In the last 6 months, I have lost 3 GoPro cameras in 2 minor skydiving collisions. These kind of situations make us think about how to increase safety when skydiving. Increasing our likelihood of lasting long in skydiving. Resulting from these events, I have thought about the difference between fear, respect, personality, and the connection between mind and body. Realistically, there is only one way to be 100% safe in a skydiving jump – if there is no jump.

Having this thought in mind, I understand how profound this sentence can be. And so, it is the first step to skydiving safety and avoid critical situations that can end up with broken bones or end one’s life. Even though the skydiving sport continues to improve its safety records. Still, too many skydivers die or get injured each year.

What is the difference between fear and respect

Fear keeps us from trying new things, while respect keeps us alive when trying new things.

Many skydivers, including myself, get stuck at some point. We strive to improve our skills in the sport, yet we are afraid to open our minds and try new things. Free fall or under canopy, we continue doing the same things over and over. Basically, that can be happening because we are scary to decrease our skills for a moment before increase our level of competence.

When we start learning a new position, we need to think about it much more than when we are doing something we already know. That changes our conscience of our body and delay many responses. Once we get more aware of what is going on, we just fly.

The difference between fear and respect within skydiving
Learning Curve – The Parachutist and its Pilot by Brian Germain

Fear

The secret to overcoming fear is to force ourselves against it and open our minds to a new reality. A piece of great advice is to find a mentor. Our mentor can be a friend with more experience, it can be more than one person or even a skydiving coach. Just keep in mind that we need to evolve in the sport. Ultimately, the best way to do it is by listening to other skydivers that have more experience than us. We need to face fear, understand what is going on and try to learn new things (doesn’t matter who we are). Which is a positive approach to increase our awareness and skydiving safety.

It’s ok if you don’t succeed at the first try. You are human. Just do it in a manner that you will be alive to try again, and everything will be just fine.

Respect

Respect, on the other hand, is when we analyze a situation the best we can to decrease the number of things that can go wrong. Also, respect is to understand that safety doesn’t exist. Brian Germain says that “Safety is a trap. There is no such thing in adventure situations”. The sooner we understand this, the better. We need to truly think about it. Analytic thinking is the best way to show respect and prevent an error within an extreme sport. We must try to gain an understanding of all kinds of dangerous situations within a skydiving jump (or whatever extreme sport you do). What is involved in these dangerous potential situations? Further, how try to avoid it and reduce the chances of something going wrong. And so, this is why we need to continue to move forward and never get stuck in our learning curve just because it feels more safe.

“Safety is an illusion that we create in our minds to feel good enough to continue doing what we are doing.” Brian Germain

What about my personality?

Previously, I was super afraid when begining to pack my canopy. Which might happen with all skydivers. Besides the packing course I took at my home DZ, on YouTube, I found more explanation about parachutes, different ways on how to pack it and so many other things. Even a video that showed 13 ways of HOW NOT TO PACK A PARACHUTE! Just to be clear, none of that was a standard packing job. The guy did incredible things to put that piece of material inside the bag (use your imagination), and it opened 10 out of the 13 times. What I learned out of it was that our skydiving gear is made to work in any scenario. However, we have a significant factor that can mess up everything, and that is being a human.

When ordinary people begin in a sport, they are looking for information everywhere (fear of the unknown). They understand they have lots of things to learn and that everyone can help them in doing things better. Beginners keep their minds open to knowledge and also positive for all inputs they get. However, when many people become more experienced in the sport, their ego says: we know this, we know that. Becoming complacent with their skydiving safety. The attitude of a fabulous and long lasting athlete can change quickly to a short-term survivor. A negative mindset is the worse companion an extreme athlete can have. They stop learning because they believe they can’t go any further, and that they know it all already.

close minded skydivers

The winning formula

Everyone is looking for a recipe for skydiving safety, that can be applied over and over. Really, it can be in skydiving, marketing, in new businesses, or in life in general. These magical formulas sell many books on Amazon. However, the truth is that we need to adapt ourselves. Even though we learn something that has been working for us, there is nothing better than to be constant and continuous in learning. For example, you maybe feel confident under your canopy. But did you know how important a canopy course is, and to continuing taking them as you progress in your skydiving journey? I never thought I could learn too many new things in a basic course until I did it. It was surprising.

