Team Highlight: XP Ascend

Friday, January 27, 2023

One of the sure ways to make your mark on the sport of skydiving is by becoming a world-class competitor. Easier said than done! But to XP Ascend, it’s not always about being the best – it’s about seeing how far they can take the Freestyle discipline and grow the sport of skydiving.

Jason Brigmon and Jake Carlton began jumping together as a team in September of 2021. Just 13 months and 1,300 jumps later, they accomplished their first goal of winning the 2022 Freestyle World Championships. What does it take to become a world champion? Jason and Jake know!

COMPETITION MENTALITY

Before skydiving, Jason and Jake both have a history of competing in other parts of their lives. Jason grew up in Barnardsville, NC, and raced motorcycles from a young age. Jake played as a tight end on the University of South Florida football team and even trained as a competitive shooter and firearms instructor.

They attribute their skydiving successes to the increased confidence they gained from their preparedness. Their team is strong because of the enormous amount of time they spend training, their skill sets, and, more importantly, how well they gel together as individuals with different personalities. The secret, they say, is having like-minded goals and sticking to them – letting your joint mission be the driving force and making that come before everything else.

TEAM DYNAMIC

Jake and Jason met at the wind tunnel at Paraclete XP and were good friends before deciding to compete together. Jason already had experience competing on a Freestyle team that came in second at Nationals in Paris, and he medaled in Australia. Jake had just about 700 jumps at the time and while he could fly okay in the sky, he was challenged when flying in the wind tunnel. 

Jake began receiving coaching from Jason in the tunnel to improve his flying skills. Jason was impressed by the work Jake was putting into his progression and realized he’d be a good fit for a team. Jason, who was a flying camera on his previous team, became the performer, and Jake stepped into the role of the camera flyer on his first-ever competition team. They knew they had a lot of work to do – so when the plane flew, they jumped!

Both agree that the most important, yet hardest, thing to achieve is to find someone whose expectations and work ethic align with your own. Taking ownership of their own individual roles and asking themselves “what can I do right now to help the team” — even on days when they aren’t specifically training — are what sets them apart.

WIND TUNNEL TRAINING

The Paraclete XP SkyVenture wind tunnel facility located just 10 minutes away from the dropzone is one of the key ingredients to their success. On days or times when they couldn’t jump (due to weather or other factors), they were flying in the wind tunnel. Consistency was key – just like you can’t get strong by going to the gym once a month, you can’t become a great flyer without flying as often as you can. XP Ascend knew consistency was their key to becoming world champions.

LOWS & HIGHS

Jason says the most challenging aspect of the competition was finding the creativity to come up with the free routine. Luckily, they were able to use the wind tunnel to hone in on those Freestyle skills. Jake would get an up-close view of Jason’s flying from outside of the wind tunnel and then they’d come together to make the necessary adjustments right there. It was a puzzle. They had the moves … they just needed to figure out the best way to fit them all together.

And the highest high? That’s a no-brainer. It was the exact moment during their last jump when they realized XP Ascend would be named world champions.

GOALS & DISCIPLINES

To Jake and Jason, Freestyle is the most connected flying you can do because it’s just you and your teammate, locked in on the moves, all your attention focused on the other. You get to be creative without being limited by structured points and docks, and the discipline is constantly evolving which makes it exciting and accessible to anyone.

The XP Ascend goal is to compete in three world titles. But there’s more to it than gunning for the gold. As Jason says, they hope to “grow the discipline,” encourage others to fly, and advance the sport. Their mentality is that if you “do something at a high level for a long period of time, consistently” – the rest will follow. 

A COMMUNITY OF CHAMPIONS

Skydive Paraclete XP is home to several competitive teams, such as two-time World Champions XP8, and Bronze medalists, XPG4. Kirk Verner, who is also based out of Skydive Paraclete XP, is a wonderful resource and inspiration for XP Ascend. Jake says, “You can’t spend time with Kirk Verner without finding an intensity to win.” Our DZO, Tim D’Annunzio, also has a history of competing in 8-way formation skydiving which plays a big part in how Skydive Paraclete XP operates. The Paraclete XP wind tunnel was even meant to be a training facility for his 8-way team and other competition teams to come. 

It’s a no-brainer why Skydive Paraclete XP has become the stomping grounds for some of the best flyers, skydivers, and competitors in the world. We pride ourselves on being home to the best of the best and we’ll continue to nurture our legacy for many competitions to come.

XP Ascend will be hosting three angle camps this year at Skydive Paraclete XP – March 18-19, June 10-11, and Oct 7-8. You can find information on these camps or follow along their journey as they prepare for the World Cup in Norway on their XP Ascend Facebook page.

student in freefall with psp instructor

The staff is incredible and I couldn't have asked for a better experience. The drop zone gives you a breathtaking view and I will most definitely be back as soon as possible!

Sarah Elizabeth Keith