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Disciplines

    Wingsuit Progression

    kydiving today is rife with would-be wingsuit pilots. Ask any number of new jumpers what discipline they want to pursue, and more than likely you’ll have a majority vote for wingsuiting. This is thanks in no small part to the viral popularity of wingsuit BASE videos in recent years. Let’s be honest, even your mom is sick of watching people fly ‘The Cheese Grater’ line at Aiguille du Midi. And while that trend seems to be tapering off somewhat (perhaps as the number of true terrain flyers left in the sport is itself dwindling), there are no shortage of noobs eagerly awaiting their first prom dress.
    But, for those who have already cranked out the requisite jump numbers, done their FFC, and are now exploring the freedoms of human flight, what path marks the best progression into the world of wingsuit wizardry?
    DISCLAIMER: I’m going to set aside any brand loyalties and personal biases towards/against manufacturers. There will be no suit-specific insights or recommendations. The point of what follows is to provide some simple and easy to follow suggestions through a safe and effective
    While there is no doubt that putting in serious work on a small suit is better than jumping quickly into a bigger suit, there is some divergence as to how long your mentor(s) and/or more senior jumpers/coaches may suggest that you remain in your entry-level suit before upsizing. [There is even some discrepancy as to what is deemed an appropriate entry-level suit…but I think for the most part your FFC coach should be able to walk you through that one…]. For my part, I can say that while having put 150 jumps on the small suit I started with was certainly enough for me to be safely flying a bigger suit, there’s also no doubt in my mind – looking back now with the benefit of hindsight – that I would’ve continued to benefit tremendously from growing my skillset and utterly mastering the smaller suit before moving onwards and upwards.

    To clarify, wingsuits can be considered as belonging to one of three very basic overarching “platforms”: small suits, medium suits and big suits. [This is by no means a comprehensive dissection of suit design, merely a simple and inelegant framework to help guide the discussion]. Small suits have wing-roots near the hips, and a tail that does not extend to your feet. Medium suits have wing-roots near the knee and a tail that goes straight across your feet. Large suits have wing-roots near your feet and a tail that extends past your feet.
    The obvious analogy, here, is parachute size. It’s easy to get caught up drooling over the tiny table-clothed sized wings that you see people flying online or at your home dz. [Insert any number of panty-dropping related clichés here…]. And in your hurry to get down to a smaller, “cooler” wing, you may rush through some key skills that you should already have deeply ingrained in your muscle memory and sight picture, on a larger and more docile/forgiving canopy, before continuing to progress to smaller and more aggressive parachutes. The only difference is that, with wingsuits, the reverse is true. I mean, who wants to spend 150-200 jumps wearing some tiny little baby dress? Ain’t nobody got time for that!! Am I right?! Well...no.
    The problem with this logic is two-fold:
    1) The more time you spend in a smaller suit, nailing down an array of skills and mastering the suit, the better you’ll fly in a bigger suit. This means that, in the grand scheme of things, you may well become the badass flyer you want to be even faster if you master a solid foundational skillset in a beginner wingsuit before moving on to bigger suits.

    2) The more surface area you add (as you increase suit/wing size), the more challenging and demanding the suit is to fly. As you increase size, you dramatically increase the power of the suit, and also the inherent danger of flat-spins, hard pulls, no pull-finds, losses of control, etc. While more powerful in the right hands, larger suits can also be less forgiving of pilot error. This is especially dangerous for pilots who skip a step in their progression – upsizing by more than one platform at a time.
    Recent events have tragically proven that no one is invincible to the effects of poorly chosen gear. If there are any positives to take away from the great losses our sport(s) recently suffered, they are the lessons we must learn from those who paid the highest price.
    Choose the right tool for the job! It doesn’t matter if you’re in the mountains or at the dz. Exercise good judgement and your chances of playing safely are far greater.
    It seems simple enough. But this requires an honest self-evaluation of your skill set, and an assessment of what job (type of flying) you want the tool (the suit) to perform…and in what specific conditions/environment. Always consider these factors together and choose accordingly.
    But let’s be real, my advice carries little weight relative to the allure of the sky and BASE gods you might still be watching on repeat on your YouTube or Facebook feeds. And it’s more than likely that my words are also outweighed by your own ego and pride (I know this of myself firsthand…).
    So I asked someone with just a little more experience to share his thoughts – someone who’s become synonymous with wingsuit progression – both in the sky and in the burgeoning scene of the wingsuit tunnel…and also in what some view as the pinnacle of wingsuit progression and human flight: the wingsuit jet-pack. In all domains, Jarno Cordia is an authority on wingsuit flying. And with the obvious benefit of his 4100+ wingsuit jumps, and countless hours of R&D; spent analyzing flight, and designing and testing suits, Jarno had the following to say about finding your own wingsuit progression:

     
    I think too many people look at 'good numbers' as a sign of being in control of a suit. The fact that you fly a certain distance or time just means you have a good feel for the performance, but, safety wise, the actual control is where the real importance lies.
    Learning to not just fly your suit straight, but in steep dives, turns in various ways, flat, steep, mellow, sharp, backflying, and barrel rolls. Though these may not all seem like skills needed to fly (especially) bigger suits, when your only aim is performance competitions or base, on bad exits, or tumbles, it’s those skills and spatial awareness that will make a big difference.
    It’s also important is to realize 'doing two dozen jumps without incident' is not the same as 'mastering a suit' and quite often people mistake their uneventful jumps as a sign for being ready to move up to bigger suits. Make sure you are in complete control before upsizing, and not just 'getting by' by doing some straight line flying and a few flares.
    In terms of learning, the small suits provide much more feedback and direct results in terms of what you're doing. Though, these days, bigger suits seem to be the focus. And in marketing various companies try to sell big suits as 'the new small'. Note that in the end, you're the one flying it, and not the 10.000 jump wonders in slick marketing videos.
    Nobody ever became a worse a pilot from flying a small suit, and the majority of my personal jumps I still enjoy doing in actual small suits. Acrobatics and performance…the actual inputs and feeling don't change. When flying with the right technique, any suit or size can be flown the same. Just certain techniques needing to be done with bigger or smaller moves, but any time spent on a small suit is never wasted.
    Both in BASE jumping or skydiving, the skills learnt on a small suit in terms of turns, and emergency response will be of vital importance. Big suit or small suit, the inputs are the same, but the response on a big suit are much faster and more aggressive, and sometimes violent. In all other serious disciplines, issues with flying, tend to be fixed with a strong focus on skill. A common problem in wingsuit flying is that coaches, though not all bad in intent, can sometimes put too much influence on students to look for gear solutions instead of focusing strictly on technique. This makes our discipline one that's sometimes too much resorting to blowing cash on nylon, instead of on skills.
    Gear for sure can be a factor in your flying, as not every suit, model or brand has the same degree of precise control. But make those decisions by trying various suits in the same category, as any suit upsize will on the first few jumps feel like you've just been handed a jetfighter with afterburners. But in the end, it’s the fine control that matters most, and across the board, most manufacturers have similar size models in terms of capability.
    It’s the steering and control that matter most, be it belly, backfly, acro, flocking or performance. There, demoing suits of various manufacturers in the size you're familiar with will tell you a lot more about the control, and allow you to make informed decisions, instead of basing it on the brand your (sponsored) coach may be trying to push onto you.
     
    There’s no doubt that placing your focus strictly on skill attainment – instead of relying on jump numbers, positive flysight data, or lack of problems flying a suit – is the most effective way to gauge a safe progression. I must admit that I personally regret not having kept my smaller suit, which I now wish I had for flying with newer pilots, and for generally tossing around all over the sky in ways that I’m not yet able to do as confidently on my big suit. But, as Jarno pointed out, money inevitably comes into play. And we can’t all keep throwing it towards gear hoping to become better pilots. So, in order to max out your value and your safety, please consider asking yourself the types of questions raised above relating to skill acquisition, suit mastery, and finding the right tool for the job as you progress.
    The link below also provides a great progression chart (free to download) with an indication of levels/skill that is often used at wingsuit boogies around the world:
    http://flylikebrick.com/skills-database/
    Fly safe folks!
     

