Indoors Outdoors - Translating Between The Tunnel & The Sky (Part 6)

    Part Six: Wrapping Things Up
    Before you have invested the considerable time and effort to persuade your brain how to understand freefly properly it can all feel rather difficult. Witnessing highly accomplished flying in both the sky and the tunnel appears akin to magic, and the road to being able to do all that stuff yourself can seem very long indeed. However - the key to mastering the necessary skills is about breaking down complicated positions and challenging movements into manageable, digestible elements. As you learn you will start to recognise moves that you can do as being pieces of the overall puzzle - building blocks that you can assemble in a variety of ways to achieve different results.
    Without proper guidance it can be difficult to take on board the amount of themes and concepts you are required to grasp, so hopefully this series of articles has offered up some insight into the methodology behind the ways we train. To get the most from your sessions with a coach it is important to not only understand what to do and how do it, but furthermore why you are doing it.
    Now that we have looked at the individual body positions, here are some general tips to help with progression:
    Slow Is Fast - The importance of being able to control your speed cannot be overstated. Mastery of a move is not the ability to do it fast but the ability to do the opposite - the slower you can do something the more your body is registering exactly what is happening with the surfaces you are using for control and the easier it is to inter the correct technique in your muscle memory. Low speed training is a very useful way to develop good technique as you must apply more of your body to the wind in order to make the positions work. Once you have practiced something enough the good technique should transfer though to higher speeds in the tube and on your skydives. Zoom!
    Range - This begins with being able to do things as slowly as possible. Zooming flat out is no good if you cannot get there and back safely, and merely being able to go fast does not count as having mastered something. Being able to apply and remove speed with precision means you truly understand how the mechanics of how something really works.
    Less Is More - The most efficient way to fly you body is to use all of it a little bit, rather than one part of it a lot. At the start of training a particular move or position the inputs might be exaggerated to emphasise the effect they have, but as you improve and work through the drills the goal is to use your body as effectively as possible. Pay attention to the very best flyers to see how conservative they are with the energy they expend in the tunnel. Aim to be as economical with your movements as you can.
    Personal Goals - The only person you are trying to be better than is you. Learning to freefly properly takes a lot of time and effort and money. Everybody went through the same steps and recognises the same frustrations - some things you will get relatively quickly, whereas other will take more time. It can be inspiring to watch people that have been flying for years but also very frustrating. Try not to focus your too much on the huge goals - it is important to remember that every small step forwards is of equal value as they are what adds up the the whole.
    Fill the Gaps - Being a truly good flyer is about breadth and depth. Try to resist letting your skillset lead you off by the nose in a single direction - instead use the training time and resources you have available to build your skills evenly. You may well be able to zoom like a motherfucker in a single position and a single direction, but once it gets like that it is all you are ever going to want to do at the expense of everything else. If this is already you then don’t think that revisiting weak areas is ‘going backwards’ - filling in any gaps in your abilities to bring them level is very much moving forwards. All the pieces matter.
    “Keep it loose. But keep it tight.” - James Brown

    By admin, in Disciplines,

    Indoors Outdoors - Translating Between The Tunnel & The Sky (Part 5)

    Part Five: Head Down
    Learning to fly upside down can be tough. Once a student reaches the point at which the coaches and instructors in charge of their progression and safety invite them to start, he or she should be suitably skilled in the other main orientations of flight in order to manage the variables involved in practicing head down with confidence. However, all too often this is not the case - and although things are improving as training methodology evolves and becomes more widely understood - too few students invest as much time as they should in the right foundational skills in their big rush to get to head down.
    The main thrust of these articles is to highlight some of the many ways that various elements of freefly training feed into and stack upon each other to create a deeper understanding of how flying actually works. The process of learning head down is a great example of exactly how many things someone could and should be able to do before they begin with those expensive headstands on the net - in order to make the whole endeavour much smoother, easier, cheaper, and vitally - more fun.
    Safety First!
    On the most basic level, good backflying and sitflying skills will keep you safe while learning head down. The ability to properly control yourself in these positions on high windspeeds is the minimum by which you should be allowed to get started. Even for those us totally devoid of maths, the ability to reset yourself onto the net in just a handful of seconds after needing to bail instead of fifteen or twenty (or more) spent bouncing around the top of the tube is clear to see.
    Investing in your backfly and sitfly early on will save you a great deal of time and money down the road.
    In addition, every bit of progress you make in the other areas of your training feeds directly back into your ability to fly head down. Doing this other stuff is more fun and easier on your body than spending hour after hour on the net.
    How Does Head Up Help?
    Aside from simply being able to safely get in the tube on wind speeds high enough for head down flying, many of the ways you sitfly about the place can be practiced and then switched the other way up as a means of making you brain understand what is going on. The most efficient way to figure out a line or a sequence of moves when you are first learning on your head can be to get it right with some sitfly first where it is easier to maintain awareness and fly with a position in which you are stronger - then flip it over. The way movements are flown from the one orientation to its opposite can be very similar - the space, the lines and the subtleties are very often one and the same.
    How Does Carving Help?
    Carving your way up from low wind speeds on both your belly and back help your head down flying from the very start by helping your brain to recognise the single most important rule to maintaining positional awareness:
    When you go from head up to head down - left is right and right is left.

