Martin Kristensen Interview
ES Panel Evaluator
Freestyle Skydiving cameraflyer World Champion
Q.- When did you start and what brought you to skydiving?
Martin: The first time I saw skydiving was back in the early 80s. Part of my family lives close to an airport that used to have skydiving activity from time to time. I was around 7 or 8 years. My dad started skydiving in 1989 and I did my first tandem skydive the following summer of 1990. I did my first solo skydive in autumn of 1994 one month after my 18th birthday.
It started out as a father son activity. And the community welcomed us as part of the skydiving family. Being outside and seeing my country Denmark from above. Spending time among the clouds and feeling the power of gravity. All reasons that has kept me motivated.
Q. – How many jumps do you have? wind tunnel hours?
MK: Around 9000 skydives. Around 5000 hours in wind-tunnels.
Q. – what do you consider your favorite achievements in the sport of flying?
MK: Looking back at all the years of flying, I consider my top achievement being alive. Beyond that, I´m proud of being able to transfer the knowledge I build up over the years. Being a good team mate and reaching my childhood dream of becoming a World Champion.
Q. – Your experience in competitions is quite vast! Among many, you have been in Team Funkflyz with Nils Predstrup competing in Freestyle as cameraflyer winning 3 times in a row at Freestyle World Championships.
Any important tips you would suggest for the Teams on how to create a choreography that they can be happy with?
MK: I realized over the years that we (Funkflyz) had a very different idea of what a free routine should consist of. Start your training season with a number of skydives where the performer(s) follow the camera flyer around the sky. Just experimenting with different transitions in between carving, tracking and eagles with no real plan other then that. That should allow you to see if you are able to improvise and be creative in the moment. Over time that can turn into creating a line your team wants to fly. And from there you can start adding all the extra elements like flipping, twisting and spinning.
Q – When you decided to play as cameraflyer, did you have already knowledge about photography, and or filming? How your passion came about filming?
MK: After doing about a 1000 formation skydives (mostly 16 way or more) I got really bored of waiting for other people while being in freefall. One of my main inspirations and mentors in skydiving was Henrik Herold. He was one of the best camera flyers, in the World, back in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He knew I had a passion for taking photos already and taught me how to create my own camera helmet, camera mount and how to make sure my ring sight and camera were aligned. From there it´s all about looking in the right direction after turning on your camera.
Q. – In creating a Team, what are the challenges in keeping a good feeling between Team members? Any tips you want to give?
MK: Staying motivated over time can be hard for anybody.
Setting long term goals for the team is a really important aspect of keeping a positive and creative vibe on the team. Short term goals are more on the personal side and are what keeps me motivated to do whatever is needed of me, one more time. The members on a team should help each other through good and hard times.
And It´s important to define each members role on the team.
That will reinforce the long term goals.
Q. – Where do you see creativity in skydiving going?
MK: Creativity is a very personal part of expressing oneself. So I find it very hard to predict the future of creativity in skydiving. Young people of today, have a different idea of what is hard and easy, fun and boring, how much time oneself can spend on trying to reach ones goals. But after many years of the focus being on flying in bigger groups, it now looks like most freeflyers prefer small groups. And some of the better wind-tunnel flyers are now showing their version of 2 way dynamic freeflying, something that I call Funkflyz.
Funkflyz is not just a team to me, it is a way of flying together in the sky. Now I´m 22 years down the line of flying those kind of lines, and to me it seems to be the best way to fully express oneself in freefall (with or without an audience), as well as having the most amount of fun.
Q. – Do you think technical skills and learning to fly in awareness in a wide range of speeds and orientations play an important role in order to be able to express oneself? what your thoughts on that point?
MK: The answer to this question should be fairly obvious.
The more one knows and understand about anything, the easier it will be to utilize those tools to express oneself. The downside of artistic skydiving competitions though, is that your creativity and technical level is being judged or evaluated by people who is really able to do what the competitors are doing and most of them will never be able to. I for one, don’t care much about peoples creativity, unless they can back it up with a near flawless technical level. Performing a controlled flow through a range of positions, orientations and rotations without loosing the focus on the link in between the performer(s) and the camerflyer.
