With the weather warming up a touch I can’t help but think about Safety Day that’s just around the corner and finally getting back in the air!
A few of my fellow jumpers in the Chicagoland area have asked me to talk about coming back to the sport after a long period off, like you know, the winter. Of course, I’m not the best person to ask since last winter I didn’t go more than 3 weeks without a skydive, so speaking from experience is going to be difficult.
Regardless, this is a great time to take a look at the challenges in coming back to the sport since so many of us will be doing so in the near future. So I’ve skimmed my resources to provide some thoughts for making your transition back to the skydiving world as smooth and painless (figuratively and literally) as possible.
- Attend Safety Day – the official USPA Safety Day is on March 12. Many dropzones choose to have theirs on different days to accommodate jumpers who might want to attend other, larger Safety Day events. Regardless, be sure to attend at least one. For those who may not realize it, Safety Day is more than just about getting back in the air / completing recurrency jumps (if the DZ you’re at is even flying that day). It’s about refreshing your memory on safety in the sky. You’ll have a chance to not only review the USPA BSRs and any changes to the SIM but also refresh on your home dropzone regulations. You’ll review landing patterns, pilot policies and have a chance to hear from the S&TA. I can’t stress the importance of this day enough. You might be surprised how much has fallen out of that brain of yours over the long winter months.
- Check your gear – if you weren’t due for a reserve repack or inspection, be sure to give your gear a good once over yourself. Make sure your 3 rings are in good shape, that your closing loop isn’t worn, that your pilot chute is cocked. If you doubt your last pack job on that final jump of the season, you may even want to shake out your canopy and give it a fresh pack.
- Review canopy skills – I’m a big believer in being a safe and competent canopy pilot; it could save your life. You never know when that rogue student might enter your landing pattern and necessitating a last minute adjustment. Parachutist Online has a great article on becoming a better canopy pilot. This is a start, but if you haven’t before, a canopy course is always a good idea. That’s high on my priority list this year for certain!
- SIM on the go – I mentioned this yesterday on Twitter but if you’re an iPhone user, be sure to download the USPA SIM app. What a better way to stay fresh on those BSRs than by having them in your pocket? You can download the app here or by searching USPA SIM in the app store.
- Watch and read to learn - as I mentioned a couple weeks ago in my currency post, I can’t recommend enough watching videos and reading indicent reports to help you learn what not to do. Get the butterflies out by watching a few cutaway videos, find out what went wrong in seemingly routine skydives that ended in injury or even death by scanning your Parachutists and Dropzone.com incidents. Learning from others mistakes can possibly save your life.
- Make that first jump a safe one - speaking of getting the butterflies out, you’re bound to have some on that first skydive back. I certainly did, even after I was only out for 3 weeks. I imagine it being a bit more intense this year. If you don’t need a recurrency jump with a coach/instructor, make sure that first jump back is with someone you trust and/or someone you’ve flown with a lot. A 16-way zoo dive likely isn’t the best way to get back in the air, just a thought.
I’m sure this isn’t all, so let’s hear it from those of you who’ve been around longer than little ole me….what are some of your suggestions on coming back after a long period off?