    Once you have got the hang of static head down, moving around is next. Understanding how carving works and practicing it on low speeds is the way to both good technique and a much quicker mastery of it on high speeds. The best way to frame the process is to think of carving in the tunnel as learning the ability to fly at any angle and velocity as opposed to separating high speed and low speed into two categories. Once you get steep enough, the skill set you need to apply to carving becomes closer to that of head down flying - but the most important thing to understand is the fluidity. The golden moment is when your carving drills and your head down meet in the middle.
    How Do Layouts Help?
    Proper layouts are tough to get right. Frequently people have to do a great many, working through the smallest refinements in technique before nailing them. Training layouts teaches you body many things, but within the context of this article the most prescient value they have for helping with your head down skills is to get your body up over your head and travelling through the axis you need the most control of when flying (or transitioning through) a head down position. Head down is scary at the start - the wind is fast and is hitting your control surfaces from the wrong sides - having some layouts under your belt will help with being relaxed at the idea of your feet being high up and your body low down.
    The thing to remember is that all the pieces matter. While it is entirely possible to learn how to fly head down buy achieving the minimum possible requirements to be allowed to try, and then spend a great deal of time and money hammering away at it the way people used to do all the time - there is now a way that is more fun, less tiring, and that will ultimately give you a stronger skill set, better understanding and more useable tools for skydiving.

    By admin, in Disciplines,

    Indoors Outdoors - Translating Between The Tunnel & The Sky (Part 4)

    Part Four: Belly Flying

    It is probably important clarify exactly what we are talking about when referring to belly positions. Not to be confused with ‘Relative Work’ or ’Formation Skydiving’ or whatever saucy nomenclature is used in your part of the world for gathering up your bootie friends and doing as many doughnuts and thingys as you can - within the sphere of freefly training ‘belly’ means the various forms in which the side of your body with your belly on it is presented towards the wind.
    An important part of evolving into a wise and learned freefly type is the difference between merely teasing belly flyers for being lame and actually meaning it. Serious flat flying is very technical and contained within it are many of the concepts it is crucial to understand to fly competently in other orientations - such as developing spacial awareness, using multiple surfaces of your body at the same time to control both place and position, and the processes of planning and executing bigger, more complex skydives.
    The better you are at one element of flying the easier the others are to learn.
    Freefly is about mastering movement across all three axis, any way up and at any angle, and learning to fly with the wind hitting the front parts of your body is not only as important as any and all of the other parts - it is available right from the start. There are a couple of very good reasons why good belly basics are not something to dismiss or overlook. Firstly, the circumstances you are training under (indoors or from aircraft) require you to achieve some kind of basic proficiency anyway - so why not use the opportunity to cram as much of it into your brain as possible? Secondly - down the road when you are ready to attempt some of the more advanced tricks and transitions, understanding more advanced methods of how to fly on your belly will help a great deal.
    How Does Belly Carving Work?
    The general rules about learning to carve in (or from) a belly position are the same as doing so on your back. The mechanics of carving do not change wether you are head up or head down, facing inwards or outwards, and if flying on high speeds or low speeds:

    The combination of a drive and a turn creates a carve.
    When carving, the input with your body required to generate the turn part of the equation is small. Controlling everything else is the same - the surfaces you apply to the wind to alter your speed both horizontally and vertically remain constant, so when you are learning to carve in the tunnel you are training the same movements and positions that you use for tracking and angle jumps. You start flat and work up through to higher speeds and steeper angles - which is directly reflected by the skydives you perform as you build your confidence with tracking jumps.
    Orientation and Awareness
    It cannot be overstated how important spacial awareness is. As you work through the various stages in a training programme there are drills in which you are re-programming your muscle memory to do the exact opposite of what it has normally done every time in your life up to this point. Up is down, left is right, forwards is backwards. It takes time and is frequently frustrating, so anywhere you can find the opportunity to gain a head start is valuable. The same drill we discussed in the last chapter - where you can fly in a flat orientation (on your back) and switch (as far as your brain is concerned) between a head up and a head down position simply by moving your head is also applicable when on your belly. The opposite version of the same procedure has a comparable outcome and similar advantages:

    Helping you to fly an outface carve in the tube without losing control or getting dizzy.
    Setting you up for learning to fly head down positions and then perform transitions between head up and head down without being bamboozled by it.
    Progressing your angle skydives into steeper and steeper positions while maintaining safety and awareness.

