After the Everglades Boogie we had about 2 1/2 days of rain. This was a good chance for us to experience some things in Florida we might not have otherwise.
On the way from Clewiston to Fort Lauderdale, we stopped at a place that offers air boat rides to see the alligators. Instead of taking the ride we walked around their exhibit and saw a bunch of different animals.
From there we decided to head up to Orlando to get some tunnel time. On the way the skies cleared a bit so we swung by Skydive Sebastian in hopes that they were jumping. It was pretty dead there – must be everyone had gone to the boogie down south.
(The deserted Skydive Sebastian)
We arrived in Orlando that evening to find there were no tunnel slots left. We watched some tunnel newbies and a couple freeflyers working on their relative sit. This was actually very educational for us, as I was able to see what the smaller of the pair was doing, while Rick picked up some tips on how to slow his fall rate a bit.
The next day due to lack of funds for sufficient tunnel time, we went over to DeLand in hopes of jumping. Two days spent in DeLand were a bust – aside from the PD factory tour which was pretty nifty. We also met some great people who worked in the skydiving industry. Though we didn’t get to jump, it was a good little visit!
(Picking oranges at Skydive DeLand – waiting for the skies to clear)
The next day we checked the weather and Skydive City in Zephyrhills seemed to be our best bet for jumping. So we got in the car and made the 2 hour drive. By the time we got there, the skies had cleared and the Pac was going up!
This was my first jump back after the cut away at the Everglades Boogie, and needless to say I was more than a little nervous. There were all sorts of thoughts running through my head and I continued to doubt my pack job (even though it wasn’t my pack job that I had to chop).
We jumped with a guy named Pat who was also a freeflyer. After getting my rig stuck on the door at exit, I was pretty much out of the skydive. It was a good solo sit, though!
The second jump was the sunset load where Rick and I worked on our relative sit, again.
We woke up on day two a Skydive City to a thick layer of clouds. I was bumming because I was two jumps away from my 100th, which I really wanted to get on this trip.
Well lucky for me the clouds broke up and the day ended up being perfect. I think it was the nicest day we had the entire vacation.
Pictures like this sure make me miss 70s and sunny!
Our first jump was a two way relative sit. We decided to do a train exit as that seems to help keep us together. On this jump, it proved highly successful. When we got back to the ground we were both extremely excited – we’re starting to get it! Between my posture and putting my legs down and Rick finding the trick to getting bigger our fall rate is getting there. And though it’s hard to tell with this wide angle GoPro, we were pretty close, too.
The next jump was my 100th. Aaron, a former Cleveland Parachuter himself, went up with us to get some stills and video, so we made it a 3-way freefly – or, did our best to, anyhow.
We didn’t stay quite as relative as we would have liked, but it was a fun skydive regardless. I did cork out once which is uncharacteristic of my recent sitflys, but I was back in the game quick.
Thanks Aaron, for capturing this jump for me!
If I can ever figure out how, I’ll post Aaron’s video here or on my YouTube channel. Stay tuned. For now, you get the jump from Rick’s perspective.
Overall Skydive City was one of the best experiences of the trip. We got to jump with some great people and had incredible weather. And I’ll definitely agree that they’re the friendliest dropzone around!
If you’re in the Tampa area, Skydive City in Zephyrhills is a must. If you drop by, give Aaron my best!
Today I want to visit one aspect of the sport of skydiving that I’m no stranger to: off landings.
Upon making Canton Air Sports my home when I was still on student status, I quickly gained a reputation for landing off. At the time, we attributed most of it to the fact that I was flying student gear and huge canopies (read: 292 square feet – and for someone who tops out at 135 lbs exit weight, that’s a whole lot of canopy over my head to take me where it wants to).
Since then I’ve managed to land off at almost every DZ I’ve visited: in a soy bean field at Start skydiving (when they were in Lebanon), earning me my current nickname; frequent landings at the end of the runway and in surrounding fields at CAS; finding a pumpkin patch and cow-filled fields with bad spots at Skydive Pennsylvania…I’ll save my ego and stop here.
This weekend of winter jumping was no exception. The winds aloft were tamer than they have been, so when I landed on target during jump #1 at Skydive PA I anticipated a smooth day of canopy piloting.
