You may recall from my last post that I made a list of all the things that make me, me. Well, I was trying to figure out how to incorporate “how I define myself” into that post, but the truth is, a top 5 list isn’t going to cut it here.
I’m at a place in my life where I’m incredibly comfortable with who I am. It took me nearly 30 years to get to this place, but knowing that some people never achieve this level of comfort with themselves, I feel pretty good about that.
As someone who participates in handful of activities that others like to judge (read: skydiving, tattoos, EDM raves, etc) I’ve found that it’s actually easier to feel good about the things you do when you find yourself in situations that require you to defend you actions.
Now, that said, you also quickly learn that it’s completely unnecessary to defend the things that make you happy to others. People love to hate. They LOOOOVE it. So don’t let people who say shit like “why would you want to do that?” about anything, make you think for even a second that maybe you shouldn’t. They’re just projecting. They’re scared, or some other shit, and because they can’t bring themselves to do it they think you shouldn’t either. Walk away. Those people don’t support you – there are plenty of people out there who will, even if they don’t have tattoos, skydive, go to raves, etc.
Having the ability to embrace and own the parts of yourself that define who you are is great. But having the ability to recognize the imperfections and realizing that those things don’t define you is pretty incredible.
That said, I wanted to visit a few of those things that really do define who I am every single day:
My life has been focused on my career for as long as I can remember. Even in high school all I wanted to was to be successful. I’ve moved from Michigan to Texas to Ohio to Illinois to Georgia to New York and to multiple cities within these states chasing the next best career opportunity. I can’t imagine my life any other way. Personal success is critical to my happiness and I have to say I’m pretty proud of where I’ve been able to go in the last 8 years. Can’t wait to see where this path takes me in the next 8 years.
I got my first tattoo when I was 20 years old. It’s two interlocking hearts on my foot. I had a needle on my skin for all of 2 minutes to accomplish this. I got another one to symbolize my love for music. Then I waited years to get another. I thought I was done. Tattoos didn’t define who I was at the time, it was just a “phase,” or so I thought. In recent years I’ve gone from a chick who has tattoos to a tattooed chick. My tattoos tell a story of my life. When I look at them I have great memories and great stories to tell. Each comes from a time in my life where I felt strongly about something – something that defines me. My tattoos are my way of visually expressing the parts of me that make me who I am. Sometimes I get disapproving looks, stares and friends and family members who shake their head. I’ve even been told that I don’t look like a chick who would have tattoos. Other times I have people stop me on the street or in my office and want to see them closer, want to know more. Those are the moments I thrive. My tattoos are for me. But, like them or not, they’re certainly not going anywhere – and there are more to come, you can count on that.
Having lived in numerous cities across the country, and visited dozens of others on business, I have gained an added appreciation for travel. I take any opportunity I can to visit places I’ve never been. I like to take opportunities and turn them into travel experiences. For instance, when I go to Tomorrowland (in Belgium) this summer, I’ll also be visiting Amsterdam and Germany – turning a 3-day festival into an exploration of Europe. This is just scratching the surface and I definitely need to go back, but at least I get to see more than I will in Boom, Belgium. I’ve also been known to extend business trips over weekends in order to visit friends or explore new places.
As a girl you grow up thinking of fairy tales and princesses and having this perfect life with a perfect partner. With experience I’ve realized that life is about personal success and if you can have people in your life that you can share those experiences with, life becomes even more amazing. Relationships, whether friends, family or significant others, are mutually beneficial – or at least they should be. You have each others backs, you love each other to the extent that being there for them is not a burden but a role you’re happy to fill. I take a lot of pride in my ability to love others to this extent. I have a lot of love to give and those who are in my life see and understand this – and hopefully, cherish it.
I have amazing friends. The ones who live in NYC and the ones who don’t. I’m so incredibly lucky to have the people in my life that I do, and honestly, I’m proud to call them friends. I’ve learned over the years that I don’t let people into the “friend zone” unless they’ve earned it. And I’ve also learned when to remove people from that zone that don’t deserve it. Friends do, with the exception of a special few, come and go. But the impact they have on your life in the time they’re there is invaluable.
I joke that I’m the “black sheep” of my family, and for the most part that’s true. Not only have I “moved away” from home but I continue to move around the country to chase experiences. I skydive, I have tattoos, I’m divorced, I go to raves and spend my money on experiences rather than “saving for retirement.” Regardless, my family continues to stand behind me. They support me when I need it the most and are there to let me know they’re there if I need them. I’m closer with my parents than I’ve ever been even though we live hundreds of miles away. I’m lucky to be able to return home for visits and say that my blood relatives are pretty “normal,” whatever that means.