      As we touched upon in the previous chapters, as you push through the training stages the symbiosis not only between each orientation of flight but that of the indoor and outdoor environments becomes more and more apparent. Knowing some details of how things all work together with each other hopefully de-mystifies the process somewhat and puts you on the good foot from the start. Getting to where your ambitions lie is a long road and the key to a more rewarding and fulfilling time with it is to recognise each step of the way as being of equal value. Every small push forwards is an important victory and an essential part of the bigger picture.

    By joelstrickland, in Disciplines,

    Indoors Outdoors - Translating Between The Tunnel & The Sky (Part 3)

    Part Three: Back Flying
    Backflying, in the manner that you learn as the entry point into freefly training in the tunnel, is not something much done up in the sky. Back tracking yes, and transitioning through your back from one place or position to another also yes, but static backfly not so much. Nonetheless, it is a crucial skill for many reasons - not only as a safety position that you can control at any speed, but also to build your awareness and ability with more advanced techniques.
    These days, people understand much better the importance of being able to backfly with confidence. From the perspective of coaches and instructors the resistance to students spending time learning this skill is more manageable than it was not such a long time ago. If you are feeling morbid and have substantial gap in you day, go dig up an old tunnel monkey and set them off about teaching backfly - then watch as their eyes bulge and the veins on their neck stick out.
    Investing in you backfly skills now will save you a lot of time and money later.
    The ways in which this orientation sets you up for strong progression are important and various. Not only is it your rescue position when practicing high speed drills in the tunnel, it is the jumping off point for understanding carving, how to build your back tracking and angle flying skills, and develop your awareness when switching between head up and head down.
    How Does Back Carving Work?
    Carving all works in the same way regardless of which way, which way up, or on which side you are approaching it:
    The combination of a drive and a turn creates a carve.
    If you just drive in a straight line with no turn then you fly straight into the wall. If you just turn and don’t drive at all then you spin on the spot. The balance between these two inputs dictates the size of the carve. Ok, so now jump back to just driving and not turning - when learning to carve hitting the wall is not your goal, but what if there is no wall to hit? The surfaces you use to control your speed and pitch are the same wether you are going around in a circle or in a straight line, so the muscle memory and technique you develop while learning to carve in the tunnel is immediately applicable to your angle jumps. Hooray!

    Orientation and Awareness
    So much of learning how to fly is teaching your brain and your body to do the opposite of what it is naturally programmed to do. Slow is fast, left is right, up is down. When practicing moves that are initially complicated and difficult, it can be very challenging to consider any other factors than simply getting to body position right. As your skills grow so does your ability to process more information - such as where you are, where anyone else is, where you have just come from and where you are going.
    Awareness drills that you can practice early on help greatly toward overwriting your brain with the correct information about which inputs move you in which direction.
    For example, transitioning from head up to head down while facing the same way switches the direction of you whole body - shoulders, head, eyes, brain - everything that was on your left side is now on your right side and vice versa. Without training your body to understand how this effects movement and swap things around accordingly, you will find yourself going the wrong way because it feels correct to go the wrong way.

    Building your understanding of how, why and when to switch direction is a vital part of moving around safely and with purpose while freeflying.
    So start now. When you are flying on your back looking down across your chest towards your feet you are in a head up position. When you are flying on your back with your chin up as far as it will go, your eyes pointing backwards and the top of you head down towards the net you are in a head down position. It does not matter that your body remains horizontal - for all intents and purposes you brain is learning the differences between the two. When you move on to higher wind speeds and and positions that are tougher on both your body and attention, having been aware of how this works from the start and including it in your training will help a lot with how fast you move on.
    So, right from the start there are things you can do in the tunnel that will improve your skydiving. Learning to freefly properly is something that requires attention to detail and practicing backfly skills on low wind speeds in no way diminishes the rate at which you learn.