    By admin, in Disciplines,

    Wingsuit Gear Check

    Whether you jump at a large dropzone or a small one, you’ve
    probably shared a ride to altitude with a wingsuiter. Like all skydivers,
    wingsuiters should receive a thorough gear check, but a wingsuit also creates
    unique concerns that a watchful eye can catch.  Regardless of experience level,
    it’s possible to make a mistake while gearing up with a wingsuit – in the same
    way that its possible for any of us to make a mistake while gearing up for a
    traditional skydive. This is a situation where your vigilance can save a fellow
    skydiver’s life. Here are a few recommendations that Flock U has for gear
    checks:
    A wingsuit skydiver is a skydiver first and a wingsuiter
    second – you will need to check his or her rig, chest strap, altimeter,
    goggles, etc. in the same way that you would with any other skydiver.
    Make sure that the jumper’s AAD is on (if he or she is jumping with one). Pay
    particular attention to the jumper’s cutaway and reserve handles. While a
    wingsuiter’s emergency procedures aren’t any different than a traditional
    skydiver’s, in some suits, handles can become pulled into or obstructed by the
    fabric of the suit. That can result in a dangerous surprise if a cutaway or
    reserve pull becomes necessary.
    After inspecting the rig, examine the wingsuiter’s arm
    wings – and in particular, examine the connection between the wing and the
    jumper’s torso. There’s unfortunately no “one size fits all” rule for arm wing
    inspection, as different wingsuit designs have different wing configurations. 
    That being the case, there are several general categories of wing/torso
    connections that each raise their own concerns:
    Cable Thread Systems. Cable Thread Systems consist of a cutaway-style
    cable that runs through alternating torso and wing tabs, which keep the wing
    attached to the torso.  By pulling on the cutaway cables, the wingsuiter can
    release the arms of the suit in an emergency. This design can generally be found
    in BirdMan brand suits, among others. For a Cable Thread Systesm, look to see if
    the cables are threaded correctly through the tabs, all the way up. In some
    cases, they will alternate evenly between wing and torso, but often the cable
    will intentionally be threaded to skip one or more tabs. Don’t hesitate to ask
    the wingsuiter if you’re not sure – even experienced wingsuiters may not know
    the proper configuration for suits that they haven’t flown before, and some
    wingsuiters have preferences for arranging these tabs that differ from the
    standard. Make sure the wing cutaway handles are properly secured in a Velcro
    or tuck-tab housing. Note that there’s often both a front and a rear cable on
    these systems - so check both, on both wings.
    Zipper Attachment Systems. Zipper Attachment Systems are found
    primarily on Tonysuit, Phoenix Fly and S-fly brand suits, though there are many
    different suit designs on the market that use one form or another of the Zipper
    Attachment System. These systems generally come in two types: “over the
    shoulder zippers” and “bottom of wing” zipper attachments.
    “Over the shoulder zippers” are what their name implies – a zipper that runs
    over the wingsuiter’s shoulder, which connects the wing to the torso.
    Generally, in this design, the wing isn’t detached from the torso even in an
    emergency, and the “over the shoulder” zipper is usually only unzipped if the
    wingsuiter is removing the suit from his or her rig while on the ground. In
    these models, there’s generally a Velcro breakaway or other cutaway system or a
    safety sleeve (described below). Look to see if the zipper is attached properly
    and zipped all the way down. Some wingsuiters will intentionally leave several
    inches of the zipper unzipped in the back, so ask before correcting a slightly
    unzipped wing! If the over the shoulder zipper design includes a Velcro
    breakaway system, check to make sure the Velcro “sandwich” is holding the top
    and bottom of the wing together and that the Velcro isn’t bunched or pinched –
    these gaps can widen when the wing encounters the relative wind.
    Newer Tonysuits brand model have a “safety sleeve” – a ZP liner – that allows
    the armwing to silde up the jumper’s arm, permitting the wingsuiter to reach
    canopy controls in an emergency. As a result, there’s no arm wing cutaway
    system to inspect. When looking at these suits, make sure that the arm zipper –
    the zipper that runs from the jumper’s shoulder to his or her wrist – is fully
    zipped. There will generally be a snap or tuck tab on the bottom of the wing;
    check to see if they are properly stowed.
    While inspecting the arm wing, check the wingsuiter’s
    wrist-mount altimeter (if he or she is jumping with one). Make sure that the
    jumper can release his or her wings without undoing the wrist-mount (which
    can happen, for example, if the wrist-mount is put on after the arm wing is
    zipped up in wingsuit designs with a thumb loop). This is a dangerous and
    easily avoidable method of losing a wrist-mount altimeter!
    Check to make sure the wingsuiter’s legstraps are on. Leg
    straps can be missed by wingsuiters while gearing up, as the suits tends to
    restrict motion and prevent the jumper from seeing his or her legstraps. Even
    highly experienced wingsuiters have admitted to momentarily forgetting leg
    straps while gearing up. When using a wingsuit, visual inspection is
    insufficient to make sure that the leg straps are on – the wingsuit can
    deceptively pull the strap against the leg, making it appear that the strap is
    on. Ask the wingsuiter to shrug – the jumper should feel the resistance in the
    harness created by tightly worn leg straps. Alternately, you can lift the
    bottom of the wingsuiter’s rig (in other words, under the pilot chute). If the
    rig moves more than a couple of inches, it’s not secure enough.
    Each leg of a Tonysuits brand wingsuits also has a leg
    zipper pull up system, which is basically a bridle that connects to the leg wing
    zipper. The bridle is stowed against the leg by Velcro or tuck tabs. Also
    incorporated in this design is a pair of magnets that keep the bottom of the
    wing together. These magnets must go over the zip pull ups. If they are under
    the zip pull up, they may jam under canopy.
    Are the wingsuiter’s booties on? Particularly when the wingsuiter is using a
    borrowed or rental suit, booties may be ill-fitting. Badly fitted and poorly
    positioned booties can result in a lost bootie, which can make for an incredibly
    difficult flight and dangerous canopy deployment. Check to make sure the bootie
    is on, and straight.
    Help to make this year a safer year for skydiving by
    looking out for your fellow jumpers. Making it a habit to look at others’ gear
    can only result in positive results. Save someone’s life this year - it could
    be yours!
    A free, downloadable
    wingsuit pincheck file can be found on our site at
    www.flockuniversity.org. This
    pincheck guide is perfect for printing for Safety Day or for putting on the wall
    near manifest.
    Thanks to Jeff Donahue and Andreea Olea for their help in this article. All photos courtesy DSE.