I saved this one for last because, well, it’s pretty obvious. This is my 5th season as a skydiver. Being a “skydiver” is something that has changed over time. At first it was “cool” and now it’s about being a part of this amazing community, always having people who get you and get why you jump. It’s about the freedom you experience with each and every jump. It’s about pushing yourself, your limits and having as much fun as you possibly can. The sky is my playground and with each jump I feel a little bit closer to my 8-year-old self.
So tell me, what defines you?
Moments of clarity tend to come to me at all times of the day. Today, it was on the stair climber at the gym, where I effectively wrote most of this post. Hope you enjoy!
It’s not uncommon to hear skydivers word vomiting about the importance of following your dreams – doing and living what you love. After all, we found our passion and want nothing more than to see the rest of the world seeking out theirs. Really, we only do this with the best of intentions.
But let’s be honest, for most of us, and even those who preach about living their passion, it’s not all unicorns shitting rainbows over here. Nothing is perfect all time time. It’s about balance. We have decisions to make to get us to our optimal level of happiness. As i see it, so long as the positive outweighs the negative, regardless of how that ratio fluctuates day-to-day or even moment-to-moment, I’m all good.
I tend to see life as a series of events rather than an ongoing stream of consciousness. This outlook allows me to pull happiness into my life in multiple ways throughout the day. I’m not an all or nothing girl, so if something doesn’t work out at 9am, my day isn’t shot, there’s still plenty more opportunity to have an amazing day – this also keeps me in check from allowing one let down to spiral out of control into a bad mood that lasts longer than anyone around me would prefer.
Every day I make it a point to do something I love – often multiple things. I guess that’s easy to do when you have so many things in life that make you happy. As I’ve mentioned before, I couldn’t “quit life” to become a skydiver because I like diversity in my every day…not to mention that I’m not ready to make my hobby into a job. As one friend said to me recently “make anything ‘work’ and it takes just a little bit of the awesomeness out of it.” I prefer to stay in awe of this sport and this community every day. Jaded can wait.
But back to happiness here….
Finding ways to fold those activities that make me happy into each day is my key to sanity and keeping that positive to negative ratio in my favor. Here are just a few things that, at the end of the day, make me smile.
It’s not just coincidental that I’m here, sharing a few times each week with y’all. As much as I love keeping this community satisfied, let’s be honest, I’m here for me too. Writing is cathartic. It’s how I sort through my thoughts, how I make sense of the craziness going on in my head sometimes. By writing it down, I’m able to sort through the crap to find the meat of my thoughts. I attribute my ability to reflect, learn and grow every day from my writing. It’s by far my best creative outlet. (If I haven’t said it lately, thanks for sharing it with me.)
There’s a running joke that I have a hug quota, but sometimes I really believe it to be true. Sometimes, a hug can just make everything better.
Sharing laughs with over a beer
Whether it’s on a patio after work or around the bonfire at the dropzone after a day of skydiving, spending this type of time with my friends is crucial to my happiness. Now, for those who have been paying attention, I have to call myself out on this before you do – yes, I realize I’m a bit of a hypocrite here. Earlier this year I wrote about a friend of mine who criticized me for not having a social life because I wasn’t out at the bars every night after work. I still stand behind the fact that I don’t need to go out and drink every night to consider myself social, and that I’d rather put the money spent on $7 beers toward skydiving, but I will admit that after first moving to Atlanta I was a bit of a hermit. I was going through some personal crap and the last thing I wanted was to be out with other people while I had a lot to work through on my own. That said, I do understand the value, and often the need, to have this quality time with friends over a beer or three. I’m so lucky to have the friends I do here and am incredibly thankful for the packed social schedule it provides. I’ve never felt so much like myself as I do now.
That said, I value my Ashley time immensely. A gym membership is always one of those things I’ve struggled with because, honestly, I don’t want to spend the money every month. That’s two extra skydives people! Truth is, I need that time at the gym. Instead of taking “me time” on the couch cuddling with the dog as my brain turns to mush in front of the TV, I’m able to do some cardio and lift some weights while I work through the thoughts in my head.
I like to feel good about myself, and when I’m doing things to push my mind and improve my body, I leave the experience exhausted yet feeling amazing knowing I’ve accomplished something. Challenge makes me happy – hence picking up a sport like skydiving. And we can’t forget about those endorphins. There’s a reason I start every morning by heading to the gym – it sets the tone for the day and gives me a nice little kick start. Lately I’ve even found myself heading back there after work if I don’t have other plans. Why sit around surfing the channels when I could be doing something positive for myself instead, right?
Of course, that doesn’t mean that I don’t like my downtime. Aside from Thursday nights (because let’s be honest, that’s the best TV night), I often find myself curling up with a good book. Sometimes there’s just nothing better than losing yourself in another reality with a good novel. Although lately I’ve found myself craving non-fiction as well. I like to soak up knowledge on things like psychology, human behavior and of course skydiving. Sometimes even a good magazine will do – subscriptions to Blue Skies Mag, Psychology Today, Women’s Health and Parachutist keep me happy there.
