Looking for the perfect team

    You might as well be searching for The Holy Grail.
    How often have you heard of a team who's had a big argument and broken up before, during or immediately after Nationals, having already spent an exorbitant amount of money? Most of the time this could have been avoided by simple communication, honesty and a little bit of compromise from the outset. Instead, the 'volcano effect' takes hold, and petty grievances, built up over the course of the year, come to an ugly head, usually at an important and stressful event - like Nationals.
    Quite often the issue that causes the break-up seems pretty minor a couple of months down the line. But it's an all-too-common practice in skydiving, and one that detracts from teams and individuals being able to perform at their best. Most teams require two years minimum to even scratch the surface of their full potential. It takes time for teams to gel to the extent that they have true communication, anticipation and knowledge of working together. But this all-pervasive attitude, which makes it acceptable to break up a team over somewhat insignificant differences, prevents the sport and individual skydivers from growing and progressing.
    It's the syndrome of seeking the 'perfect' team, and it's become so commonplace in skydiving that we could almost be forgiven for thinking it's acceptable.
    What is 'the perfect team'
    Most competitive skydivers have an idea of what the 'perfect' team is. They look at teams like Airspeed, Deland fire and Sinapsi PD, see these teams communicating and performing well, and make the assumption that to some degree, team members are virtual clones of each other. They never see individuals disagreeing or arguing, and believe these must be 'perfect' teams comprised of 'perfect' skydiving
    individuals with 'perfect' personalities. They imagine how great it would be to be part of a team like this, and that their own problems stem from being unable to replicate this perceived 'perfection' in their own teams.Because of this unrealistic expectation, too many talented skydivers waste their time not training with a team at all. There's nothing worse than not training - in fact, some of my steepest learning curves have come from being part of what could be described as 'dysfunctional' teams.
    In a similar way, teams waste time by constantly replacing 'flawed' team members in search of the 'perfect' team dynamic; instead they should be working together, getting over personality differences to achieve a common goal, which is performing at the team best.
    It may come as a shock but - there is no perfect team!
    The truth is that on any team, individuals have their own ideas, flaws and times of stress - and often disagree with their teammates. Our unique qualities and imperfections make us part of this diverse human race, and differences are inevitable. I can't think of a more diverse group of people than Airspeed 8 - our disagreements ranged from how many jumps to do, to physical training and jumpsuit colours (you should see what we finally came up with in 1996)!
    Despite this, I often hear how up-and-coming jumpers idealise the top teams and think they always get along perfectly with each other. The result is that when a disagreement naturally occurs on their own team, they assume it's an inherent and insurmountable fault in the team - and subsequently break up or switch members. Differences like this are to be expected, and are part and parcel of team training, no matter what level you're at.
    A reply I often hear to this is, 'Yeah, but we're not Airspeed,' - implying it's easier to deal with team disagreements and personality conflicts when you're a professional team; if you have to put up with it for 'work', then somehow, you can. But when non-pro teams nowadays are spending between $5,000 and $25,000 per person per year on this sport - it seems like a few minor differences could be worth dealing with for longer than just one season! More to the point - there's really no alternative, if you want to perform, you have to deal!
    It's easy for teams to think their issues are unique, and that problems can't be resolved because of this; however, the case is most likely that the individuals are not willing to work out their 'unique' issues. Usually the problem is nothing more than the result of someone's need to express themselves, and this, in turn, being taken the wrong way. Problems like this could have been resolved months earlier with the input of a good coach, or by using truthful 'pass the rock' sessions where team members get the opportunity to vent and communicate openly.
    Teams need to realise that what they're going through is normal, and conflict is part of a natural evolution for every team. There is not a single team that does not go through conflicts. The difference between a successful team and a failing team is that the former works out their differences, whereas the failing team does not. It's not a matter of individuals being unable to resolve their conflicts - it's simply that they are unwilling to. Airspeed has gone through few big decisions without some pretty heated opinions being cast around the room.
    Because every team goes through the same cycles of development, it's worth outlining what those cycles are, so they know what to expect. One way of looking at how teams grow and mature is to use Bruce Tuckman's 'forming, storming, norming, performing' model.
    Forming - Stage 1

    The 'honeymoon phase'
    When most teams join up, they all seem to get along - everyone is excited about the new team and keen to get started; this is also known as the 'honeymoon phase'. Most skydivers are jubilant that they actually have a team to skydive with, morale is high, and negative personality traits are kept in check. It's very important in the 'forming' stage to get an experienced coach for guidance and direction. Many teams also benefit from having a team leader, and this is the time to appoint them.
    You should also spend quite a bit of time discussing your goals and aspirations as honestly as possible, as this will avoid problems down the line. There could be nothing more frustrating than being in a team where people have completely different agendas - one wants to take the team to the World Meet and another just wants to get the swoop at the end of the dive!
    Levels of commitment in terms of number of jumps, tunnel, money and time should be discussed as a priority, and while not every member of the team will have exactly the same objectives here, as long as they are in the same ballpark the team can succeed. It's important to come to a workable compromise and move on - rejecting a team whose goals don't precisely match yours, and ending up not jumping, is much worse than doing only 200 team jumps that year instead of the 300 you wanted to do!
    Individual long-term goals can even be different - it's fine if one person eventually wants to become a World Champion, and another just wants to compete for a couple of years before moving on to other things - as long as the collective team goal is agreed upon and compatible for the duration of the agreed term of the team. I refer to this as 'buying into the contract'. The key agreements of this 'contract' are:
    Individuals agree to work together to achieve the common goal.
    Individuals agree to communicate honestly with each other, more commonly known as having regular 'pass the rocks'.
    Individuals value their differences, i.e. they recognise that every person has a different background and personality, and will therefore have different ways of relating and behaving.
    Individuals seek to gain insider learning about their impact on the team, i.e. thinking before speaking and recognising that what they say has the potential to impact the team in a negative (or positive) way. Individuals should be responsible and accountable for their actions and words.