    By Deleted, in Disciplines,

    Useful Training for BASE, Right There on the Dropzone

    Courtesy Apex BASE: Pascal Constantineau flying his FLiK at Skydive Perris during his BASE canopy course with Dimitrije Dadic. (Of note: Square1 offers discounted rental rigs to people taking Dimitrije’s BASE canopy courses.)
    If you’re like most people, your idea of dropzone training for the stresses of the BASE environment involves trying to look nonchalant when you climb into a hot-air balloon basket. If you have no access to such a thing (and/or if you’re significantly smarter than the average bear) you’re probably looking for more. You know you need a way to get as many jumps under your belt as possible with your BASE parachute proudly overhead--preferably, with a reserve on standby. But how?
    “Skydiving your BASE canopy is by far the best way to learn canopy skills for BASE jumping before making a BASE jump,” says Steve Doherty, who served as Director of Operations of Apex BASE for five years. “In a perfect world, everyone would be able to jump their BASE canopy skydiving--a lot--before they ever took it out on a BASE jump.”
    Ideally, if you’re serious about this, you’re not just swapping gear willy-nilly on every dropzone day. You have a dedicated skydiving system, configured for the purpose. Here’s how to build it.
    The Canopy
    “It's only with the introduction of ultralight canopies that jumping BASE canopies at the dropzone has become a possible and useful activity,” he continues. “Anything you can use in the BASE environment, you can use in the skydiving environment--of course, in the skydiving environment, you have to manage your opening speed.”
    “If you take your whole BASE setup: mesh slider, BASE bridle and BASE pilot chute, you're going to have a very brisk skydiving opening,” he adds. “In our collective experience at Apex, we found that you can make two or three slider-up skydives on this kind of setup in a day and it's okay. If you were going to make five to ten, you need to start making modifications.”
    As any seasoned BASE jumper will tell you, nothing flies quite like an actual BASE canopy--so the goal is to get as close to it as possible. Athletes who want to train BASE canopy skills should choose an ultralight canopy and seek a skydiving container that fits it.
    That said: Athletes who want to get into flying a wingsuit with the intention of BASE jumping but don’t want to jump a BASE-sized canopy for all their wingsuit skydiving training now have some options.“On today’s market, you can find seven-cell, BASE-type canopies created for the skydiving environment. The benefit is that--while these canopies do have some of the distinctive BASE properties--you can jump all day and not feel it when you wake up the next morning.
    The Risers
    Forward-facing risers are more appropriate in the skydiving environment for a simple reason: the possibility of a horseshoe malfunction. During a horseshoe malfunction, forward-facing risers are the only type that you can reliably cut away.
    “During a horseshoe malfunction with rear-facing risers,” Doherty notes, “Your body will be in the way of the twisting movement that the three-rings need to do in order to release. So, when you’re jumping a two-parachute system, we always recommend jumping forward-facing risers.”
    The Container
    As you’ve certainly noticed by now: Apart from student gear, most of the containers available for sport use won't fit BASE canopies. According to Apex, the best way around that is to jump an ultra-light parachute. (Take, for instance, the Lobo: a 250 can pack up to the size of a skydiving 180.)
    “More and more drop zones are coming around to the idea of BASE jumping,” Doherty continues, “That is to say: Not assuming that it’s attracting bad publicity to the sport of skydiving. Nowadays, they're more willing to let their student gear be used. Here in Southern California, we suggest going to Square One. They have a huge selection of demo equipment, so it’s relatively easy to get the largest demo container they have and pack into it the largest BASE canopy that fits.”
    Most drop zones have a container that's sized for a 180/200. The Apex team have, however, not been able to find a non-tandem or -military container able to fit anything bigger than a 300+ made from F-111 fabric. (UltraLite PN-9 is a different story, and large canopies are more easily accommodated.)
    The D-Bag
    Talk to your local CReW dogs: You don't have to use a deployment bag when you skydive.
    “You can free-pack your BASE canopy into a properly-sized skydiving container, just like you do in your BASE container,” he says, “except the rectangle is a lot smaller, so you’ll have to stack it up.”
    If that sounds a little unnerving, ask for help. Doherty notes that a lot of the older generations of CReW skydivers are quite familiar with that deployment method, so ask them for advice.
    If you do use a D-bag, he insists that you’re using it correctly. Take note of what BASE canopy you're using. Not all BASE manufacturers use a metal ring at the top of the parachute. Some do use a metal ring, just like you'd find on a skydiving canopy. The Blackjack and Ace canopies built by Asylum also use a metal ring. Atair doesn't. And Apex doesn’t, either. To get this right, use a metal connect link to prevent the canopy from getting sucked up into the grommet of the bag. (Very importantly, the link needs to be inside the bag.)
    The Pilot Chute
    You are going to want to use a slightly larger pilot chute for a BASE canopy than you would if you were jumping a skydiving canopy, because the BASE canopy itself is much larger.
    “You don't need to use the same-sized pilot chute that you use in the BASE environment,” Doherty notes, “We recommend a 32" non-collapsible pilot chute for skydiving. It's much larger than a sky pilot chute, which is typically 28 inches.”
    The Bridle“We typically use a longer bridle in BASE jumping,” Doherty says. “You don't need to take the BASE bridle over to make the BASE canopy work. You'd want to use the bridle that was appropriate for whatever discipline you were doing in skydiving. We recommend using a normal skydiving bridle for normal skydiving freefalls. If you’re wingsuiting, we recommend using whatever bridle length you'd normally use for wingsuiting in the BASE environment.”
    The Slider
    You can use a mesh slider, but it’s not ideal.
    “In BASE, we’re so close to the ground that we tolerate--even welcome--brisk openings,” Doherty says. “But if you make five jumps on a mesh slider at terminal, you’re going to feel it. You won’t regret using a sail slider in the skydiving environment. That said: If you’re making hop-and-pops, a mesh slider is not a problem.”
    The Jumps
    Once you’re all geared up, there’s only one place to go: Up. And when you get there, you’ll have a few more things to think about.
    “When you're jumping a BASE canopy on the dropzone, you have to think about where you're going to be in the pattern,” Doherty advises. “You're jumping a parachute that's much larger than the other parachutes around you and you're going to descend a lot slower. Especially at large dropzones where they’re flying multiple aircraft and doing multiple load drops over the same area, this can get problematic. Stay out of the way.”
    The Mentality
    If you have access to a candy-colored, fire-powered dead-air machine, then by all means use it--but don’t rely on them as the sole training platform for your BASE-jumping skills. Commit to fine-tuning your BASE canopy skills (and that impossible-to-exaggerate-the-importance-of accuracy) before and between jumps from objects. Your bones, your friends and your family will thank you. And--as always--talk to your mentor and/or gear manufacturer to clarify any points that leave you unclear.

    By admin, in Disciplines,

    The History of Atmonauti Fly

    Atmonauti is a human flight technique, body free, invented by Marco Tiezzi in 1998. Developed and perfected with the help of Gigliola Borgnis, it was presented for the first time in 2000 at the World Freestyle Competitions, the European Espace Boogie, and the Eloy Freefly Festival.
    The technique consists of flying diagonal with a determinate relation between angle and trajectory speed of the body, to obtain an air stream that permits lift and a precise control of flight. The aim is to fly in formation at the same level and angle, and to be able to perform different aerial games, such as freestyle, three-dimensional flight formation with grip, or acrobatic freefly maneuver (see the 'guinnes' page in www.atmonauti.com).
    All this is not executed in the normal vertical trajectory of the gravity force. The atmonaut creates his own diagonal trajectory, and thanks to this technique, he regulates with extreme precision all the parameters, such as the angle (trim), speed, and direction, becoming a real 'flight pilot' of his own body.
    The term 'Atmonauti' ('atmonauts' in English), coined by Marco Tiezzi, is defined as: Atmosphere Navigators (like 'astronauts', that mean astro=space nauts=navigators), the ideal 'definition' of this new way of fly.
    Revolutionizing the concept of skydiving, where all the different disciplines are performed in the vertical fall (the trajectory of the gravity force), Atmonauti fly is a very complex kind of 'relative' work that occurs during a real 'flight'. There is a considerable horizontal displacement, and above all longer flight time. In fact, the Atmonauti fly permits the jumper to remain in the air for a 50% longer time in respect to the vertical free flight, confirming a real 'human fly performance'.
    In continuous development and evolution, the Atmonauti fly marked another important step in 2001. Gigliola Borgnis discovered the possibility of flying in the angle trajectory with the feet first instead of head first, realizing something that was considered impossible since then... another revolution that confirms and opens the potential of the Atmonauti fly!
    In 2002, Marco Tiezzi invented the "Atmonauti tandem", experimenting with the technique to maintain the same angle and speed of a normal Atmonauti fly, but with double the weight (without drogue of course). The tandem Atmonauti offers the passenger the exceptional possibility of trying a real sensation of flying, instead of falling.
    In 2002 Atmonauti became a reality, known and practiced all over the world. The Atmonauti fly also entered into the compulsory of FAI competitions of free style and freefly.
    At the end of 2003, the short-film "Atmosphere Navigators", composed of only images in Atmonauti angle fly, won first place in the Flyboyz Film Festival for its unique images and technical contents of the highest level. (The movie is available at www.atmonauti.com.)
    And again, in October, 2004, Marco discovered the possibility to fly Atmonauti in the wind tunnel: "Tunnelnauts" = "wind tunnel navigators". That consisted of flying around all the perimeter of the tunnel in a side Atmonauti position.
    Gigliola Borgnis and Marco Tiezzi, of Team Atmonauti, will feature another article on the Technique of Atmonauti Fly in the near future. Until then, more information on beginning your "Atmosphere Navigation" can be found on their website at www.atmonauti.com.