It’s amazing what even 10 minutes of deep breathing and focusing on your body can do for your emotional well being.
Quality time with my dog
Whether it’s going to the dog park, out on a walk around the neighborhood or chilling on the couch, my dog always puts me in a happy place. Every day she makes me laugh, and for that I am grateful.
At the gym, reading, cleaning, at work….these are just a few of the times you’ll find me with ear buds in and jamming along to the appropriate tunes for the circumstances. Blasting music and singing at the top of my lungs is the only way I get through chores and long drives. Music has played a big role in my life for as long as I can remember. I was a “band geek” even through college. I have a music inspired tattoo. I am often found tapping my fingers, my feet, my hands along to a rhythm that only I can hear inside my head. Something about music touches my soul and there’s always a song to put me into whatever state I desire most. It’s amazing how influential music really is in my life.
The smell of pumpkin and lavendar
Let’s be honest, we’ve touched on most of the other senses here…you can’t ignore that scent can be quite mood altering. Something as simple as lighting a lavender candle in my house can be enough to calm the day and put me in a happy place.
What’s that? Did I really just say work? That thing that everyone is trying to escape so they can live their lives? Well, to be honest, I enjoy a solid day of work. Productivity makes me happy. I feel satisfied after tackling those items on my to-do list. I often find myself volunteering to help out with events – hence my up-and-coming philanthropy consulting that we’ll be talking more about in the coming months. I rep for Deepseed not just because I love their products but because it gives me something to pursue while on the ground at the dropzone. When friends have projects they need help with, I’m the first to lend a hand. At the end of the day, if I’ve accomplished something I can be proud of, I’m happy.
Having something to look forward to is critical in my life. I love traveling to new places, jumping at new dropzones, testing out different wind tunnels, or even just going to visit friends in a new city. Variety definitely is the spice of life.
Making others happy
It makes me happy to put a smile on someone’s face. I’m always happy to help out a friend in need or do something out of my comfort zone to make someone else happy. I’ve been known to be that random stranger on the street who compliments someone when they look like they’re having a rough morning – after all, that may be the nicest thing they hear all day.
You didn’t think i was going to leave that off the list, did you? Freefall is my happy place. Skydiving is by far my biggest passion and if I could, I’d do it every day for the rest of my life.
So tell me, what makes YOU happy?
Love and Blue Skies!
Until just recently, I didn’t actually enjoy my canopy ride…it was simply a means to an end, to get me back to the ground so I can pack up and get back into freefall again.
I was scared of my canopy, I was scared of other pilots, I was scared of the wind, and I was certainly scared of the ground. But as my currency continues to stay high, I find that I’m enjoying myself under canopy more and more. Conversations with good canopy pilots, with swoopers and with S&TAs around the South has given me a greater respect for my canopy and what it’s capable of. One-on-one canopy coaching has helped me safely push the limits and learn as much about my canopy as possible.
As I continue to progress and understand the dynamics of canopy piloting, I find that I’m craving higher performance and more speed. This is surprising even to me, as someone who looks at swooping and shakes her head, not understanding why someone would purposefully practice a discipline that’s been known to – for lack of a better term – fuck some people up. But just as anything else within the sport, once you learn one skill it’s only natural to want to move on to the next…safely, of course.
I’ve been thinking a lot about downsizing. Even under a 120 I’m still not performing well in strong winds, and even though my wing loading is still fairly light and stepping down isn’t all that risky, I’m taking plenty of time to feel out my options. I find the more I play under canopy and push the limits of what my canopy can do, I’m craving more performance. I’m in no rush to swoop, of course, but having a higher performing wing seems like the next step for me in my canopy flight progression.
Chatting this weekend with some of the other freeflyer chicks at Skydive Carolina I realized that the time really has arrived. Turns out my canopy progression has been not only completely normal, but maybe even a bit conservative compared to my fellow jumpers. To each his own, but it helped me feel better (and completely justified) about my desire to go elliptical. On top of that, I was dealing with turbulence issues those on fully elliptical canopies were cutting right through. When uppers were cookin’ and wind on the ground was less than 5 knots and I was coming straight down, watching my canopy breathe and flex heavily as it bounced me around, I had to consider whether jumping was even a good idea – I’m tired of it and I’m ready to have a little more confidence under canopy (and let’s be honest, with my openings….Sabre2 off headings are not my favorite).
Thankfully I’ve got some friends in the area who fly the canopy I’m looking to get, so looks like this girl has some demoing to do.
So tell me, what’s your canopy progression looked like?
Life is full of decisions. Whether you know it or not, you’re making them every day: everything from how many times to hit the snooze button, to the type of creamer you’re going to put in your coffee, to the time you decide to go to bed.