    Storming - Stage 2

    Guess what? The honeymoon is over!
    This is the frustrating stage of learning with the team; individual quirks start to come out and team members vie for position as they attempt to establish themselves. Cliques can also start to form within the team - questions and uncertainties come up and the 'contract' itself may be questioned. This is where most teams sow the seeds of inevitable self-destruction.
    Simply put, this is the stage where arguments might occur over block techniques, individual performance and styles of relating. Even table manners, personal hygiene and fashion sense can all come under attack! It's important to realise that this is natural human behaviour in a goal-orientated team environment. It's also important for individuals and the team to reiterate the goals they set and believe that the team outcome is more important than individual needs. At this stage, outside help in the form of a coach experienced in dealing with team dynamics is invaluable.
    I've heard more times than I'd like to recollect, 'I guess I'm just not a team-player'. I don't believe this to be true. That individual is just not willing to compromise, or never bought into the 'contract' in the first place. People who are described as 'team players' are just more willing than others to suppress their need to be heard all the time. I also believe there's no such thing as a natural team player. Anyone has the ability to become a team player as long as they are willing, at times, to put aside their own ego for the good of the team.
    Knowing that the 'storming' stage is normal and can be overcome by focusing and refocusing on the agreed team 'contract' is critical at this time. There's no knowing when the 'storming' will occur, or how long it will last. However the sooner a team recognises it and then accepts it as normal, the sooner the team will leave this phase behind.

    Norming - Stage 3
    Congratulations - you've got further than most teams and are on your way to performing your best!
    This is the phase where the team has recognised individuality as a strength, and has matured as a group. Commitment and unity is strong. It could feel similar to the 'honeymoon phase', but instead of being based on enthusiasm alone, it marks a time of personal growth and acceptance.
    Roles and responsibilities are clear and welcomed: the team's everyday interactions and dealings have become like clockwork, and the daily training routine, including team meetings and 'pass the rock' sessions, is more instinctive and needs no prompting.
    It's important to realise the individuals themselves have not fundamentally changed, and disagreements will still occur - however teammates have come to understand that having their personal needs met is secondary to team growth. The same disagreements teams had in the 'storming' stage suddenly seem less important and are dealt with more quickly and in a more mature manner.

    Performing - Stage 4

    The fun part!
    In this stage the team has a high degree of autonomy and will be running like a well-oiled machine. The team is able to focus on performance; personal issues that would have held them back previously as a distraction have melted into the background and become irrelevant.
    This is also the phase where individual relationships and trust are consolidated within the group. On a personal level, team members trust that each one will always act for the good of the team - communication between piece-partners is open and honest. In the sky, teams feel that everything falls into an instinctual rhythm, more so than a forced or conscious act. Trust in individuals' ability runs high, allowing team members to be sure that others will also fly their slots with confidence. This in turn allows for faster keys, more confident moves, and ultimately, more points.
    Teams should expect that disagreements will still occur - even arguments - but now issues are resolved within the team positively. It's also important to recognise that just because a team has reached the 'performing' stage, they may not be the 'best of friends' - however teammates trust and respect each other, because of the understanding that they are all focused on the common goal, i.e. the 'contract'.
    This phase is more easily attainable than most people think, or believe. It's the most fun part of training, and the pay-offs are numerous. Individual growth, realisation of your potential, a load more points and the best skydiving you'll ever do are just some of them.
    And it's a choice that anyone can make.
    Gary Beyer was a member of multiple World and National Champion team, Arizona Airspeed, between 1995 and 2002. He has since retired from World level competition and dedicates his time to team and tunnel coaching. www.onthelineskydiving.com
    This article was first published in Skydive The Mag (UK) and is republished here on request and with permission from the author.
    Photos by Mike McGowan