    By weegegirl, in Disciplines,

    The Future of Wingsuiting:

    In November 2008, 71 wingsuit pilots flew in a stealth-bomber-shaped formation over Skydive Elsinore.
    It was the largest slot-specific formation in the short history of this emerging
    discipline. But how did the event, which was billed as a “Wingsuit World
    Record,” change the future of wingsuit flying (if at all)? In a discipline still
    unrecognized by the FAI and the Guinness Book of World Records, what does it
    mean to try setting new standards?
    71: Achievement and Frustration
    The idea of a big-way wingsuit record was not new. The most notable previous
    event was in Cochstedt, Germany in July 2006. Organizers there sought Guinness
    recognition for the largest number of wingsuits exiting on a single jump run,
    out of an Antonov 72.
    In contrast, the 2008 71-way at Skydive Elsinore was a purely invitational event
    focused on slot-specific flying in a four-plane formation. A diverse
    international team reflected a worldwide growth in the discipline and a global
    desire to achieve something recognizable within our sport. Hailing from as far
    as South Africa and Russia, participants from 14 countries qualified for a
    chance to fly in the big-way by demonstrating their skills at official camps and
    through a referral system. Five were women (the few, the proud, the only gender
    not to have a single member axed from her slot!).
    The skydiving press (the French

    ParaMag, British

    Skydive The Mag and American

    Parachutist, among others) extensively documented the event.
    The 71-way marked significant achievements as well as frustration. In the
    achievements column, the team flew a new, wider spacing that reduced oscillation
    and movement within the unlinked formation. This led to multiple smooth and
    on-level jumps that looked beautiful from the ground.
    The previous slot-specific record recognized within the wingsuit community was a
    16-way diamond. Like that formation, most small groups had employed a
    “head-to-foot” spacing technique that encouraged proximity but usually resulted
    in trailing flyers at the back and reactive vertical motion within the flock.
    The scope and level of organizing, while it left much room for improvement, was
    also a check in the achievements column. While there was some initial grumbling
    about the level of seriousness and the pushing of safety standards in
    communications to team members prior to the event, most participants expressed
    relief that the 71-way jumps would be a focused record attempt and not “just
    another boogie”.
    Frustration arose when it came time to judge whether the group had succeeded in
    setting a “world record”. The initial goal was to have each wingsuit pilot
    flying within three-square-meter boxes arranged in a grid that would be
    superimposed over still photographs of the formation. The organizers’
    proclamation of success was based on a photograph where all flyers were either
    fully within or touching at least one edge of their three-square-meter grid
    square. However, without an outside judging structure, heated discussions
    escalated the meaning of “success” and the best way of judging unlinked
    formations into a full-throttle debate.
    Beyond R&D;: 100 over Elsinore
    The debate about how to judge large wingsuit formations will continue unabated
    until an outside governing body agrees to recognize one set of objective
    criteria. The 71-way was destined to be a “work in progress” since it had never
    been done before. With the lessons learned from the experience, an expanded
    organizing team is preparing for a 100-way wingsuit event at Skydive Elsinore
    from November 7th to November 13th, 2009.
    While some ask whether trying to set records before there are established
    categories is futile, skydiving is not a sport that waits for mainstream
    approval in order to change and grow. Wingsuiting is an especially
    entrepreneurial and fast-growing subculture. The hope is to continue safely
    demonstrating what is possible. In doing so, organizers strive to create events
    that excite new skydivers and unite those already committed to wingsuit flight.
    Armed with evidence from last year’s judging attempts, big-way organizers are
    prepared to continue lobbying both the FAI and Guinness.
    The 100-way five aircraft formation is invitational. Skills camps are planned
    between now and July, when official qualifying events begin. A specific Skills
    Checklist sets out minimum jump requirements and what exit, flying, and canopy
    skills potential participants need to practice and perfect in order to gain a
    spot on the team. For more specific information about the 2009 Wingsuit 100-way,
    go to www.wingsuitworldrecord.com.
    Numbers and Recognition
    Official recognition of wingsuit flight as a skydiving discipline will bring a
    clear judging regime – and therefore, is ultimately necessary for long-term
    growth. Competition drives our sport, and desire to achieve recognizable goals
    is at the heart of every team. Whether with the versatility and creativity of
    vertical relative work or the sheer size of the formation World Team, standards
    and rules (some made to be broken) compel excellence and progress.
    In the current vacuum, setting new standards and claiming achievements without
    official rules is difficult but necessary. The 71-way, for all its
    imperfections, spurred the wingsuiting community to more seriously consider how
    it wants to be judged. It also demonstrated that such events have the potential
    to recruit serious sponsorship and interest from both new skydivers and
    experienced jumpers in other disciplines. That’s the future.

    By Deleted, in Disciplines,

    The Challenge of 10-Way

    Remember when you were a student? Most of us couldn't exit a plane to save our lives (or pass a level), the skydive seemed so short yet so full of things to do, and when it was over we had this nagging feeling of, "If only there was more time!" Welcome to 10-way.
    If you're an accomplished competition formation skydiver, then 10-way isn't so tough, just another engineering challenge to meet with a little thought and practice. But for most weekend warriors who usually just jump with their buddies to have fun, funneling exits with varying frequency but not quite sure why, 10-way is an event that makes you feel like a student again. But when you start training for 10-way, like when you were a student, a new world of skydiving challenges opens up to you.
    Not only is it challenging--10-way is also a blast! It's some of the most intense skydiving you'll do, because whatever you do, it's got to be very fast if you're going to be competitive. And you don't have to be a full time skydiver to get good at it. As Roger Nelson, program manager at Skydive Chicago and eight-time 10-way medalist, often said, "10-way is the only discipline at Nationals where you can be a weekend warrior and really compete against the best in the world." For example, Skydive Chicago's STL10 team practiced in the mornings from 7 a.m. to 10 or 11 a.m., stopping to allow jumpmasters and videographers to work for the rest of the day, and still won two gold and two silver medals in four competition years.
    And who knows how low the time can go? "We're building 9.2-second jumps, thinking we're pretty hot, but Roger's saying, 'I think we can do eights…' and we did," remembers Frank Shisler, member of Skydive Chicago STL10 in 2000 and 2002. "It's all about focus and intensity; once you step in your slot behind that line, it's a totally different world." When you're really training for 10-way, you give that exit and skydive every last bit of effort you've got. To excel in 10-way, that's what it takes.
    If you just want to play with this new discipline for fun, well, it lends itself to that too. Not being a World Meet event, it tends to be more casual and the experienced teams more supportive than in some other events.
    This article presents the lessons learned from several years of 10-way experience with a recognized top 10-way team, Skydive Chicago STL10. The concepts explained here are valuable to anyone working on 10-way, and will be most useful for those trying to get past good on their way to great.
    Your Mission Is…
    Your goal for every 10-way formation skydive is to build one correct predetermined formation as fast as possible. There's only one point to remember. In theory, it's the simplest competitive skydiving event out there, with the exception of accuracy--get to the right place as fast as you possibly can (or at least faster than the next team). It's almost a drag race between teams, especially in the later rounds.
    Easy, you say? Not necessarily. To be sure, the "new" rules (which went into effect for the 2002 Nationals and were a screaming success) make things a bit easier than they have been in previous years because they now allow grips out the door. This means that you can launch part or all of the 10-way as a chunk, thus making the exit frame (the position of everyone when the last person exits the door) tighter. Then the early floaters and late divers don't have as far to go to the two unlinked jumpers who form the base, making the completion time shorter.