These don’t seem like decisions, however, because most often when someone refers to a “decision” it’s because it’s a pretty big deal (and you know, worth talking about, because no one else really cares how many times you hit snooze yesterday).
It’s the big decisions, those that have the ability to change the course of our life, that stand out most. They take time and energy to make. Knowing a decision has the potential to change your life, there may even be rounds of deliberation with friends to help solidify your thoughts.
What I’ve found, though, is that often, whether people know it or not, these seemingly tough decisions really aren’t all that hard to make – it’s the action to move forward with the decision that becomes the challenge. When I speak with friends who want advice, by the time they get to me, I can usually tell that they’ve already made up their mind but are simply having a hard time taking that first step in the right direction. It’s like they have come to a fork in the road, know they want to veer left, but it’s such a different path than the one they were just on, they need to stop and reflect before they can proceed.
When I see this happen with others, I truly appreciate the process they’re going through. I’ve been there myself on a number of occasions, and the theme tends to be the same: decision time, gut tells you one thing, head may or may not tell you another, you know to follow your gut and a period of waiting happens – whether mere minutes or even months – there’s typically a period of hesitation when it comes to acting…especially if your decision impacts other people.
As a skydiver, I have learned that sometimes you can’t follow logic, you can’t make a decision based on what the butterflies in your stomach are telling you. Rather, decisions based on a feeling, a sense that this is just something you should do, often ends up being the right path. The truth is, whatever road you travel, there will be positive and negative outcomes along the way – that’s just called life. The real challenge is making the choice to focus on the positive, find the good in the bad, learn from the hardships and apply those to the rest of your life so you can truly live the life you’ve always dreamed.
Still stuck on a tough decision? I can promise you the answer isn’t in that self-help book, it’s not what your friends or family think is best, it’s what your gut is telling you. Quiet your mind, find a place to be alone and really listen – you’ll find the answer, and the strength to make all your dreams come true. Have patience with yourself, take the time you need and act. In the end, the path to the left isn’t all that scary after all.
Love and blue skies!
Oh hi, I’m back. Sorry for the delay here. I know y’all are probably expecting an update regarding the success of Jump for Diabetes – it was huge (that’s what she said) – but I’m still working on compiling photos and video and getting the last of the donations tallied before we make any official statements on this year’s events.
That said, I didn’t want y’all to think I completely fell off the blogging map, so I wanted to swing by and say hi.
My head is swimming from the weekend as you might imagine. Fifteen skydives in three days where the average temperature was 100 degrees will wear anyone out. But it was a great weekend with great friends and believe it or not I already can’t wait till next year to see everyone again. Or, you know, the next time I decide to make a trip to Skydive Chicago for shits and giggles.
Now that I’m back on solid ground, and back to the grind, I’ve found myself spending a lot of time reflecting on my life for the past half decade or so. Skydiving has taught me so much about the person I am and what I’m capable of accomplishing, but there have been so many other “life lessons” learned in my 20s. Some of these lessons were harder than others, but all continue to have an impact on my decisions day-to-day.
It really is true that the human spirit is stronger than you think, and especially for me, I continue to find more strength each and every day.
I’m looking forward to the next few months that I’ve already dedicated as me time. I intend to be selfish, to take care of my needs and wants before that of others – not only do I need this, I’ve earned it. There’s no doubt that this will come as a surprise to some, others likely won’t believe it till it affects them, and I’m even sitting here right now wondering how it’s all going to unfold. Truth be told, I don’t really care if I disappoint or even piss people off a bit, I’m tired of always putting myself behind the “needs” of others, because the truth is, if I can live my life without relying on the time and effort of those around me in the same way that those closest to me often do, then they’ll survive while I take care of me for a while.
So what’s this time look like? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure, but in my mind I see lots of yoga, travel, cuddling with my dog, reading, writing and of course skydiving. Quality time with friends and family, new adventures, standing my ground with what I need and want – these are the things my selfish dreams are made of. I am truly excited for what lies ahead.
What does the rest of your summer look like?
A recent article on a death in the world of skydiving (though rare, it does happen unfortunately) has the media up in arms over an industry that has “almost no regulation.”
Hello USPA, I hope you’re all over this reporter like white on rice!
Okay, so tact and sharing the facts in a calm, straight-forward manner is probably best, but needless to say when I read this I was slightly more than pissed.
There are so many myths out there about our sport just like this (thanks to my Facebook and Twitter followers for sending me additions for the list), so I thought it would be a great idea to take a few moments to review the top myths about the skydiving industry and provide you with the simple facts. The more the public knows, the better reputation our sport will have, so please feel free to point anyone who is speaking any of the following statements in the direction of this post.
