On Sunday, July 31, 33 skydivers broke the Washington state record for the largest skydiving vertical formation. Sriraj Rajaram, a Woodinville resident, helped organize the attempt with Larry Yount at Skydive Kapowsin, near Shelton. 

About half of the skydivers were from the Pacific Northwest, Rajaram said. Others traveled from California, Arizona, Utah, Texas and Mexico City to participate in the record. 

In a vertical formation, skydivers fall head-down, holding hands. It is one of the most difficult skydiving skills to learn, Rajaram said. 

“You're basically balancing yourself on the head,” he said. “Imagine people falling from the sky in an arrow-like shape, with their heads pointed towards the ground.” 

38 people showed up to jump out of two planes. But an issue with one of the planes on Friday forced them to use a smaller plane, limiting the number of skydivers they could bring in the air. 

“When we exit, we have about a minute’s worth of working time,” Rajaram said. “All 33 skydivers will exit the aircraft at 15,000 feet, and try to form the formation before we reach 6,000 feet. At 6,000 feet we basically separate the skydivers away from the formation in two groups, so that there's enough horizontal and vertical distance between everyone so they can deploy their parachutes safely.” 

The group made four attempts at the record on Saturday before succeeding on their first attempt Sunday morning. 

“We had wheels up at 8:15,” Rajaram said. “And it was a one-and-done. We got it on our first attempt on Sunday morning, and we set the record by 9 a.m.”

The record was certified by a judge from the United States Parachute Association (USPA). The previous state record was set in 2016 with a 29-person formation.

“Skydiving in general in the Pacific Northwest has taken off quite a bit,” Rajaram said. “Traditionally, the major centers for skydiving are places with year-round good weather, like California, Arizona or Florida. But Washington and Oregon–even if we don’t have great weather, we have a lot of good talent that’s coming to the region.” 

He credits the iFLY Indoor Skydiving wind tunnel in Tukwila with allowing skydivers in the area to learn more difficult skills like the vertical formation.

Later this month, Rajaram and many other skydivers from the state record group will travel to Skydive Chicago in Illinois to attempt to break the vertical formation world record with the skydiving group Vertical Elite. This group of 200 will make their attempts on Aug. 22-26.

The current world record 164-person vertical formation was set in 2015.

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