    By joelstrickland, in Disciplines,

    Indoors Outdoors - Translating Between The Tunnel & The Sky (Part 2)

    Of all the basic orientations and body positions available, good old sitfly is the one that changes the most between indoor and outdoor flying. If you have done any head up training in a tunnel, your coach will very likely have been hitting you over the head from the very beginning about how you need to use your back more and your arms less. Learning to freefly is about understanding how each and every surface of your body can be presented to the wind in different ways that work together to create lift and drive. Your back is the biggest single surface that you have - and as such knowing how to use it properly and from early on not only makes flying head up easier on every other surface you use, it feeds into many, many other skills.
    Head Up Is Cool
    Just a mere handful of years ago it was much more common that sitfly abilities were seen as another frustrating speed bump on the way to ‘getting head down’ - and as with belly and backfly only the minimum possible understanding and skill development was needed (or tolerated) before you do the ‘proper flying’ that was cool and not lame. In no small part thanks to the macroscopic nature of modern tunnel training people now seem to mostly accept and understand that the path to improving as a flyer is one that embraces good foundational skills that cover all the orientations properly. The ways that programming your body via repetition to understand movement and build both confidence and awareness have such a strong symbiotic relationship that the better you are at one thing, the easier it is to learn another.

    Even a well fitting harness might develop space that can hinder your movement  
    Being diligent and thorough with something that is comparatively easy will make the harder thing easier and you will get it much quicker.
    Also, some imaginative people did awesome, progressive things with their feet pointing at the ground and as a result we have learned that doing head up flying is as challenging, rewarding and fun as anything else. With bigway records and complex feetsdown angle flying becoming more and more regular - head up has never been more exciting.
    What About My Parachute?
    Herein lies the difference. Your container assembly is made from a really grippy material and from the ass-end is not so aerodynamic. Also, as often as not, when flying head up your body position will generate a little (or a big) space between your back and your rig, exposing more surfaces to the wind that you need to consider. The sum total of these factors is that your rig hampers your ability to use your back to get about the place, and the balance of how you move shifts over to the other surfaces you have available - your arms and legs. When learning to sitfly a good coach will explain and demonstrate exactly how all the surfaces of your body work together and how to safely manage the difference between indoor and outdoor movement. Once you have learned how to do it, using your back for movement in the tunnel is easy peasy. When you put on a parachute and try the same thing while skydiving you will feel like your rig is trying to anchor you on the spot and you must adapt how you fly accordingly.
    Technical Difficulties
    While the following is true of other positions, a good early example of how developing good technique between the tunnel and sky is with sit. The tunnel is an enclosed space in which you need to generate the correct amount of lift with your body to fly and remain in the right place - whereas In the sky there is no net to worry about so strength and diligence with your body position becomes less important to maintain a position.
    There is stability in speed and it is easier on your body to fly fast.

    Understanding how to use your limbs important  
    So, in the sky things feel a little looser and jumps tend to fly a little faster. This is great when applying things you have learned in the tube, as once you remember to be subtle you will have it nailed to the wall - but it is important to be aware that the same adaptation in reverse means it is easy to develop sloppiness and wind up battling with inefficient and tiring technique when you go back inside. The way to avoid this is always consider your body position as part of your pre and post jump process. When running through the plan in your brain, picture yourself flying in a proud, efficient position and break down the movements you are aiming for into each surface you will bring to bear on the wind. Afterwards, include analysis of not only what you did, but of how you did it as part of your personal de-brief. if there is video of the jump go through it frame by frame and deconstruct exactly what is happening with your body and how the changes you make effect your movement.

    By joelstrickland, in Disciplines,

    Indoors Outdoors - Translating Between The Tunnel & The Sky

    Part One: Where Are We Now?

    Bodyflight has undergone significant evolution over the past few years. There are many tunnels now, with many more on the way - and the very best flying from formalised competitions attracts a great deal of attention from the outside world across the various media that we absorb into our brains every day.
    The techniques used to teach flying skills both indoors and outdoors are myriad and complex.
    Whether you are brand new to flying or a bit further down the road, the amount of information you are required to process during a short time in a stressful environment can be a heavy burden.
    Once you fall down the freefly rabbit hole, flying quickly gets very technical, and although many of the concepts are fairly simple to understand during the briefing - remembering and applying them while you are doing it is a different game.
    Indoor flight has taught us how to squeeze every efficiency from our bodies, gradually trimming the fat from the training process to where a lot can be achieved in a relatively short space of time. However, when new to the mysteries of the tube it can be confounding to watch exactly what coaches are asking their students to perform and be left wondering exactly how the various drills and techniques on display are relevant and applicable to one’s skydiving skills.
    The articles that follow are designed to clarify somewhat how tunnel flying and skydiving crossover with each other and address some of the questions people generally have at the beginning of the training process.