The spot was a little long, so on the next jump we asked the pilot to adjust and drop us right above the runway. Well, for any of you who are familiar with this DZ, we were dropped PAST the runway over the outlet malls. On top of that my foot got caught on the step as I was exiting, so I was 2-3 seconds late in coming off the plane. My jump was basically a solo sitfly.
Before dumping, I did my best to track back toward the DZ, subsequently losing more altitude and pulling lower than I would have liked. It was those first moments under canopy, as I’m collapsing my slider, where I realized there was no way in hell I was going to make it back.
Luckily, the long runway is lined on both sides with narrow strips of grass, perfect for landing. The only problem was, if I wanted to land in an ideal patch, I was going to have to do so downwind. Yikes!
These are not my favorite types of landings, but I came in slower and softer than anticipated and slid out the landing safely.
The walk back SUCKED…but I guess that’s what I get for pulling low, knowing where I was positioned.
The video below will give you a glimpse at just how far we were away. The DZ is at the opposite end of the runway….I landed in the green patch on the left, just past the hangars…You’ll also get to see part of the train the my freefly partner did with our buddy Tom who’s a newbie freeflyer. Hi first 2-man train. You owe BEER for this one, bud!
(Video by Richard Simenc)
Lesson learned: if you’re off target, pull a little higher to either scout out a new landing area or try to make it back with the wind. This is what my fellow jumpers did, and they all made it back.
But, it’s not a complete day of winter skydiving at Grove without an off landing, right?
Let’s just hope this trend doesn’t continue while on my Florida trip… I can deal with a field full of cows, alligators not so much!
On that note, I should mention that this will be my last post for a while – about 2 weeks to be exact. I’ll do my best to keep everyone posted on what is going on in Florida at the Everglades boogie, at Deland and more on my Twitter feed: @theskydivechick. Follow me for updates!
Until next time…
There’s nothing quite like a sunset jump on Dec. 26th to make your holiday spirits even brighter!
As I mentioned last week, one of the weekend’s goals was to head out to the DZ to share in some beers and laughs with the crew. Well, lucky for us, the skies were blue and the winds on the ground were tame enough to allow a jump!
We were surprised to find out that there were only two sport jumpers packed and ready to go – Rick and me. But, the DZO was feeling the Christmas spirit and took us up anyhow. You rock, Cecil!
The winds aloft were moving at a good clip, and we were prepared to get out above the water tower – about a mile past the DZ.
Well, on this sunset load, we were having a rather difficult time spotting. Needless to say, we got out a mile from the DZ – but a mile in the wrong direction.
The skydive was a simple belly fly with one point and some fun spins before we attempted to link back up. My Dytter went off early so, you’ll notice, I waved before we could link back up.
As I tracked away I realized the dropzone was no where in sight. So I stopped tracking and pulled.
Turns out we were incredibly far north. When I turned into the wind I wasn’t penetrating well. I did my best to follow Rick down, but ended up landing in a field 1/4 mile or so down the road. If you look carefully in the video, you can see the square field I landed in as Rick is doing a 360 to lose some altitude.
Thankfully, I was close to the road and the first passerby put on his brakes and backed up to give me a lift back to my home base. From there I jumped in a car with the pilot and drove around in attempt to find Rick. Little did I know that he’d hitchhiked back as well and was driving around in search of me.
Needless to say we found our way back and had a beer in hand in no time.
There’s something quite invigorating about winter jumps. It clears your head in more ways than one. Aside from not being able to feel my hands, and the subsequent pain when the feeling returned, it was a great jump.
New lesson learned: in the winter, when winds are squirly at altitude, jump with a cell phone!
If you’re anything like me, as the season came to an end you were determined not to let the colder weather stop you from jumping when there are blue skies.
But the first time that bitter chill hits your exposed skin on the ground, you think twice about heading up to altitude in those conditions – sunny or not.
Of course, on a sunny mid-December day it didn’t take much coaxing to get me up in the air. It’d been two weeks since my last skydive and I was starting to twitch with the earliest signs of withdrawal. I was starting to feel like I needed a support group.
“Hi, I’m Ashley, and I’m a skydiver. It’s been 14 days since my last freefall…”
Alright, enough of that.
