As I sit here looking outside at what meteorologists across the Midwest are referring to as Snowpocalypse, I can’t help but dream about those sunny afternoons spent in free fall.
If you’re a skydiver living in a place that gets all four seasons like I do, then you understand the inherent challenge of staying on top of the sport throughout the long winter months.
Time off of this magnitude can not only be detrimental to your spirit, but to your ability to keep your body and mind in tune with the sport. Regardless of what the title says, this post is about more than just having enough jumps to not have to worry about recurrency skydives come spring.
But, that’s a great place to start. According to the United States Parachute Association, “skydivers returning after a long period of inactivity encounter greater risk that requires special consideration to properly manage.”
Lucky for us, they provide strict guidelines of this “period of time” so that it’s not left up to the individual skydiver to determine the meaning behind this subjective statement.
Students: Students who have not jumped within the preceding 30 days should make at least one jump under the direct supervision of an appropriately rated USPA Instructor.
A license: USPA A-license holders who have not made a freefall skydive within 60 days should make at least one jump under the supervision of a currently rated USPA instructional rating holder* until demonstrating altitude awareness, freefall control on all axes, tracking, and canopy skills sufficient for safely jumping in groups.
B license: USPA B-license holders who have not made a freefall skydive within the preceding 90 days should make at least one jump under the supervision of a USPA instructional rating holder until demonstrating the ability to safely exercise the privileges of that license.
C and D licenses: USPA C- and D-license holders who have not made a freefall skydive within the preceding six months should make at least one jump under the supervision of a USPA instructional rating holder until demonstrating the ability to safely exercise the privileges of that license.
*This could be a coach or an instructor.
You can get more details about recurrency requirements here under section 5.2 of the Skydiver Instruction Manual.
Okay, so now that that’s out of the way, let’s take a look at some other fun tips to keep your head in the game in the off season:
1. Travel – this is the obvious one. There are so many winter boogies to attend, like Everglades in Clewiston FL and Puerto Rico and Skydive Arizona’s Easter Boogie. Not to mention all the tunnel boogies that are popping up. Of course, you don’t have to go to a boogie, even though they’re so much fun! You can always just take a quick weekend trip somewhere warm to get in a few skydives. The best way to stay current!
2. Snow jumps – of course, if you can’t afford to make a trip to warmer climates, there’s always the option to jump in the cold and snow. This, of course, assumes that there’s a dropzone within driving distance that’s flying year round to take you up. I promise you, altough it sounds bad, we did this a handful of times last year and it wasn’t that bad. Stay covered and you’ll be fine. It’s worth it to stay current and to get that free fall fix. Yes, the feeling does eventually come back to your fingers.
3. Google it - seek out every skydiving resource you can online. Use Dropzone.com to stay informed with articles you haven’t read yet, discussions on forums, incident report, even take a look at the latest used gear for sale in the classifieds to get you jazzed up for the season. Seek out articles on canopy piloting, wingsuiting and other disciplines you might be interested in tackling this season. Skim the SIM online (here) in preparation for Safety Day – officially March 12 this year. If you can’t stay current in the sky, at least keep your mind current with all the information that’s out there to consume.
4. Read, write, watch. You’re in the right place for this tip! Don’t feel like you have to spend all your time reading the hardcore articles and incident reports, you can learn from the fun stuff too. Pick up the latest issues of Blue Skies Magazine and Parachutist, see what they have to say. Find your favorite skydivers on YouTube and watch some videos to get you really jonesing.
There you have it, a few tips for staying sane and current in the off season. Of course, keeping in close contact with your adrenaline junkie friends around the world helps…misery loves company as they say.
Good news is Safety Day is just around the corner, though I do have to say it’s hard to believe with 6 foot snow drifts in the Chicagoland area right now. Here’s to a safe and quick winter.
As skydivers, we tend to be dreamers.
Yes, this is a fairly bold statement to make, as it’s making assumptions about a category of people that is typically so diverse it can be difficult to find a single trait that cross the spectrum of skydivers, but think about it for a second.
