Lets look back at some hoop-diving history.
Hoop diving got its start in the early 1960s at Southern California drop zones. At the time, relative work was in its infancy and skydiving through a hoop was a hot novelty item because it looked great in the camera's frame.
As practiced back then, only one skydiver held the hoop. If a swooper missed, the hoop holder could give chase and lasso him or her from almost any angle or direction. Then, once a swooper had made it through the hoop –usually with a lot of help from the hoop holder –there wasn't much else to look forward to. No definite place to go, no one in particular to make contact with, no headings to hold.
Hoop diving's demise was largely due to its lack of RW formation structure. Gradually, hoop diving lost its appeal and became extinct around the beginning of 1964, when a newer form of relative work – the star – began to rise. The star, and the competitive environment that grew up around it, became the relative work attempt of choice. Hoop diving faded from the scene.
But I remained fascinated with hoop diving and the special challenges it offered. In 1975 I designed a “new” hoop dive that incorporated all of the elements of good relative work – sequential, no-contact, and formation RW – into a single skydive scenario. This particular hoop dive is called the Star Crest Skydiver Award, or SCSA. In 1978, the night version, or NSCSA was added.
Rules for the SCSA call for at least 10 jumpers – two to hold the hoop and eight more to swoop the hoop and then form an 8-way star or larger formation on the other side. The skydive has three major facets: 1. It nullifies any advantage of a launched exit. 2. It allows each swooper to show off his or her skill at passing through the hoop, and 3, it requires the hoop holders, the swoopers, and the building formation to maintain horizontal headings and vertical separations in relation to one another.
The SCSA skydive has proven to be an excellent test of individual skill and teamwork. It's night counterpart, the NSCSA also requires extraordinary mental fortitude. These two tests of skydiving ability have yet to catch on in the mainstream of contemporary skydiving, no doubt because they're just plain hard to do. Some of the problems encountered getting skydivers qualified for the hoop dives, are lack of an airworthy hoop - organizers not being sure of the rules or how to perform a hoop dive - trouble finding 10 skydivers willing to try the dive - and abandoning further attempts if the dive is not successful in the first few tries. Since 1975, current SCSA recipients number only 348, with the NSCSA numbering only 113 since 1978. These statistics remain at odds with the perception that skydiver skills today are far more advanced than their peers of previous generations.
If you've wanted to try hoop diving, but have had a hard time lining up enough hoop diving enthusiasts to go with you for the SCSA attempt, the Trade is another option. You can do some quality skydiving, and have fun with the hoop, with as few as 3 skydivers – or, as many who want to go along for the ride.
As illustrated here, The Trade can be accomplished with as few as three jumpers, but is more fun with four or more. Two jumpers hold the hoop while the swoopers pass through, making 180-degree turns, and alternately relieve the hoop holders. After being relieved, hoop holders rotate to the back of the line for their turn at swooping the hoop. (continued below images)
Hoop Dive Photos by Tim Moorehead
Pulling with the hoop. Now comes the stage in a hoop dive that a lot of people have questions about - how to pull holding the hoop. Although there is no known instance so far of a canopy tangling with a hoop on deployment, it is always a possibility. The bottom line here is to pay attention and be careful. Here are a few simple tips for deploying your main while hanging onto the hoop.
1. Formulate a flexible plan during the dirt dive, designating who is supposed to pull with the hoop, and include a margin for error. Make it clear that if the designated jumper doesn't have the hoop at the altitude you've decided to break off, say 3,500 ft., then whoever does have the hoop in the proper hand should wave off and prepare to pull. At wave off, all attempts at the hoop should cease, and the area cleared.
2. The jumper who opens with the hoop must be holding it in the hand opposite his or her deployment side. Stiffen the arm holding the hoop and position the hoop straight out at a slightly downward-turned angle from your body. It doesn't matter whether the hoop is straight out in front of you, or straight out to the side. Just make sure the top of the hoop is pointed away from you. You should now be in a good position to deploy your main.
3. If conditions are right, or you've been performing hoop dives with the same people for a while, then you might try "buddy pulling" with the hoop. This is where you throw it out while your partner holds the hoop steady for you. Be careful on this one as you reach in to pull that you don't drop below your partners level.
So that's about all you need to know for now to get started skydiving through a hole in the sky. It may not be easy, but it's a whole lot of laughs and grins. Whenever you feel you are ready to move a step further in perfecting the precision of your skydiving skills, consider hoop diving. It's challenging… and it's fun! See if you can master it. Then let us hear from you. You may just like the experience of hoop diving enough to earn yourself a place on our SCSA roster.