Given recent media backlash against us skyjumpers, let’s start here:
Skydiving has little to no regulation
Skydiving is regulated by a group called the United States Parachute Association (other countries have similar regulating bodies). The USPA works very closely with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to determine all kinds of safety protocol that must be followed by dropzones, skydivers, instructors and jump pilots at USPA-affiliated dropzones. We all have certain requirements we have to meet and tests we have to pass in order to receive our USPA license(s) and there’s even more hoops to jump through in order to coach and instruct.
Each year there are new regulations added as the sport changes, to include requirements and safety protocol for things like camera flying and wingsuiting. The FAA even does regular, drop-in spot checks and ride-alongs on jump planes to ensure that rules are being followed and that the dropzone operation is safe. If the protocol that is set in place by these regulating bodies is not followed, it is not uncommon to see jumpers and pilots stripped of their ratings.
Skydiving is inherently dangerous
You regularly hear instructors at dropzones telling their students after a skydive to, “drive safe, it’s the most dangerous thing you’ll do today.” Now that my friends, is a fact.
Are there risks in skydiving? Yes, of course! But there are risks in most things you do in life, especially activities like driving. Skydiving comes with a whole host of safety features that the rest of life doesn’t provide. For starters, you have TWO parachutes. Heaven forbid something goes wrong with your first canopy deployment, you can cut it away and use your reserve which is packed and inspected every 180 days by a certified, professional rigger. Not only that, you’re surrounded by other skydivers who have gone through rigorous training to receive their licenses and ratings, so everyone is looking out for everyone else – in the air and on the ground. We all perform safety checks on our gear and we regularly get second and third checks from our fellow jumpers prior to exiting the aircraft. Dropzones designate landing patterns so that there’s limited risk of incident on landing. I could go on and on about all the safety elements involved in skydiving, but it’d just bore you.
Skydiving’s safety record only continues to improve as equipment and training advances. Don’t believe me? Check out the facts in these charts from the USPA.
The problem is, the media sits around and waits to report on and (to take a word out of my buddy Chris’ mouth) sensationalizes accidents, as if it’s something that occurs regularly. Most incidents that occur in the sport are not due to equipment failure but happen under perfectly functioning canopies. These accidents can be due to jumpers performing high-performance moves that either they are not prepared for due to lack of experience, or simply because of a miscalculation in their maneuver. So yes, accidents happen, just as in every other real-world experience, but that’s the risk you take simply by living people!
There’s a high risk of your parachute not opening
It’s not uncommon to hear the media talk about incidents, whether they ended in minor injury or even death, as the result of a parachute “not opening,” which then leads people to believe that will likely happen if they skydive. Of course, this isn’t how it went down, but getting the facts and understanding the physics behind how equipment works will clear things up a bit.
Without getting all science-y here (there is a lot of science involved in the sport, so the more you understand how everything works, like how planes stay up in the air and why parachutes want to fly, the more equip you’ll be to handle issues and to control your fear for the unknown). Parachutes want to open. They are designed to open. So, if your parachute is packed properly, it will come out of the rig and out of the bag it’s housed in smoothly, and open. There are malfunctions that can cause your parachute to malfunction once it’s open – most of which are quickly correctable – and there are some issues that could cause your rig to not open properly, requiring the jumper to use their reserve, but again, these are very infrequent.
The truth is, when you hear someone say “their parachute didn’t open,” what they mean to say is “they had a malfunction and had to use their reserve” but they didn’t do their research to find out what the actual problem was or they simply want to make the issue sound worse to make their story more compelling.
Whatever the reason, it leads people to believe that a parachute not opening is something that frequently happens in our sport and leads to death or serious injury. Though issues are infrequent, all jumpers, whether instructors, camera fliers or fun jumpers, are all prepared to deal with malfunctions and sticky situations as they happen, leading to the continued improvement of our sport’s safety record year after year.
Skydiving is for crazy, suicidal thrill seekers
Skydivers are just like everyone else. We are passionate about what we do. Sometimes to the extreme (read: jumpers who quit their lives, move to the dropzone and pack parachutes to keep food on the table) but those jumpers are credited for following their dreams and pursuing their passions more than anything. Given that we are driven by our passion for the sport, we are far from suicidal – we love life too much to want it to end. We crave that next moment in freefall, we want nothing more than to spend as much time as we can with our fellow jumpers in our big, blue playground.
Some of us aren’t even thrill seekers. Sure, a number of skydivers are – they’re BASE jumpers, snowboarders, ground launchers, you name it – but some of us are in the sport not for the thrill – the adrenaline, but for the peace, the serenity, the stress relief that each jump provides. The challenges are never ending and the personal growth that’s possible is amazing. We love being in a community of people who get why we do what we do and the overwhelming support that comes along with that. And as far as the “crazy” part goes – aren’t we all, in our own right, a little bit crazy?
