By Caitlin Switzer
MONTROSE-It’s hard to imagine Simon Repton losing his cool, and it’s not just the James Bond-style British accent. Repton, a Montrose business owner and consultant, just earned a gold medal in one of the most dangerous sports on–or off– the planet. In his spare time.
From Sept. 28-Oct. 4, Repton took part in the first-ever USPA National Championships of Wingsuit Flying at Chicagoland Skydiving Center in Rochelle, Illinois. While there, he captured the gold medal in the acrobatic event. According to a news release issued by the United States Parachute Association (USPA), Repton and his team, Wicked Wingsuits, are now the first-ever national champions of acrobatic wingsuit flying. Repton, 41, has completed more than 1,100 skydives, including 800 in a wingsuit.
Flying in Chicago in Autumn added to the challenges in an already difficult event. “With aviation activities you are always at the mercy of the weather,” Repton said. “It was especially windy there, which affected our competition. We did one jump the first day, and I crammed seven jumps into the second day.
“Landing in really strong winds can get a bit dodgy.”
According to the USPA, wingsuit flyers 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. The Championship acrobatic flying event includes teams of three skydivers—two performers and a camera flyer—playing a thrilling game of aerial tag while gliding across the sky.
Though he gets none of the fanfare or financial incentives accorded to other world class athletes and gold medal winners, Repton is appreciative of the chance to participate in a very exciting sport.
“This is a niche event, and people inside the community know there are different ways to demonstrate skills in base jumping, flocking, and doing acrobatics,” he said. “People who don’t skydive see photos on Facebook, and they think it is real cool. I know we will never have the following that golf or Nascar has, but I don’t do it to be famous.
“ I enjoy talking about it.”
Repton began skydiving in 1998, and tried wingsuiting a decade later. He has never looked back.
“Wingsuiting really is better,” he said. “With skydiving, you are mostly falling; you can affect the rate of your fall, but you can’t make a significant change…With wingsuiting, you start to talk in miles.” Repton said that he has flown six miles back to a drop zone wearing a wing suit.
“I flew above the interstate, racing cars,” he said. “The sensation of movement and speed can really trigger emotions.”
Fear, of course is one of them. “It is scary for sure,” he said. “There are times I find myself waiting on line, and I wonder, what am I doing here? Especially in Chicago, when we did training jumps. But there is an upside to that; when you stop being scared, you start being complacent. So I do everything I can to manage the risks.
“I have been just as scared skiing in some areas, especially with people around,” he said, “and driving on the Interstate at night.”
Repton and his wife Priscilla own a Montrose-based wingsuit rental company, Wicked Wingsuits, and hope to eventually create a “drop zone” in Delta, where they own a hangar. Repton is not in a hurry. His career as a computer business systems consultant requires travel and focus. However, he envisions a time when he can provide a place for locals and visitors to learn and practice their skydiving skills. “These things do take time. But the only thing missing here is a place to practice in our own back yard,” he said.
Photo by Rick Winckler/ Courtesy USPA