    The rules require the first two jumpers in the base to be unlinked, which can happen with a grip flash after launching a chunk. So technically, you could launch all 10 together, let go of the base two, then dock the two four-ways on the base if you could manage it.
    By the way, all participants except the camera flyer must be lined up behind a line on the floor for exit--no floaters allowed. This line goes from the forward edge of an Otter door to the rear bulkhead on the right side of the plane. Going over this line starts the clock, even if you are obviously just setting up and not ready to exit, so be careful of it until you are ready to exit.
    You have 35 seconds to build the formation in competition, because a five-second hold time is required within the total working time of 40 seconds. If you take longer than 35 seconds to build the formation, it's a bust and you are awarded the full time of 40 seconds.
    Why 10-Way?
    So what exactly will 10-way do for you? It's not a World Meet event. It won't teach you transitions and vertical hops. You can't practice it in the wind tunnel. But it will teach you all about exit dynamics, subterminal relative work, approaching a formation from above or below, and a respect for team cooperation at least equal to that you get from other disciplines.
    Body position on exit is just the beginning. Since there are no outside floaters in 10-way, the way your body is positioned upon breaking the plane of the door (while driving out the door hard) determines how far you (and anyone behind you) will be from the teammates ahead of you. What you do in that split second determines the outcome of your skydive. Contrary to popular belief, 10-way is not all about diving. The first few people out are dive floaters--they bomb the door, but do so either sideways (with their left sides exiting first) or turning to the right (exiting a Twin Otter) in order to float back up to the base. Between dive floating, setting a base, and diving down to the base, there is a wide range of ideal exit body positions based on the slot in question, and every member of a good team has an understanding of all of them.
    On to subterminal work. When 4-, 8-, and 16-way competitors say the exit is everything, they generally mean that the exit separates the best from the really good. In 10-way, the exit is almost literally everything. From the instant you cross that line inside the plane to the instant the last grip closes is your build time. Just to give you a little perspective, SDC STL 10 averaged a build time of 9.79 seconds for the required six rounds in the 2002 USPA Nationals (which they won). If we assume that we spend 8 seconds "on the hill" before reaching terminal velocity, and that a fast exit might hit 2 seconds on a really good day, that means that a top 10-way dive is completed before hitting terminal velocity. That's what we mean when we say the exit is everything--building a formation that fast requires an ideal exit and a lot of flying skill on the hill.
    Once you're out, if you're not the base, you have to dock on it. Since we're talking about sub-terminal hill work, we have to remember that the plane of the formation is still tilted to some degree relative to the ground. Thus, the floaters approach from below and the divers approach from above--which is quite different from the typical larger-formation picture of approaching on level. Here, level is relative to the plane of the formation, not the horizon. And if you want fast times, you don't have time to hit level a distance out from the formation and approach flat. You need the fastest approach, which is a straight line. Besides, if you're building in sub-terminal air, the base is accelerating--so if you pause a ways out, you're usually hosed.
    Cooperation and consistency among all team members is essential to each member's successful performance and thus that of the team as a whole, perhaps even more so in 10-way than in other competitive disciplines. All it takes is one sidestep by one person early in the lineup to hose the whole skydive by giving everyone else an exit they didn't expect (perhaps even involving the infamous door strikes). In a 35- or 50-second skydive, a bump on exit is much smaller in the grand scheme of things. But if your build time goal is less than one-third the working time of a 4-way jump, every fraction of a second counts. That's why every member of a 10-way team has to be on the same word, not just the same page, in order to succeed.
    "You change one person, you change the whole thing," says Shisler. "If you want to be competitive, you have to put in the practice with the same people in the same slots."
    Also, the cohesiveness and discipline you learn with 10-way will benefit you in any other competitive disciplines you choose.
    You get all of these benefits from doing competitive 10-way, and you get to have fun too! The fun and bonding between team members are the biggest reasons why several teams, like SDC STL, compete together with minimal lineup changes year after year.

    Exit Challenges
    Diving out of a plane solo isn't so tough, but if you want to be in the same time zone as your teammates when you exit for 10-way, some grips are quite helpful. So now you're diving out some number of people as a chunk. That doesn't mean that you have to hold onto them forever--the people just behind the base and the divers behind them generally find that holding on just long enough to ensure proximity through the "snap" on exit is all they need (floaters tend to do best without grips, as dive floating individually is enough work).
    Thus, if you are one of the jumpers with a grip on exit, your hold time and release timing will be engineered through trial and error, and consistency is an absolute requirement. Letting go of only one hand earlier than usual will spin the person you're holding. Letting go of both hands early will leave you and everyone behind you too far away (or the floaters too far away, if you are early in the lineup). Letting go too late might screw up the person you're holding.
    Setting up behind the line is a lot like The Price is Right--you want to be as close as possible without going over. As stated earlier, this starts the clock whether the offending body part is a foot over the line or a head leaning over it. Think of the line as a plane, not just a line on the floor.
    Your exit setup will go through a lot of changes before it settles into one that is good for everyone. Practicing on the ground with rigs is a helpful start, but the actual skydives are the real test. Once you've settled on an effective lineup (Jane's foot here, Bill's knee tucked in just so), stick to it unless you're trying to improve something and you let your teammates know. As previously stated, your exit affects everyone else's--so if you're going to change something, talk about it.


    Movement on exit is another challenge--not everyone can move at the same time. If you're first out and start the clock, be sure that you go at the same point in the count, not leading the GO! one time and going right on it the next. This helps set the timing for the later divers, who have to be leaning in the right direction at the right time to exit with the team without either running people over or getting caught napping and being dragged out the door.
    "You're skydiving from the word 'HOT!' " says Shisler. "A lot of casual teams get out (of the plane), get stable, then get together. You can't do competitive 10-way that way. You have to be flying together from the word HOT! A lot of people don't understand that."
    Also, using the door side of the plane for balance is not allowed under the rules, whether during setup or on exit, though you can use the opposite side. (Note: if you lean on that side of the plane, be sure that no part of your rig is caught on a bench or seat belt bolt. I can tell you from experience that this definitely hampers your exit…) Your balance, which is essential to a good exit, depends on your agility, your teammates' balance, and a smooth jump run.
    Speaking of jump runs, consistent airspeed as well as a smooth flight is essential. When traveling to different drop zones, or even with different pilots at home, we found that changes in airspeed produced noticeable changes in the exit frame. With higher airspeeds, everyone is more separated and the times are longer. With a slower airspeed, everyone notices a steeper exit frame and often a longer build time because of the different angle, despite being closer together. So, basing practice flights on the airspeeds specified in the competition manual (85-95 knots) is a big help to a seriously training team.
    If jumprun is bumpy, your exit will stink. It's guaranteed. Don't be afraid to call a breakdown of the lineup and a go-around if the floor is rocking and rolling, especially in competition.