Q. – What suggestions could you give to skydivers, who wish to free their individual as well as team creativity and approach artistic flying. Tips helping finding their expression while keep progressing in their general skills and awareness?
MK. This question correspond with some of the other questions, and therefore a related answer. The higher the technical skill level one has, the easier it will be to creatively express oneself. What ever your passion is (dancing, singing, writing, drawing, flying etc.).It will become easier for an outsider to understand what you are trying to express, the higher your technical level is. The best teams often make it look easy, where the rest often makes it look difficult. But thats mostly due to barely being able to pull it off.
For getting an inside into mastery, I advice people to read Søren Kierkegaards book “Frygt og Bæven” (Fear and Trembling). That has one of the simplest descriptions of what it takes to master movement.
Q – When you became World Champion in 2001, wind-tunnels where not yet
much available as training and learning tool, though you and Nils showed a flying that was very much precursor of nowadays dynamic flying in the wind-tunnel. Can you tell us a bit more about your inspirations in creating that choreography?
MK: My side of the story is that, I was bored of waiting for people in freefall while laying there on my belly. So the minimum criteria for me to be part of Funkflyz, was that I never had to stop in the middle of our routines. Nils came directly from the highest level of gymnastic in Denmark, when he started skydiving, and could already control most of the orientations and rotations around all the body axis. We were given the opportunity to go in depth with our freestyle, by Jan Wildgruber in “Train in Spain”. So we had time to train all the different aspects of the elements we could come up with. Once we got to a high enough technical level as a team, we could find the best suited way to express each element, and through that build a free routine that lived up to our own expectations. The base rule being. Never create a static imagine that can be interpreted as a photo.
Q – You helped the creation and definition of competition rules of wind-tunnel dynamic flying, can you tell us a bit more about dynamic flying concept and where is wind-tunnel dynamic flying in this moment?
MK: Nils and I first go introduced to wind-tunnels back in the winter season of 2003 – 2004. We didn’t have the cashflow to use it as a training tool back then. So only after we retired from Freestyle Skydiving competition, did I start focusing on learning how to fly in a wind-tunnel. Just like everybody else who comes from skydiving, I had to go through a long process of transferring my abilities in the sky to the tunnel. I became a wind-tunnel instructor for ISG in Indoor Skydiving Bottrop, at a time where a bigger group of very motivated people came together to build on each other’s skill set. Freeflying competitions were already taking place, but the compulsories were mostly copied from skydiving. The group we had in Bottrop was therefore spending lots of time on coming up with a different type of concept that could separate the free round and the compulsory rounds. Compulsory rounds now call “speed rounds”. I personally think these speed rounds has moved so far into a corner, that it now both feels and looks like the skydiving discipline VFS. So unless relatively big changes to the concept will be made, the discipline will struggle with creativity in the future. This due to the group of the most creative flyers, not wanting to spend time on something as rigid as VFS. Unfortunately the speed round or compulsories are the one thing that helps the general group of judges / evaluators see the difference between the teams. The problem again generally is, that the judges / evaluators don’t themselves have the skill set to perform the free routines they are judging /evaluating. Therefore I hope Sky on Stage can prove itself to be strong competition concept, that attract all flyers to come out and use the opportunity to freely express oneself.
Q – Do you practice other flying sports other than skydiving and wind-tunnel flying? – What is it that you like so much in the feeling of flying?
MK: I don’t practice any other flying sports, but I have tried both Paragliding, Speedflying, Fixed wing single engine, Gliders, Kitesurfing and Remote controlled planes. None of which has inspired me enough to start practicing those disciplines.
The single most interesting aspect of skydiving to me, is the freefall. Feeling the buildup of pressure around my body. The ability to use every part of my body as a steering surface and then use that to move across the sky in the most accurate way possible. Skydiving frequently on a high level, is an interesting way to practice decision making, removing unwanted patterns of movement and behavior. And in the end I just want to share the sky with my friends and the birds.
