01/31 2 comments
For the past couple years I’ve been the girl who has preached living in the moment. As a skydiver it’s something you can’t help but do – after all our sport, and adrenaline sports in general, tend to be live-in-the-moment activities that often translate to other aspects of life.
This is definitely a positive. However, I’m also a believer in looking toward the future a bit. Planning every now and again.
Here’s a scenario to help paint this picture for you a bit better.
A couple conversations with fellow female skydivers last summer got us to discussing relationships in the skydiving community; specifically romantic relationships. I’m a huge advocate for finding the person you’re supposed to be with simply by taking part in activities you love. Having a shared interest that you both have a passion for, especially one as unique as skydiving, helps the relationship flourish. (It worked very well for me!) Naturally, this has lead me to advise my single lady skydiver friends to take a look at the men around them at the dropzone for companionship. But, from what some of these ladies have told me, their male skydiver counterparts live too much for the moment and they want someone with an ability to also look toward the future, as they don’t want to just be the lady of the moment.
Sometimes, these activities that have us living in the moment and craving the here and now, can be a hindrance when it comes to thinking long-term.
One of the lessons that spending quality time at dropzones has taught me is that there’s a need for balance. It’s not infrequent to find adrenaline junkies who are unable to comprehend, let alone practice, a balanced life. But with my other passions like yoga, photography and writing, I find that balance helps me keep my sanity in the otherwise nutty world of skydiving (you know, the whole being surrounded by type A personalities where half of them are walking around on ego trips all day).
Thankfully, having a husband (oh did I forget to mention we got married…) who lives a life just as full of passion as I do helps to keep me motivated in all aspects of my life. Lately, I’ve been spending more time getting excited about the future. Maybe it’s got something to do with the fact that I haven’t had freefall in my life for a couple months so I’m jonesing for a jump, but I think it goes beyond that.
By nature I’m a planner and a list maker, whether or not I end up sticking to these is a different story. Recently I’ve found that these plans are highly flexible, something that tended to be rather rigid in the first 20ish years of my life. You’d think that in your 20s it’d become priority to “settle in” a bit, into a career, a location, a family, and grow some roots so to speak. But I think anyone with an addictive personally – espeically those who channel that in a productive way – can attest to the fact that there are endless possibilities for the future, even things you likely don’t see yet.
So maybe I’m not as ready to grow us as I thought I’d be in my mid 20s – but why does there have to be anything wrong with that?
Sports like skydiving keep you young at heart. We’re all a bunch of big kids out there and the sky is our playground. Growing up seems a bit overrated when you look at it – but that’s certainly not going to stop me from taking a look at what the future has to bring. There’s oh so much out there to explore, both in the sky and on the ground.
Love and Blue Skies!
01/26 0 comments
Lately I’ve engaged in a lot of conversations about wingsuiting. It’s something that, when people find out you’re a skydiver, gets asked. “Have you ever tried one of those squirrel suits?’
That and, “do you BASE jump too?”
Though it’s not a discipline where I’ve focused too much of my energy, I am thankful that I have enough of a wingsuit foundation to be able to speak to it.
The first thing I always tell people is that, at this point in time, it’s the closest that we as humans can get to being birds. You’re literally flying your body.
Sure, you’re also still falling a quite a clip (or not, if you’re proficient and flying with massive wings that keep you up in the air for minutes at a time), but the added forward motion gives you an entirely different perspective.
One of the things I tell fellow skydivers about wingsuit flying is that it’s completely different from a traditional skydive. In my opinion, it is, aside from the whole jumping out of an airplane thing – that’s the same.
What’s unique is that the tiniest movements make huge differences – with a wingsuit on you can bend your fingers and you’ll start turning. It’s pretty incredible. During my first couple flights I simply thought about where I wanted to go and that’s where I went. If you’re a skilled skydiver with “bird-like” instincts, you’ll likely be able to pick it up.
What are bird-like instincts you ask? Hell if I know. But I’ve heard that on more than one occasion from experienced wingsuiters, so make sure you jump with one on your first try…they’ll let you know if you possess them or not.
Having talked out this discipline so much in the recent past, it’s something that I can’t seem to get out of my head. As much as I’m jonesing for some airtime this winter, what I really can’t wait to do is fly my wingsuit again.
Below is part of a video that I put together where I talk a bit about myself. It takes a look at what it is I really love about wingsuiting. As I’ve been promising a video blog for a while now and have yet to find the time to do so, this is what you get from our first meeting.
Please excuse the fact that this is mostly about me…it was for a project where I was requested to talk about myself. But, at least you get my perspective first-hand!
So with that, I clearly can’t recommend this discipline more. It truly is an experience like no other.
Love and Blue Skies!
01/25 0 comments
With winter in full swing and many of us who have been on the ground since November (yes, I’m slightly ashamed by this fact) are getting the itch to do anything skydiving related, now is a great time to get those pesky little to-dos out of the way.