    Formation Build Challenges
    So now that you're out the door, for most of you it's time to chase the base. You might be tracking uphill with everything you've got, or diving and hoping you can stop without sacrificing a teammate. Either way, aiming for a target when both you and it are on the hill can be tough.
    If you are building a 10-way quickly, in subterminal air, it's a big game of acceleration control--not position control. If you're the base, you try to keep acceleration constant. If you're a floater, you are trying to slow your acceleration and then match the acceleration of the base. If you're a diver, you're accelerating more and then trying to slow--not stop--your acceleration to match that of the base. Matching position with a stationary target isn't so bad, but the acceleration game is a challenge.
    Add to that the fact that you are working in "mushy" subterminal air, and the degree of difficulty rises again. It's a lot harder to make these acceleration changes at this time than it would be in terminal freefall, especially right out the door. Respect the fact that things just don't work quite as well as you want if you're not used to a lot of subterminal maneuvering, and take it easy the first several times. Hitting the base hard can take it out, or it might just change its angle enough to make it cut into or surf on the relative wind more than it was doing before you hit it. This will change the base's position from its normal exit frame, hosing the floaters and divers who haven't docked yet. With a highly practiced team, everyone gets accustomed to a certain exit frame after a certain amount of practice and is already going to that familiar spot on exit rather than waiting to see what the base does. When that spot changes, it messes up things for everyone.
    Of course, at some point everyone has to cross the line in order to figure out just where it is…the takeouts can be spectacular.
    Your vertical approach isn't the only thing that requires a lot of care--you don't want to hit the formation hard on the horizontal plane either. It's essential that the angle of the formation remain the same, ideally where it was planned to be. Large changes in the angle during the build screw up the approaches of everyone who isn't yet docked. When you're approaching the formation on the ragged edge of too fast to stop, it's pretty tough to adjust to an angle change.
    Then, although it's best not to throw off the angle in the first place, it's not necessarily good to quickly fix it either. When time is short and the angle is off, those still approaching are already adjusting their approaches to compensate for the problem. If the base puts the angle back where it was, then those still approaching could be going the wrong way--to the temporary "bad" angle they saw just a second ago. Figuring out how much angle change your team can handle takes a lot of practice and awareness in the base and late floaters/early divers.
    Last, but certainly not least, of the formation build challenges is that of grips. It's easy to snag the first bit of the right arm or leg that comes near you, but it's absolutely vital that you get a solid grip the first time, not just grabbing a fold of a jumpsuit and hoping it will hold. There can be a lot of tension in a fast 10-way build, and you'll surely get a lot of grief if you're the one who lets go.
    Another thing about grips--if you are on the front of the triple diamond, you have no grips. However, if you keep your hands out wide and overlap the hands of the person next to you, it can look like you do--this will look like an incorrect formation. As in the smaller-way RW disciplines, you have to present the formation to the judges correctly in order to get scored. Each slot carries the responsibility for this.
    Slot Specifics
    First of all, the exit is roughly a single file line. Many teams will stack the first couple of people out the door or curve the lineup to shorten its overall length from the door, but the later divers tend to do best when exiting single file so they don't interfere with each other during side-by-side exits. The early slots (usually 1-3 or 4) are the floaters, the middle slots (usually 4 or 5-6) are the base, and the last to exit (usually 7-10) are the divers.
    Floaters--For decades, late divers have had the "glory slots" on larger formations because all eyes were on them as the formation completed. In 10-way, the ideal situation is for the last floater and the last diver to dock at the same time, so there's a lot of healthy competition between the two groups.
    "If you don't get out of the plane in a mode that propels you up, then you're behind the curve and the divers beat you every time," says Ron Olson, four-time 10-way medalist in slots 1 and 2. "You've got to know where your target is--the sooner you spot it and the angle it's coming at you, the quicker you can adjust to where you need to go. You need to be able to cup air and look where you're going at the same time, and go where you look. You're pointing your toes and driving at it hard, then all of a sudden you're level with it, it's coming at you, and you're trying like crazy to stop.
    "The rest of it is looking at the divers and knowing that if you slack off, they'll beat you there," he laughs.
    With a quick build, floaters certainly have to work hard. First they're anchoring in the airplane to stay behind the line even though others might be leaning on them, then they're going up as hard as they can go, then they're stopping as hard as they can and punching out a hard arch to stay with the base as it continues to accelerate. No 10-way slot is for tentative flyers, but the floater slots in particular are best filled by skydivers who know how to get maximum performance out of their bodies--whether it's tracking up hard, slamming on the brakes with your knees almost in your chest, or backsliding in your slot to keep up with the formation sliding down the hill.
    And like divers who need to go fast and stop quickly, floaters benefit from a lighter body type. "Lighter people have a better chance of recovering when they're behind the curve," Olson notes. However, you have to be able to match the base's fall rate when you dock, so if you are so light that you can get to the formation quickly but not stay down with it, you might need weights even if you are a floater.
    Another key to a good floater performance is a consistent base, says Paul Wold, four-time 10-way medalist in slots 2 and 3. "You've got to leave the plane going to your slot on the base, or you're too slow. But you can't leave the plane going to a spot like that unless the base is in the same place every time."
    Base--Just in case you haven't heard the word "consistent" enough yet, "consistent" is the hallmark of jumpers suited for these two slots. The 10-way is "initiated by two unlinked jumpers"--that's you. Your job is to get out of the plane the same way and speed every time, and to set a stable fall rate every time and a stable heading for each formation.
    It sounds like a job for a drop-test dummy, but it isn't. On exit, you might have two or three people hanging on you, so not only are you towing them out as you start the "train," you also get to deal with any of their issues as well as your own. It's your job to fix any problems that arise so that you exit where and as fast as you are supposed to be. Regarding the formation build, as anyone who's done larger formations will tell you, sometimes you have to fight like hell just to stay still when other people are docking on you. And of course, all the effort you put into staying still includes vertical and horizontal force, and it's tougher to fly hard in mushy sub terminal air.
    Base flyers should ideally be skydivers with lots of subterminal maneuvering under their belts, not career-long late divers or super floaters. People who are used to a lot of contact and working towards multiple points (particularly with competition RW teams) tend to have the subterminal flying skill and solidity (sometimes described as "roots in the sky") that these slots really need.
    Solidity means that when someone docks too hard, you can almost instantly adjust to minimize their effects on the rest of the formation. This requires split-second reactions and strong flying skill, the kind an instructor needs when manhandling a creative student. This slot isn't for "delicate" flyers who are easily bumped out of position. Also, the base can't be maxed out in terms of fall rate (slow or fast), because the adjustments could go either way (more on weights later).
    Position isn't just related to fall rate and your spot in the sky, it also involves the right angle for everyone. You'll find that once you get your exit to be fairly consistent, everyone ends up in about the same place relative to each other in the exit frame. So you plan each formation's angle to give everyone the shortest approach to their slots. If the base doesn't set that ideal angle, then everyone has further to go and thus the time is slower. And as previously discussed, maintaining the angles throughout the build is also the job of the base and anyone who has already docked.
    With practice, you develop an image of the exit frame you expect to see, and any significant changes then offer the option of accommodating them. If, for example, a floater flipped on exit and dropped down, you might punch it out a bit to help them out. But you don't want to go all the way to where they ended up, because then you make nine people work to save one. Ideally, you go to a point in between where everyone else goes a little further, and that floater goes a little further, and your time is better than if you went all the way to the floater and made the divers make up the entire distance.
    Divers--Even experienced large-formation divers often get humbled when they switch to a good 10-way team, because much is the same, yet much is different. If you're building a fast 10-way, the divers can't go into a max no-lift dive at all because they'll blow right past the formation (this is the most common mistake). As stated earlier, this is a game of acceleration control, with emphasis on the control.
    It starts with "not listening to the count, but feeling movement and being prepared," says TJ Hine, two-time silver and two-time gold medalist in 10-way with Skydive Chicago STL (TJ has been #9 for the last two years). "You've got to be skydiving from the word 'HOT!' " The right exit for a diver is one where he isn't getting pushed or pulled, instead flowing out the door smoothly behind his teammates with grips on the laterals to maintain proximity out the door.
    Hitting the door is a concern for the later divers, but tends to start earlier in the lineup (such as when someone in the middle or an early diver cuts the corner to the right when exiting). Thus, the divers mainly rely on their teammates to put the train in the middle of the door so that everyone makes it out clean. Shin guards on the front of the shin or the outside of the calf can be quite helpful when working out lineups and exits early in the season.
    Once you're out the door, "The big thing is how you release--you can push people around with the release, but don't hose your teammate," says TJ. "Figure out where the air throws you with your release and don't fight it. Design the formation from there, not from the lineup." For example, Skydive Chicago STL designed formations so that #9 was the last one in, not #10, because #10 (Tommy Shannon) always got thrown past TJ and to his right on the release, in a leapfrog type of move.
    Next is the approach to the base. "The big thing is being aware of the base as fast as possible, not so much the person you're docking on," TJ explains. "Go for your airspace relative to the base." If you chase the person you dock on, then if they are out of place, so are you.
    When slowing down to dock, you might find that swoop cords or baggier suits are quite helpful to a diver. As with floaters, leaner-bodied jumpers have a better time with diver slots; the floaters need to conserve altitude early, while the divers need to do so at the end of the approach to keep from passing the base.
    Also, as with all slots, you have to hang on tight when you get there. "You need death grips on first grip," TJ adds. "The later guys can really put tension on the formation.
    "The faster times are when people don't think, just react," he summarizes.
    Weights and Swoops
    It's well recognized in smaller-way RW disciplines that weights are necessary to equalize fall rates for various team members, and 10-way is no different. Whatever it takes to get all members to a matched mid-range fall rate, whether it's weights for one or a looser suit for another, then that's what should be done.
    For example, as stated earlier, if you're a floater with a small build relative to your teammates, you might still need to wear weights in order to keep up when docking on and flying with the formation. The base might experiment with weights for a time, especially if all floaters or the divers are consistently faster to the base than the opposite group. Weights seem to have a significant effect on the base's initial acceleration out the door, which is what the floaters and divers evaluate for their target position. As previously stated, the fastest times are when the last floaters and divers dock at about the same time, so if one side has an advantage, you have to "handicap" them to get a better overall time.
    As a diver, however, you probably don't want to wear weights unless absolutely necessary to match the formation's fall rate, as they decrease your ability to slow down your dive.
    Regarding slowing the fall rate, remember that major changes in fall rate are the norm for non-base flyers in 10-way. Swoop cords are often used by divers to make the change from fast to slow easier, smoothing their docks. Swoops can be very handy for a diver who needs to stop hard, but make sure that they're not so tight that they restrict your movement. It's not good if they float you up in the formation or keep you from reaching your toggles comfortably.
    Video
    Last but certainly not least of the slots is your (hopefully) dedicated videographer. As SDC STL's 2000-2002 videographer and proprietor of Skycam Productions, Mike Wood, says, "If it's not on video, it never happened."
    What's the most important thing about capturing a fast 10-way on film? "Don't screw up," Mike laughs. "I carried two cameras in competition just in case. There's absolutely no room for error. If a floater or diver goes low, they can fly back up and maybe get a worse score, but not having video gives you a 40 (the maximum score). You have to be there absolutely as quick as possible. If I'm one second behind, it costs the team. You have to be there before the last floaters and divers so you can see the last grip close on video to stop the clock.
    "A lot of people don't take filming 10-way as serious as other disciplines because it's fun," he adds. "But it can be a very competitive thing just like 4-, 8-, and 16-way. It has its own challenges that make that one point very difficult to do fast, as well as filming that one point. With unpracticed teams, it might be 10 seconds before the first two people hook up. With us, it's over by then. There's no time to screw up and fix it. We're shaving tenths of seconds, not 5-10 seconds per jump. Even a 12-second jump is over very fast.
    "To me, the biggest challenge is getting in your own little spot in the sky without hitting the floaters or the divers," Mike continues. "The exit is coming out so fast (with a medal-class 10-way) that you have to jump many times with the same people in order to learn to react to the base's colors. You have to let half the lineup go past you to (be in position to) film the break in the base grips. Then you have to beat the floaters and get up over the top without running into the divers, because now you're close enough to get in their way if you're not careful."
    So what's the procedure for getting the perfect 10-way video? Mike is happy to explain. First, you have to be solid and ready to hang on for awhile on climbout, he says, to allow the team to set up inside. "I usually hook my left foot inside to help hold on, then pull it back when the last guy steps into the lineup," he says. "It helps signal the front guys that the count is coming, too. And you have to know how to angle your head to see the whole line before exit. You want it clearly shown, not on the edge of the frame. But don't put your head in too far--one fill-in videographer learned that lesson when he got his lens peeled off by the first guy out the door.
    "Then on the count, you watch the blur of bodies stream past until the base colors come out," he goes on. "A lot of times, you drop off a little too soon until you get used to your team. I'd slide down the fuselage, not out to the side, since as the floaters hit the door they are immediately spinning around to come back up and it's easy to get in their way. Then you pop up to stay out of the divers' way. You have to get right over the top; if you're too flat, you can't see all the grips.
    "It's not hard so much as practicing with your team a lot to learn where to be and where not to be," he sums up.
    Training Logistical Challenges
    With all the jump mechanics out of the way, you might wonder what could be next? The answer is: Lots! For example, if your team can build a 10-way in under 15 seconds, why go to 13,000 feet? You can do training jumps from a lower altitude, saving time and money, and allowing easy back-to-back loads if the rest of the load is climbing to full altitude. For the last three years, Skydive Chicago STL ended up doing training jumps from 6,000 feet--sometimes as low as 5,200 feet--and still built the planned formation nearly every time.
    However, keep in mind that if you only allow enough altitude for a fast build time, you can't rebuild a funnel--so don't try. A good bet is to plan enough altitude to accommodate your fastest build time plus at least ten seconds to allow a build in spite of a bobble. Besides, you're supposed to hold it for 5 seconds anyway--it's good to get in that habit early.
    Another key is to document your progress--write down your build times on the various formations every time. That way you can see which ones you need to work on, and which ones you can't wait to draw at Nationals.
    Thirdly, we've all heard the old saw about how you play like you practice. Well, that means you have to practice like you'll play, which means practicing all or most of your jumps out of a Twin Otter, as that is the only aircraft used for 10-way at Nationals. Not only do you require a Twin Otter, you also require a Twin Otter flying at the same airspeed (85-95 knots) as are specified in the USPA Skydiver's Competition Manual. It's a good idea to check with drop zones where Nationals have been hosted to see what exact airspeed and power settings have been used in previous meets to ensure consistency between practice and competition.
    The last significant training hurdle is that of over-analyzing the skydives. We all know that each skydive is a little different (or a lot!), but that's easy to forget when you're looking at only 10-second skydives and working towards cookie-cutter consistency. Don't get too bogged down in the particulars of every single skydive--look at your team's performance over a period of time and jumps before you make conclusions about your improvement or backsliding.
    There is certainly a lot of effort, thought, and engineering behind a successful 10-way team. But there is also a lot of camaraderie, friendship, and learning--there has to be for 11 people to keep working towards the common goal of a highly competitive 10-way. Not to mention the pure thrill of achieving a fast time with the simultaneous cooperation and skill of 10 of your closest friends.
    The challenges of navigating the road to top-level competition status, both technical and cooperative, make 10-way competitors better all-around skydivers--who had a blast while they were getting better!