You can have full-on conversations in freefall
Imagine being on a motorcycle, driving 120 mph down the highway and trying to have a conversation with the person on the motorcycle next to you. Now, remove the sound of the motorcycle from this scenario and what do you have left? A shit ton of wind, that’s what. There is no way that anyone would be able to carry on a conversation as they move through the air at these speeds. And why would you? The gestures, the docking, the playing is so much fun in and of itself, there’s no need for words.
Freefall lasts for minutes at a time
This myth, along with the one above is perpetuated by movies like Point Break, where skydives seem to last for minutes. This is for dramatic effect only. The average freefall portion of a skydive lasts between 45 and 60 seconds, depending on your exit altitude and which type of discipline you’re practicing. Of course, you can add an extra 30-60 seconds for wingsuit jumps, and none of this time includes your canopy ride, but the point here is that you can’t talk in freefall and you’re only there for a minute, max.
Now that I have done a tandem, I can start wingsuiting
I debated whether or not to include this in the list, but truth be told, some of the dumbest things come out of the mouths of some of the most intelligent people when it comes to skydiving, so I thought it best to address.
So you’ve done a tandem, or even your first AFF jump. Good for you! You’ve experienced something less than 1% of the population has or ever will experience. That said, you’re no expert. In fact, you have no concept of what it means to fly a wingsuit. I know, you’ve seen videos on YouTube of proximity flying and it doesn’t look all that hard, right?
Again, I say, false. The USPA requires that you have at least 200 skydives to start wingsuiting. You need to understand skydiving before adding a discipline of this magnitude to your repertoire. Most dropzones now have wingsuit schools to ensure these regulations are followed and to provide jumpers with a first flight course that gives them adequate instruction on how to fly your body and what to do in an emergency situation. It takes time, experience, and understanding of the sport to fly a wingsuit. Worry about getting your A-license first, then we can talk disciplines.
When a parachute opens after freefall, you shoot up into the sky
This is an illusion. When a jumper is being filmed, whether it’s a tandem skydive or a solo jump, and they deploy their parachute, the camera man who is shooting the video is not deploying their parachute at the same time. So, assuming you’re both falling at 120 mph in freefall, the camera man continues falling at that speed while your parachute slows you down, making it appear on video that you’re shooting back up into the sky.
People who are afraid of heights can’t skydive
If you’ve flown in an airplane you know what the ground looks like from thousands of feet up. Little squares of land and tiny specs that are houses, cars, etc. The truth is, the average person cannot tell a difference in altitude until they are less than 1,500 feet above the ground, at which point you should be under a well functioning canopy and traveling at a much slower rate toward the ground.
What does this mean? No ground rush!
Why is that important? Because when you think of fear of heights you picture standing at the edge of a cliff, or off a bridge or something similar where the ground is close enough that if you fall, you’ll see the ground coming toward you.
With skydiving, you don’t get that. In skydiving, there is no sensation of falling, no jumpy stomach feeling like you get on a roller coaster or when bungee jumping. You won’t lose your stomach – that too, is a myth.
I know plenty of jumpers who are petrified of standing on a ladder but are more than thrilled to be jumping from an airplane – so long as it’s thousands of feet up!
Skydivers jump out of “perfectly good airplanes”
There is no such thing as a perfectly good airplane. In that same breath, there’s no such thing as a perfectly good instructor, a perfectly good pilot, or a perfectly good student. This is why there is a risk in skydiving. No situation is perfect, but if you’re properly trained and prepared to make the skydive (read: you have your fear in check and your adrenaline is working for you instead of against you) then it’s an incredibly safe sport.
The only way to understand what skydiving is like is to experience it yourself
I wanted to throw a true statement in here for you. To take a page out of the book of fellow skydiver, DZO and all-around amazing person Rook Nelson, if you want to have an opinion on the sport of skydiving, you have to try it. You may only want to do it once, but at least then you’re not being hypocritical when you speak of something you’ve never actually experienced.
Anything you think you know about skydiving but want to find the truth? Just ask.
It’s summer here in Georgia, which means it’s regularly 90+ degrees when I’m out skydiving. Sweaty jumpers pack together into the plane for 60 seconds of air conditioning upon exit at 14,000 ft, and we’re already sweating by the time we’re back on the ground.
Needless to say it’s not uncommon that I get looked at like I have two heads when I’m putting on my skull cap and gloves as I’m boarding the plane.
Now, any woman skydiver knows just how critical a skull cap is in ensuring that you’re not spending hours brushing out knots in your hair (or worse, cutting them out), after a day of skydiving – so not much justification takes place here…but gloves, in the summer, really?!
Let me just tell you, I’ve jumped with and without gloves and regardless how hot and humid the weather, they’ve proven to be a necessity. Here’s why:
It never fails, the day I forget my gloves or think for one reason or another that they’re not needed, I end up injuring my hands. We’re talking scrapes, cuts and bruises here, nothing too serious, but enough to be annoying and usually leave me bleeding post-skydive. Rarely do I know exactly what happened – skydiving is sometimes a full contact sport, with fellow jumpers, the plane, the ground – but once I’m back on the ground I’m all “that stings, what the hell!”