Skydiving is one of those sports where, we all started from one. Every single one of us had a first skydive at one point or another. We all started out not having a clue – because really, with an activity like this that’s so unnatural for humans in the first place, how could you really have any idea what to expect? We all have to go through a process of learning. Some learn faster than others and are labelled “naturals,” but I’m a firm believer in the idea that there’s nothing “natural” about this, so to me these people are just quick studies.
Regardless, the one thing I’ve found to be pretty standard across the broad spectrum of skydivers (as I’ve noted before, you get everything from surgeons and dentists to business men and women to college kids to full time packers/skydivers and everything in between at the dropzone…there’s not a “typical” jumper from what I’ve seen) is that we’re all dreamers, in one way or another.
With our first jump we all had a dream to continue on in this sport (true because, we’re here, aren’t we?), in one form or another. Whether it was knowing from day one that you wanted to fly a wingsuit so you followed protocol, jumped through all the hoops (no pun intended) and got your 200 jumps so you could fly that wingsuit and never look back, or whether you set out to learn as much as you could to be able to get your ratings so you can turn around and teach others to enjoy the sport just as much as you, or if you knew you wanted to compete, so you work hard, spend time in the tunnel to get on a 4-way team. Whatever the path you ended up taking was the one initially envisioned, we all had a dream within this sport – even the simplest “I want to get my license so I can do this whenever I want,” was your only goal.
This was initially my intention. Of course, once I entered the skydiving community and realized how many great people and how many cool things there were to do and see, my vision changed.
For me, as I looked at the future, the possibilities were endless. The landscape is ever changing, there are always new challenges. Skydiving is one of those sports that has so many facets, so many disciplines to learn, that once you’ve mastered one thing, there’s a new challenge awaiting you.
This is something I’ve always relished about skydiving, the never-ending personal challenge involved. You don’t have to go to Nationals to get your competitive juices flowing. You can compete every single time you jump – even if it’s only with yourself.
If you work hard to progress in the sport and open yourself up to new challenges, you just might be surprised at the doors that seemingly open themselves and attempt to pull you through to the next opportunity. I continue to be amazed by how much my life has changed since skydiving. Not all of it has happened through the skydiving world, but I do have the sport to thank for opening my eyes to what it is I want and the paths I decide to take in this life.
Life is short, sometimes too short, and taking advantage of those chances to make your life better, and allow you to make it better for the people around you, that’s what it’s all about.
Skydiver or not, there’s a lot to learn just by lifting your head skyward and looking up at the possibilities – you might be surprised what you see. Opportunities will cross in front of your face every single day, if you let them. Start putting the pieces of the life you want to lead together, and open your eyes to all the possibilities that the universe is offering up.
Love and Blue Skies!
It might be a bit dramatic, but it got you reading…and sadly, it can be very true.
For most, this goes without saying. As skydivers, awareness and attention is pounded into our brains from day 1 in AFF (or Static Line, or whatever training program you pursued).
But as we progress in the sport and become more comfortable – as with most aspects of life – we tend to have a element of complacency about us.
Expectations that things are going to work out the way they “should,” that our main is going to work perfectly, that everyone will fly the landing pattern, that the winds will stay steady for us to tiptoe out that landing, even that our packer will be having a good day so we can get right back up and do it all over again are not uncommon.
Of course, it helps to think this way, to visualize that everything works out the way it should, so you can focus on the tasks at hand. In fact, there’s actually an element of safety in doing so. But you can still do that while remaining an active participant in the safety game.
Doing small things like practicing your emergency procedures in the plane (touch those handles before every jump, just to remind yourself), working out and sticking to a dive plan with your fellow jumpers, and keeping your head on a swivel under canopy are a few good habits to get into to keep yourself, and those around you, safe.
One of the other things I do is try to stay as educated on the sport as possible. Read the incident reports and why things happen. Watch videos, learn from the good and the bad. Use your downtime (literally) to keep yourself aware. The more your head stays in the game when you’re on the ground, the more you’ll be with it in the sky.
Remember that muscle-memory stuff that was pounded into our heads as students? Same goes for your brain. Keep it active in the sport, even when you’re not jumping for one reason or another. That way, you won’t have to work so hard on that next outing to remember the little nuances of the sport (“is it normally a left-hand pattern?” “wait, do I turn right or left when approaching another jumper under canopy?”), it’ll all be fresh in your mind.
