When we start a new sport, we usually don’t know very much about it. Skydiving is not different. When I started skydiving, I couldn’t understand most of the things people were trying to teach me. I had to ask and ask and ask the same stuff many times. Thank God, skydivers love to explain what they know and talk about skydiving.
Skydivers with lots of years of experience are the best teachers. Sometimes they are not very didactic, but they love the sport and love to share their knowledge. If you need to pick a mentor, look for a skydiver that had been in the sport for a long time.
Once I got my A license, I still didn’t have much experience and I was trying to jump as much as possible and have as much fun as I could during a jump. However, time went by, and I learned a few things from the old timers.
On the ground
We all are at the drop zone, our gear is checked, AAD is on, and we have our goggles, helmet, altimeter and, jumpsuit with us. To learn more about the gear you need to check before skydiving read “The Importance of a Skydiving Gear Check“. Once you have done your gear checks and everything looks good is when the fun starts.
The first thing to do, after checking your gear, is to decide what we want to do and how many people will be in the jump. Once that is done, we start to invite people to skydive with us. Everyone we invite to join must know what our plan is, so they can decide if their skills are enough for that skydive and also give suggestion to the person who is planning the jump, if they need to change anything to avoid any issues during free fall.
When we have the whole group together, we will go through the jump again, and dirt dive it, showing exactly how everyone will behave during the skydive, from exit to break off. Everything should be planned at this stage. It’s important to make the same movements we will do in the sky on the ground.
Tip: Keep the skydiving group tight on the ground or at the sky the athletes will have to deal with a much bigger separation between skydivers.
Mock it up
Time to go to the mock-up, where we can find a similar spot to where we will be on during the exit. Then we will organize the exit order and position of all the skydivers who are part of the jump. It’s important to repeat this a few times so everyone is fast, ready and with no doubts.
At this time, we all go over the jump once again. Depending on the level of the skydivers, we need to do the break-off more than once and also its a good time to plan the canopy pattern each one will do based on weather conditions and drop zone rules. Always remember that we need to land safely to skydive again. So, think about the jump from the beginning to the end (end means: gear on the ground to get repacked).
Going to the airplane
Everyone is ready to go? No! We still have more stuff to think about. First and most important, Gear! Always check your equipment before you put it on. Once you have it on, you can ask someone for a gear check, or you can do it by yourself. Always check the chest strap (thousand times and again).
In the air
The plane takes off, and we are climbing up. Once in the plane make sure to protect your gear and recheck it before exit (as many times as necessery). When I’m around 7.000 feet, I do think about all the jump in my head and imagine every single movement I need to make, from the exit to the landing. It helps me to refresh the plan and remember details that I might had forgotten under pressure and with a high amount of adrenaline on my body. One jump cost about 25$, and we don’t want to waste money because we didn’t recheck your skydiving plan one more time before exit.
At around 12k feet, I have all my gear ready. I look around to check other people’s gear if I can see them and I stop for a second and deep breathe and smile. That relaxes my body and mind. After that, I check my chest strap one more time, handles and I practice the emergency procedures few more time.
The pilot turns on the light, the door is open, the spot is right. Greenlight, we are good to go.
The truth is that if I go through all these steps, my group and I are ready to go and have the most fun skydiving ever. Fly the best you can, remember the safety stuff you learned from your instructors and other skydivers. Don’t be too aggressive, we need to be safe to keep jumping. It is not cool to get hurt or risk hurting someone else.
A good friend of mine always told me that is better to take a little longer to get into the formation than go low or mess up the group. It takes much longer to fix mistakes and we, clearly, don’t have all the time of the world.
Break off time. Do not stay longer! There is no need to stay in the jump after break-off time and believe me, people do it. Remember to follow the plan, if you think it is not right, do not participate in that jump. The plan is there so we can do what we said we would do! If we need to modify something, talk with people after the jump but if everyone decide to do something different there is no plan anymore.
Tip: An excellent way to increase your skydiving skill level is to jump more, jump with a coach, and do some tunnel time. I wrote an article about “Indoor Skydiving” that is pretty cool and informative. Check it out!
Canopy and landing
About 8% of skydiving accidents are under canopy collisions, and 25% of all skydiving accidents happen during landing. Adding up these numbers you can see that 1/3 of all accidents in the sport are under canopy.
Be safe up there and fly a standard and predictable pattern. Move your legs to show you see other skydivers and play with your canopy to increase your skills. Always plan a spot to land and try to land as close as possible to improve your accuracy.
If you want to learn a little bit more about how your parachute works you can find some extra information about this topic on the link above.
On the ground again
First things first. After you land your parachute safely, be sure to not be in the way of another skydiver. Be sport friendly and let’s help each other. Always look around.
Now we can get our stuff together, and during that time, we should check if everyone landed safely. Someone might land out or going to (keep an eye on the sky and on the ground). Someone might need assistance, and our job is to be there for skydiving community.
The jump only ends when you get back to the packing area, and your gear is on the ground ready to be packed again.
An excellent example of an error was when I forgot to uncollapse my slider and put it back on its standard position when I was packing. You can find an article, and the video with my hard opening on my article One Mistake is Enough. I’m fortunate to have had no injuries.
The way we think we fly is not how it looks like on video. When someone records us flying the truth show up. We must learn from all jumps we do. Check videos and listen to other skydivers that can give you proper feedback. It’s the best way to improve.
Do not forget to celebrate with your group the jump. Any skydiving is amazing if everyone is walking back to the hangar. Enjoy this time to be stoke and talk about the jump.
Ask questions; we are a skydiving family and we help each other.
Skydiving is a dangerous sport. It’s super fun but still an extreme sport. That is why we keep coming back. Also, we have many things to do in the sport. We can go to world records such as Amy Chmelecki, or we can travel around to other drop zones.
However, we need to pay attention to complacency. It is wrong to think we know everything because we have done it many times. It’s wrong to think we will never make this or that mistake. It’s wrong to think that I’ll never forget my chest strap open.
This is a piece of advice from Dan BC, Skydive Perris DZO and manager and co-founder of Arizona Airspeed. Dan BC is one of the skydivers I most respect, and he told me that. Now I’m passing this forward to you.
I just want to say: – Let’s be careful, we deserve to have only good times.
Have a good skydive and blue skies!
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