We can think a lot about this – please give me some feedback in the comments. Nevertheless, in the end, our personality is the only thing that helps us to be safe. There is no secret, we need different inputs to keep motivating ourselves daily. The best way to do it is to keep up with a positive mindset and never give up learning. When we learn, we try new things and increase the size of our toolbox. That will be very important in a life-threatening situation.

Repeat with me: I want to learn and try new things. What makes me motivated today will not work tomorrow. I need to keep innovating.

We survived one more day

When I moved to California, I went to Skydance Skydiving. Basically, I learned all the main basics at that DZ. Also, starting to progress into free-flying there. On one occasion, after one year and a half in the sport, I was training head down with a friend. We agreed that we will leave the plane in a two-way head down exit and keep it in head down as long as possible independently if the other bail out.

Great plan? Not really. When I bailed and went back to sit fly (steady by that time), I started to chase my friend. His position became an angle tracking (knees forward and upper body in an angle position), he was flying away from me and I was following him in a head up body position. We were crossing the sky. Once he lost the position, he braked that vertical movement completely. At that point, we were traveling at high speeds towards each other. We survived to tell the story, but it was a close call. When we got on the ground, we hugged and thanked for being alive.

Again, if you think skydiving is a safe sport, you are living an illusion. Every time we jump and something that we didn’t predict happens, we visualize how our thoughts, memories, and experiences are weak within the sport. Again, transform that fear in something positive and awake yourself using the respect we all must have when doing any kind of extreme activity.

One Mistake is Enough, is a previous post on skydiving safety. Check it out to learn more about my personal experience!

skydivers celebrating on the ground
Colorful Jerseys Boogie at Skydance Skydiving – Photo by Joseph Fusco

The connection between mind and body

We must connect our mind and body. Both should always be working together. If too many emotions begin to unfold without control, a disaster is about to happen. The connection between our mind and body keep us aware. Being calm reinforce the changes we have to make due to the situations we are presented with and then act accordingly to it. The connection between mind and body is very relevant to skydiving safety.

The best way I know which helps me connect with my inner self is breathing. It reduces my stress level and calms down the rhythm of my body. When a person is mainly working on sympathetic mode, their body is in constant acceleration. This mode leads to several conditions such as exhaustion, mentally, physically and emotionally. Poor digestion, inflammatory states, sleep disturbances, and of course, mental health problems. That happens a lot when we are in stressful situations such as skydiving. If we take into consideration job issues, life problems, and everything that is happening with our family and friends. It can become tough to have our mind and body working in balance.

There are a few things that can help our mind and body work together: meditation, practicing abdominal/deep breathing cycles, massage, yoga, yawning, napping, and so on.

“You can take deep breathing further by practicing abdominal or deep breathing cycles, and these can help you to relax even more deeply.” – ActitudesCoaching.com

Explaning why mind and body needs to be connected when doing extreme sports that can generate fear and anxiety

Keep coming back

As Bill Germain says in his book, The Parachute and its Pilot: The Ultimate Guide for the Ram Air Aviator, “being safe is about forming a ‘mental model’ of the situation and ourselves, and adjusting it as we continue to engage reality. Without a mental map of the dangers (and of ourselves), we can have no expectations about the situation. Uncertainty creates fear, and preparation obviously improves the chances of survival. Unfortunately, no mental model is perfect. Reality is always more complicated than we think it is”. He completes his thoughts by explaining that the best we can do is continuously update the model based on new experiences lived by everyone around us and ourselves.

I’m reading The Parachute, and It’s Pilot by Brian Germain; this article was based on my experiences and on what I got from a few sessions of the book. Thank you, Brian, for putting together an ultimate guide that contains lots of fantastic information.

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