So as I mentioned on Monday, we headed down to Grove City for a couple jumps out of the C-182. Jeff, our pilot and recent past DZO consistently took us up past 11 grand – gotta love that kind of altitude out of a tiny Cessna.
The ride to altitude was surprisingly mild, but around 9,000 feet, we all started gearing up appropriately. As soon as the door opened, signaling the beginning of our jump run, we were thankful to have donned so many layers.
Given that this is the firs…um, err… the only winter so far that I’ve gone skydiving, there were plenty of lessons learned moments.
So, for those of you who are thinking about making a jump in the snow this winter, or are traveling to colder climates and want to skydive, I’ve come up with a short list of recommendations for walking away from a fun day of jumping, sans frost bite.
If I’ve missed anything, please chime in down there in the comments.
1.) Make sure you have a good pair of gloves.
-This is one I haven’t fully figured out yet, as my gloves just didn’t cut it. Gloves need to be thin enough so you can still find and grab your hackey to pull out your pilot chute, but thick enough that you’ll be able to feel your hands enough to do so.With incredible wind chill that you experience in freefall, it’s important to have gloves that will not only keep your hands toasty and comfortable, but that will cut the wind. The Nike ACG gloves that I was sporting did little to protect my fingers from stinging and turning bright red post jump. Even with latex gloves underneath, I wasn’t satisfied. Skydiving glove recommendations for this freeze baby are welcome and encouraged.
2.) Wear a full face helmet, if you have access to one.
-My buddy Don wore his new Cookie full face that he loves and it worked well for him. Helmets like that make me feel a little claustrophobic so I’ve stuck with my Bonehead Pimp Daddy that I love. But, by simply adding a balaclava I was totally fine. My face stayed nice and toasty. If you choose this route, do know that your goggles will fog up almost instantly in the plane, but once you’re out there are no fogging issues – even under canopy.
3.) Doing RW? Use your booties!
-As a girl who doesn’t do much RW these days, I find that booties help me stabilize and move more precisely. They also work wonders with keeping my tootsies warm. They help deflect the wind away and protect your feet and ankles (that would have been exposed while wearing my freefly pants).
4.) Check the winds aloft forecast.
-Though it may be fairly calm on the ground, the winds at altitude the last couple times I’ve jumped have been stronger than normal. This leads me to my next point…
5.) Check your SPOT!
-We take for granted that our pilots have GPS and the spots are usually good. Well, when winds at altitude are strong, you want to double check where you’re getting out. This will prevent you from an off landing and waiting in the cold for someone to come pick your ass up.
6.) Carry Chapstick in your pocket.
-Even if the wind isn’t directly hitting your lips, they will feel dry. Some good, protective moisture never hurt anyone.
7.) How about a breath mint?
-You know how your mouth tends to get dry just before leaping out the jump door? Well talk about cotton mouth – it’s worse in the winter. With the dry air at altitude, your skydiving partners will thank you for popping a mint before getting in that cramped little plane.
Hope you found these few little hints helpful. But tell me fellow skydivers, what am I missing when it comes to tips for winter skydiving?
Skydiving is a sport with many fascets. I remember thinking “gosh, there’s so much to this” when I was going through my AFF ground school training.
At the time, I had no idea just how much.
Freefall has always been my favorite part of skydiving. It’s what sucked me in from the start. Being under canopy has always made me a little nervous – and rightfully so.
This is one part of the sport that, if you’re not completely aware and on your toes, can be extremely dangerous.
I learned quickly that you cannot trust that those in the sky with you are good canopy pilots. In the early days of jumping in big-ways, I had a habit of separating myself from the pack under canopy, which tended to lead to long walks from landing farther away or even off the DZ.
As I became more accustom to flying and more comfortable being in the air with my fellow skydivers, I relaxed a little. At the same time, I became less aware.
Which brings me to what I’m about to tell you. This is something I’m not proud to admit, especially to y’all, but I feel like this could be a great learning experience for everyone who skydives, or plans to skydive.
Earlier this summer I was involved in a two-way canopy collision.
Yikes I know. We’re both okay, and walked away from the incident without injuries other than bruised egos.
The thing is, I was the only one who saw what happened from start to finish – and there were even a few things I missed.