    Generic Coaching Disclaimer
    While it is certainly possible to learn some useful things from articles such as this, there is no substitute for good quality tuition. A coaching fee on top of what you are already paying for tunnel time or jump tickets will likely make things feel extra spendy, but for the amount it costs to employ someone with both the right knowledge and the means to convey it into your head will get you much further than the equivalent cash thrown at just trying to figure things out for yourself.
    Bodyflight is evolving quickly and expanding into every corner of the world. There are lots of coaches and many different opinions out there as to what exactly is the correct way to teach things. After reading this someone may well trot up to you and pontificate about how much of an unbearable ass I am and that what I say doesn’t count for shit all. Different approaches work for different people - and the more sources of information there are available to you the better equipped you can be to winnow the wheat from the chaff. I am writing from the position of eight years as a tunnel professional and have attempted to structure these words in a way that represents that which people most want to pick my brains about.
    Low Speed, High Speed, and the Follow Me Game
    The driving force behind how things have changed is the space available in which to fly. Some years ago tunnels were mostly smaller in diameter. Learning to fly used to be about getting the wind speed up as soon as could be, and that learning moves on lower speeds was a tedium to be rattled through as quickly as possible until you battled your way to head-down flying.
    As a general rule, tunnels then started getting bigger and as a result people began to discover a couple of very important things. The extra space meant that not only was it possible to present bigger, flatter, more efficient body positions to the wind - you could do so with more than one person (crucially - a coach and a student) at the same time.
    At this point, coaching via leading and following around the tunnel was already a thing, but bringing the format forward to the very beginning of the training process meant that a student could learn more things faster. A coach now had the room to quickly demonstrate something next to the student without more than the very minimum of time consumption and fuss, which is of tangible value in a place where very seconds mean monies, but also when leading and following is added into the process the student would then be approaching all the main concepts of getting shit done in the tunnel from day one.
    Following a coach from one position in the tunnel to another and performing structured moves in the same spot that they do engages the key elements of understanding how dynamic flying works. Not only are you practicing the moves themselves, you are learning lines and programming the management of space into your body, coaxing your awareness outwards to the environment you occupy. Good awareness is just as important for safe flying and a healthy learning curve in the tunnel as it is up in the sky.

    Low Speed and High Speed Training
    An unsophisticated way to think of the difference between low speed flying and high speed flying is as an indoor and outdoor skill set. In the simplest imaginable terms, low speed training teaches you how to fly all pretty in the tube and high speed training is where you learn skills to be better at skydiving. This is pretty reductive as while these things are not untrue, there is so much more value in understanding exactly where, why and how things cross over. The beautiful part is that the symbiosis between the two ways of doing things is so total that end result is greater than the sum of its parts. If bodyflight has put the hooks in you then chances are you desire to be a good flyer in both the sky and the tube - which is where the benefits really start to show. There are differences between the two environments which reveal themselves the more you learn. Adapting you skills from one place to the other takes a minute and does not happen automatically, but lots of what you learn translates from one environment to the other in valuable ways.
    The chapters that follow each represent one of the main orientations in which we fly - broken down into elements where attention is paid to the similarities and differences between indoor and outdoor zooming, and how to approach transitioning concepts and body positions successfully between the two environments.

