Nils Predstrup Interview
What brought you to skydiving?
Nils: “I was very interested in the unknown I could not understand what happened in freefall from the moment you left the plane till you open the canopy. I had to know what it is like to jump out of a plane and be in freefall.”
How many jumps do you have?
Nils: “I´ve not always been good at keeping track but I have done at least 13000 skydives.”
When did you start skydiving?
Nils: “I started skydiving in January 1997. It was in Denmark on a clear frosty day with snow on the ground. I had signed up for a static line course and I was the only student on the course, I guess most other people figured it had to be a summer activity but I didn’t even know that. I did two jumps that first day and I was pretty much hooked at that point.”
What are your main achievements in freefly/freestyle? In other sports?
Nils: “My biggest achievement in skydiving is when I won the freestyle World Championships 5 years in a row. That was in 2001-2005. Freeflying has always been a natural part of my flying but relatively little free-fly teamwork and competition. I also joined some big head down formations European and World records. I am very happy with my achievements as an AFF instructor and free-fly coach. I am still working professionally in the sport in the summertime and I feel privileged to be able to make a living and support my family that way.”
Nils: “I have always been active in sports or related activity. As a little kid, I was a student at The Royal Danish Ballet. I was also scuba-diving and freediving with my dad from early on. As a teenager, I was a gymnast and I was on the danish national team for 4 years. All that led me up to starting skydiving and after that other flying sports like BASE jumping, wingsuit flying, wind tunnel, speed riding and hang gliding. Also, skiing is a big part of my life wintertime.”
You have been in Team Funkflyz with Martin Kristensen competing in Freestyle for several years. Any important recommendation for the Teams on how to create a choreography that they can be happy with?
Nils: “The best advice I can give is to let it come from within you. Find inspiration be adventures and try what ever you like then practice and reconsider as you build a choreography. Try to make it simple and easy often that show much better on the screen.”
In creating a Team, what are the challenges in keeping a good feeling between Team members? Any tips you want to give?
Nils: “This is one of the bigger challenges we face in life and it is not easily solved. Keep working on your self! Basic human emotion plays a role and we need to address it when we can. Be friends first then team members and respect each other even if you do not agree on everything.”
Where do you see creativity in freeflying going? What about in freestyle?
Nils: “As flying skills increase possibilities of creating more challenging flying choreographies also expand. So I guess we will see teams making more and more impressive choreography. I also see the possibility of taking flying choreography and performance out of the competition arena and into theatre and other venues. People have an urge to show off there skills and showmanship will find new ways and areas to explore.”
Do you think technical skills and learning to fly in awareness in a wide range of speeds play an important roll in order to be able to express oneself?
Nils: “Becoming a better flyer certainly expand one’s possibilities in creating choreography in 3 dimensions. With a range of movement in different orientations and speeds comes more interesting creations. But you can be a good flyer without being creative or able to make choreography that is impressive to watch, I think.”
Do you practice other flying sports other than skydiving? What is it that you like so much in the feeling of flying?
Nils: “I have become well rounded in my flying exploration over the years. I started BASE jumping in 1998 less than two years after my first skydive. I tested wingsuit early on and flew more in the later years. When speed riding started I was lucky enough to be among some of the pioneers at that time and I started flying my PD Stiletto 97 everywhere from the Alps to coastal soaring in Denmark and other places. Windtunnel flying has become gradually more and more and lately, I´ve been learning to fly my hang glider.”
Nils: “I enjoy the feeling of freedom flying present and the mental and technical challenges bring so much content and experience to my life.”
When you became World Champion in 2001, wind tunnels were not yet much available as training and learning tool, though you and Martin showed a flying that was very much precursor of nowadays dynamic flying in the wind-tunnel. Can you tell us a bit more about yours and Martin inspiration in creating that beautiful and pioneer choreography?
Nils: “I can tell you pretty much exactly where the idea for our choreographies was formed. It was after our first competition in 1999 where we placed 5th in the world. We were sitting on the plane flying back from Australia after the competition. We were talking and contemplating around freestyle flying and choreography. It was then we came up with the idea that would lay the foundation for the rest of our freestyle choreographies. Basically, it is a way of transitioning between eagling (moving around a horizontal centre) to carving (moving around a vertical centre) to tracking (moving in a direction together) and back and forth between these basic 3-dimensional patterns of movement without changing direction. This creates a fluent and continuously flowing choreography where it is possible to throw in tricks without having to stop the relative movement. You can say that the relative movement became the basis for our little show. At the same time, I as the performer was looking at Martin and the camera almost all the time so people watching the video may feel connected to the performance in away. I think this is the secret why we had success with keeping people and the judges inspired by our flying. When WindTunnel flying became more developed it created the outfacing orientation because of the different visual reference points in the tunnel. Martin and I never thought of doing any outfacing movements because it would be like turning my back to the audience.”
What tips can you give to skydivers, who wish to free their individual as well as team creativity, in helping to find their expression while staying safe and in awareness?
Nils: “If you can dream it you can create it! That is what is so great about free-flying you can do anything. But I would say that it is important to keep it simple because it is easy to get carried away and it could make it confusing to watch.”
Nils: “I think team training is one of the safest ways you can enjoy skydiving because you always know the people you share the sky with very well and you eliminate some of the “unknown” risks that occur in the sky. At the same time, you quickly build a high level of competence and solid procedures.”
You have backgrounds in gymnastics, and practice several other sports as free diving, BASE, hang gliding, speed flying, skiing, snowboard, yoga and a few more, how 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?
Nils: “The experiences and what we learn in one activity can be beneficial in another activity so for sure things are connected. For me the activities I´ve explored is sort of leading to the next, I see it as the red tread in my life. I am grateful to have been able to explore and participate in so many interesting and exciting activities.”
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? And experienced flyer who like to make a Team and become professional in the sport?
Nils: “If you are a beginner skydiver or tunnel flyer there are no limits for how long you can enjoy flying. You need to be careful to stay safe and build good safety habits and then simply go explore what you find most interesting and have fun and enjoy the learning process.”
Nils: “If you are an experienced flyer and you want to start a team it is a great opportunity to accelerate your learning and the more technical flying is a great challenge to take on.”