    By admin, in Disciplines,

    Swooping

    Photo by Paige Macdonald

    Blade Running involves a jumper flying an open parachute through a slalom course between and around wind blades. For years this relatively unknown discipline was practiced mainly down the slopes of snow covered mountains.
    Recently however with the development of high performance canopies swooping has seen somewhat of a spike in popularity as these canopies now allow pilots to "run the blades" on courses layed designed on level ground surfaces, ponds and lakes.
    Swooping requires exeptional canopy control skills and is only for experienced canopy fliers.

    By admin, in Disciplines,

    Style and Accuracy

    Photo by Jaroslaw Szot.

    More commonly called Style and Accuracy, these disciplines are also referred to as the "Classics." The first skydiving competitions in the first half of the 20th Century involved landing on a target using a parachute, then the Style series was created:
    Freefall style is a sequence of six maneuvers performed in the following order: 360-degree turn, 360-degree turn, backloop, 360-degree turn, 360-degree turn, backloop. All four turns and two backloops performed in proper sequence and in the correct direction is called a "series." Each of the four series prescribes different directions for the 360 degree turns.
    For Accuracy Landing, a jumper guides his/her canopy to a precision landing on a disc, or electronic pad, with a three-centimeter diameter dead-center target. The object is to get as close to the center as possible. Accuracy landing is also part of the USPA-sanctioned championship event Para-Ski. Para-Ski combines accuracy landing with a giant slalom skiing race.