    By joelstrickland, in Disciplines,

    Improving Your Sequential Skills

    I've seen a lot of skydivers who want to improve their sequential skills but don't quite know how to go about it. They jump their butts off but never seem to get any better. They learn just enough to dive down and latch onto somebody, but that's about it. Somehow, they fell through the cracks when it came to learning the basics.
    I blame some of this on experienced skydivers who don't take the time to work with up-and-coming skydivers. I blame some of it on the speed with which we whisk jumpers through our training courses. I blame some of it on the instructors for not making sure students can perform basic freefall maneuvers. And I blame some of the students, themselves, for not asking for help.
    So, for those of you who may have fallen through the cracks or want to improve your flying, here are a few simple ways to tune up your freefall skills.
    Learn to Calm Down
    You can't enjoy or concentrate on a skydive unless you are calm. There is no magic formula for achieving calmness -- it is just something you have to do on your own.
    Exercise, proper rest and diet can help, but inner calmness is something you have to find within yourself. Just try to leave your troubles behind when you come to the drop zone. Focus on enjoying your day of freedom.
    Breathe -- take slow deep breaths both in the airplane and in freefall. Stay mentally focused but relaxed, not tense.
    Learn to filter out distractions right before and during the skydive. There are a lot of distractions on a skydive (people talking in the aircraft, the sound of the engines, the wind, your fear of forgetting a point, and yes, even your fear of falling). With practice, you can learn to filter out distractions. Think about your skydive and how good it will feel once you're in the air.
    Establish a Good Fall Rate
    Before you can do anything related to sequential, you must fall at just about the same speed as the other jumpers. Before you find yourself floating on a big-way sequential dive, check your fall rate on a smaller one. Do a simple 4-way maneuver (star to open accordion and back to a star, for example). Monitor who is falling faster or slower.
    Try to find a common fall rate for your group. Heavier people, or faster fallers, should wear a jumpsuit with a little extra fabric to slow down their fall rate, and slow fallers should wear tight suits and weights.
    Finding this common ground is sometimes easier said than done, especially if you are jumping with different groups. But try to work out the fall rate first before moving on to more advanced moves.
    Start Small and Get Coached
    Practice 2-, 3- and 4-ways instead of trying to get on the big-ways right off the bat. If you're a student or just getting into formation skydiving, this is what you should be doing anyway. If you have been jumping for some time but are still having problems, you might have to swallow a little pride and go back to the basics.
    In either case, get an experienced skydiver to coach you and your group. Don't waste time floundering around by yourselves. Get your jumps on video if at all possible. Make each jump count.
    Practice! Practice! Practice!
    Try to make several jumps with the same group, and make as many jumps as you can back-to-back. Even if you can't afford to jump every weekend, lump several jumps together when you can jump. Skydiving is no different than any other sport -- you have to practice to be good.
    Give Yourself Time to Learn
    Don't expect to fly like a pro in one or two weekends. If that were possible, you wouldn't see 4- and 8-way teams making 10 jumps a day every weekend all summer long.
    Tell your friends you're taking some time away from big-ways to work on smaller formations. Don't worry, they won't make fun of you. They'll probably respect you for trying to improve your flying skills. They might even be a little envious that you're doing something they might need but are too proud to try. Better yet, some of them might join you.
    Skydive in Your Head
    When you can't practice for real, go through skydives in your head. I do this a lot, and for good reason. I live in Ohio where it's tough to jump during the winter.
    So I do a lot of mental skydiving. I go over 4-way block sequences. I design skydives, then go through them in my mind.
    After a day of real jumping, I always review the day's jumps during the drive home. It's the same thing football and basketball teams do after a game -- they review the game film. Speaking of videos, they are wonderful training tools, but they cannot substitute for instant replay in your head.
    Which brings up another point -- always get a debrief after the jump. A good coach or organizer always does this. It helps you remember the skydive better, especially the parts that need work.
    Enjoy the Skydive!
    Last but not least, enjoy the skydive from exit to landing. Feel the formation leave the plane as one coordinated unit. Ride the exit and smile as you look for the first key. Then feel yourself glide, relaxed and controlled, to the next point.
    Keep that smile and relaxed control as you go from point to point. At breakoff, contain your enthusiasm until you clear and pull. Then hoot and holler if you want. It's your skydive!

    By elightle, in Disciplines,

    How To Tube: Managing Sessions and Understanding Rotation

    Image by Annette O’Neil
    Tunnel flying can be physically demanding, especially at the beginning. Being in good shape will help but tunnel fitness is largely built through learning good technique and trying to fly as regularly as possible.
    The more you fly the more you will be able to fly, in terms of both duration of each period you spend in the tunnel and the necessary rests in between. ‘Rotation’ is the term widely used to refer to the process of sharing time in the tunnel amongst the flyers in each session - of rotating them around so everybody gets to use their minutes in sensible portions and with ample rest periods.
    Not all indoor skydiving facilities are the same - some have an enclosed (i.e. locked) staging area immediately next to the flight chamber that necessitates formalised sessions of a set duration (usually 30 minutes) which those booked to fly divide amongst themselves. Others tunnels might have an open staging area (i.e. not locked) in which the flyers can come and go as required - which leads to a little more freedom and flexibility for deciding upon the order of rotation, but more chance for things to turn into a shambles if those concerned do not manage the time properly and let it get out of hand.

    Playback monitor and session information at Hurricane Factory Slovakia. Image by Annette O’Neil
    As indoor skydiving facilities grow progressively fancier, the most likely way sessions will be displayed is via a monitor where each and every minute of flying is listed via software that is linked directly to the tunnel’s manifesting system. The programmes used to run the daily activities is most likely specific to that tunnel (or that type of tunnel) and will have its own particular idiosyncrasies. However - there are many places to fly where the primary method of marking people’s time is by writing everything out on a white board and crossing off the rotations one-by-one with an actual finger.
    Here is a simple list of some different ways of splitting up time:
    Sharing Sessions with the General Public: People off the street giving indoor skydiving a try will likely have bought a package that involves a couple of rotations of a minute or two each. If you are in a mixed session with some newbies you can really help by being on point with your personal plans as your instructor will likely have his or her hands full with the nervous and baffled. Look out for small children bailing out early or people faffing with their gear - if you and your coach can jump straight in when the instructor needs to tend to a tiny crying human or fix a gear issue in the staging area so they don’t have to interrupt a flight they will love you for it.