    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,

    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,

    Beginning Freeflying

    Whether you are interested in freeflying as a main discipline, or you only want to make the occasional "fun jump", you will still want to follow the best and safest learning progression. Though freeflying can be a very fun discipline to take part in, it can also be very dangerous if you get it wrong. It is not something to rush into. You should take your time and enjoy the experience of flying in this new dimension. This article will introduce you to the steps you need to take to have a safe and fun experience and carry on doing so throughout your freeflying career.
    Not Just Vertical
    Freeflying isn’t just about learning to fly headup and headdown, it’s everything (yes belly flying too). As your skills improve you will realize that you can use all angles and positions between headup and headdown. Once you are proficient on your back, belly, feet and head, you will see that everything flows together and you end up moving in between these positions with ease.
    To get to this stage you need to have a solid base in all these positions and an understanding of what the air is doing to your body. Too many people, especially now that freeflying is becoming so popular, go straight to headup flying after AFF and quickly move to headdown. The majority of these people are limiting themselves in the future and will find that they have to go back and learn basic belly flying and back flying to progress any further.
    I will now go through the steps I believe necessary to become proficient at this discipline. Future articles in this series will go through some of these steps in more detail, explaining how to do them, how to practice them, and drill dives to improve these skills. You should try to learn these skills in the order listed to increase the learning curve.
    Belly Flying
    The most important thing is to become proficient on your belly. This doesn’t mean you need to become a 4-way master, but learning how to move around the sky with control certainly helps (especially now that hybrids are becoming more common).
    You should learn the following:
    Fall rate control
    Horizontal movement (forwards, backwards and sidewards)
    Center point turns
    Diving to a formation
    Docking on a formation
    Superpositional moves (e.g. sidesliding while moving forwards – known as carving)
    Break off procedures (flat tracking) It also helps if you experiment with barrel rolls, forward loops and back loops to get used to not just being on your belly. All these skills will become very beneficial in the future. The other advantage to learning to fly on your belly is that you will be getting used to flying close to other people and will be learning the necessary skills to do this, even though it is in a different position.
    By now, you should have already learned how to flat track. It’s time to take tracking one step further. Find a coach or someone who has experience leading tracking dives and learn the following:
    Tracking on exit
    Heading control
    Fall rate control
    Speed control (speeding up/slowing down)
    Moving Sideways
    Break off procedures (different on tracking dives) Tracking is a big part of freeflying. Learning these skills will help on breakoff, especially with larger groups, and will also help you when it comes to tracking dives.
    Back Flying
    Back flying is the first big step towards learning headup flight. You won’t be able to see the ground and you will start to get used to feeling the air on your back and the other side of your legs. This skill can be used a lot in freeflying when you get low on a jump or become unstable. This position is used to get back where you want to be, while preventing corking (suddenly lose speed) and hurting someone.
    You should learn:
    Heading control
    Fall rate control
    Horizontal movement (forwards, backwards and sidewards)
    Barrel rolls from belly flying to back flying and back again
    Front/Back loops from belly flying to back flying and back again The advantage of back flying is that its speed range is huge. You can stay with a belly formation quite easily, but you can also speed up so that headdown flyers can stay with you without a problem. This diversity is what makes it such a useful technique in freeflying.
    Headup Flying
    This is where things start to get a bit different. Because you are in a vertical orientation, you have to learn how to move your body differently, move your arms and legs differently, whilst remembering that arching doesn’t make you stable at all. In later articles we will cover all of this in a lot of detail, explaining how and why, but you must always remember that an article is in no way a substitute for a coach. Whenever you have the chance, get coaching!
    Things you need to learn:
    Heading control
    Fall rate control
    Horizontal movement (forwards, backwards and sidewards)
    Transitions (cartwheels, front loops, back loops)
    Independent arm movement (altimeter checks, taking docks, etc)
    Correct exit technique
    Breakoff procedures (you can’t simply go to your belly and track) Headup flying is much faster than any of the other positions. Because of this, every movement has a much larger effect than it would if you were going slower. The air is moving over you much faster and therefore has much more power behind it. Therefore, you have to be very careful with your movements to ensure the safety of yourself and others.
    Back Tracking
    Back tracking is a very important skill in freeflying, especially when starting to learn headdown. During breakoffs it adds a whole new perspective and gives you more awareness. Once you have learned headdown this position will open up more angles and add fluidity to your jumps. Backtracking is what I call a power position, this means that when your learning it you have to put in a lot of energy to keep an efficient position and to speed up, etc..
    Things you should learn:
    Back tracking exit
    Heading control
    Fall rate control
    Speed control (forwards/backwards)
    Moving Sideways
    Break off procedures (different on tracking dives)
    Transitions (back to belly/belly to back) Once you have learned these skills, try going on a tracking dive, getting next to the base and transitioning to your back track position, while staying relative. Talk to an experienced freefly coach and ask about leading a tracking dive; you’ll learn a lot.
    Learning headdown brings a whole new level to your freeflying. Everything flows together much better and you can move around the sky with more ease. While moving around becomes so much easier, collisions become much more of a danger and you must be even more cautious. This position is not a power position. By this I mean that once you are used to keeping your legs wide you will be able to move around smoothly and fast without having to push into your movement.
    Again you should aim to learn the basics before you start work on complex manoeuvres. Use this list:
    Correct exit technique for jumping with others
    Heading control
    Fall rate control
    Horizontal movement (forwards, backwards and sidewards)
    Transitions (front loop, back loop and cartwheel) both to/from headup and from headdown to headdown
    Independent arm movement (altimeter checks, presenting for docks, etc)
    Correct breakoff procedures Once you’ve done this you can start to work on using your skills to take docks, carve, etc.
    Jumping with Others
    When you start to jump with other freeflyers, you have a lot more to think about, including where the other jumpers in your group are at all times. As a minimum you should specify the following for a freefly jump with others:
    Content of jump (don’t just say ‘we’ll see what happens’, have a plan and stick to it)
    Base (specify someone as a person, everyone should then work towards them for a level)
    Breakoff (what is the breakoff height, make sure everyone knows where the others are and do not go straight to their belly and track, slowly decrease your speed as you track away) When you are just learning freeflying you should only be jumping solo or with an experienced freeflyer. Use the following as a rough guide to how many people, maximum, you should be jumping with:
    0-100 freefly jumps: Solo’s or 2 Ways
    100-300 freefly jumps: Up to 3 ways maximum
    300-500 freefly jumps: Up to 5 people maximum
    After this I try to use good judgement and common sense If you have only ever done 2-ways then at the most you should only allow yourself to go on 3-ways.
    Freeflying can involve a huge range of speeds, trajectories and positions, which presents us with many possibly dangerous situations. Because of this you need to ensure you have the correct training and also the right equipment.
    Your container should fit well. You should not use a leg throwaway system, only BOC throw out or pull out is acceptable. The leg straps should fit right and not easily slip down your legs. You should also have some kind of bungee between the two leg straps to make sure they do not move around in freefall. It should have good riser and bridle protection with an absolute maximum of 1” exposed bridle near the BOC. Your pins and flaps should be tight. A good test is to gently lift your rig by each pin cover separately - if the covers stays closed then you’re good to go, but if the cover opens when lifting then get the opinion of an experienced rigger.
    You should have a minimum of 2 altimeters: one visual and one audible. This is important as when you are learning to freefly it can be difficult to see your visual altimeter and it is easy to forget that you will be falling much faster than you would be if belly flying. The audible altimeter will remind you of this.
    Wear a hard helmet. Don’t think you can get away without a helmet or just a frapp hat. Hard helmets might not save you from everything, but can mean the difference between life and death. If you’re just starting freeflying, don’t even think about wearing a camera helmet. This just adds to the list of new things you will have to think about and will take your awareness away from other more important matters. Some people get away with a full face helmet but if you are learning to freefly then I would suggest an open face. This allows you to keep better eye contact with your coach or other jumpers.
    Any clothing you wear should be durable and secure. It shouldn’t be able to cover any of your handles and shouldn’t be excessively baggy. A good all round freefly suit will do the job. When learning headup, a lot of people like to wear trousers and a baggier top to help them. If you’re doing this, then make sure the top is tucked in well and is secure.
    You should always use an AAD of some form when freeflying. You can easily have collisions when freeflying and closing speeds can be upwards of 100mph. It is also very easy to lose altitude awareness. An AAD could save your life, fatal collisions have happened to very experienced freeflyers, why couldn’t it happen to you?
    The next article in this series will concentrate on how to do the things mentioned in this progression list. There will be ground exercises and tips on performing these in the sky.
    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,

    Sit Fly: How to Move and Dock!

