Last week was the 1 year anniversary of my first skydive.
It’s hard to believe how much my life has changed since that day. I make it a point not to discuss my life in too much depth, after all, you’re not here to listen to me talk about myself. It’s about the sport!
But given that I’ve been blogging about it for nearly a year, and I’ve politely avoided the personal inquiries along the way, I thought it might be time to provide a little insight into the author of this little corner of the universe I like to call my blog
This is a combination of a meme and the type of questions I’d ask the Experts in the Friday column – though oddly enough most of it relates to skydiving in some way. Since I’m far from being an expert in anything, especially skydiving, I certainly don’t see this worthy of a Friday post.
So for those who have inquired, or those who may be mildy interested (why, what’s wrong with you?) here’s a little about me and my experiences.
*Photo by Nancy Mellish
As you probably guessed by the title of today’s post, Safety Day this year was weathered out as far as actual skydiving was concerned, but we had a great turnout at Skydive PA!
This was Cecil’s first Safety Day as DZO, and he made it look easy! The day started with general refreshers like malfunctions, safety in freefall, on the ground preparations…you get the idea. Then we broke off into groups based on ability level. I sat with the group that discussed camera flying and what to do at the scene of an accident.
All very good stuff. Then there was the presenting of the Ches Judy Award, which went to one of the most helpful instructors I’ve ever met – John Ellison!
*Photo by Nancy Mellish
The rest of the evening was spent mingling, chatting with staff, and getting reacquainted with the local skydiving community. I really enjoyed the time I spent with the freeflyers and soaking up knowledge from the rigger on staff. Good stuff!
It just so happens that while discussing some things with one of the students, she seemed very interested when I’d mentioned selling off my triathlon to downsize. Further discussion led to her trying on my entire rig, which she instantly fell in love with.
So what does this mean? Well, looks like I’m in the market for some new gear!
I’m already planning to order a custom Infinity rig from Velocity Sports – what can I say, I fell in love, there’s no turning back now!
I’m also in the market for an AAD and a used 150 until I order a custom 135…I’m a slow downsizer. Know of any 150s that need a temporary home?
So how was your Safety Day?
One night I dreamt that I had been talking with a friend after skydiving, and he said to me “I knew you’d cut away before your 100th.” The next day, it came true…
A couple weeks back, during the Everglades Boogie at Skydive AirAdventures, I experienced my first cut away. It was an enlightening experience in a number of ways…let me explain.
(And yes, for the record, I already purchased my owed case of beer.)
Friday evening we signed up for a high altitude jump first thing the next morning – after which we jumped on the sunset load to finish out the day.
The weather was beautiful – nothing quite like a sunset Skyvan load – though the wind had picked up slightly.
Naturally, this makes me a little nervous about making it back to the DZ, given that I’m under a canopy that’s proving to be too large for my exit weight. And I was right – the skydive was immensely fun, a 4-way horny gorilla – but I didn’t quite make it back to the LZ. I landed just shy of the target…in the camping area. A fellow skydiver who was firing up his grill about 10 feet from my landing spot gave me a ride back. Nice guy!
So I took this frustration and headed straight to the Aerodyne tent to ask them for a smaller, demo canopy to use on the high altitude jump in the morning.
Given the fact that there was a higher probability of my landing off on a high altitude, I didn’t want to increase those odds by flying my canopy in the higher winds that were expected for the morning.
I worked with the rep, Les, to decide on a canopy to fly. We settled on a Pilot since I was familiar with them as a student.
As he was installing the demo I asked who packed it last and if I should repack the canopy. His words: “This is a brand new canopy and I packed it myself so that should be the least of you worries.”
Perfect! So I was good to go for the morning.
That day I was nervous. Mainly because I was doing a high altitude at an unfamiliar DZ in a little bit of wind – I really didn’t want to land in the sugar cane!
But the jump went well – I was a little late out the door, but was able to hold a sit for 60 seconds or so. It was good practice.
And then, I deployed. Almost instantly (read: as soon as the bag was out of the container) I could feel that something was amiss. Looking up I said to myself (literally, aloud) “I’ve seen videos of this shit before.” There were countless line twists above my head and I was spinning to the left.
Reaching up and attempting to spread the risers I realized the situation was too far out of hand, the lines weren’t budging. At just under 2,000 feet, I didn’t want to waste anymore time so I reached for the cutaway pillow and chopped.
Before I could even grasp onto that silver handle my reserve was above my head. Thank you RSL.
Now safetly under a crisp, white canopy, I gathered myself, stuck my cut away handle in my teeth (I wasn’t about to be the girl who lost her handles) and steered myself back to the DZ.
I thought for sure with this situation I was going to end up in a sugar cane field somewhere, but with the breeze that had picked up even more, I made it back. Though when I got there, I wasn’t penetrating the wind at ALL, so I had to pick from one of three options:
1) land on the packing tend
2) land on top of the skyvan
3) gracefully set myself down on the tarmac between the two
I went for the latter and prepared to PLF like it was my job. The winds helped set me down on my feet and luckily there were plenty of people nearby who rushed over to pluck my canopy out of the air before it touched the concrete.
As expected, Les was there to meet me after the cut away – though not quite with the message I had anticipated. He briefly interrogated me on why I cut away his canopy (to which I responded “because I wanted to live”), then, with clear frustration, he headed off to “find it.”
Lucky for everyone, both the canopy and freebag landed at the edge of the airport and were retrieved unharmed.
I was then approached by two Performance Designs reps who had no idea I was testing out a canopy, but wanted to see if I was alright and inquire about the malfunction. I instantly gained a lot of respect for PD. Throughout the weekend I talked with Karl about accuracy and tips for packing to ensure that things like this don’t happen in the future.
Feeling rather exhilerated, I disregarded the attitude the Aerodyne rep presented, and headed over to meet Rick. The extra adrenaline rush was really starting to hit me. The event seemed so clear (though now it’s rather fuzzy – wish I would have worn the GoPro on that jump after all) and I was feeling like I could do anything. Hell, I just saved my own life!
Thankfully, Thomas was available for a rush repack, so we headed up to the rigging loft. While I was waiting, Les came back to me with my canopy in hand (my personal canopy, not the cutaway). He proceeded to blame me for cutting away a canopy he seemed to believe was landable.
What gets me more than anything is that the thought never crossed my mind to be upset with Aerodyne – and yet that’s exactly how they approached me.
I was completely taken aback by the disrespect and lack of concern for my safety that he displayed, so were other onlookers.
Jokes began to fly that I cut away a perfectly good Aerodyne canopy because I knew I had a better PD reserve to use. Which of course, was not the case. Funny, none the less.
After spending time talking with lots of different folks about the incident, it’s uncertain the exact cause of the malfunction – precisely where a helmet cam would have come in handy. From body position to a bad pack job, it could be any number of things, or a combination of these factors. Regardless, as the pilot of that canopy I had a decision to make, and chopping was the right one for me. Even with some of the doubt I’ve encountered along the way, I look back with confidence and say “I had to cut that canopy away.”
One thing I’ve learned by talking to others is that other skydivers will always question your malfunction and doubt your decision to cut away. But the truth is, I was there and they were not – and in the end I learned that I can do it and it’s nothing to sweat. When you’re in that moment and you have to pull that handle, you just do it. Nothing else exists but that moment as you release your main from the container.
Though some of it is fuzzy, I look back on certain details of the malfunction with great clarity – the feel of the cut away pillow, the sound of the main releasing. I look back on the incident with an odd fondness as I walked away a more confident and knowledgable skydiver.
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?”