You know, rig inspections, reserve repacks, cypress maintenance, all those little safety things that, come May, you’ll be so thankful you did so that you’re not out of commission, or worse, spending your hard-earned cash renting gear while your Cypress is in for it’s 4-year.
So if you haven’t already, pull out your reserve repack card and take a look. If you’re due anytime in the next few months, it might be time to start thinking about setting up a time for a repack so you can spend every moment of nice weather this spring doing what you love most – and no, that doesn’t mean hovering over your rigger for that last-minute repack so you can get back in the air.
Speaking personally, I’m kinda kicking myself for not having thought about this sooner. In all reality, in December I should have remembered that my Cypress is due for it’s 8-year maintenance and sent it in – especially knowing that I’m due for a reserve repack in February anyhow. For those who are new to the sport, when you’re dealing with AAD maintenance, it’ll require a reserve repack as well – do yourself a favor and time it right so you can kill two birds with one stone.
One thing to remember when you have an AAD, especially a Cypress, is that you have regular intervals where this little bomb on your back needs some TLC. Battery changes and manufacturer maintenance can come at the most inopportune times if you’re not diligent. With Cypress, you have to send the device in for two weeks – add shipping time in there and you’re looking to have your rig out of commission for the better part of three weeks. What a more convenient time to get this out of the way than during winter when, if you’re like me this year, it’s very likely you’re sitting on the ground (well, for at least 3 consecutive weeks at some point or another).
Another good suggestion, while your rigger has your gear, is to have him give it a good once over. Some riggers don’t include inspections in their reserve repack pricing, so you can’t just assume it’s going to happen. Most good riggers do take the time to look over your rig, after all, your safety is their priority (if it wasn’t they wouldn’t waste their time getting paid pennies to ensure you have a reliable back up ride in case of emergency, now would they?). But you can’t just assume that’s going to be the case as every rigger is different.
Take time this winter to establish a rapport with your rigger. Let him learn about you, your skydiving habits, your wants and desires in the sport. Build up a little trust in this person who may be packing your next reserve ride. Having a solid relationship with your rigger will help, trust me. Besides, if they know that you typically throw your rig on the bottom of the closet in your damp basement, at least they’ll know to look for black mold during a repack.
For those that didn’t catch it, that was a bit of sarcasm. Please, never, ever store your rig in an unsafe place. Invest in a gear bag, keep it in a cool, dry place. We may all be thrill seekers, but most skydivers I know don’t seriously have a death wish…
Alright, enough with the black death talk. Point here is, take care of your gear. Do it now before the weather turns nice and you’re spending a day on the ground because your reserve repack date was on the most beautiful day of the spring.
01/19 0 comments
By nature, I’m a talker.
What I mean by that is, when I come up against an issue or a big decision, I like to talk it out. With my friends, my family, even co-workers, just to get their perspective. As I’ve grown older (and I like to think wiser) I realize that talking things out isn’t always about getting the perspective of others so much as it’s about working things out in my head – thinking out loud if you will.
I’ve also found that, in discussing life issues about others, that the same can be the case. Sometimes, my own advice is the best advice, it just finds me in odd ways.
Recently, I wrote the letter below to a friend that, upon re-reading, slapped me upside the head.
“Hello, take your own advice dummy!”
Honestly, as much as a ‘duh’ moment as it might be when I’ve been neglecting my own advice, it’s refreshing to know that I’m capable of coming up with solutions that can cross a wide variety of life-issues. Sometimes I even surprise myself at how this advice could benefit so many people in a number of situations…today, this is the case, so I’ve decided to share the wealth.
I’ve rambled enough. The note below has been edited, since some of the specifics don’t apply, but I’ve tried to keep it as close to original form as possible. Take a read, you might be surprised how this advice can translate to your life too.
For those who are considering taking up skydiving, turns out this is a good one for you:
You do need to do what is right for you. You’ve [made previous big decisions] that didn’t turn out as planned, so what a better time than now to reevaluate – you gotta take the path that’s right for you.
It’s not as if you’re going into this without any thought and planning. You have [the resources available], that’s more than most can say!
Yes, from the outside, this might not be the most practical decision, but seriously, practical is boring. I’m a big believer these days in taking chances. Some might see your [other life decisions] as taking chances in the first place, but it really wasn’t. I mean [these likely weren't that risky]. Though they may have been daunting at the time, in the end they were no biggie, really.
What you’re about to embark on is a bit scarier since the security isn’t what you have now, but it’s something you’re passionate about, so security is what you make it here. If you put your heart and soul into it then you’ll succeed. If you’re in a situation where it’s ho-hum and you’re doing enough just to get by, what fun is that? Stuck in an position where you’re not loving the what you’re doing 110% is awful.