It happened on an 8-way. First jump of the day, full caravan load of mostly fun jumpers. We were the first group out. I pulled at 3,500 ft, but was still flying a Sabre 210 so I was under canopy for a decent amount of time. The other girl involved was under a very large student canopy (292 if I remember correctly).
As I was setting up for my final approach, I noticed she was rather close to me, but she was headed in the opposite direction. So I disregarded it.
Mistake #1 – when you think you might be too close, you probably are. This is where I should have made a flat, right hand turn to steer away. But I didn’t.
She took a left-hand turn right in my direction! She was slightly lower than I was and didn’t see me. Rather than making any sharp movements (thinking, we’re below 500 ft, I don’t want to turn quickly) I pulled my body up and tucked my knees into my chest.
Luckily, I avoided leg contact with her canopy as she flew under me, but my foot caught her pilot chute trailing behind as I brought them back down.
As I turned around, I saw that her canopy was fully inflated. At the time, it seemed like we avoided a collision and everything was okay. Come to find out from spectators on the ground, half of her canopy collapsed!
She didn’t even realize what happened as she just thought she hit a bit of turbulent air.
We both landed safely, slightly oblivious to what had just occurred. That is, until we heard the accounts from the spectators and experienced jumpers on the ground.
(A successful stand up post-collision landing)
After some expected talking-tos, the incident hasn’t been discussed much. Though it remains fresh in my mind each time I’m under canopy. I’ve become so much more aware because of this incident, and my head is now on a swivel each time I find myself piloting my canopy.
It really hit me hard last night as I was viewing pictures of the event where this incident occurred, and came across a photo that was taken mere seconds after our paths crossed. A photo that I had no idea existed.
My initial thought was, I hope no one ever sees this again, just as our conversation shortly there after was about the concern that we’d forever be the dumb girls of the DZ, that a reputation would follow us.
But what I really hope, and what’s most important, is that people can take something away from what we experienced that day, and learn from it. After all, that’s what skydiving is about – learning from each other, good and bad.
It appears as if the pilot chute had just released from my foot as I was bringing my legs back down from my chest.
Having discussed this with others who were there, this image is worse than any of us remember. Thankfully, her student canopy reinflated as it should and we both walked away unharmed. This incident could have been a lot worse, we were lucky. In the end, we both learned a lot about the importance of safe piloting and being alert and aware under canopy.
And hopefully, all y’all learned something here today too.
It seems that this summer I found the perfect diet plan – skydiving.
Not that I was exactly in the market to lose weight, but since I’ve started spending most of my weekend time at the DZ almost 15 pounds have dropped off. And probably not in the healthiest of ways.
(The real bummer here is that my RW suit doesn’t fit nearly as well as it used to…though who doesn’t love a new suit, right?)
Eating at the dropzone never seems to be a priority. On a good day, we jump, chat about the jump, pack, chat about the next jump, maybe throw in a dirt dive or two and do it all over again.
Every few jumps someone will hand me a bottle of water that I will gulp down, not realizing how much it was actually needed. Thankfully, I have friends who pay better attention to my hydration than I do.
But when it comes to eating, I tend to ignore the rumblings in my stomach until the day’s end.
Well, when I was a student, my main reason for not eating was because I was so nervous I feared that at any moment it might come back up. So I avoided food like the plague.
As I’ve progressed, this trend has continued – mainly because that’s the trend to which I became accustom. Although my body signals to me that it needs nourishment, rarely do I actually feel hungry at the DZ. But the moment I come down from sunset load and get packed up, I realize just how famished I am!
Of course, that doesn’t stop me from cracking open a cold, refreshing beer to end the day. And with no food in my system, it’s a quick, cheap buzz, that’s for sure.
I do realize this trend needs to change. Consuming only calories from beer is bound to catch up with my health one day. But, as a girl who typically watches what she eats, accompanying fellow skydivers to the nearest fast food joint for a mid-day bite just doesn’t sit well with me.
During the Work Stinks boogie this year at Start Skydiving, we stocked up on fresh fruit and light protein bars to help get us through the weekend. This was just the ticket. You get quick fuel that doesn’t sit around in your belly for hours.