    By admin, in Disciplines,

    Stretching for Freeflying

    Freeflying is a physically demanding sport (as are other disciplines in skydiving) and like any physical activity it is much easier to damage your body if you do not prepare your body properly. Stretching helps prepare your body for the physical activity it is about to go through, by offering some of the following benefits:
    Relaxes your body (which is always good in freeflying)
    Helps your coordination and allows for easier movement
    Gives you a greater range of motion
    Increases your body awareness
    Improves circulation so if you do damage your body it will repair quicker A lot of freeflyers seem to think stretching takes a long time and that it isn’t important. It is very important and if you plan on jumping for a long time then stretching is the way to allow you to keep on jumping as you get older.
    Stretching can take a long time but it can also be a short 10 minutes in the morning. The following is a short and basic stretching routine to help you prepare yourself in the morning. This doesn’t mean you should only do this in the morning when you go jumping, try to do this every morning, it only takes 10 minutes.
    Guidelines for stretching
    If you do not stretch right you can damage your body just as bad as if you do not stretch. Some people think that stretching should be painful, this is wrong. You should feel comfortable in your stretch, feeling a mild tension in the area that your are stretching. You should never bounce into a stretch, take your time, and ease into it until you feel the mild tension mentioned earlier.
    Stretching routine
    You should try to do this routine every morning to get the best effect. Start off by making sure you are warm, a hot shower to warm you up in the morning can help.
    Start by lying on your back, keeping your spine flat to the floor and look up at the ceiling/sky with your head. Start with one leg, bend it at the knee and pull it towards your chest until you feel a mild tension. Hold this position for 20 seconds and then move onto the other leg, taking a 10 second rest in between. [Figure 1]
    Next, lay on your back, keeping everything straight and looking up at the ceiling with your head. Bend your legs, keeping your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands behind your head and lift it up until you feel a tension in the back of your neck, still keeping the rest of your back on the floor. Hold this tension position for 5 seconds and then slowly lower your head back to the floor. Repeat this 3 times. [Figure 2]
    This is a good one if you have bad landings and find you hurt your ankles every now and then. Sit on the floor and have one leg flat. Grab the other leg just above the ankle. Rotate your foot clockwise providing a slight resistance with your other hand. Repeat this 20 times and then do the same but rotating your foot anti clockwise. Do not rush this. Now do the same with your other leg, again making sure you do not rush yourself. [Figure 3]
    Start by leaning against a wall with your head resting on your hands. One leg should be closer to the wall and bent with the foot facing straight forward. The other leg should be straight and behind you, foot facing the wall and the heel touching the floor. Slowly push your hips forwards, keeping your back straight, stop when you feel a mild tension in your calf. Hold this position for 30 seconds and then slowly move your hips back and relax. Repeat with the other leg, again taking your time. [Figure 4]
    Start by standing up straight with your feet shoulder width apart and facing straight forward. Slowly start bending from the hips keeping your knees slightly bent at the same time. Relax your neck and arms, keep bending until you get a slight stretch in the back of your legs. Hold this for 20 seconds and then slowly move back up. [Figure 5]
    Start by standing with the side of your body next to a wall, put the palm of your hand closest to wall against it just a bit higher than your head. Now slowly and gently turn your body away from the wall until you feel a mild tension in your shoulder, You should be between one and two feet away from the wall at this point. Hold this position for 15 seconds and then slowly turn back and relax for a few seconds. Now repeat this with your other hand. [Figure 6]
    Start by sitting on the floor and put the soles of your feet together, hold onto your toes. Now start to gently pull your self forwards towards your feet. Make sure you are moving from your hips and not bending from your shoulders or back. To help try resting your elbows on your knees for stability, this will make it easier. Keep moving forwards until you feel a good stretch in your groin. Hold this position for 40 seconds and then slowly move back and relax. [Figure 7]
    Now you’ve finished the stretching routine make sure you wrap up warm to get the best effect. Do this every morning and you will see a marked improvement in your flexibility and you will be much more relaxed in the air.
    Louis Harwood is a freeflyer from the UK and jumps at Target
    Skysports, in Hibaldstow. He has competed for the last two years in the Artistic nationals, he has two silver and one gold medal in B catagory freefly, freestyle and skysurf. www.avalore.co.uk

    By fuga, in Disciplines,

    Starting a FUN 4-Way Team

    Many formation skydivers cannot afford a thousand training jumps a year. Some can't jump every weekend. Some are married with children. Some are students. Some live in the cooler climates and can only jump six months out of the year. Yet they dream about jumping on a 4-way team. They try not to get their hopes up though. They figure that only single people or those born with silver spoons in their mouths can afford it.
    But that way of thinking is changing. More and more, jumpers on shoestring budgets are finding ways to compete on a recreational basis. They are starting to realize that they don't have to spend a lot of money to learn 4-way. Granted, they probably won't compete with Airspeed or the Golden Knights, but they can still challenge themselves and have a lot of fun in the process.
    So for jumpers who want to jump on a fun team, here are some suggestions for getting started:
    Do you have the time?
    Are you willing to commit the necessary time to the team? Things like work, family commitments, and other hobbies have to be taken into account. You might have money to burn, but it won't matter if you're a Boy Scout troop leader most weekends. If you have a spouse or significant other, will they agree to your being gone on weekends?
    But don't let the term "fun team" fool you. It can actually be more challenging to coordinate schedules for a fun team than for a serious team. With a serious team, members are usually committed to practicing every day of every weekend. With a fun team, however, members must determine which days on which weekends they're going to practice. It takes a little more juggling.
    Do you have the money?
    Time and money are the big commitments. Even if you can spare the time, can you spare the dime? Okay, corny rhyme but you get the point. Don't get your teammates' hopes up if you know you won't have the money. Also make sure your spouse or significant other knows how much money will be involved.
    Can you take criticism?
    Some jumpers don't like the pressure of competing but perform admirably on recreational jumps. On a team, both your RW and interpersonal skills are constantly under scrutiny. Your every move is going to be caught on video. As coach and friend, Woody (John Woode) always says: "The video doesn't lie." Jumpers who don't like to be under the microscope might want to think twice about signing up for a team.
    Find jumpers who can agree on common goals
    Once you decide you have the time, money, and tough skin, look for other jumpers who can agree on common goals for the team. Your personalities can be as different as night and day, but you can still jump together if you agree on common goals for the team. For example, if two team members want to practice full-time, buy team jumpsuits and go to the Nationals, while other members only want to practice two days a month and forget the Nationals, compromise might be difficult to reach. Teams in this situation might want to think about forming two teams, one serious and one just for fun.
    Ask around and you will find that you have more in common with other jumpers than you think. Most jumpers have jobs, families, and hectic schedules. But that's the beauty of a fun team - it lets you schedule training around everybody's life, not the opposite.
    Tip: Find a couple alternates who can fill in when regular members can't practice.
    Set team goals
    Once you find jumpers with compatible goals, schedule your first meeting. Find a setting for the meeting where everybody can relax and take as much time as they need. Agree to meet as a team at least twice a month.
    At this first meeting, agree upon basic goals for the team, such as showing up for practice on time and notifying the team if you have to miss a practice. Elect a team captain and somebody to create a team-training schedule. Ask team members to provide a calendar of their availability for the entire season, along with contact information (phone numbers and email addresses). Schedule another meeting to distribute the schedule and clear up any discrepancies.
    Determine the cost
    In one of your first meetings, map out a team budget and agree upon how each team member will pay. Let's say you want to make 100 training jumps, attend four meets, and go to the Nationals. Here is an estimate of what it might cost (per person) based on figures from the 2003 jump year in the US.


    100 Training Jumps @ $17/jump (including video)
    $1700


    4 Regional 4-Way Meets (6 jumps each @ $21/jump)
    $504


    Team Jumpsuits (optional)
    $325


    Registration for the 4 Regional Meet
    $100


    U.S. Nationals (10 jumps @17/jump)
    $170


    Registration for U.S. Nationals (per person)
    $60


    Transportation and Food
    $500


    Total
    $3359


    Competition is not for the feint-hearted, even when it comes to money. But most DZO's give teams a discount on ticket prices if the team trains at that drop zone and buys tickets in bulk. If each team member purchases just 50 tickets to start the season, the DZO collects $3400 up front (at $17 a ticket). It's money in the bank for the DZO and a commitment to the team from each jumper.
    Tip: Set a deadline for collecting money for jump tickets from team members.
    Get good coaching
    Many DZ's have an RW organizer or coach who is willing to offer advice to new teams. Normally, this kind of advice is free. Even if the coach charges a small fee, it is worth it because it will save you many jumps flailing around by yourselves. Coaching is also available at most local competitions to help teams work out exits and engineer skydives. They can also help with the mental side of skydiving such as how to conduct team meetings and how to mentally prepare for the skydive. So don't be afraid to ask for help. You're only cheating yourselves it you don't.
    Keep a team notebook
    In the pressure of training, it is easy to forget what you've learned. This is where a team notebook comes in handy. You don't have to write down everything, just a few reminders about how to do a particular move. Then when you're scrambling to dirt dive at a meet, you can refer to the notebook to refresh your memory. Make a page for each random and each block (currently, there are 16 randoms and 24 blocks in the 4-way dive pool).
    Tip: Create the notebook on a computer so you can print a copy for each team member.
    In Summary:
    There is more than one way to start a team, and the suggestions offered in this article might be old hat to experienced competitors. But for jumpers new to 4-way, they provide a good starting point.
    If you get nothing else out of this article, remember this. Team jumping is a commitment of time, energy, and money. It is a group effort. Everybody has to be dedicated, committed, and focused. They have to be able to perform under pressure. They have to be able to get along with people. And, most of all, they have to believe in what they're doing. If you are willing to do all this, then what are you waiting for? Go find yourself a team!
    © January 5, 2004 Edward E. Lightle

    By elightle, in Disciplines,

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