This spring has not provided the best skydiving weather. I thought maybe it was just the Northeast, but I’m hearing from friends in Chicago, across the Midwest and even into areas of the South that the skies haven’t been playing nice for them, either.
The last few weekends I’ve dedicated one day to heading out and making a day of skydiving, but most of those days were completely weathered out (of course, the day I couldn’t go usually ended up being perfect). This weekend the forecast changed from complete rain to partly cloudy at the last minute so I decided to take the LIRR out to Skydive Long Island for a much needed sky bath.
Upon arrival we were socked in. Complete cloud cover. WTF Weather Channel App?!
Luckily, the 15 minute drive to the dropzone took us into clear skies and skyjumpers in the air. We got up on the first available load and upon checking the spot saw some concerning clouds headed our way. Once we got back down from a super fun freefly, packed up, manifested and were geared up walking to the plane, they shut down due to rain.
We waited an hour or so for clouds to clear and headed back up. Another great freefly and the skies looked clear. Until they weren’t. Another weather hold and we called it for the day. It was supposed to be beautiful on Sunday (and it was) but of course I had other plans.
I’m thinking the sky gods need a sacrifice. Anyone have a goat I can borrow?
Blue skies (please)!
Blogging is a time capsule of sorts. Writing down thoughts, experiences and dreams all in one place gives you a) a good foundation for realizing and articulating life goals while capturing experiences along the way and b) seeing how far you’ve come. Writing, no matter the form, essentially allows you to forecast your own future and make changes based on lessons learned along the way. It also allows you to see how much you’ve changed over time.
I’m amazed at people who make bucket lists as if they’re written in stone. As I get older I see how much my goals, my desires and my perceptions change over time. For me, blogging gives me the freedom to go back and see where I was one, two, ten years ago and truly take in all I’ve accomplished, learned and experienced in order to apply it to my future.
That said, I like making lists every now and again to mark points in my life to provide those types of comparisons in the future.
This time around I’m making a ‘top 5′ list of those things that are important to me, that define me at this point in time. Most of these are in no particular order, because honestly narrowing some of these categories down to only five is hard enough.
I’ll build my other lists based on these favorites. You’ll see.
3. Skydiving (duh)
4. Travel & Adventure
EDM is big for me right now. Time is running out for me to be a 20-something festival go-er but I have a feeling my post-Tomorrowland self will have an appreciation for DJs for years to come. Right now I’m loving:
1. Gareth Emery
5. Swedish House Mafia
Yes, I know SHM is a supergroup, and yes I know they’re no longer together, but I don’t care. Still love them. This was a huge challenge for me because I wanted to add Hardwell, Tiesto, Nero and Crystal Castles to this list too, but I had to stick with my favorites.
Ways to spend my downtime
You’ll notice skydiving is not on this list. Downtime for me is when I’m not working, traveling or skydiving. Just for clarification.
1. Exploring my city (New York currently)
4. EDM Concerts
5. QT with my dog
I used to have running, photography and yoga on this list. I’d like to get those things back.
1. Freeflying with other intermediate jumpers
3. Freefly coaching from advanced jumpers
4. Helping beginner jumpers and getting back to basics
5. Reading books and watching videos
All of these are valuable, these are just my current preferences.
Ways to treat myself
3. Special yoga or pilates class
5. Ice Cream
Yes, I treat myself with a new tattoo from time to time. It happens.
This is different from DJs, obviously, but felt the need to clarify.
2. Walk off the Earth
3. Walk the Moon
4. The Shins
5. Imagine Dragons
I do enjoy improving myself – hard work pays off people!
2. Hitting the gym
3. Regular writing
4. Reading everything I can get my hands on (for career, skydiving, travel, you name it)
5. Goal setting
Areas for improvement
That said, there’s always room for improvement and I’m in a constant state of trying to better myself. Here’s how.