    The more the merrier - just be sure everyone knows the plan.
    Sharing Sessions with Belly Teams: Belly flying is very serious so much coaching, practicing and remembering needs to be achieved. Teams are often fond of shorter rotations such as 1:30s or 1:40s so they can squeeze another go out of a session. If your tunnel has a video playback system on a delay it will likely be set for longer than this so it is easy to get repeatedly caught with your pants down still watching yourself on the screen as the belly types get out.
    Sharing Sessions with Freeflyers: Freefly training these days is all about the low speeds. Flying on lower wind is easier on your body and the mixture of positions and training methods means it is possible to fly for longer. Rotations of 2.5 minutes have become standard and some coaches and flyers prefer three minutes. Remember, nobody sensible really wants to high five this much - but it is the done thing.

    British VFS team QFX at the World Air Games. Image by Ewan Cowie
    Sharing Sessions with VFS Teams: VFS is hard work so teams frequently like one minute rotations which can be a pain in the balls. They should be nice to you about it. You might find your rest periods very brief or even be asked to do shorter rotations in your own time so they can rest too. Stand your ground - as policy tunnels do not guarantee the breakdown of sessions but you are a paying customer an as such should be accommodated. As you progress you might be fine with one minute gaps but as a new flyer it can be too much work.
    Although it really only involves some very simple maths, organising rotation can be confusing at first which sometimes puts people off figuring it out - resulting in experienced flyers (who should know better) with a total inability to behave efficiently when at the tunnel. The most important thing you can do to make your sessions as smooth and beneficial as possible is communicate with the other people involved - and once you understand a few simple principals you are ready to go.

    By joelstrickland, in Disciplines,

    How To Tube: Getting It Right

    Tunnel instructors are a very special bunch Outside of the physical progress with your tunnel flying skills, there are some things to keep in mind when you visit your local tube that will aid both efficiency and enjoyment for yourself and those around you.
    Once signed in at the facility the instructor for your session (each session as they rotate) is the one in charge and should be the person you approach first with any questions or concerns - not the hoity-toity fancy coaches or other flyers (or even the other instructors).
    He or she does this every day and is under pressure to make everything run smoothly and on time. If you instructor is doing their job properly he or she will find you plenty previous before your session and discuss what is going to happen - they should enquire after your intentions but also let you know who else you will be sharing the tunnel with and what they are doing too. If you are with a coach who has overlooked this quick but necessary part of the process then consider getting a better, more communicative coach.
    Instructors are very fragile - try to help them out If you are a student - do not hesitate to get involved! Not asking when you need to know something will probably only result in looking like an arse in front of a bunch of people than a functioning human in front of one.
    If you are not with a coach and are relying on instruction from the tunnel staff - seek them out and talk to them before you start. The job of tunnel instructor is all about good efficiency - with time and energy both - and if you embrace this they will go the extra distance for you will do better out of your training as a result.
    Tunnel Monkeys enjoy teaching people stuff in the tube, it is why they do a physically demanding job for crappy money - yet those same reasons lead to short patience with disorganised and unhelpful flyers. You can aid them by personally finding and talking to either the instructor for your session, or if your instructor is nowhere to be found or prohibitively busy - the tunnel driver. The driver will (should) be halfway responsible for keeping track of your session anyway so you can relay your intentions - the two should constantly relay information to one another before and throughout the session.
    Happy instructors will make your life easy Here are a few things to remember:
    Be Ready: Tunnels all try to avoid running late and to buffer against the things that make this happen they will try to operate ahead of time as often as possible. Arrive early.

    Brief early. Be ready to start and ready to go first.
    Accommodate: When conducting a session an instructor has to consider many things, not only the requirements of every individual in the group, but what is happening both beforehand and afterwards. It might seem quiet but there can be anything form a long list of circumstances that require the maintenance of a tight ship - things like television crews and scheduled maintenance always require more time and extra work from the staff.

    Don’t Leave Your Shit Everywhere: The tunnel might let experienced flyers take drinks and such into the staging area but not the newbies - this is because you can be trusted to be safe and organised with your things. The same goes for around the building.
    Tunnel facilities are public places and the companies that operate them want to appear suitable as such, so put your pants back on and clean up after yourself.