    So, you can sit fly with your friends in a group or fly in a two way. The first step to being a free flier, Congratulations! Once you have reached this level you might ask yourself “what’s next?” Today is your lucky day because this article is for you!
    After you have learned the basic position which we will cover in a second, the skill set you want to learn is 6 points of motion and then docking. This will allow you to interact with your friend in the sky and not just be a base.
    Sit Fly: The Position
    Serving as an introduction to free fly, this position is pretty difficult to get without some instruction. The idea is to sit in the sky just like you are sitting in a chair with a few minor exceptions. First you want to have your legs about shoulder width apart.
    Second, you want to have your heels aligned with your knees as not to catch any air on your shins. The foot should be flat just like if you had it sitting on the ground. It is imperative to have even consistent heel pressure when you sit fly, or you will be on your toes which makes it difficult to improve your mobility. Keep your feet pointing straight forward at all times! In sit fly your body follows your heels and your hips so you need to have a strong platform to work from.
    Third, you must consistently have a 90 degree angle at your hips to fly strait down. Sit up not back. Pretend you have a string pulling your head strait up while keeping that 90 degree angle. Sitting up will then add a quaint arch to your torso which will help you keep from falling back. Lastly, relax your arms so they keep right at head level. Do not press down on your arms in the neutral position. Pressing down the arms is a common fault of most new sit flyers. It causes you to press your torso forward catching air on it and then consequently backsliding.
    If you have problems with the position get some coaching in the wind tunnel, SkyVenture has made learning the sit fly position a snap for the student and the instructor. Let’s move on to movement, shall we!
    Sit Fly: 6 points of Motion
    Speeding up will be the first point of motion we learn. Simply press your heels down while keeping flat feet and having your hips, torso and heels in alignment. It is not necessary to straighten you legs. A small adjustment of your surface area will increase your speed greatly. Practice sitting up against a wall in the sit fly I described above, then by pressing through your heels stand up to a half squat, not all the way up and then settle back down into the sit. Do it slowly, erratic movements usually create horizontal space, so stand up and down smoothly. The reason we try not to straighten are legs at first, is because straight limbs usually create stiffness. In order to keep control of the position you must be supple.
    Slowing down is the next thing we learn. This can be done a few ways. I use them all, so it would be best to learn as many ways as you can. The first way to slow down is to press your arms down. Remember to keep sitting up while you do this or you will back slide from leaning forward. The second way to slow down is to bring your knees in a bit and then flare out your heels. This is my preferred way to slow down. This position increases your surface area a lot because your legs are a larger wing then your arms. This is also ideal because this leaves your arms free to dock or to use sign language to your friend. This position became popular in the wind tunnel because larger people needed to use there legs to keep them off the grate. Lastly if you really need to slow down learn to back fly in the wind tunnel. The back fly position will help you close huge vertical gaps quickly, for example if your friend corks up. A word of caution, learn to back fly with a coach in the wind tunnel before you use it with your friends. Using the back fly position without proper control can cause a vertical speed variation between you and your partner which can cause a high speed collision if you are not careful.
    Moving forward is our next task. Forward motion is the hardest yet most used motion in sit fly. It is technically difficult to learn so it might take some time. It is the most used point of motion because most people are back sliding in sit fly or back slide when they try something new. To move forward, get back in the half squat position or the downward motion. Then press your hips forward as far as you can while keeping your heels shoulder width apart and your feet facing forward. The best way to practice this is on the ground by leaning as far back as you can while free standing. Forward is a balance move that is why it is so hard. It also takes a little momentum in the sky to move forward so you might have to hold the position a few seconds before you actually realize you are moving. Keep those heels down!
    Moving backward is the easiest of the 6 points of motion. Most people are back sliding at first when they learn the sit fly position. To move backwards simply keep in the sit fly position and lean forward a bit. It doesn’t take much to rocket backwards, so immediately go back to the neutral position.
    The last two positions are side sliding left and right. They are tough. We won’t go into them in depth here because that would be a little advanced for this article. Besides carving is much more fun and seems to be a little more useful in every day flying. To carve go forward with a slight turn in your hips.
    Sit fly: Docking
    Docking your friend for the first time is probably the most fun you can have sit flying. This move is tough for some so listen up! First you must get your arms level with what you are going to dock. Move up or down. Then move forward slowly and stop at the target you want to dock so it is just out of your reach. Stabilize your heels by pressing down slightly. This is the key to docking; if you turn while you dock it is probably because your feet slide one way or the other. After you have stabilized reach with your hand up at the target not out. If you reach out your torso will follow and you will back slide, maybe pulling your friend with you. Make sure your arm is 90 degrees from your torso. Try not to shift with your torso. Have your arm and hand move independently of your torso. Fly your hand into the target and then dock the hand or foot lightly. If you grab on too hard you might contort your position so you fly away. Dock lightly. If you feel tension in the dock let go and go back to neutral, breathe deeply and try again.
    Keep in mind that this stuff is not easy for everybody. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to get coaching. The SkyVenture wind tunnel is also a great tool when it comes to learning these basics of sit fly.
    Steven Blincoe is the Founder of The New School Flight University. He has 4,000 free fly jumps and over 300 hours in the SkyVenture Orlando wind tunnel. You can contact him at 530-412-2078 or info@blincoe.org
    for advice.

    By stevenblincoe, in Disciplines,

    Advice for Starting Wingsuit BASE jumping

    Visit BASEjumper.com for more BASE jumping information, articles, photos, videos and discussions

    Section 1: Introduction
    Section 2: Before even considering doing a wingsuit BASE jump
    Section 3: So you still want to wingsuit BASE
    Section 4: You now have some wingsuit BASE experience, what’s next?
    Section 5: Conclusion
    Appendix A: Specific wingsuit drills to practice from the plane
    Appendix B: Relevant entries from “the list”
    Appendix C: Some considerations for wingsuit site selection

    Download Full Article in PDF

    1. Introduction:
    We have all seen the amazing videos of people like Robert, Yuri and Loic flying their wingsuits. It is natural to want to follow in their slipstreams but let us make sure we do so safely and with adequate preparation.
    This document is intended as an initial information source for BASE jumpers interested in starting wingsuit BASE.
    This document is not an instruction manual. It does not contain rules, only advice.
    Wingsuit BASE is more dangerous than normal BASE jumping if the jumper does not conduct adequate preparation.
    If you choose to pursue wingsuit BASE you are strongly recommended to seek instruction from an experienced wingsuit BASE jumper. There is no substitute for one to one coaching.
    A wingsuit allows for incredible freefall delays and horizontal distances to be achieved, almost eliminating the chance of striking the object you jumped off, the number one cause of BASE jumping fatalities.
    But jumping a wingsuit also has some serious drawbacks:
    The wingsuit restricts your physical movement making exits harder to perform i.e. difficult to climb down to the exit point, easier to go unstable and then harder to recover.

    The wingsuit complicates deployment and prevents you from controlling your canopy immediately after opening.

    The wingsuit jumper must carefully assess the terrain he intends to fly over as the eventual opening point and landing area will be different than for a normal BASE jump and will also depend on flight performance.

    Experienced BASE jumpers who use ground rush as an altitude indicator must exercise caution during their initial jumps. The low fall rate and high horizontal speeds can fool the jumper that they are higher than they actually are. The wingsuit ground rush for a minimal canopy ride is a lot less intense than for normal freefall.

    The wingsuit jumper must also pay attention to his altitude when flying down a talus or over sloping terrain. The jumper often focuses on the airspace they are flying towards, giving the illusion they have lots of altitude available (e.g. looking at the valley floor in front of them).