1. Regular gym routine
2. Open lines of communication – especially when it’s difficult
5. Finding happiness in all areas of life
I’m add a 5.5 to the list, because I can, because this is my list: not letting people’s actions stand in the way of my own happiness. This has been a struggle my entire life and something I will probably work on till the day my ticket is pulled.
What’s on your top-5 list these days?
Love and blue skies!
Well, it’s been a while. A lot has been happening in my life – lots of travel, exciting new adventures – I’ll fill you in some other time.
But, this weekend I was able to take advantage of the beautiful weather by getting my ass back in the air.
I’d planned to conserve funds and limit myself to one day, three jumps. I stuck to the one day part, but ended up making a few more than intended. I got sucked into doing some wingsuit rodeos, which are interesting out of a porter I must admit, and before I knew it the numbers were climbing.
What an amazing weekend. I got to spend time with some of my dearest friends that I hadn’t seen in over a month and make some new ones while I was at it Freeflying was fun and I continued to progress in some sitfly skills that I wanted to hone, while breaking it up by jumping on a wingsuiters back and going for a ride. Nothing quite like soaring through the sky on a warm January day in the South. Good stuff.
And for anyone who is interested, I’m still trying to sell my Sabre2 120. I’m going to lower the price on it a bit for anyone who writes me and mentions the blog, you can have it for $1500. It’s in amazing condition , still crispy- like new without the hassled of packing a brand new canopy. Yes, I know, I just got this one to the point where it wasn’t a bitch to pack and now I’m selling it. Your welcome, to whoever buys it. Lines are still bright white. It’s only got 200 jumps on it. No rips, holes or patches. Zero cutaways. Always packed indoors on carpet. Picture below. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you or someone you know is interested.
On that note, back to the craziness of life. I promise to do my best to update more often. After all, I’ve got another upcoming tunnel trip I’ll have to tell you all about.
Apologies I’ve been MIA for so long – it’s really only been just over a week but it feel like forever since I’ve written.
Last week was spent entirely in Boston and New Hampshire, checking out the city and the fall foliage, and most importantly getting a few hours of tunnel time.
Skyventure New Hampshire is a 30 minute drive (sans traffic – which is rare) from Boston and I can’t recommend this tunnel enough. A friend of mine who arranged for our group to go on this trip had been talking it up, but until I was there I just didn’t get how great the facilities, staff and instructors really are.
Having trained at Paraclete and Skyventure Colorado, I was used to having tunnel instructors who were also skydivers, so I was amazed to find out half way through our trip that most of the guys at SVNH are solely tunnel rats. Let me tell you what, they are some of the most amazing flyers I’ve seen, and some of the nicest. Their ability to instruct is top-notch – every time I thought I wasn’t going to get something, Brad, Ryan, Zack, Derek or Ed would lean over and say that one thing that made it all click.
I was told they have great mojo when it comes to getting jumpers off the net (head down) and they weren’t kidding. Not only that, but the drills they suggested helped break up the training and keep things fun. For two of the four days we were there, our group took up the majority of the rotations and we all had opportunity to jump in and fly with other people on their time. So much progression was happening before our eyes and getting to watch your friends nail that maneuver they’ve been working so hard to get is awesome. On the days we weren’t dominating the tunnel we were able to meet and fly with some other jumpers which always ended up being a great time.
Every time I go to the tunnel I have to admit I dread it a little bit. I know that I’m going to be sore for days after and that it’s going to beat me up – but I’m addicted the progression so it’s worth it. After leaving SVNH all I wanted to do was go back. Regardless of the soreness in my legs and my shoulders that were screaming at me to quit, I would have found a way to fly more rotations, if only there was more money and more time.
Needless to say, it’s worth flying to Boston to get some time in this tunnel. I can’t wait till we go back again. Check out some pictures below from the trip.
