The Triple 7 jumpers skydive at Skydive City Z-Hills outside of Tampa, Florida, Jan. 18, 2023. Photo courtesy of Nick Kush.
Keep up with Coffee or Die Magazine’s complete coverage of the Triple 7 Expedition’s world-record attempt to skydive on all seven continents in seven days while raising money for Folds of Honor, a nonprofit organization supporting Gold Star families.
ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. — Pop.
A yellow-and-green parachute inflated against the backdrop of blue sky. Next was lime, red, then navy canopies that ballooned high overhead at Skydive City Z-Hills just outside of Tampa.
Back on the ground, riggers in the packing shed prepared parachutes for the morning’s next round of skydives. The chords to “Sugar, We’re Goin Down” floated from the building where they worked, drifting throughout the brightly colored skydiving compound.
“Florida is like its own country,” one skydiver said, eyeing the lawn flamingos that decorated the complex.
It was just before 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 18, and roughly 50 people had already arrived at the drop zone to celebrate the world records set by a team of skydivers made up mostly of special ops vets.
Skydive City Z-Hills outside of Tampa, Florida, Jan. 18, 2023. Photo by Jenna Biter/Coffee or Die Magazine.
In a trailer on the far side of the complex, the Triple 7 Expedition team members, who had just raced around the globe, skydiving on all seven continents in world-record time, prepared for an eighth — a celebratory skydive.
“My shirt smells like old beef stew or expired chicken soup,” Jariko Denman, one of the team members and a retired Army Ranger, said while sniffing the jump jersey he’d worn the entire expedition.
As the jumpers hopped around the globe, starting in Antarctica on Jan. 9, there wasn’t time to do laundry. In the end, the vets clocked in with a world-record time of six days, six hours, and six minutes.
In that time, the team jetted from Antarctica to Santiago, Chile, for the skydive in South America, and then Miami, Florida, for North America, before crossing the Atlantic.
Then, in the trip’s most hectic portion, the jumpers skydived in Barcelona, Spain, and then Cairo, Egypt, where they landed only a few hundred yards from the pyramids.
Three Triple 7 team members jumping over the Giza pyramid complex in Cairo, Egypt, Jan. 13, 2023. Photo courtesy of Logan Stark.
“Watching Andy Stumpf buzz the top of the Great Pyramid was once in a lifetime,” Glenn Cowan, a retired Canadian special operator and another Triple 7 jumper, told Coffee or Die Magazine.
The final two jumps came in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, for Asia, on Saturday, Jan. 14, and Perth, Australia, on Monday, Jan. 16, Australian Western Standard Time.
As the expedition went along, Stumpf and Mike Sarraille, both retired Navy SEALs, kept up a near-constant banter, team members said. The two are the founders of Legacy Expeditions, the adventure firm behind the Triple 7 Expedition.
The back and forth hit a peak in Perth.
The Triple 7 jumpers climb to altitude for their skydive in Zephyrhills, Florida, Jan. 18, 2023. Photo courtesy of Nick Kush.
“I’ve hit every DZ I’ve ever jumped into,” Sarraille told Coffee or Die while preparing for the eighth jump. “Because of the high winds in Perth, I’m 6 feet from the grass field, and I landed in the trees, and Andy captured it live, and, trust me, I will never hear the fucking end of it.”
During the pre-jump brief at Skydive City outside of Tampa, Stumpf proved Sarraille’s point. “Mike, these are trees,” Stumpf said, pointing to clumps surrounding the landing area on the DZ map.
The other vets erupted in laughter.
The banter, team members said, kept the mood of the trip light.
“The funniest part of the trip was the banter with Andy and Sarraille, 100 percent,” Cowan said. “Just trying to keep pace with Andy’s quick-witted humor is nearly impossible, so don’t even try.
The Triple 7 jumpers go through the pre-jump brief at Skydive City Z-Hills outside of Tampa, Florida, Jan. 18, 2023. Photo by Jenna Biter/Coffee or Die Magazine.
“And I’d say watching Mike try was pretty funny,” Cowan said.
“By the way, Andy missed the DZ completely in Barcelona,” Sarraille said. “Do we talk about that? No, we don’t.”
After a “dirt dive” of the day’s jump, the vets took to the skies together one last time to close out the Triple 7 Expedition.
As the seven individual jumpers fell through the sky in a group formation, the tandem pair floated above. Nick Kush and 73-year-old passenger Jim Wigginton also set the world record for the fastest time to tandem skydive on all seven continents during the trip.
As each jumper came in to land, family, friends, and sponsors welcomed them to the ground with cheers and applause.
Triple 7 jumper Andy Stumpf talks with the team after the eighth jump in Zephyrhills, Florida, Jan. 18, 2023. Photo courtesy of Nick Kush.