    In this situation the jumper must remember that the critical altitude is the immediate vertical elevation they have over the talus or slope. The wingsuit jumper must always ensure sufficient altitude for a safe deployment - bear in mind that as soon as the PC is released the wingsuit jumper will stop flying and drop vertically approx. 200’+ as the canopy deploys.

    Experienced wingsuit BASE jumpers may attempt to make jumps that would be otherwise impossible without a wingsuit. The jumper must be absolutely sure of his own capabilities and those of his equipment when undertaking jumps that allow little margin for error.

    2. Before even considering doing a wingsuit BASE jump you should be:
    An intermediate BASE jumper:
    With minimum 50 BASE jumps (but more jumps are strongly recommended!)
    Cool under pressure, very comfortable in the BASE environment
    Always performing solid exits, also when exiting with arms by your side
    Have good sub & terminal tracking skills
    Have excellent canopy flying skills and landing accuracy
    Have consistent record of stable deployments and on-heading openings An intermediate wingsuit skydiver:
    With minimum 50 wingsuit skydives (but more jumps are strongly recommended!)
    Who wears a wingsuit as if it were pyjamas, not feeling physically restricted by the fabric
    Always able to find the PC quickly and cleanly, with good on heading openings
    Well practiced at recovering from instability
    Able to unzip arm wings instantly after deployment - like 2nd nature
    Familiar using arm and leg cutaways in freefall and under canopy immediately after opening
    Able to fly the suit comfortably without “potato chipping” achieving reasonable fall rate and forward speed
    Ideally have performed some wingsuit balloon jumps to simulate the exit & sub terminal flight
    See Appendix B for specific flight drills to practice whilst jumping the wingsuit from the plane. A person who has read all the incident reports, analysed the contributing factors and accepted that wingsuit / BASE jumping is worth the risk of serious injury & death.

    3. So you still want to wingsuit BASE? Let’s talk about specific preparation:

    First thing, it is strongly recommended to start wingsuit BASE using a low performance wingsuit i.e. Birdman Classic, GTi or similar. Once you have 10+ good wingsuit BASE jumps you could consider jumping with a higher performance suit.
    The following items are strongly recommended:
    A 1 or 2 pin BASE container for wingsuit BASE. The high speed airflow over the container and high deployment angle excludes the use of a Velcro rig.
    A normal terminal pack job i.e. symmetrical, mesh slider packed “up” (large or fine mesh depending on personal preference).
    ZP pilot chutes, the size depends on your canopy, between 34” – 38”. The PC should NOT have a hackey handle (or heavy handle). With a hackey PC handle there is the possibility of the bridle wrapping around the base of the handle. A heavy PC handle could contribute to PC hesitation. The following items are recommended:
    A container with “dynamic corners” or open corners.
    A suitable helmet, goggles and low profile protective pads.
    Back to the dropzone:

    Perform 20 hop-n-pops using your low performance wingsuit and a sensibly sized 7 cell main, or even better your BASE canopy in a skydiving rig. (The 20 jumps can count towards the 50)

    Work your deployment altitude gradually down to USPA minimum of 2200’, open by 2000’
    (Discuss this with your CCI / DZO first, some dropzones may enforce a higher pull altitude)

    If you have any instability, deployment or opening problems go back to full altitude jumps until they are rectified, use a BMI if necessary. During these 20 hop-n-pops think about your emergency drills for the following situations, bearing in mind the reduced altitude and time under canopy:
    Unstable exit
    Handle inside of pouch /BOC
    Hard pull
    Floating handle
    PC in tow
    Premature deployment
    Horseshoe malfunction
    Line twists
    Line over
    Water landing
    Jammed zip
    Now to a far away land:
    It is strongly recommended to go to one of the following well known “high” locations for your first wingsuit BASE jumps. Become familiar with the object performing normal BASE jumps, getting to know landing areas and outs, obstacles, rock drop, winds, talus / ledges etc.


    Carl’s Huge wall in Northern Norway:
    Good vertical rock drop

    Huge LZ

    Good access

    Not many sheep and it rains a lot

    Norwegian Fjord in Southern Norway:
    Good vertical rock drop

    Medium sized LZ

    Good access

    Very expensive beer

    Italian Terminal wall:
    OK vertical rock drop

    Small LZ (assume Heli LZ)

    Good access

    Wind / turbulence can be a problem

    Swiss Fungus:
    Good vertical rock drop

    Large landing area

    Access is difficult, requiring high fitness level and basic climbing skills

    Once you are comfortable with the site, pick a day when you are feeling 100% and the weather conditions are perfect to make your first wingsuit BASE jump.
    Advice for your first wingsuit BASE jump. What to focus on?

    Being current! Make sure you get current at wingsuit skydiving and BASE jumping in the weeks running up to your first jump.

    Pack yourself a nice terminal opening, attach the wingsuit correctly with the PC packed in the BOC with the correct tension (not too loose or too tight). Perform a full gear check before the hike, avoid “exit gear fear” syndrome, as you will already be under pressure.

    Exit in a nice head high position, student style, with you arm wings open and your leg wing closed, your arm wings will help you balance and remain head high. 1-2 sec after exit slowly extend your leg wing and start to trim the suit as you feel the air speed picking up. Premature exposure of the leg wing can cause you to go head low – be warned! Better to be head high.

    If you should go head low, stay calm! Bring your head up and if the object allows it, try to stay parallel with the surface and build up some speed to allow you to pull up out of the dive more easily. You may wish to consider this possibility when selecting the site of your first few wingsuit jumps.

    After you have extended the leg wing focus on flying the suit efficiently away from the object pulling nice and high – don’t rush, take time to reach, grip and throw the PC. The PC throw should be vigorous to clear the burble the suit makes behind you. Remember to keep your body symmetrical at all times during deployment to help maintain on heading performance.

    It is recommended to learn to deploy from full flight as the BASE environment rarely allows enough altitude to collapse your wings and fall vertically prior to deploying. This also has the advantage of keeping the airflow over your body fast & clean reducing the chance of pilot chute hesitation. Deploying from full flight implies keeping your leg wing inflated and only collapsing your arm wings for the moment required to locate the PC. As your canopy reaches line stretch it is better to close your leg wing as it can catch air causing your body to twist. Your first 5 - 10 jumps should focus on a stable exit, flight and deployment, once you have these survival skills you can start to think about flight time and distance.