The take away here is that, no matter how skilled a skydiver you are, accidents happen. Luckily for us, there are a number of things you can do to help prevent these accidents from happening. What I mentioned above are just a few of the things you can do, recommendations that I’ve learned from my experiences. What other safety habits do y’all have?
Stay safe – and aware- out there!
Love and blue skies!
One thing I’ve come to see in my short time in the skydiving world is that skydivers are the ultimate live-in-the-moment creatures. This is something that I love, mostly because it’s taught me how to live in the moment more in the other aspects of my life…which, I think, makes life more enjoyable.
But of course, playing that devil’s advoate role that I love so much, we can’t forget about the other side of that, the one where we have a tendency to seek out the novel…to only really enjoy the things that are new and exciting.
On the surface, that doesn’t sound so bad, but when it comes to things like progression in the sport, being ADD (ooh, look, shiny new wingsuit, I want to try that) doesn’t bode so well for your desire to improve those freefly skills.
Think of it this way, you can’t bitch and moan about not sticking that head down when you only practice it every two months because your attention is constantly drawn to other elements of the sport. It takes practice, and determination. Muscle memory can’t be built without regular repition, so unless you’re a natural at everything you do, this tendency to trail off can harm your progression in skydiving…heck, in any sport really. For anyone who has been paying attention, can you tell this is a mini-lecture to myself?
I’ve noticed my tendency to be distracted by these shiny skydiving objects too. Going back to my first few months in the sport, freefly showed it’s pretty little face and pulled me away from RW. Then came camera flying, then wingsuiting – and it’s only been a year and a half…so you can see how this could carry out in my skydiving career. Ha!
The good thing is, when it comes to skydiving at least, no matter what you’re doing in the sky, every jump teaches you the art of manipulating the air in order to do the things you want as you’re falling toward the Earth. Each skydive gives you roughly 3,000 ft. to practice your canopy skills. The key is, taking advantage of these opportunities, by living in the moment and using every second to your advantage.
Which brings me back to my first point, that skydivers are some of the best when it comes to living in the moment. Wow, this came full circle. Not sure I started out with that plan, but that’s where it’s ended up. This was going to conclude with a life lesson, and I think it still can — one that’s geared mostly toward the skydiving community and it’s this: live in the moment, enjoy each and every second while you’re doing it, and be sure to take advantage of the time you’re given. But, don’t let your need for novelty ruin what you’ve spent so much time building.
Ohh…check that out. Maybe it’s not so skydiving focused after all. “Don’t let the need for novelty ruin what you’ve spent so much time building.” — that can apply to any aspect of life, relationships, career, sports…you name it.
Hope this was as an enlightening of a post for you as it was for me.
Love and Blue Skies!
That’s what I want to be one day…a good skydiver.
Over the weekend we headed down to Canton Air Sports – yep, the old stomping grounds – where Mark Vickers was flying the Skyvan for the weekend. Not only was I able to jump my new rig – Beer, yes, duly noted – but we were able to get some great jumps in!
After the sun set we all sat around the big screen to watch some of the bad ass freeflying that took place that day – and I have to admit, I was in awe for most of it.
There are a couple friends of ours who are brothers – Joe and Dave (hey guys!) – who are two of the sickest freeflyers I’ve seen. It’s not so much about the wicked things they’re able to do in the sky (there’s that too) but it’s how dynamic they are together. No matter what’s going on around them these two always seem to have it together, this rhythm with one another. It’s incredible to watch! Even better, they are some of the nicest people you’ll meet on the ground too.
That aside, I love watching videos with these guys, and people like them, who are such good skydivers. The greatest part is that it’s not with envy that I watch these freeflyers, it’s with admiration and sometimes complete awe. In all reality, “good” isn’t the best descriptor here, pretty f-ing phenomenal is more like it . “Good” is what I aspire to be some day!
I like to think that watching videos of those people who are incredibly proficient can only help me learn – take away some of the little body adjustments and things of that nature and apply them to my own skydiving. Of course, time in the sky (and hopefully one day soon in a tunnel) is essential, but I can’t help think that I’m soaking up a little knowledge simply by watching the best of the best.