That’s pretty much what my weekend consisted of…jump, pack, repeat. Every time I find myself at Skydive Atlanta I’m turning loads. Thankfully, I usually have a plan when I head in that direction and multiple friends to jump with – by the time I’m packed up after I jump someone’s usually got a jump ticket in their hand for me.
Saturday was spent doing freefly after freefly with my buddy Evan and we were lucky enough to connect with Raymond Adams who it turns out is not only a phenomenal photographer but a pretty great skydiver as well. We walked away with some amazing shots.
Speaking of amazing shots, there was a jump planned for The Chive where two of us are wearing our shirts to submit to the website. Our plan wasn’t fully baked, we knew what we wanted to accomplish, but as of Saturday afternoon hadn’t exactly figured out how to make it work. He’s not much of a freeflyer and I’m not much of a belly flyer and we pretty much had one shot to make it happen. Thankfully, as we were talking it out, Ray came by and was willing to go with us, helped us figure out a plan and got some amazing photos of our exit and of our hybrid flying.
Check him out at the link above. He also does hair and makeup in the ATL area – I’ll be testing out his skills there soon. Ladies, I’ll be sure to report back.
Saturday finished out with the hardest opening I’ve experienced on my Sabre2 yet – feet flung over my head and almost instant headache. I’m still feeling it down my back today. Guess that’s what I get for starting my pack job on a 10 minute call. Thankfully I wasn’t manifested for the sunset load given that a) it was a big-way belly thing and b) it filled up by 3:00 in the afternoon. So instead Mikey and I set out to work getting the beer ready for swoop ‘n chug. Four of us hung out in the swoop lanes, beer in hand to pass off to those competing. There’s a great shot of the first snag of the evening, right out of my hand, it’s coming I swear…
I made a last minute decision to board my dog just in case I decided to jump both Saturday and Sunday – and thankfully I did. We jumped till sunset and everyone went to dinner where a large margarita is essentially a fishbowl of tequila. I had assistance with it, but there was no way this girl was driving anywhere after that. So, drinking more around the bonfire sounded like a fabulous idea. I haven’t stayed out at a dropzone and drank like that (aside from Summerfest) in quite some time. It was nice to be immersed in the community again.
At 7:30am I was regretting the decision to jump on the first load big-way, but given that I haven’t done a belly jump like that in oh, two years or so, I figured it couldn’t hurt to test out my skills. Let’s just say they’re rusty and leave it at that. I need to make it a point to do more of those to get those skills up to par.
I managed to make the next two loads before the winds picked up and my hangover set in. Guys tried to drag me into a cross-country from 12 miles out, but I was in no mood to fight with crappy winds – my wind pussy status lives on. I really have no complaints about my weekend aside from a bit of soreness which only serves to remind me of the amazing time that was had in the sky with my friends.
p.s. Random after thought…I didn’t set out to write a post purely about my weekend, but then again I haven’t had many photos/videos to share lately so I thought y’all might enjoy seeing me jump for a change. I’ll be back to random ramblings later this week.
Hard to believe that summer is over. That means something completely different than it did last year at this time when I was in Chicago preparing for winter. Here in the South we’re still experiencing 80+ degrees during the day, but the mornings and evenings are becoming cooler and the humidity isn’t nearly as high (my hair is thrilled with that).
Though the skydiving season is still in full swing for me, I like to take time to reflect every now and again on the lessons that I’ve learned – both in the world of skydiving and in the community at large. Life has presented me with a lot of great information I’m sure others would benefit from hearing, if they haven’t received the message from the universe yet themselves.
- Surround yourself with good people and you’ll continue to experience good in the world. - It’s amazing how true this is. In all my moves I’ve been blessed to find good people and they’ve introduced me to other good people, and at the end of the day when I find myself surrounded by people who truly care, I couldn’t be happier. The lesson here is this: choosing not to welcome negative people into your life, or even removing someone from your life who doesn’t bring positive vibes, doesn’t make you a bad person – it opens the door for so much more than you might imagine.