Of course, since I’ve been back at home I’ve gone right back to my old ways. Next time I head to the DZ, I’ll have to stop at the grocery store to pick up some goods.
What about you? What is your typical eating routine during weekends at the DZ? Do you too find yourself eating less?
With the recent passing of one of the most humble skydivers I’ve known, I found it appropriate to discuss what I like to call the “skydiver ego.”
Let me start by saying this: we skydivers all have ego issues. Every single one of us.
(I’m confident in my assessment that none of us are exempt. After all, what skydiver doesn’t love talking about and watching videos of their jumps?)
Think about it. We spend our free time jumping out of airplanes at 13,000 feet above the Earth, plummet at speeds upwards of 120 mph to the ground – all the while manipulating the air in such a way that it appears as if we are dancing with our fellow jumpers – and get ourselves safely back to the ground under canopy.
Essentially we’re saving our own lives, with a little bit of grace, each time we jump. Who wouldn’t be a little egotistical about that?
But, as I mentioned on Twitter a while back, it’s how we package that ego that matters most.
What gets to me are those skydivers who not only obsess over themselves and the successes they’ve had along the way – everyone likes to talk about themselves to some extent – they also constantly question their fellow jumpers.
“What size canopy are you flying?”
“How current are you?”
“How many jumps do you have?”
Now, when these questions are asked at the DZ, for safety purposes, or even just making small talk, I’m all for it. But I’ve heard these questions asked at some of the most inappropriate, irrelevant times as of late. And often, the answer is followed by an egotistical remark like “I fly a…” or “I’ve got over 600 jumps now, and I just did a demo into…” or, better yet, “you’ve only got 200 jumps? you really shouldn’t be doing…like we do…”
What I’ve also found lately is the tendency for experienced male skydivers (this has yet to happen with a woman), to take one look at me and completely disregard me. Even while at the dropzone.
Fellow jumpers have had to interrupt the conversation to introduce me and point out that I too, am a jumper. I really didn’t take this personally at first. After all, I’m a 20-something, short blonde girl who looks like she’s 18 and should be at the mall with her teeny-bopper friends.
(With one of the people I credit for turning me into a skydiver. Thanks, Bailey!)
Trust me, I get that.
But this situation has occurred with more than just me, and it’s a sad truth that people are brushed aside so easily. In fact, I’ve been to a dropzone that has a tendency to treat anyone with less than 500 jumps as incompetent, unaware, or just plain dangerous to jump with.
I’ve witnessed experienced skydivers turn their nose up, literally, at the site of a fairly new jumper. There have even been a couple instances where the experts have refused to coach less experienced jumpers on the ground because they don’t have enough jumps to work with them yet. What gives?
Maybe I’m spoiled in that my mentors have taken me under their wings, talked me through questions I had and areas for improvement, without looking down on me in the process. These are the same jumpers who acknowledge that we all started in the same place. We all had our first jump at one point in time.
So why the attitude?
Personally, I respect a skydiver (or anyone, for that matter) more when there is humbleness in their demeanor. Whether you have 5 skydives or 5,000, welcoming those jumpers around you with open arms will go a long way.
I will always remember what my mentors, coaches and instructors have done for me along the way, and intend to pay it forward to those up-and-coming skydivers who look to me for advice or mentorship.
Luckily, in my first season as a skydiver, I have encountered so many humble jumpers that have welcomed me into the fold. In fact, most everyone I’ve met has been this way.
Having experienced six different dropzones this year, the latest being Skydive Pennsylvania in Grove City, they have all been filled with down-to-Earth skydivers.
If you want to experience humble, Team Fastrax from Start Skydiving are some of the most. You’d never know just by talking to them that they are some of the most skilled jumpers around. I’m grateful for having met and talked with this team on multiple occasions. It’s people like them that support the welcoming culture of the dropzone, and it’s what keeps jumpers like me coming back for more.
*Photo courtesy of Skydive Orange
As I’ve said before, skydiving is more than just a sport, it’s a social experience. It’s a community. A tight-knit one at that. Without my friends and mentors, my freefly partner and RW buddies, the sport just wouldn’t be the same for me.
What have been some of your experiences with the “skydiver ego?”
Before I earned my A license, toward the tail end of my student training, I was told that once you’re off student status the real work begins.