    Know What Else is Happening In Your Session: Learn how long you will have between each of your rotations. Never rely on having long enough gaps between your flights to brief as you go (see part 3 for more). Plan accordingly. You are paying for those twelve seconds it takes your team to put their helmets on and set up - the clock is running.

    Thou Shalt Not Take The Piss: The instructor for your particular session is the only one you need to talk to about your plans, and they are in charge. They do not give a single fuck about “what they let you do last time” or what “usually happens” because you “fly there all the time”.

    News Travels Fast: Instructors whine and gossip like nobody else. If you are difficult with one of them everyone will know it before the day is out. This works the other way around too. It only takes a small amount of communication and consideration to get the staff on your side, and they will see you right. Finally - remember be nice and have fun. There is no substitute for more tunnel time and quality coaching, but everything you can do at the edges to facilitate a positive and productive experience at the tube helps. Putting in a bit of effort to try and make things easier for those around will reflect in both you own skills and the opportunities you are presented with amongst your flying community.

    By joelstrickland, in Disciplines,

    How to Tube: Buying and Using Time

    Tunnel time is not cheap. For casual flyers there is no real way to make it be cheap, short of selling your soul to a tunnel company for a position as an instructor. However, there are a few things to learn about the process of procuring time that can help make every minute as useful as possible.
    The important bit of information here is the more time you buy the less expensive it is per minute.
    For example - if you but 10 minutes of flying you will be paying a standard rate, but if you buy an hour you will qualify for a slightly cheaper category and save a small percentage on each minute. If you buy five hours you might qualify for the next cheapest level and save a little more. To qualify for the lowest rate that the facility offers you may have to commit to something like 20 hours of time. This is a lot of money to stump up for tunnel flying but if you are committed to getting good and have to cash to invest in it early then the savings start to make sense.
    Generally speaking there are a couple of ways to buy time - either from a tunnel or from a coach.
    Coaches make their money by purchasing time at the cheapest per-minute rate then selling it on to their students at a higher price and banking the difference as the fee for their services.
    As would make sense for an industry where different standards and levels of experience are available - coaching fees are not all the same. A multiple world champion with many years of experience might cost you more than a new instructor with a year of working at the tunnel under their belt. However, a general rule is:
    If you are buying smaller amounts of time the difference in price of buying form a tunnel or from a coach is negligible.
The advantage of buying from a coach:
    You get to learn stuff in a structured and efficient manner and you do not rely on the uncertain system of being coached by tunnel instructors.
    The advantage of buying from a tunnel:
    You may be at the stage in your flying where you can choose wether you need coaching or not. If you just want to zoom around practice without having to talk to anybody then you can. If you do want coaching for a session that you have already booked you can pay someone separately as a separate arrangement. If you want to invite your friends for some group play you can.
    Important: If you are relying on the tunnels instructors to teach you, remember that they learn on the job and might not be qualified to spot what you want to learn. Tunnel facilities often have a system with which to request an instructor of a high enough level to cover what you need, so don’t forget to ask (A good coach understands this system and will make the appropriate arrangements automatically). Remember that the more advanced you get the greater the chance that a tunnel instructor will not be able to teach you.
    For the majority of casual flyers it makes the most sense to buy time through a coach. This is because the best way to learn at the tunnel is from and experienced flyer that can effectively and efficiently communicate ideas, demonstrate techniques and provide a quality one-on-one service. The pool of instructors at your local tube may well be good coaches, but are often simply too busy to offer sufficient depth - and if the money you are is not really any different then the choice is an easy one.
    Some Tips:
    Look out for loopholes: If the tunnel is running a special promotion you might be a be able to take advantage of it. Buy-One-Get-One-Free on introductory flight packages you say? How many can you buy? Likely nobody cares that this is not proper pro-flyer time - certainly not the instructors. They would probably much prefer to teach you something for a session than process a family of newbies.
    Events: Tunnels might run special events for group flying - tunnel scrambles, night parties etc. Organised group events can be bags of fun and a great way to find flyers of a similar level to practice with.
    Last minute rates: If a tunnel has a particularly quiet period or a big group cancels at the last minute they might offer the empty time at a heavily discounted rate. This is often a regulars-only type thing - make nice with the right people and be sure the tunnel has your contact details.
    Locations: There are a lot of tunnels now, and a lot more on the way. Some places where you can train are cheap to fly to and cheap to live in. Depending on how much time you want to do it can cost less to go abroad than visit your closest tunnel. Plus you get to see somewhere else and maybe learn some stuff.

    By joelstrickland, in Disciplines,