Soon after touching down, Stumpf said to his teammates, “The records are cool. The travel was exciting, but, at the end of the day, it doesn’t mean shit. The only thing that matters is the people we were jumping for.”
During the breakneck expedition, each of the jumpers skydived in honor of a fallen teammate or friend, and the team dedicated each jump to one of those fallen service members.
Raising money for the families of fallen service members such as their comrades was the driving force behind the Triple 7 Expedition.
With the expedition and its follow-up efforts — including a documentary led by Daniel Myrick of The Blair Witch Project — the members hope to raise $7 million for Folds of Honor by drawing attention and donations to the nonprofit organization.
With that amount, Folds of Honor could provide 1,400 scholarships, ringing up to $5,000 each, to the families of fallen and wounded veterans and first responders.
Triple 7 jumpers' helmets before their celebratory skydive outside of Tampa, Florida, Jan. 18, 2023. Photo by Jenna Biter/Coffee or Die Magazine.
“I can’t speak for any of you, but I want to live a worthwhile life and a full life and just fill it to the brim,” Stumpf said. “I think the best way that I can do that is to constantly remember that the people we were jumping for gave up their today and every one of their tomorrows so we could be out here doing stuff like this.”
Beneath the laughter and near-constant ribbing lies a brotherhood and shared purpose, forged while undertaking a challenge.
“When you start thinking about trying to replicate the brotherhood that you get in the military — it’s a very difficult thing to do,” jumper Logan Stark told Coffee or Die. “Doing something like this, I think we were able to mimic and mirror the bonds that you’re able to create in a military profession just simply because of the fact that you have to rely on each other to do their jobs.”
The group dedicated the Tampa jump to the Kabul 13, the Americans killed in the Abbey Gate bombing in the final days of the Kabul airlift. The group is now on a media tour in New York City, with appearances on programs like Fox & Friends and Good Morning America.
For Stark, a former Marine Corps scout sniper, it wasn’t until the expedition wrapped that their accomplishments began to sink in.
The Triple 7 team on FOX & Friends, Jan. 20, 2023. Photo courtesy of Jariko Denman.
“Talking to a couple of the other guys as well, there’s sort of this serendipitous feeling toward its completion and having finished it and having some time to digest it,” Stark said. “In the sense that there were so many opportunities for this to go awry and for it to turn into a three-week trip.”
Stark said other travelers who had arrived in Antarctica at the same time as the Triple 7 team ended up getting snowed in. “So, had we not timed that out the way we did, we would have been stuck in Antarctica, which would have been the first domino to fall,” Stark said.
“I was just waiting for something to go wrong throughout the whole entire process,” he said. “Just kind of fingers crossed.”
But no obstacle waylaid the team.
Even when the team’s commercial flight to Barcelona got canceled as part of a national air traffic control outage on Jan. 11, the team came out on top, securing travel on a private aircraft.
The Triple 7 team members after their jump at Skydive City Z-Hills in Zephyrhills, Florida, Jan. 18, 2023. Photo by Jenna Biter/Coffee or Die Magazine.
“That became a blessing in disguise,” Stark said. “It was like at every turn that it could have gone wrong, it actually went off without a hitch.”
After flying on more than 15 commercial flights for more than 80 hours of flight time, Stark said there wasn’t a single piece of luggage delayed or left behind.
“And there were no injuries for the jumpers,” he said.
A couple of the jumps had less-than-ideal weather conditions. In Spain, clouds hung low, but with the okay from DZ operators, the jumpers took off into overcast skies.
“We couldn’t really be under the constraints of having perfect conditions,” Stark said. “And, on that last jump in Australia, we had winds that were right around 15 knots. And just from the time we had gotten into the air, they had gotten up to almost 30 knots at ground level.
“And then there was a cloud layer coming in,” he said.
Collin Belanger, one of the expedition’s weather advisors, told Coffee or Die that the team wouldn’t have been able to skydive for several days if they didn’t jump when they had in Perth.
“So, again, we just kept meeting these windows that, had we not had everything perfect and fall completely into place, it wouldn’t have happened. It would’ve gotten pushed,” Stark said. “And you can’t help but at least wonder whether there were exterior forces at work, helping to get this thing done.
“Because we were jumping for the fallen, Glenn was a very strong proponent of, ‘The boys are watching over us, so there’s no way that this thing isn’t happening,’” Stark said. “And it’s hard to deny that idea at this point, getting it done the way we did.”
Black Rifle Coffee Company, which owns Coffee or Die Magazine, is a sponsor of the Triple 7 Expedition.
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Jenna Biter is a staff writer at Coffee or Die Magazine. She has a master’s degree in national security and is a Russian language student. When she’s not writing, Jenna can be found reading classics, running, or learning new things, like the constellations in the night sky. Her husband is on active duty in the US military. Know a good story about national security or the military? Email Jenna.
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