Q – Do you practice other sports beside skydiving and tunnel flying?
MK: The only other sports I practice is Swimming and Freediving. When in motion, water behaves much like air, and therefore gives me the similar feeling of ability to move. The freefall is again the single most interesting aspect of freediving (part from the nature experience). But over the course of my life I have practiced a lot of different sports such as Football, Badminton, Taekwondo, Basketball, Volleyball, Squash, Skiing, Mountain biking, Rollerskating and Climbing.
Q. – Do you see cross-training with other sports or arts playing a part in helping the preparation in skydiving or flying in general? and vice-versa, how skydiving could help other sports/arts?
MK: All sports and art forms require some form of cross training in order to reach the highest level (I do one to two hours of stretching a day, plus body weight training and different kind of breathing excises). Mental and physical health goes hand in hand, and it improves ones ability to perform the correct act when needed.
Skydivings freefall and wind-tunnel flying being Bodyflying, is to me one of the most complex forms of body control. That’s due to the three dimensional field of movement and that the center of gravity can be at any given part of ones body, at any given time. It´s a phenomenal way of training balance and orientation in any position, orientation and direction. Therefore I think the freefall is a very good type of cross training for most other sports.
Q. – Nowadays you coach both in the sky as well as the wind-tunnel ? Any important tip you like to give to someone wanting to approach skydiving in the beginning?
MK: Skydiving and Wind-tunnel flying is two very different activities (only once one really get in dept with flying, does it turn into an art form). There is a few aspects of skydiving one cannot train in the windtunnel, such as the exit, the opening of the parachute, flying the parachute, the landing and the general handling of the needed equipment. That said, one can improve much faster into a position of taking part of much higher level group skydives, by having done technical training in a wind-tunnel alongside the skydiving training. Most wind-tunnels has a very restricted space to move around in, where skydiving allows one to move much faster and further. So by cross training the two disciplines, one can have the most amount of fun in both disciplines. My best advise is to, always focus on yours and everybody elses safety. If you want to be a good skydiver, you need to be patient.
Q – I imagine you love both wind-tunnel flying as well as flying in the sky.
Can you tell us what you like about them in a different way? I mean the specifics you like about flying in a wind-tunnel and the ones flying in the sky.
MK: There is too many differences to explain them all, but here is a few of the key differences that I like the most. Skydiving is an outdoor activity with all that includes of weather patterns, beautiful landscapes and equipment. I get to leave earth and view her from above. My main focus is always, safety for me and those around me. I´m able to move across the sky, much faster then I´m allowed, any other place. I have build friendships for life through having shared only a moment in the sky with someone previously unknown to me. Through happiness and sorrow, We as a community, build much stronger connections then any other aspect of life (outside my personal family) I have been part of.
Wind-tunnel flying is an indoor activity with all that includes of predictability of environment, time schedule and the focus on detail. I get to go in dept with any little aspect of the bodyflying I desire. I don’t have to fly with my skydiving equipment on my back. And I can fly many hours a day (something only a few have done in skydiving). The limited space of any wind-tunnel, creates an environment perfect for accuracy and precision training. The best thing I can think of doing, in any wind-tunnel, is spending time with my Brother Filip Crnjakovic (something I can´t do in skydiving for the time being).
Q – Anything else you want to say to Sky on Stage participants?
MK: If you have seen my videos from when I was competing in Freestyle Skydiving, you will understand that, to get a good score from me, you have to think of Form!
Q. – can you tell us how any Sky on Stage participant can contact you for some coaching or other?
MK: For the time being it`s hard to travel outside Europe, but if you´re interested in getting coaching for you or your team, please contact me through any of these media platforms.
Come to Voss, Norway where we have both one of the best drop-zones and wind-tunnels in the world, Skydive Voss and VossVind. Or we´ll try to meet at some other location. My coaching is focused around movement.
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Instagram – martinkristensenair
Facebook – Martin Kristensen