I’m always entertained by the days where I think I’ve picked up some of the smartest tricks in the book and when I get out the door and test them out it doesn’t go quite as planned. Sky -1, Ashley -0. A good laugh is always had! But what’s even better is when I’m able to apply even the smallest trick to make my sitfly just that much better.
The learning curve in skydiving is incredible. Each and every jump I’m amazed at how much Rick and I have improved. Relativity is rarely an issue these days, and docking has become common-place. We’re spending time in the sky with people who really know their shit, and I like to think we’re able to absorb a little of that knowledge through the sky – osmosis of sorts . Now, head down is a different story – I’ve spent so much time on my feet there hasn’t been a lot of time to get proficient, and clearly I’m just not picking it up as fast as I did sit. Rick on the other hand, he sticks some mad head downs…hoping some of that can rub off on me over time!
Anyhow, enough of my rambling – here’s a few YouTube videos that prove my point. God I love watching sick freeflyers!
Gotta love the song and the pink skyvan in this last video!
So my blogging is going through this awkward stage right now – sort of like adolescence: I’m no longer in that giddy student phase where all I care about is getting my thoughts and excitement about skydiving down on paper (or, in Word Press, whatever), and I’m far from an expert who has any kind of authority to talk about or give advice about anything of importance.
Being in this “intermediate” phase is challenging. There are things I’d like to think I’ve become skilled enough to chat about, but then again I don’t want to go around giving advice that could end up hurting someone because it wasn’t the right advice for them.
Though I do have to say I love where I am in my skydiving career – so to speak. I’m finally starting to get it, each and every jump it’s visible that all that I’ve learned in 200+ skydives is finally starting to come together into something, even just simple docks in sitfly. It’s rewarding, to say the least. But of course, I’m no where near ready to start teaching others what they should and shouldn’t be doing in the sky. Hard to believe a D license, which is considered expert, used to require only 200 jumps.
But I still struggle with where I should be in my skydive blogging career.
Earlier this week I took a poll that helped generate a few ideas for upcoming posts, and my readers have even inspired me to do some research to get them answers on things they’re looking to learn.
But aside from that, I want to ask you right here on the page, what else do you want from me? What do you come to this page seeking? Is it more photos/videos, do you just want to hear about random experiences, do you want my opinions on things I may or may not be qualified to give? Or is it something entirely different altogether. You tell me, after all, I’m writing this for YOU!
If you don’t want to comment, you can always email me at email@example.com. I’m open to any suggestions that might make the awkward phase of this blog smoother and more enjoyable for us all.
Until then, I’m off to AerOhio tomorrow and Skydive PA on Sunday. Then it’s time to get my pretty new rig all put together. More to come on that .
Love and blue skies!
The last month I’ve been in denial that winter is coming. We’ve had just enough good jumping days to keep me (mildly) satisfied.
But given that I’ve been wearing socks this week – the true indication that summer is over – it’s about time I start preparing myself for some cold weather activities.
Unfortunately, I’m not exactly sure where to begin. Typically, my winters are spent huddled by a space heater somewhere – yeah, I’m a little bit of a freeze baby – and the rest of my free time is spent sweating it out on a yoga mat in a 80+ degree room (something that I intend to continue this year).
Needless to say, I’m seeking out a winter sport to call my own. There are multiple offers on the table to learn how to snowboard, but I wasn’t even that great at skiing when I considered myself a skier so I’m a little leery.
(Then again, I can only imagine how bad ass it would be to do something like this!)
Naturally, I’m looking to stick with adrenaline sports – they just suit me – but I’m at a little bit of a loss.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have every intention of jumping throughout the winter, though likely not with the same frequency as sunny days, no matter how cold, are few and far between from December-March up in these parts. And of course I’m hoping for a tunnel trip and a week spent in a warmer climate, but that’s just not enough to sustain this junkie.
So tell me, what do you do to get your adrenaline fix in the winter time? What is your winter sport of choice?
*Photo by Lonnie Kirk (from a C-185)
Over the course of the season I’ve found that my stress levels are significantly lower throughout the week after a weekend filled with skydiving.
It’s a perfect inverse relationship – the more altitude in my life, the less stress. Ask any jumper, they’re likely to confirm this statement.
