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Being COOL on the Dropzone

Skydiving has come a long way since the first (recorded) jump was made from a hot air balloon in 1797. Only being practiced as a special stunt on public events, it was far from a public sport at that point.
The silk envelope used to safely descend from 3000 ft on that first jump wasn't much to look at in terms of design, but the design and materials used formed the basis for the parachute as we know it today.
The military were the first to develop parachuting as an emergency escape procedure for balloon and aircraft pilots, and later as a means of delivering soldiers to the battlefield.
In the 1960s, skydiving ventured outside its military use and started to become seen as a sport in its own right.
As the sport grew, so did the research and development of the materials used.
The harness, cutaway system and parachute itself underwent major changes and upgrades, resulting in the gear that we all now accept as commonplace as we exit the aircraft.
Due to these advancements in the materials used and their design, our gear has actually passed the point where it is now safer than its end user.

Getting into the sport

Skydiving was once a sport which was considered pretty extreme in itself, but as the years went by, and due to the gear and teaching advancements, it became more and more safe, and was marketed as a sport for everyone.
In the media, the growing attention for the more extreme disciplines and variations of our sport have led to a large group of people who no longer see the basic sport of skydiving itself as the goal, but rather as an intermediate training, or even an obstacle in the way of what they really want to do.
These predetermined goals on what somebody wants to accomplish within the sport often form before or during a skydivers first few jumps.
Not being a huge sport with millions of participants worldwide, we tend to enthusiastically take in new people, and sometimes pull them into our sport deeper and faster then they should be.

With every year that goes by, people seem to be in more and more of a rush to jump with a video camera, downsize their canopy, learn to fly a wingsuit, freefly in bigger and bigger groups, fly head down straight from AFF and starting BASE jumping with the bare minimum, if indeed any at all, experience. Sadly, the growing trend is to encourage this behavior, and try to facilitate them in getting there as soon as they can, instead of trying to make people understand the potential consequences of the rushed path they have chosen.


Photo by Costyn van Dongen

Video

For many,, the media creates the image that a lot of the extreme variations of our sport are things you can take up as easy as a bungee jump from a local bridge, or a ride in a theme park. When people look at some of the 'big names' in our sport, its easy to forget almost all of them put in many hundreds, if not thousands of jumps to acquire the skills, precision and experience to excel in their field of expertise. The PD factory team didnít start swooping on sub 100 sq/ft canopies straight from AFF, just as Loic Jean Albert didnít start flying wingsuits within touching range of cliffs after his first skydive. There are many more examples like this within our sport.

Here, I think, lies our biggest responsibility:
Trying to
help people new to this sport understand the work it takes to reach a certain level.
Trying to
teach them to respect and honor the effort people put in, and helping them understand thatís what they need to do to reach their goals based on skill, hard work and determination, not do everything as fast as they can and for a large part trusting on luck to come out of it alive. Often thinking their experience or exceptional abilities in other sports set them apart from normal people, allowing them to progress much faster and skip steps. While in truth, they are exactly the people the rules were made for.

 
Photo by Costyn van Dongen

Respect the rules

As with any developing sport, rules and safety procedures were created over the years based on experience. Some of the rules and safety recommendations where literally written in blood. Learning lessons the hard way.
These days many people new to the sport tend to look at these same rules as a means of holding them back. Stopping them from having the same fun as the people on the dropzone who have been jumping many, many years already.

We live in a fast society. Everything has to be done quickly and with instant gratification. When we experienced jumpers start talking to young skydivers about certain goals, this can develop frustrated views on the sport for some of them. They get into a mindset where they feel skydiving isnít fun until they have their A license, or how its isnít really fun until they are swooping a small canopy, taking up BASE jumping or flying a wingsuit. If we go along with that line of thought, and acknowledge those statements, we then suddenly turn skydiving into a point of frustration for these newer jumpers.

Instead of enjoying their first few hundred jumps, and slowly learning more and more about our sport, they start seeing it as a big waiting game where they canít wait start jumping that same tiny rig and sub 100 sq/ft canopy as the cool guys who have been around a bit longer.


Photo by Stefan Smith

 

The road is more important than the destination.

 Allowing people to cut corners in reaching certain goals, is not only dangerous to them, but also undermining the authority of people teaching.
Itís the image more experienced jumpers
portray to the newer people in our sport that determines how they in turn, will approach the sport.

As an example, being in a rush and boarding a plane without a pin check is not only dangerous to ourselves, itís also a bad example to the kid fresh off AFF who's on the same load. The same goes for many aspects in our sport.
Realize that itís not just the people who give instruction that are teaching, itís the way we
as individual skydivers approach, talk about, and treat our sport that ultimately sets an example that the new flyers will follow.

 




By Jarno Cordia on 2009-03-24 | Last Modified on 2009-05-21

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