At the time, I shrugged that comment off, focusing on how great it will be to finally have earned my license. And now that I have, I see just what was meant by that statement.
The last skydiving outings have been a lot of work. I’ve started jumping with groups of other experienced skydivers and have been lucky enough to be invited on some big ways with competitive jumpers who have thousands of jumps on me.
As fortunate as I am to be learning from these folks, it doesn’t come without hard work and serious concentration in the air.
Being the least experienced of, well, anyone I’ve ever jumped with, if a dive goes awry, it likely has had something to do with me. But, when it goes well and you can look back at the video and be proud of your jumping skills, it makes all those little blunders worth while.
Here’s a great example of a 6-way from this past weekend. After a couple of rough exits, we pulled this off beautifully! I can’t stop watching the five of us hold on to this formation perfectly.
It’s a feeling of pure satisfaction to know I was a part of that. Sure, there’s still lots of work to be done, but can’t I just admire what was accomplished for the time being? This jump definitely ranks high on my list of fun skydives.
It’s also been fun to get out and play around in the sky with Jeromy. He doesn’t mind doing these fun jumps with me every once in a while, and honestly, I think he enjoys having me chase him around the sky.
What have been some of your most memorable fun jumps?
The events of this weekend were so amazing, I don’t even know where to begin.
How about at the beginning?
Friday was a beautiful day and I had a work event to attend that took me well past sunset. At first this seemed like a real bummer, but the event turned out rather fabulous, what with all the drag queens and everything.
Guess you had to be there.
Saturday wasn’t an early a start as usual. I slept in a little, actually ate breakfast, and headed to the drop zone early afternoon to get in a couple hop ‘n pops that I needed checked off my list.
Saturday night we headed to Canton Air Sports to hang out with the crew there and spend the remainder of Sunday jumping, packing and learning. After the hop ‘n pops I had two more jumps before earning that good ole A-license.
So in the cloudy morning I packed parachutes and Jeromy jumped my pack on the first load while I took pictures on the ground. I can’t tell you how happy I was to see his main flying perfectly through the sky!
Second load we hopped back on and chased a group out the door, and did a couple manuvers in preparation for my check dive.
I sat out the third and fourth loads, doing more on-the-ground work – changing a main closing loop and all that – then I met with Tom before my check jump. We walked through the dive and he signed off on the rest of my card. At this point I could barely contain my self.
The jump went well with docking and tracking successes and a beautiful stand-up landing. By the time I was back to the hanger my proficiency card was complete and I became an A-licensed skydiver.
After this I was completely drained, but when the offer of heading up on the last load came my way I couldn’t pass it up. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of being a licensed skydiver on a sunset load.
With a couple of docks and a couple spins with Jeromy it was a great jump to end the weekend.
Sunday was by far the best day I’ve had this summer. The DZ was filled with all the people I love to jump with most and spirits were high. One more reminder why I love this sport and the community of jumpers that come with it.
Speaking literally and figuratively, actually.
The one thing I love most about the drop zones that I’ve been to is that the people, for the most part, are extremely down to Earth, even the experts.
It’s been rare that I’ve encountered elitist attitudes from even the most talented skydivers. As my experience has shown, these jumpers are not only willing, but happy to jump with you, provide advice, or just talk you through an area where you might be struggling.
(With Tom and Bob. The two best AFF instructors and skydivers I will always look up to.)
As someone who’s not the most confident canopy pilot, I’ve been given a lot great advice from jumpers with years of experience that has helped me get safely to the ground.
In fact, I have Larry and Dan at Cleveland Parachute to thank for teaching me the spotting and landing skills I have today. If there’s one skill I’ve acquired, it’s landing close to my target.
These experts just love talking about the sport, recounting memories of their best and worst jumps, and teaching newbies the tricks of the trade.
Of course we all know how much I love talking about it – I have a blog devoted to it, after all. I’m thankful that I have great mentors that will help keep me level-headed as I progress in the sport.
(My mentor, coach and friend, Lonnie!)
In my short time as a part of the skydiving community, I’ve come to cherish this attribute and I gravitate toward the experienced skydivers who welcome me with open arms. One day I hope to be as skilled and just as humble as they are.