How to Set Yourself Up For Success
It’s time. You’re ready.
You’re going to point your belly button away from the ground when you fall out of a plane. YES.
You’re gonna point it at the horizon. You’re going to point it at other people. You’re going to sit around and look at it while you slide backward. You’re going to take your belly button on an amazing adventure.
But wait: is your container ready to join you on this journey?
The discipline you’re about to enter -- freeflying -- makes more demands of your skydiving rig than belly flying does. Now that you’re going to start moving around at a full range of angles in the relative wind, you need freefly-friendly equipment.
But what is a freefly-friendly skydiving rig?
The simple answer is that it’s a skydiving container, with all of its flapping bits under control, that fits close to your body. To get a little more specific, we’ll look at a few examples of non-freefly-friendly rigs -- and we’ll see how to get them fixed.
The “Reclining Chair”
What’s the difference between making a great skydive and hanging out in a poolside sun lounger?
If your leg straps are slippy, your sitfly might end up looking like a lounge-fly -- and the resultant harness ride-up might put your chest strap into your throat. SO importantly, this look is also humorously unflattering in photos and videos.
This might be the easiest issue to fix -- it could be a simple issue of improper strap adjustment. Before you send your kit in for surgery, see your S&TA;, rigger or instructor to check your current gear-up method and adjust accordingly. If it’s truly an issue of fit, your rigger can amend your harness, leg pads and leg straps accordingly -- and add one of those fetching little butt-bungees to keep your leg straps managed.
The “Incredible Floating Container”
If the laterals on your rig are too long or the leg straps are too loose, you’re going to have one of these -- a container that floats away from your freefallin’ body while air rushes in to separate the two of you.
The fixes for the Incredible Floating Container are similar to the Reclining Chair -- first, check with an expert to make sure you’re kitting up correctly; then, if the problem persists, send it to the loft.
The “Flippy Floppy Flapper”
Guess what? Your pin flaps -- and riser-cover flaps -- love to flap. They just love it. They’ll use any excuse to get out there and do their name proud.
To keep the flaps under wraps, you’ll need to look closely at the condition of each component. Make sure the stiffeners aren’t broken, warped or loose. Check for weak Velcro and/or magnetic closures. If you find something, don’t despair: Your rigger can revitalize wiggly tuck tabs, replace ragged-out Velcro, install (or replace) magnets and/or repack your reserve to adjust where its bulk places pressure on the system.
The “Premature Popper”
If your BOC doesn’t hug your pilot chute snugly enough, the multi-orientational pressures of freeflying make it much more likely that said pilot chute is going to make an early escape. Even if you’ve gone ahead and bought yourself one of those fancy low-profile freefly puds, that’s not going to save you if your BOC is loose, holey or inelastic. Note: if you’ve recently downsized in addition to switching up your discipline, be extra careful -- the BOC system relies on a snug, correctly-fitting main in the tray.
Another pop-preventer: maintaining a frayless closing loop of the proper length.
The “Put Me In, Coach”
The Put Me In, Coach is another variation on the Premature Popper. It’s an even less-fun one: an instantaneous reserve ride without the screamy good time of a malfunctioning main. It happens when the Velcro on your handles is weak, or when you bumble into a limb or foot that grabs your D-ring.
Make sure that the Velcro on your handles is strong and mated completely on both sides. It should take a moderate tug to separate the handle from its cozy home. Also: it’s not necessary to replace your D-ring with a pillow when you transition to freefly, but there’s a reason it’s so commonly done: that capital D is a big, shiny, shoe-sized liability.
The “Velveteen Rabbit”
If your rigger tells you that your rig is impossible to freeflyify, you may be the soon-to-be-ex owner of a Velveteen Rabbit rig. Don’t be too sad: it has probably been very loved for very many years, and it’s ready for retirement. Give it a viking funeral if you want, but don’t insist on flying it -- let it go. Making the hard choice to get rid of it might just save you -- and your wandering belly button -- a lot of unnecessary misery.