This weekend proved to be no different, thanks to my altimeter for gouging my paw!
Personally, I like having gloves for the added grip they provide. When you’re skydiving with others, there will come a time where you’re hanging outside of a moving aircraft with one hand on a bar keeping you attached to the plane while your fellow jumpers get set up to exit. With gloves, I have confidence I’m not going to slip off. It’s also nice to have gloves when it’s pull time so slippage isn’t an issue.
This probably goes without saying but gloves provide a nice barrier between your skin and the elements. My skydiving gloves are less “wintery” and more the type you’d find baseball players wearing (in fact, I picked them up from the baseball section of a sporting goods store if I remember correctly), but they still do the trick when it comes to weather protection – that is, unless it’s below freezing at altitude, but that’s an entirely different conversation.
Here in the South, it still gets chilly at altitude, even when it’s warm on the ground. And for someone who has circulation issues in her hands and feet, I don’t need to worry about my fingers going numb on a skydive.
It’s all what you’re used to -
Here’s what it comes down to – personal preference. If you want to jump with gloves, if that’s where you’re comfortable, you know what it’s like to grasp your hackey (we’re talking skydiving here people) and exit with (or without) gloves, stick to what’s comfortable. As a jumper who grew up at a dropzone in the North, it made sense to get comfortable wearing gloves – they were essential if you wanted to jump any time other than the dead of summer. In the end, only you can make this decision for you.
So tell me, do you wear gloves? Why, or why not?
And ladies – thoughts on the skull cap? Totally critical in my book!
Just as I’ve been known to do when starting a new journey, whether in the sky or on the ground, I want to start from the beginning talking about it here on the blog – if not to help others see the progression as it happened in real life, then simply as a reminder to myself where I’ve been.
This weekend I began flying tandem camera. No, not in the sense that I’ve got a full helmet cam set up and I’m in a rotation, actually, not in the slightest – I prefer to start this out slow rather than go balls to the wall in my usual fashion.
I was lucky enough to be working with a trusted tandem instructor and a couple of great camera fliers that didn’t mind my lurking on their jumps. Within a few practice jumps I was seeing incredible progress, thanks to some serious pep talks and lessons from my fellow jumpers. Needless to say, I had moments of frustration and moments of excitement when I could see improvement happening. I never thought I’d be this excited to jump with tandems, but there’s something to be said for capturing that pure joy that a new skydiver experiences in the moment.
Of course, this is just the very beginning for me, but I wanted to share a few lessons from my weekend in the sky with a camera on my head, serving a purpose greater than capturing my fellow freeflyers as they cheese the camera (as fun as that is)!
Lesson 1 – Spend time on your belly early on in your skydiving career.
For anyone who is thinks they might want to fly camera some day, heed this suggestion, spend time on your belly! As a young jumper I was told by so many more experienced skydivers to do work on my belly before transitioning to freeflying (and they meant more than 30 skydives, turns out), and it seems that I’m running into all kinds of situations in the sky where more belly time would have been helpful.
Now, I’m not saying you need to start a 4-way team or anything, but being comfortable and proficient belly to Earth is key when flying tandem video. Those things that are instinctual for people who have spent a couple hundred jumps working on their RW skills seem to take me a bit longer to get to in the sky – like stopping backsliding (hello Superman arms, those don’t get you anywhere but backwards). That said…
Lesson 2 – Be an all-around proficient skydiver.
This weekend, most of my fellow camera fliers were also freeflyers in their downtime. Being comfortable in a sit was key for me for a couple reasons.
1) If the tandem instructor is taking a bigger passenger, it helps to have some sit/back skills so you can contort quickly into these freefly positions to keep up if folding in half on your belly isn’t cutting it in terms of freefall rate.
2) You have to be ready for anything. When a tandem exits, for the first couple seconds they are falling with the weight of two people, that is, until the drogue is released. If you’re anything like me, exits are going to take some time to get down. What I found this weekend is that if I don’t leave just a split second before the tandem I end up above them till the drogue is out. Of course, that puts you in a position where you might just find the drogue coming at you! Yep, that happened. Luckily, I was able to flip to my sit just in time to get out of the way and get back in front of the tandem. Not every exit is going to be perfect, but you have to know how to deal with it and make it the best you can.
Lesson 3 – Start slow with your equipment.
After one day in the air with my new camera on my head, I woke up on day two with an incredibly stiff neck. I have to admit, I was surprised by this as my camera isn’t all that heavy and you practically can’t even tell it’s on your head in the air. That said, my neck isn’t used to any weight aside from my Bonehead REvolve, so any added weight creates strain, especially on opening. I’m so glad I didn’t add the weight of a still camera at the same time, I doubt I’d be able to hold my head up right now if I had.
