I’m relatively a new skydiver and canopy pilot. I have around 200 jumps, and I dream of becoming a swooper competitor soon. The path is not that easy tho, it takes a lot of time-based in a safe and slow progression. It’s worth mentioning that it can be dangerous if not done with precaution. Moreover, I get discouraged when I tell people I want to get into canopy piloting and swooping competition. People perceive it as a joke. They don’t think what steps I’m following, who are my mentors, and who I look up to. People will criticize me for the number of jumps I have.

“Every day after work, I love watching swooping videos. I think that one day, I will be doing all those badass maneuvers” – Navdeep Nurpuri

What I think people think

It’s hard to say that, but I feel judged by most of my community when telling them that I want to progress into swooping. People see it as a death wish or that I’ll injure myself, I know that guys, but I’m not rushing my progression into canopy piloting. The skydiving community taught me enough to be smart and find a mentor that can help me find a safe way into high-performance canopies and swooping.

I think the best way to be safe is having great mentors and instructors helping me out before making any decision about my progression into canopy piloting and swooping. I think this is the most crucial piece of advice in this article.

Pete Allum and its students during a Flight 1 Canopy Course in Empuriabrava
Skydive Empuriabrava, Spain

Where I am now

I’ve always loved flying canopies since my first jump. To be honest, it was one of the things that got me into skydiving. I went to Dubai, and I thought about Skydive Dubai for a tandem jump. However, I didn’t like to think that I’d not be able to control my parachute. So, I gave up on the tandem skydive, and it led me straight to the AFF Course.

At the time of writing this, I’m flying a Sabre II 150 square feet, and I have a 1,23 wing load. To be clear, I don’t plan to downsize soon. This year, I started my journey to progress into canopy piloting.

The steps I followed

I started with my first ever canopy course with Flight-1. I did the 101, followed by the 102 course. Both courses increased my understanding of types of canopies, flight characteristics, body position, good flare, and so on.

I was pumped, I felt like a kid given these new toys to play with. I did what every kid does, I went back home, kept playing with those new toys, and then I was at a point where those things came naturally to me. After this, I felt I was ready for another course. So, I registered myself for another Flight-1 course, 201. After the daily class, I felt like a kid again, new toys to play with. However, It doesn’t end there; I was always curious about relative flying (inspired by those XRW videos), so there I was doing another Flight-1 course with Pete Allum – 201 Air to Air.

The learning has never stopped for me. Every jump there is something new, I learn about my canopy. Currently, I’m trying to work on my straight approach with front risers and finishing it with a rear riser landing.

What’s next?

As I wrote above, I’m working on my straight approach. My coaches and I have split it into various parts. At the moment, I’m nowhere close to even touching my front risers. I’m just trying to perfect my toggle surge and rear riser landings. Once I’m done with that, I’ll add the next element, the front risers. That’s just the beginning, as soon as that is done (well you might have guessed it), I’m off for another Flight-1 course with Julian Barthel – 202 – which will help me to understand further how to add front riser/hook turns to what I’ve been doing.

My journey into canopy piloting and swooping just never stops. My goal is to get as much as possible from my Sabre II 150 before downsizing.

Air to air canopy course with Pete Allum and Navdeep Nurpuri

A little more about safety

Unfortunately, for most people that skydive, the canopy is just a way to get back on the ground to jump again. I do not have a problem with people who just want to use the canopy as a way to land “safely.” However, we should understand that 70% of the accidents happen while landing and under the canopy. Sadly, most of the time, landing a canopy with a predictable and safe pattern, is often overlooked.

There are a few simple reasons that we all need to pay attention and avoid it:
1. Target fixation;
2. Wanting to be the first one down, and to the closest to a point (where you can get faster in the packing area);
3. Downsizing to a canopy that they are not ready for;
4. Or just trying to be a hero.

With such mishaps, people start to presume that canopy piloting or swooping is not safe as compared to all other disciplines in skydiving. Hence, people like me are judged/looked upon even before someone has seen us landing our canopies.

A humble request

Whenever you skydive, please remember that a skydive isn’t over until everyone has landed their canopies safely. We all have to be more responsible for ourselves, whether on free fall or under a canopy.

Everything we do affects us all. Let’s think about the next person that is happily sharing the sky with us and do the best we can to preserve safety before anything else. We’re all a big family, and we care about each other.

canopy pilot and swooper at Skydive Empuriabrava

Keep coming back

I cannot stress how important it is to do a canopy course (not as a part of getting the next license) but to learn the basics and keep practicing them – How important is a Canopy Course.

You do not have to progress into advanced canopy courses but at least attend a basic canopy course e.g., Flight-1 101 and 102 or anything similar.

This article is only my personal experience and should not guide you in the sport. Please always talk to an experienced and responsible instructor. Try to get advice and share experiences you’ve had. Educate yourself, attend some events/boogies are excellent advice, there are a lot of things you could learn even if you don’t get to jump with the people participating in the event.

If you want to know more about it, the Swoop League – FLCPA – has a lot of information about canopy piloting competition.

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