit tight for some, but we all were able to fit in a size 9 shoe. Once this realization occurred, Nico and I did everything in our power to convince Cory to buy shoes with us so the whole team could not only have matching styles but the same size! Finally able to convince him we went straight to the mall as a team with several friends and a go pro to find our new shoes. We browsed a bit at several stores then landed in the skechers store where someone mentioned light up shoes. Obviously we needed light up shoes… so we found them in the corner of the store and asked one of the employees what the largest size they carried in the light up shoes. I remember her response as if it were yesterday, “Ummm a men’s size 9.” I lost it. I fell to the floor in laughter and Nico smirked, looked at the young lady and asked for three pairs. We tried them on and sure enough we could all fit in them. As we were checking out with our shoes, Nico put up his hand for a high five and says “size 9!” We both looked at Cory and asked, “size 9?” Reluctantly he responded with an affirmative, “size 9.” And so it was born. Size 9.
What are each of your strengths and weaknesses?
[BOYKO] We have an interesting balance of skills and experience. Cory has done quite a bit of coaching in the VFS realm and has brought all of that into MFS which has been very helpful. Nico has an ability to follow anything in the sky and make things happen as a skilled free flyer and tunnel instructor making the duo very balanced. My strengths come into play when dealing with computers, cameras, and editing which has made it pretty natural for all of us.
[NICO] strengths- jumping on Tuesday’s. Weakness- deciding to go to the tunnel
[CORY] Nico: Strengths- strong flyer, great personality (everyone loves him), good sense of humor. Weaknesses- jet skiing, mountain biking, angle jumps, and his wife.
Matt: Strengths- sense of humor, pink jumpsuit, and loud noises Weaknesses- sense of humor, pink jumpsuit, and loud noises
Me: Strengths- proactive/semi-organized, okayish at skydiving Weaknesses- caffeine, spicy food, and perfectionism
What was the most rewarding and/or funniest thing to happen during training this year?
[NICO] Most rewarding thing during training would be dumping Boyko out at break off.
[CORY] Most rewarding: slamming out 18 points in 35 seconds when “it didn’t feel like it was that much”. Funniest: I can’t decide if it was the first time that Matt screamed (very audibly to us and the gopros), “SIZE NIIIIIIIINNNE!” as he crashed through the formation on exit, or if it was the time that he crashed through the formation on exit, THEN let out a remarkably high-pitched yelp (again… Nico and I could hear it through the wind-noise).
[BOYKO] Most rewarding was watching them click as a team. Their skydives started to flow and everything started to look effortless. Funniest would have to be me going up and over a flat exit, keeping them in frame the entire time and continuing to get the shot while flying on my back from below.
What are your hopes at Nationals?
[BOYKO] My hope is to have the time of my life with two of my best friends.
[NICO] We want to have some fun at nationals and kick some ass!!!
[CORY] WIN! We want to beat the Airforce team. We also want to remember to have lots of fun like we did last year.
For a newer skydiver who is interested in MFS, what advice do you have for them?
[CORY] Start a team with two people that have the same goals. Agree not only on the goals, but what each person thinks will be necessary to reach them. Assuming that you can all agree on the goals and how to reach them (crucial), make sure that everyone is willing to do what it takes to get there. If you can afford coaching, get it! If you can’t, pick competitors brains as much as you can without annoying them. Be sure to create a training/events calendar, so that everyone can commit and all the things get done. A lot of that is just advice that I got from a couple world champions, though (Dan BC and Dusty Hanks); FS, VFS, MFS… it’s the same concepts applied for all those disciplines that make successful teams.
Last but not least, definitely don’t sell yourself short by saying, “Oh I can’t do that.” When it comes to a high level of skydiving, nobody, is very good when they first try more difficult things. Realize that the fastest way to get good at those things is to create a team and start training consistently. Sure, get the coaching necessary to be able to safely fly all orientations with others, and make sure your transitions between the orientations are safe (not perfect)–but don’t think that you have to be a ninja in the sky before starting a team. A team is how you get to that status faster.
[BOYKO] Fly. Find someone else that has similar goals as you and fly. MFS is such a fun discipline and there is so much that can be done with it. Two ways are the best ways. If the interest is to compete in MFS the biggest piece of advice is create a plan and calendar to reach your shared goal and execute. Did i mention fly? Fly more.
[NICO] For newer jumpers interested in MFS – do it!!!!!! It’s so much fun and I’ll help!!!
Best of luck to Cory, Nico & Boyko at this year’s Nationals from everyone here at Skydive Perris!! Go kick some serious ass with those Size 9’s, boys!!
Categorised in: Skydiving
This post was written by Ward Hessig