Though I will admit, the more skydiving I do on the weekends, the more I crave it throughout the week. Unless I’m lucky enough to squeeze in a weekday jump – hell, even if I have made a hump-day jump or two – I’m practically twitching in my seat come Friday, needing my adrenaline fix.
There’s something about opening the caravan door (or otter, or porter) at 13,000 feet, smelling the clean, crisp air, and flying with your freefly partner (or RW crew, if you’re into that sort of thing).
There’s no better release than that.
*Still taken from video by Richard Simenc. Prepping for a two-man rodeo.
Talk about living in the moment – as you plummet at speeds upwards of 140+ mph, all you have to focus on is what’s going on in that minute of freefall. There’s no worries at all. Work, your to-do list, issues with friends and family, all that gets sucked out the door at altitude.
Under canopy, you’re completely at peace; reflecting on the preceding skydive, adrenaline still pumping through your body – it’s the ultimate alone time.
*Photo by Sandy Weltman
Of course, where I found the most tranquility was on my helicopter jump – which is essentially the same feeling as a BASE, jumping into still air (though with significantly more altitude involved) – which you may remember from my post on the Work Stinks boogie a couple months back.
I’ve heard hot air balloon jumps are even more peaceful than the helicopter, what without the sound of the blades above your head. I will soon find out as I do my first balloon jump tomorrow with friends Bryan and Landon and my freefly partner Rick.
Fingers crossed for beautiful weather and Blue Skies!
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?
As I mentioned in Tuesday’s post, lots of time this weekend was spent bonding over beers with fellow skydivers.
This has quickly become one of my favorite past times. Not only do we reflect, reminisce, and have a good laugh at the skydives of the day, it’s also a great chance to learn from other jumpers. And of course, what a better way to make new friends than over a cold beer!
After the sunset load on Sunday, I decided to trunk pack out of pure laziness and spent that time having a 1-on-1 pow-wow with one of my favorite belly flyers.
As I sat on the neighboring packing mat, I was asked the same question most of my belly flyer friends have asked lately: “what made you turn to freeflying?”
Funny thing is, my answer has changed over the last couple weeks. Initially, I started dabbling in freefly just to see what it was about, for some variety between big-ways, for a different type of body control practice. All with the goal of becoming what I consider a “well-rounded skydiver.”
But on Sunday, I found myself answering this question quite concisely: “it just makes sense.”
*Photo courtesy of Skydive Orange.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m by no means a full-time member of the freeflyers, but it’s a discipline I’ve begun gravitating toward more and more. I’m still available for RW jumps, so don’t forget about me belly flyers.
But to me, freefly just makes sense. Exit the plane head down, got it. Break off the hybrid into a sit, no problem. I can’t explain why it seems so simple, but from the moment I was instructed on how to sit in freefall – and actually doing it quite easily on my first attempt – I’ve gravitated toward this discipline.
Upon hearing this answer, my belly flyer friend responded in an incredibly encouraging manner. He even recommended some of the best freeflyers around to hook up with for mentoring.
Not that I expected anything less. As much crap as skydivers like to give each other, we’re a very supportive bunch.
For some, belly flying comes natural, they get a thrill out of connecting up in big-ways, making points in smaller groups, and dirt diving every jump along the way. I’ve heard a number of natural belly flyers say they stick to RW for the challenge it brings, and because “they can’t sit to save their lives,” or some version of that phrase.
Others find sitting, standing, and head-down positions to make the most sense. Like me, a lot of these skydivers find big-ways to be stressful and making points just isn’t necessary for a successful jump.
Then of course there’s the people who are in the sport for canopy work – the swoopers and CRW (canopy relative work) groups. I’m a freefall junkie, so I’m definitely not the best source of information here.
(These are some talented CRW jumpers if I’ve ever seen them!)
Regardless of the discipline, at the end of the day, we’re all skydivers. We all love to sit around, talk about our jumps, brag about the good one’s, laugh at the funneled formations and tumbling freeflyers.
This is what makes the sport so great. There’s so much to do, so much to learn, and so much to talk about. Thankfully – after all, that’s why you keep coming back here, right?
In your time as a skydiver, what have you encountered that “just makes sense?” What are some of your favorite parts of the sport?