And, moving on while your reputation is strong is smart…rather than getting lazy and having people watch that happen. Sure enough, the longer you continue to take part in something you’re not fully invested in, and passionate about, the more likely you are to burn out. Bowing out gracefully before the flame totally dies is a wise move.
If the people [around you] have any respect for you, they’ll understand your desire to pursue something that tugs at your heart, not just your wallet. That’s what life is all about, after all. Doing things you love, being with people you love, and having a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
Therefore, I think [that this is a smart decision on your part]. You appreciated the feedback from those who care about you, but ultimately, it’s your life. My 2 cents.
It’s your life…definitely a big take away here.
Love and Blue Skies!
01/13 0 comments
As skydivers, we tend to be dreamers.
Yes, this is a fairly bold statement to make, as it’s making assumptions about a category of people that is typically so diverse it can be difficult to find a single trait that cross the spectrum of skydivers, but think about it for a second.
Skydiving is one of those sports where, we all started from one. Every single one of us had a first skydive at one point or another. We all started out not having a clue – because really, with an activity like this that’s so unnatural for humans in the first place, how could you really have any idea what to expect? We all have to go through a process of learning. Some learn faster than others and are labelled “naturals,” but I’m a firm believer in the idea that there’s nothing “natural” about this, so to me these people are just quick studies.
Regardless, the one thing I’ve found to be pretty standard across the broad spectrum of skydivers (as I’ve noted before, you get everything from surgeons and dentists to business men and women to college kids to full time packers/skydivers and everything in between at the dropzone…there’s not a “typical” jumper from what I’ve seen) is that we’re all dreamers, in one way or another.
With our first jump we all had a dream to continue on in this sport (true because, we’re here, aren’t we?), in one form or another. Whether it was knowing from day one that you wanted to fly a wingsuit so you followed protocol, jumped through all the hoops (no pun intended) and got your 200 jumps so you could fly that wingsuit and never look back, or whether you set out to learn as much as you could to be able to get your ratings so you can turn around and teach others to enjoy the sport just as much as you, or if you knew you wanted to compete, so you work hard, spend time in the tunnel to get on a 4-way team. Whatever the path you ended up taking was the one initially envisioned, we all had a dream within this sport – even the simplest “I want to get my license so I can do this whenever I want,” was your only goal.
This was initially my intention. Of course, once I entered the skydiving community and realized how many great people and how many cool things there were to do and see, my vision changed.
For me, as I looked at the future, the possibilities were endless. The landscape is ever changing, there are always new challenges. Skydiving is one of those sports that has so many facets, so many disciplines to learn, that once you’ve mastered one thing, there’s a new challenge awaiting you.
This is something I’ve always relished about skydiving, the never-ending personal challenge involved. You don’t have to go to Nationals to get your competitive juices flowing. You can compete every single time you jump – even if it’s only with yourself.
If you work hard to progress in the sport and open yourself up to new challenges, you just might be surprised at the doors that seemingly open themselves and attempt to pull you through to the next opportunity. I continue to be amazed by how much my life has changed since skydiving. Not all of it has happened through the skydiving world, but I do have the sport to thank for opening my eyes to what it is I want and the paths I decide to take in this life.
Life is short, sometimes too short, and taking advantage of those chances to make your life better, and allow you to make it better for the people around you, that’s what it’s all about.
Skydiver or not, there’s a lot to learn just by lifting your head skyward and looking up at the possibilities – you might be surprised what you see. Opportunities will cross in front of your face every single day, if you let them. Start putting the pieces of the life you want to lead together, and open your eyes to all the possibilities that the universe is offering up.
Love and Blue Skies!
01/7 0 comments
It might be a bit dramatic, but it got you reading…and sadly, it can be very true.
For most, this goes without saying. As skydivers, awareness and attention is pounded into our brains from day 1 in AFF (or Static Line, or whatever training program you pursued).
But as we progress in the sport and become more comfortable – as with most aspects of life – we tend to have a element of complacency about us.
Expectations that things are going to work out the way they “should,” that our main is going to work perfectly, that everyone will fly the landing pattern, that the winds will stay steady for us to tiptoe out that landing, even that our packer will be having a good day so we can get right back up and do it all over again are not uncommon.
Of course, it helps to think this way, to visualize that everything works out the way it should, so you can focus on the tasks at hand. In fact, there’s actually an element of safety in doing so. But you can still do that while remaining an active participant in the safety game.
Doing small things like practicing your emergency procedures in the plane (touch those handles before every jump, just to remind yourself), working out and sticking to a dive plan with your fellow jumpers, and keeping your head on a swivel under canopy are a few good habits to get into to keep yourself, and those around you, safe.
One of the other things I do is try to stay as educated on the sport as possible. Read the incident reports and why things happen. Watch videos, learn from the good and the bad. Use your downtime (literally) to keep yourself aware. The more your head stays in the game when you’re on the ground, the more you’ll be with it in the sky.