- Prioritize. – This goes with everything in life, but I’m specifically referring to skydiving here. If you’ve been around these parts long you’re aware that sticking with a discipline isn’t my forte. But once I finally committed to freeflying and threw myself into the tunnel to be beat up rotation after rotation and spent all my time and money traveling for coaching or even just to jump with some bad ass freeflyers, I knew this is where I was meant to be in the sport. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve still got my fair share of frustrations with my flying, but that’s just the nature of the beast. More time, more money. I’ll get there, and one day I’ll be that bad ass freeflyer that people are chasing.
- Skydivers protect each other. – This partially goes without saying as we’re all a bit responsible for the safety of our fellow jumpers. See someone’s chest strap routed wrong, you’re telling them. We all do pin checks for each other on the ground and in the plane…it’s just what we do. But what surprised me more than that was the personal protection you receive when you’re among fellow jumpers. The dropzone is a safe space for skydivers. We all come from different walks of life but at the end of the day you can truly be who you are without condemnation in this community, and we’re all there for each other when times get tough. Some of my closest friends are skydivers, not just because of the shared interest, but because they are good people who appreciate me for me and who I trust have my back. I know that when I go to the dropzone on the weekends I’ve got people watching out for me and take great comfort in that fact.
- Don’t be afraid of the word ‘no.’ – I learned this long ago when it came to my career, but it never really dawned on me that I could apply it to my personal life too. If there’s something you want, ask. What’s the worst that could happen? You hear the word ‘no’ and you’re in the exact same position as if you’d never asked.
- Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ – This is one I’m still working on. Personally, I’m a people pleaser and if saying no might disappoint someone I’m likely to say yes, often begrudgingly. But all that’s going to do is make me bitter when my time could be much better spent doing something that benefits me as well.
- Live within your means – Still a struggle of mine, of course, but I’ve found there’s so much less stress when you live within a budget – sorta. I was so good at this at the beginning of the summer, but with travel, new gear and tunnel it’s become a challenge again. Living within your means doesn’t have to mean that you can’t have any fun – just reallocate money to what’s most important. If you’re traveling all the time, live in a modest place….stop shopping at Nordstrom during the week so you can fund that tunnel trip. There’s ways to cut corners to get what you want – you just have to figure out what’s most important in your life. I found that selling gear I wasn’t using helps. I wanted a new helmet, so I sold mine. I ordered a new tunnel suit, so I sold my old wingsuit. Selling a pair of freefly pants and an old jumpsuit I wasn’t wearing anymore helped fund my Viso2 purchase. Hoarding gear was not productive for me, selling it was.
- I’ve got amazing friends. This brings us back to the beginning of the list. Sure, I choose to surround myself with good people these days, but they also choose to stick around. They say that it’s the hard times in life that let you know who your true friends are, but truth be told, I’ve been in a great place for quite some time and I continue to be awed at how wonderful, protective and caring my friends are.
Life is too short not to try as hard as you can every day to be living the way that’s going to make you happiest – acknowledging the lessons will help you get there faster. The road might not be filled with unicorns shitting rainbows but at the end of the day, if you can look yourself in the mirror and be happy with what’s looking back at you then you’re doing pretty well.
Love and Blue Skies!
It’s amazing how fast life moves sometimes. Three years seems so long ago – so much has happened in that time – but it was just three years ago that we said goodbye to a good friend and an incredible skydiver.
Dan ‘Danger’ Mathie was not only a friend, but one of my mentors early on in the sport. He showed me to how conquer my nerves, how to love the sky for what it is. He impressed us all with his freeflying and swooping skills. His videos continue to teach those of us who only aspire to be so great one day.
It seems like just yesterday I was playing ground crew at his demos and photographing every move as he swooped into Nelson Ledges to the cheers of the crowd. Then I received that call – the one that knocked the wind out of me, asking me to contact specific individuals to let them know the news. Time stopped. I didn’t hear that right.