    4. You now have some wingsuit BASE experience, what’s next?
    Once you have become a competent wingsuit BASE jumper you could consider:
    Jumping a higher performance suit
    Jumping from lower objects, for example the higher exit points in the legal Swiss valley.
    Jumping camera
    Performing 2 ways +
    Opening up new objects
    Your imagination is the limit! Make sure there is video! Note:
    Trying to land any of the current wingsuit designs is only recommended for the terminally ill.
    You want to jump a higher performance wingsuit:
    So you have done approx. 10+ good wingsuit BASE jumps with a low performance suit and you now intend to jump a higher performance suit.
    Assuming you have trouble free experience flying the higher performance suit from the plane you can go ahead and use it for BASE.
    Treat your first wingsuit BASE jump using the higher performance wingsuit the same as your first wingsuit BASE jump.
    You want to jump a wingsuit that has a leg pouch PC:
    If you intend to use the leg pouch PC (e.g. S3 or Phoenix Fly wingsuit) - it is strongly recommended to perform the following ground and skydiving preparation.
    Prior to jumping the leg pouch PC perform a couple of thousand practice pulls on the ground. Be able to find the handle, regardless of body position with your eyes closed. Do 300 practice pulls a night for a week or so, simulating full flight then deployment.
    When packing the PC into the leg pouch assure that the Birdman or Phoenix Fly guide lines are followed. The PC should not be too loose or too tight. It is strongly recommended to bar tack the Velcro sleeve to the bridle - check that you leave enough free bridle between the bar tack and pin to ensure the Velcro is completely peeled before any tension is applied to the pin. Failure to do so can cause PC hesitation.
    Don’t mate the male-female Velcro over each other 100% when the suit is brand new, let the them overlap 50% to the side for the first few dozen jumps until the Velcro is slightly worn. For more details on assembling and packing the leg pouch PC system please refer to http://www.interone.net/learn/basepc.html.
    Perform at least 10 skydives with the system, using a wingsuit or BASE bridle, start with normal altitude jumps, performing dummy pulls in flight and then pulling high to give yourself extra time. Assuming you have no opening problems or issues finding the PC handle quickly & easily you can work down to lower altitude deployments.
    Treat your first wingsuit BASE jump using the leg pouch the same as your first wingsuit BASE jump.

    5. Conclusion
    Following these guidelines does not make wingsuit BASE jumping a safe activity.
    Wingsuit BASE is still a relatively new discipline. It requires jumpers to develop new skills, new muscle memory, new judgement and new understanding. Respect it.
    This document is by no means the final word on wingsuit BASE jumping, always seek advice and guidance from other experienced wingsuit jumpers and share what you discover.
    By taking part in this activity you are in effect a “test jumper”, we all still have a lot to learn….
    Let’s be careful out there
    Long Flights
    James Boole

    Craig Poxon

    Robert Pecnik

    Simon Brentford

    Gray Fowler

    Yuri Kuznetsov

    Steve Schieberl

    Per Eriksson
    The authors of this document accept no responsibility, financially or otherwise for any loss, serious injury or death that occurs as a result of any persons following the advice contained within this document.
    BASE jumping and wingsuit BASE jumping are extremely dangerous activities carrying risk of serious injury or death. Performing the activities described in this document with out becoming an expert skydiver and completing dedicated BASE / wingsuit training will likely result in a demonstration of natural selection.

    Appendix A
    Specific wingsuit drills to perform whilst jumping from the plane:
    Barrel rolls
    Front flips
    Back flying
    Flying and pulling with left arm wing closed (i.e. to simulate blown wing)
    Pulling out of steep dives quickly (i.e. bad exit)
    Dropping knees
    Turning with minimal altitude loss
    Carving turns
    Arching, de-arching
    Deploying from full flight
    Flying with one bootie off
    Turning only with legs
    Turning only with arms

    Appendix B – Wingsuit fatalities

    #67 Kirill Kiselev, September, 2002 
    Age: 27, from Ekaterininburg, Russia.

    Cliff Jump (Wing Suit)

    Vikesaxa (Eiksdalen Valley) Norway
    I received this report from a close friend of Kirill who witnessed or heard most of the jump. Kirill has 500 skydives with 20 being with a wing suit, and 30 BASE jumps, with 2 being with a wing suit. This fatality began with an inadvertent low pull from a man who didn't do low pulls. His friend believes Kirill encountered a stability problem late in the flight. The friend, along with authorities, inspected Kirill's body and gear at the hospital. Kirill had opened his canopy, the slider is at the links. Both toggles are still stowed. The wing zippers are closed and the swoop cords are still over his fingers. The wing fabric between his legs is torn. His broken neck and one broken leg suggest opening and impact occurred at about the same time. The report intimates failure of the wingsuit material between Kirill's legs caused a stability problem at pull time. By the time Kirill stopped trying to overcome the situation and deploy, it is too late. Kirill is the first BASE jumper to die flying a wingsuit on a BASE jump.
    #68 Rob Tompkins, September 12, 2002 
    Lysbotn, Norway

    Cliff Jump (Wing Suit)

    This is the second wing suit BASE fatality. Rob has 247 BASE jumps with 92 being with a wing suit on the day he died. A report states: "For the last month, Rob had his eye on a particular jump between launch points 4 and 5. We looked at it, doing rock jumps and basically studying the jump. There are two launch points next to this particular jump, one with a 7-second drop and the other with an 8-second drop. Rob jumped the 7-second launch point 10 times always doing a reverse gainer. The place he's looking at now, he dubbed the, "RT Hjørner," and has a rock drop time of 5-seconds. We analyzed this site on video and with other wing suit  pilots. In my opinion, the jump is not achievable - and I repeated this to Rob. Other wing suit pilots said the same thing. Rob is convinced he can do it including a reverse gainer. After 7 seconds of freefall Rob impacted the talus ledge. He never tried to deploy his pilot chute, knowing that this would not save him. Rob believed he could out fly the ledge right up until he died. Rob is remembered as a good man, full of respect, and kind to everyone."
    #69 Lukas Knutsson, October 11, 2002

      Cliff Jump (Wing Suit)

    Engelberg, Switzerland (Cold Steel)
    Lukas has a good launch and good flight with his wingsuit and pulled high over the landing area. This is the third BASE wing suit fatality. Despite a powerful pull the pilot chute ended up in the turbulence behind him. In the burble the pilot chute spun around very fast. Lukas notices the deployment is hesitating and collapsed his wings and rolled to one side to clear the pilot chute. At this point the pilot chute achieved bridle stretch but the bridle had entangled with the pilot chute so badly the pilot chute is almost totally collapsed. Lukas did rollover to the other side and struggled hard to get the canopy out of the container. However, the container remained closed to impact. Lukas is a very experienced long time BASE jumper (this site is now called "Cold Steel" in his honour) and he will be missed by the entire BASE community.
    #75 Gabi Dematte, August 13, 2003 
    Cliff Jump (Wing Suit)