Remember that muscle-memory stuff that was pounded into our heads as students? Same goes for your brain. Keep it active in the sport, even when you’re not jumping for one reason or another. That way, you won’t have to work so hard on that next outing to remember the little nuances of the sport (“is it normally a left-hand pattern?” “wait, do I turn right or left when approaching another jumper under canopy?”), it’ll all be fresh in your mind.
The take away here is that, no matter how skilled a skydiver you are, accidents happen. Luckily for us, there are a number of things you can do to help prevent these accidents from happening. What I mentioned above are just a few of the things you can do, recommendations that I’ve learned from my experiences. What other safety habits do y’all have?
Stay safe – and aware- out there!
Love and blue skies!
01/4 3 comments
I don’t want to be ordinary. Clearly, being a blogging, traveling, yoga practicing, skydiver I’m not your average 20-something woman.
But, on the other side of the coin – strange as this may sound coming out of the mouth of a skydiver – I don’t want to be too extraordinary either.
I love the diversity in my life, and to give everything I have to one thing, to “become the sport,” just isn’t something that’s on my radar. Now, maybe with the right incentives we could talk, but I’m not willing to give up my relationships and activities completely – these things make me who I am, after all.
On top of all that, I don’t see the benefit of being Ms. Skydiving herself. A lot of people have referred to me as “The Skydive Chick” in the past and it gives me the shivers. I mean, I certainly don’t refer to myself as that, Skydive Chick is just the name of my blog. Hi, I’m Ashley. Nice to meet you!
Though the recognition for my blogging is nice, because it does take an element of sacrifice and work, even though it’s totally badass fun at the same time, but I’m not here to become something that I’m not. I do like that y’all seem to appreciate what I have to share, that’s the whole point.
I’m off track here a little….
My point is this: I thoroughly enjoy leading a life that’s out of the ordinary. I’m not bored, like a lot of my friends, I get opportunities that many may never even dream of (huge perk of living outside the ordinary, in my book), I get to meet some of the most fabulous people in the world, and it always gives me something to do, plan for and talk about. But I don’t think becoming extraordinary (like the fictitious Ms. Skydiving I mentioned above) would do me any favors either.
I like being somewhat grounded (not in the literal, skydiving sense though, that’s kinda killing me slowly right now), being able to listen to other people, hear their stories, rather than just being asked to regurgitate mine all the time. I never want anything to take away from my ability to enjoy the company and stories of others. That’s a big part of the skydiving world, after all.
From spending time with those self-proclaimed sky gods out there, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that they are frequently bored with other people and often wait (impatiently) to tell their story instead, because their lives are better.
Never, do I want to start behaving that way, or EVER actually believing that I’m better. Yikes!
So call me, Ms. Just Left of Ordinary and call it a day. Or, my preference, call me Ashley, and put me in my place as needed.
Love and Blue Skies!
UPDATE: Hey guys, so I wanted to give a little mini-update to the post, mostly to provide some clarification here. My word choice may not have been the best with the whole ordinary vs. extraordinary thing. My point here can best be summed up by this line from above:
“From spending time with those self-proclaimed sky gods out there, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that they are frequently bored with other people and often wait (impatiently) to tell their story instead, because their lives are better. Never, do I want to start behaving that way, or EVER actually believing that I’m better. Yikes!”
I do, however, want to put everything I have into everything I do…go balls to the wall as the lovely Sydney put it below. This has always been my mentality in life. It’s just not my style to put all my eggs in one basket, if you will. I’m a diverse creature, and I like it that way. Yes, speaking in metaphor can be confusing, turns out.
So it’s not so much about not wanting to be great, but it’s about not wanting to become “that girl” in the process. I like being close to the ground (so to speak) while spending as much time at 14,000 as i can…In the end, I just want to be me, and be good at it. After all, aren’t we all here to become as great as we can at everything we do?
01/3 0 comments
Freefall cravings are hitting hard these days. I haven’t been able to get any time in the sky since the end of the season and it’s eating away at me.
Over the holidays I lived vicariously through my friends who traveled to Florida and other exotic places (yes, when you live in Chicago, Florida is considered exotic) for skydiving, which I worked long hours to fill in for my colleagues who were also gone on vacation.
Last year at this time I was ramping up for 10 days in Florida for the Everglades boogie. That seems like ages ago now. This year we have nothing planned – though we did just talk about taking a trip the other day, whether it’s a quick road trip somewhere a little warmer or even just a weekend at a local dropzone that’d be willing to throw us out of an airplane. I’d take hop ‘n pops at this point.
Anyone know of any dropzones within driving distance of Chicago that fly on sunny winter days?
Until then, I’m continuing to live through those of you who were able to get out and skydive this Christmas. Any stories you have to share are welcome.
Archive: January, 2011