The following weeks we all held each other up – our Parkman skydiver community came together to celebrate a life that touched so many. Trust me Dan, you’re still impacting us all to this day.
Huge thanks to Pat Ralph for taking these videos and photos of Dan to make an amazing tribute (below) that shows just what an incredible person Dan was. This says more than I ever could. He lives on with every jump we do. BSBD my friend.
Love and Blue Skies!
I know y’all are probably tired of hearing me say that Deepseed is the shit when it comes to jumpsuits – because they are – but I wanted to review some of the important reasons why, if you’re in the market for a suit, you should really consider them.
First and foremost, customer service. If you’ve been in the sport a while, you know those skydiving manufacturers who have the reputation of having terrible customer service and those who have been known to bend over backwards to ensure their customers have everything they need, and then some (like the PDs and L&Bs of the world). Let me tell you, Deepseed falls into the latter category.
Having worked with them for the greater part of the season, I’m absolutely amazed at the level of responsiveness I receive each time I reach out. Even with a 16 hour time difference, Liam, Sally and Krista make time in their early mornings to answer my questions and ensure I’ve got everything I need before the sun goes down on the East Coast of the States. They’re so patient with my random requests, last minute design changes and tweaks – Krista has even jumped on Skype to walk through requests step-by-step to ensure they get it right.
Working with a company who not only is responsive but willing to go above and beyond at all hours of the day to ensure top-notch service is an experience to look forward to. Ordering skydiving gear should not be a chore – it should be enjoyable. You should love the final product, because as we all know, that shit ain’t cheap, but at the end of the day, when the product you ordered comes in the mail and you can tell that they took care in the design and development, it’s all worth it.
That’s what you get with Deepseed. Quality. Stellar customer service. And a custom design that is like no other.
I’ve mentioned the quality in previous posts, but I have to go over that again. I have been with friends at the dropzone and watched as the stitching on their “name brand” suits unravels before our eyes. I’ve also seen people blow their suits apart in the tunnel – even suits that were “tunnel rated.” It’s disheartening to see – especially when these people spent hundreds and waited for weeks on these suits that were supposed to stand the test of time only to fall apart within the first 6 months they’ve had them.
I’ve also seen suits that have FINALLY arrived only to be far too large, or too small, and need to be sent back to be altered multiple inches. That goes beyond measurement error, that’s just sloppy. Deepseed has this amazing measuring school online with pictures and video to show you how to get the most accurate measurements and will ensure that, if you’ve followed instructions, your suit will come back fitting like a glove. Mine did. The INverter that we ordered at the same time did.
And if there’s any question about a measurement or a design request, you better believe you’ll get an email from Krista or Sally rather than having them guess. This just goes to show the level of customer service you can expect from them – the highest!
If you need a tunnel rated suit, I highly recommend looking into the Vyper – made for both men and women. Or, if you’re a jumper in the summer and a tunnel rat in the winter like me, talk to them about adding a layer of windproof material to the Curv8or or INverter (the men’s version of the Curv8or which is an amazing freefly suit) so you can fly it in and out of the tunnel without worrying about blowing out your sipper.
Guys, it’s evident that I can’t say enough good about Deepseed, as a company, as people, as designers. Do your research, email them about design options (you can do much more with design than you can on their design program online, just shoot them a note, they’ll work with you) I promise you, you won’t regret giving them a chance. I certainly haven’t.
Love and Blue Skies!
When I was fresh off student status back in 2009, I found myself getting pulled into fairly big-way belly stuff. By my 40th jump I’d done two 8 ways, a 10 way and an attempted 15 way jump. A typical skydive for me during this RW phase included anywhere from 6-8 people. We’d start with a BFR (big fucking round for those who aren’t familiar) and turn points if time allowed.