    Gasterntal, Switzerland
    Cliff Strike & Impact
    The following report is from one of Gabi's many friends. "Gabi went to jump alone, like she did very often. Getting away from the crowds in Lauterbrunnen she went to another valley known by only a very few jumpers. She couldn't out fly a ledge with her wings. Which is awkward, because she kicked ass with those wings. She did not attempt to pull. Gabi was a very good jumper, and a super nice person. I was lucky to get to know her and I will treasure her contribution to my existence. For me, it was nice to jump with another woman. It was special and it did not last long enough. Lauterbrunnen valley is empty and quiet now." Gabi is the fourth BASE wing suit fatality."
    #80 Jeff Barker, July 5, 2004
    Age: 32

    Cliff Jump

    Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
    Jeff is jumping with a wingsuit and he failed to clear a outcropping in freefall.
    #81 Duane Thomas, August 21, 2004 
    Age: 35

    Cliff Jump

    Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
    Duane, a Kiwi with a quick smile, is a well known and experienced BASE jumper. The following is from an eye witness. "The jump is witnessed by two British jumpers and two Swiss jumpers. One Brit watching, and videoing, from the exit point, the other three watching from the LZ. This is Duane's first wingsuit BASE jump, and his first jump ever with a leg mounted pilot chute pouch. Prior to this jump Duane prepared by making 50 aircraft and 2 hot air balloon wingsuit skydives. Duane had a good exit and a good flight. Everybody saw him reach for and locate the pilot chute at what the witnesses said is a reasonable altitude. He then kept his hand there and continued in freefall. The speculation is the lack of normal ground rush (like the type he is used to when not wearing a wingsuit) might have fooled him. The Swiss are yelling at him to pull and he finally did so, at what they said is about 30-feet above the ground. The canopy lifted out of the pack tray but is no where near line stretch when he impacted in a full flight position. According to the Swiss there is no fumbling around, or looking for the pilot chute handle - all the witnesses agree on this. He reached and located the pilot chute, but just took to long to deploy it. A hard pull cannot be fully discounted at this time, but all the witnesses believe he just waited too long." This is the sixth BASE wingsuit fatality since the first one occurred in September of 2002.
    Reproduced with the kind permission of Nick Di Giovanni #194. The complete list can be viewed at:
    http://www.basefatalities.info or http://hometown.aol.com/base194/myhomepage/base_fatality_list
    Other wingsuit incidents:
    Patrick de Gayardon

    Geoff Peggs or

    Dwain Weston

    Appendix C – Wingsuit site selection
    You want to open up a new object jumping a wingsuit:
    So you have become a very competent wingsuit BASE jumper and you intend to open up an object that has never been jumped with wingsuit. Here are some factors to bear in mind.
    Make sure the vertical rock drop gives you enough altitude to launch the suit and get flying with a little extra in case you have a poor exit.

    The altitude profile of the object will also affect your decision. Use tools like rock drop, laser range finder and GPS to accurately measure the object.

    When estimating the horizontal distance that can be achieved from an object remember to factor in the altitude loss from exit and deployment.

    You may also wish to consider the conditions at the exit point and whether it is practical to put on the wingsuit there.

    Booties offer little traction when wet or muddy, be careful that you have good ground to stand on for your exit

    A wingsuit takes several seconds to start generating significant lift and forward speed. Therefore jumping a wingsuit from below 1500’ offers very little benefit in terms of freefall time and object separation (but it adds some colour to the jump).

    By admin, 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.
    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,

    Headdown - Everybody wants to learn!

    The winter is coming and you’re thinking about where you're going to jump to clear your winter doldrums. When you get to where you want to jump, everybody needs to freshen up their skills, maybe learn some new ones. One of the most popular skills to learn is Headdown. As a coach I have seen a lot of ways to learn the position. Some people, if you manually stick them in the position and hold them there, will learn it in a few jumps. Other fliers don't have it so easy. Well this article is for you!
    We will learn what to concentrate on in the Headdown position, but more importantly how to work around the problem with other skills, which I think contribute and can sculpt the Headdown position. These skills being back flying, flat back tracking and flat belly tracking.

    Headdown is probably the most technical of the freefly positions. It requires balance, skill, strength, and a refined technique. I teach the straddle position first, because it is easier to balance and conceptualize early on. You should have your head, shoulders, hips, and ankles completely in line. Your head should be pointing straight towards the Earth with your field of view consisting of the horizon with a half sky/half ground ratio.
    People who fly on their bellies a lot usually have a huge arch in their torso, which causes them to go to a back track, or belly track (we will get to how that is important later). Others usually have a kink in their hip so their shoulders and head are in one plane and their hips and ankles in another plane. This causes a steep track on their belly.
    Most of the concentration, once you have acquired the skill of keeping your body all in one plane, should be concentrated on the hips, legs and feet. First, You should have tension in your butt so you are straight, this can fix the hinged at the hip problem addressed above. Second, you should squeeze your quads taught so they push outwards, but remain in the same plane as everything else and keep the full extent of your leg straight. Third, you should have your toes flexed up towards your head. Picture yourself hanging from a bar upside down by your feet. You should feel air on your toes when you get it right. Pressure should be felt on your toes much like someone standing on your feet.
    Once you have the straddle position, the progression calls for 360 turns both ways, forward and backward motion, and then docks.
    We won't get into the technique of daffy Headdown, but it is extremely useful to slow down, fly in the tunnel with the lower speeds, and for heavier people to fly with others.