Lesson 4 – Video editors are your best friends.
When you’re running to catch the next load, you head to the video room to drop off your SD card and let the editors work their magic to send the tandem student home happy with their footage. They make it easy for you to have work you’re proud of and allow you to drop your files and run. Granted, aside from a few seconds of footage, none of my work was sold this weekend, but after two long days at the dropzone, the last thing I wanted was to pick up my computer and start editing – hence, no video footage to share.
Hopefully in the next few weekends I’ll have more tandem video awesomeness to show.
Love and blue skies!
All weekend I looked forward to getting back in the sky after nearly a month on the ground. I wanted to test out those skills I learned in the tunnel with Mickey. Saturday and Sunday were out due to other obligations – and a need to just relax after a fairly stressful week – so when Monday came I was up before dawn ready to hit the road for The Farm.
Upon arrival the winds appeared to be cooperating, however the uppers were bookin’ a bit. Of course, after the Good Vibes boogie this weekend, people were a bit slow to get up and around, to say the least. By the time load 1 was ready to head up, I decided to stay planted on the ground because of wonky winds.
As I’ve said countless times before, I’m the epitome of a wind pussy. In fact, this was even a discussion on a recent episode of Skydive Radio where Brian Germain discussed small people under small canopies (Episode #171 if you’re interested in hearing more about the topic). It’s something I’ve struggled with since day 1, and I’ve come to appreciate my healthy fear of the wind and keep myself planted on the ground when they get sketchy.
That said, I figured something out about myself this weekend that, deep down I already knew, but will likely help me get off the ground more in the future. When I’ve had a decent amount of time off from jumping, I let my butterflies get the best of me and I find ways to make excuses. Take yesterday for example: yes, the winds were sketchy till about 1pm, but then after that I didn’t like the amount of big, puffy clouds in the sky because of possible turbulence. I was nervous about catching a thermal as I come over the trees to land. There were lots of newbie jumpers in the sky pulling at all different heights, some where pulling at 5,000 and they were out before me. And on and on…
Finally, I shook my head, looked up at the sky, and took the offer to get on that 15 minute call.
Of course, the jump went swimmingly and I was back up in the air on the next load. Sure, thermals were a bit of an issue and there was some turbulence around 2 grand, but these are all things that I know how to deal with, especially that high off the ground. And yes, there were some newbie canopy fliers out, but as long as you’re aware of it and are aware of where they are, and are confident in your own canopy skills and awareness, you can avoid any potential situations – after all, regardless of experience level of the other canopy pilots around you, you should be on the lookout for someone who might take you out.
My point – ask yourself where caution ends and excuses begin. I found that with me, it’s easy to fall into the idea that “the winds are crap so I won’t be jumping today” and mentality changes. Don’t let your mind run your life – just because you think it doesn’t mean it’s true.
We’re skydivers. We know we can do it. Trust your gut and feel confident that the skydive will go as planned. Odds are, it will.
After nearly half a year with my feet on the ground, I’m happy to say I made a successful return to the sky this weekend – despite Mother Nature’s best attempts at keeping me grounded.
Early last week at physical therapy I was officially cleared to skydive. The caveat was that I had to feel really good to make a jump. Needless to say when I woke up on Friday and my shoulder was feeling a bit “crunchy,” I was concerned that my return would have to be postponed yet again. Luckily come Saturday morning the only pains I awoke with were the painful cravings to sky jump.
As I arrived at The Farm (which is my new home dropzone after moving to The South) the winds were not playing as nice as I’d hoped. The swoop competitors who were in town for the FLCPA swoop meet were grounded due to gusty winds, so that was my indication to keep my feet firmly plated on the ground.
So, I took the time to plan my first jump back, do some dirt diving, and even network a bit for Jump for Diabetes (more to come on that later). Once the winds stated behaving I got on the first load that would take me – an hour and 1/2 later. Lucky for me it ended up being the sunset load. Simple two way freefly, knee lock into sit, where I got to test out all those skills I refined in the tunnel over the winter. One foot dock and lots of smiles later it was time to pull. Thankfully, I decided to pull high as my deployment included a number of line twists that required some deep breathing and lots of kicking. All was good in the end.
The sky was wonderful and peaceful, it was the cleanse that I needed. It’s amazing how much lighter I feel after a good skydive. All my cares and worries are left in the door of that airplane and nothing else matters but the moment – it’s like a cleansing of the soul.
The rest of the weekend didn’t play nice wind wise, but lots of time was spent outside…I’ve got the sunburn and mosquito bites to prove it. All in all it was a great couple days and I can’t wait to do it again next weekend.
Love and blue skies!
p.s. It’s been a while since you’ve seen one of these on my blog, but here’s a look at my first flight back!