At one local event one of my AFF instructors pulled me aside and told me that I really should get away from the big ways and do some basic 2 and 3-ways to improve my skills. At the time, I wasn’t sure why this was valuable advice – I was by far the newest jumper in the group and many of those flyers had hundreds if not thousands of jumps, so I was learning something on every jump.
But now, as a freeflyer, I completely get this advice. So often I see people who want to learn something in the sky getting on these 6, 7, 8-way freefly jumps, where the average jumper has 300 skydives and is trying to organize something where that guy who can barely hold his sit is base. I’m always there to watch these videos and hear the post-jump commentary, because 99 times out of 100 the jump went to total shit and became what we call a zoo dive.
Not only are you not going to learn much on these jumps, but often times they can be quite dangerous with jumpers of varied experience levels all over the sky.
So what do you do when you’re manifested on one of these jumps that just keeps growing in size but you really want to learn and know the jump isn’t going to be productive? You have to know when a jump becomes too many to properly learn and progress and be willing to back out. Fun as these jumps might be, save them for sunset load, when you’ve had a productive day in the sky and want to end the day with something entertaining.
The last two weekends in the sky were spent doing one-on-one jumps with fellow freeflyers, willing to work on some stuff in the sky. I literally did the same jump all day last Saturday, and this Saturday was basically the same, working on the same transition over and over, and getting coaching on how to improve.
I chatted with one of the jumpers who had been jumping with a larger group of beginner and intermediate freeflyers all day, and there was frustration in their tone. Learning wasn’t happening on these big jumps and all they wanted was to walk away with some things to work on, having seen even the smallest improvement in their flying, but that didn’t happen with skydives like these.
I’m not normally one for shelling out advice, given that I’m still very much a student in this sport myself, but consider it advice from an AFF instructor – that’s where it came from originally, after all: if you want to improve your skills, stick to 2 and 3-ways, get some coaching, and dedicate yourself to practice and drill dives. Save the zoo-ways for boogies and sunset load. You’re bound to see improvement if you just put your head to it.
I’m caught in it – help me! That spot between being a beginner freeflyer and actually being able to hang with the big boys. The awkward place where you’re capable and confident head up, but when it comes to putting your head toward the Earth you’re hit or miss.
It’s called being an intermediate freeflyer, and some days it just sucks.
For 200+ jumps I loved being a beginner freeflyer – I got to fly with people who knew what they were doing, who could teach me a thing or two, but weren’t so amazing that they were only on their heads. As a member of the skydiving community at Skydive Chicago last year, I got to enter the world of intermediate freeflying by showing others some tricks on how to hold a sit and not backslide, while doing some organized dives with the better jumpers. It was a great time to be caught in the middle.
Moving to The South has been a challenge in that area, as most people who are freeflying around me are either super newbies who want my help in their sit progression, or super good and have their own agenda (like VFS practice). So I tend to spend a lot of time helping others and not as much time practicing and improving my own skills. (Don’t get me wrong here, I loving giving back to the community that helped me get to where I am today, but I also love being a sponge and soaking in new knowledge and experiences from those better than me…)
Lucky for me, I was able to catch the name of another “caught in the middle” jumper who was looking to do some serious practice: head down exits, sit docking, transitions, all those things that take jump after jump to lock down.
That’s the thing with freeflying – it takes a lot of practice and a lot of currency in the discipline. It’s been difficult finding people as dedicated to learning as I am, so when I find them, I claim them.
This past weekend I headed down to Skydive Atlanta to do some two-way practice with Jon. I received his name from a friend out at The Farm and I’m glad I did. A full day of turning loads and we were pretty thrilled with our progression. Check out a video of one of our best jumps of the day below. So fun. We’re planning to do it again soon, too, along with a couple others I’ve found who want to spend some serious learning time in the sky.
Until then, I’m hoping to enjoy more time in the sky and on the ground, giving and receiving tips on freefly, traveling, and making a tunnel trip or two to keep this learning curve on the upswing.