    Back Fly
    People often ask why they need to learn to fly on their back. The answer is simple. Headdown is a balance between flying on your back and on your belly. When the Headdown position is correct, no wind should be felt on your back or belly. This position requires the awareness of air being on your back or belly, so you can achieve no air on the torso. Since most people can fly on there belly relatively well, then it is imperative for you to learn how to fly on your back to acquire the Headdown position.
    The back fly position can be attained in the tunnel first, because it is much safer. Start on the grate. Relax your torso so it is convex. Put your hands above your head, and relax them. Do not push down towards the grate unless you want to slow down, or go up! Let your head relax and sit in line with your torso, while looking straight above. Keep your hips 90 degrees just like sitting in a chair. Keep your legs wide for stability.
    Back fly also has many everyday uses. Flying with tandems on your back is not only fun, but honestly the best video angle. When you are flying with an inexperienced sit flier and they cork you can match their speed on your back, until they can get vertical again. Lastly, you can use back fly to fly with relative workers, or once again get an interesting camera angle from below.
    Two words of caution! First, tighten up your rig when you fly on your back because the rig tends to shift from the wind below and can turn you. Second, I do not recommend flying on your back with other people unless you can competently fly in the wind tunnel on your back with a coach, as not to cause a huge difference in speed and thus a high speed collision.

    When first learning the Headdown position people either track towards the coach or away. I think it is very useful to learn to flat track on your belly and back. If you learn to fly both positions well with a coach, then control of the Headdown position is easier.
    Belly flat tracking is a little different than the steep track taught in the majority of AFF programs. A flat track has the ankles, hips and shoulders all in one plane.
    The progression suggests to learn to turn left and right, adjust your fall rate with your torso, and finally increase your speed with your legs. Turn left and right with your arms first as to make the adjustment slow. Then start to adjust the trim of your body for more powerful turns. Adjust your fall rate in tracking by arching to go down, and cupping with your torso to go up. Lastly, squeeze your quads tight for speed.
    Back tracking is fun and challenging. It can be used in Headdown, to track up to formations and to close huge distances. Make sure to slow down well before you reach your target.
    The first problem most people have when they back track is they have a kink at the hip. This creates more of a back fly rather than a track. Squeeze your butt, or push your hips forward to get flat. To gain more speed, put your legs together and press your ankles down slightly.
    With all these positions and abilities under your belt, Headdown will be easier to learn. The awareness and skills you learn from these alternate positions can in the end help you conquer Headdown.
    Remember, try to freshen up with a coach and in the tunnel before you start flying with other people. Headdown, along with these other positions is never easy, but persistence mixed with awareness and the right guidance always pays off.
    Swoop high, don't lag on jump run, and pack your instructor's parachute. Later!
    The New School Fligh University Web Site
    Steven Blincoe is the founder of The New School Flight University in Lake Wales, Florida. He has 4,000 jumps total and 300 hours of Skyventure Orlando wind tunnel time. If you would like to contact him you can at blincoe.org, or 530-412-2078.

    By admin, in Disciplines,

    Learning to Fly With Weights

    With today's fast fall rates, weights are essential for lighter weight jumpers. Small jumpsuits are not enough, especially when jumpers in the base are also wearing smaller jumpsuits. There is nothing more embarrassing than making a nice swoop to your slot only to pop three feet above everybody else when you break for the second point. Been there, done that.
    But it is not as simple as just slapping on ten pounds of weight and swooping. There is a learning curve involved. Jumpers wearing weights for the first time face the fear of going low. They have to learn how to fly with the extra ballast. They have to learn how to fly like a heavier jumper. That means they have to set up a little higher on approach. They also have to stop a little sooner then they are used to doing. Maybe for the first time, they have to fly cautiously. And some jumpers have to learn how to use different amounts of weight for different sizes of formations. It is a challenge, but one you have to face head on if you want to get invited on the good loads.
    For jumpers wearing weights for the first time, the roles can suddenly be reversed. The big boys in the base might get their chance to watch the lightweights sucking air as they go low. (I'm sure this puts a little smile on the big fellas' faces.) But don't fret. Show the big boys how quickly you can pop back up and get in. For those of you who have never had to worry about going low, here's a little primer.
    If you go low, move away from the formation and turn sideways to the formation. While keeping the formation in sight, lower your head and spread your arms and legs out as far as possible to assume a flat stance. Push down on the air as much as you can with your hands and feet. Crunch your gut muscles if you have to. Hold this position until you are far enough above the formation to make a good approach. (Forget the old 'hugging the beachball' theory. That actually lets air spill out all around you.)
    Let's say you made it in and you're fairly proud of yourself. You glided smoothly into your slot without having to fight to stay down with the formation. Of course, you had to watch your altitude. No more approaches from below the formation. The weights kept you honest.
    Now it's time to move to the next point. When you let go, you feel like you're in sequential heaven! You don't have to swim and flail to stay down with the big boys. You simply move laterally to your next position. What a treat!
    But don't get too cocky just yet. The next point is a "floaty" one. The big boys in the middle quickly build a 4-way compressed accordion and you are moving around to pod the end. "What happened?" you think as you sink two feet below your slot. Whoops! You've never had to watch your altitude this closely before. "Hee-hee!" go the big boys again as they watch you recover (again).
    But you're a good jumper and it only takes you a second to pop up and move into your slot. You tell yourself that you'll watch your altitude a little closer on the next move, and you do. The last point is a round and you feel like one of the big boys as you meet them in the center and don't have to work to stay down with them.
    "Piece of cake," you think to yourself. As you track off, you feel some of the old cockiness returning. But the cockiness starts to fade after you land and start wondering if the big boys will let you jump on the next load with them. Well, don't worry about it. You might not be ready for another big-way just yet. In fact, your next step should be to check out the weights on some smaller formations, preferably 4-ways. Remember I said that some jumpers have to use different amounts of weight for different size formations?
    So don't rush things. Check out the weights on several smaller ways. Depending on how often you make it out to the DZ, this could take several weeks, even months. Just remember that you are learning to fly all over again. You might have gotten into some bad habits by flying like a lightweight. I know I did. I had gotten used to diving down and not stopping until I was level with the formation. Then I'd make a perfectly level approach from where I had stopped. Boy! Did I ever get my wake up call the first time I tried this with weights.
    Another factor to consider is where to wear the weights on your body. From my experience, vests seem to work better for women and belts for men. It's just pure physiognomy. Women are typically lighter in the upper torso area, men in the hip area. But this isn't a hard and fast rule. Take me for instance. I wear both a vest AND a belt, but I only carry three pounds in the vest, whereas I carry six in the belt, nine pounds in all.
    What works for one person may not work for another. A couple of guys at my home DZ wear about ten pounds in a belt. All I know is that without the weights I wouldn't be jumping on the hot loads at my DZ. I wouldn't be doing hot 4-way either. I'm sure if you talked to my DZ's head organizer, he would tell you that I have made great strides in my performance since getting the weight thing figured out. It was hard work but it was darned well worth it. I know I'll be in some of the hot skydives in the year-end videos!

    By elightle, 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,