All About Naked Skydiving

    Advice From Jeff Dawson, The World Record Holder for Birthday Suit Skydives
    Milwaukee might seem like an odd place to rack up a truly epic number of naked skydives. You might expect conservatism and bitter winters to, y’know, get in the way. However, that’s exactly what Jeff Dawson--based at Sky Knights, near Milwaukee--has been doing for more than two decades. Of a little under 4,000 skydives, Dawson has done 722 of them naked, which is the world record by a long shot. Along the way, he has founded the Society for the Advancement of Naked Skydiving, or “SANS,” which keeps track of the world’s current naked skydiving records. (See what he did there?)
    At any rate, Dawson presents a wealth of hard-earned wisdom for skydivers eager to strip down before they jump out. Whether you’re doing the traditional birthday-suit huck for your hundredth or a way to pass the time while your jumpsuit is at the cleaners, Dawson has you (un)covered. We reached out with our most pressing questions.
    Q: Why is it that you love jumping naked so much?
    Dawson: It started off it was a naughty thing to do. I am a fairly conservative person, and it was naughty, so it was fun. Then it got to be the thing, and now it has become a creature all its own.
    The fact is that I’m not really a group-skydiving guy. I like just to get out of the airplane and enjoy the world around me by myself, just enjoying the awe of the situation. Naked skydiving makes that just so much better. You are just hanging out there. Nobody can see you. There isn’t a care in the world. That, to me, is pure freedom.
    I never set out to be the world record holder for naked skydiving. It just happened. I don’t go out to see how many naked skydives I can make; it’s just that I like doing it and the club I belong to is very naked-jumping friendly. I have made naked skydives where nobody has said one word about the fact I was naked. They are just so used to it.
    I have made at least one jump in every calendar year for almost 21 years, and I have made at least one naked jump every calendar month for 16 years. I did three naked jumps this past December when it was maybe 20 degrees Fahrenheit. At Sky Knights, they call [a wintertime naked jump] a “Dawson Pop” because I’ll be doing a hop-and-pop naked.
    Q: Okay--some basics. Since we all quite obviously have to wear some gear when we jump out of a plane, what is actually considered a “naked jump”?
    Dawson: Everybody has their own idea of what qualifies. For the purpose of the Society of the Advancement of Naked Skydiving, we say wrist to wrist and neck to knees. That allows safety equipment: a helmet, goggles, gloves, altimeter, shoes and socks if that’s what you choose to do. I have done only one jump where I was completely, 100% naked (with the rig, of course). No helmet, goggles, shoes, altimeter, socks...they called it a “naked naked” jump.
    Q: Did you start doing the naked thing before you started jumping or did you start doing the naked thing after you started jumping? Have you always been into naturalism?
    Dawson: Absolutely not. I made my first naked jump on my 100th skydive, but as far as the rest of it goes, no. I don’t even wear shorts in the summertime; always pants. I have nothing to do with nudism, naturalism...anything like that. Except for the naked skydiving.
    Q: What was it about that first naked skydive that got you into it?
    Dawson: Actually, it wasn’t that first one that got me going. Actually, it wasn’t that first one that got me going. I didn’t do another naked jump for probably 3 or 4 years afterward. A young female jumpmaster who liked to skydive naked put together a 4-way for a jumper’s hundredth jump, and she asked me to be a part. I think that was September 2001.
    The same thing happened a month later in October. We decided that we would see if we could make at least a 2-way every month for a year. We did, and of course there were several other people involved at different times. After a couple of years, she moved away, but I just kept going.
    Q: If someone is visiting Sky Knights on any given weekend, how likely is it that at least one person is going to be naked at some point?
    Dawson: Pretty likely. I do it more than most people, of course. If the conditions are right, I usually do my last jump of the day naked.
    Q: What’s the first step to doing a naked skydive right?
    Dawson: The first thing you have to do is to see if your dropzone even allows naked skydiving. I travel a lot and have been to a lot of different dropzones and talked to a lot of people about this. You have to understand that there are plenty of dropzones that actually can’t facilitate naked skydiving; where if there is any nakedness going on of any kind, the dropzone will get kicked off the airport because that’s in their contract, or charter, or whatever.
    Then you have to decide how public you want to make it. Cameras and social media are out there in such prevalence today that you have to be careful that someone’s livelihood could be endangered if this type of thing got out in the way that things do now. Unless you want the entire dropzone out at the landing area with cameras, you’ll have to have help to keep it quiet and under wraps. I blame social media for the fact that naked jumping isn’t as popular now as it used to be.
    Q: How can you set about controlling those variables?
    Dawson: If you want to do a naked jump stealthily and not have the whole dropzone watching, you can make that happen by arranging for a separate pass or landing area--or just talking to the people who are on the jump and asking them to turn off their cameras. People should understand that it’s a very legitimate concern.
    Q: How do you go about preparing for a naked skydive?
    Dawson: First off, I would definitely suggest doing it with someone who has done at least one before.
    You will want to decide what you are going to do about clothes. Sure, you’ll have a 200-square-foot toga to wear, but what next? Personally, I have a set of shorts that I wear over my leg straps, and then I have a pocket on one of the leg straps. When I am in the plane, I take the shorts off and put them in my leg pouch to put on after I land. I have seen people tie shorts onto a leg strap with pull-up cords. I knew one person who actually stuffed his shorts in the tail of his canopy. Amazingly, it didn’t affect the opening. You can always stash clothes at the landing area, of course.
    When you’re gearing up, make sure that your straps are relatively tight. We have a saying for the guys: Make sure that you have your junk in the right spot, because you can always cut away from a line-over but you can’t cut away from a nut-under.
    Nipples can be a problem, too. You can deal with that by either locating the chest strap above the nipples so that they’re out of the way or use band-aids to reduce the snag hazard, especially if you wear jewelry there. I have never seen it myself, but I’ve heard of at least one person who had jewelry ripped out of her nipple.
    Q: What’s different about the jump itself?
    Dawson: What tends to happen is that, after one person decides they’re going to do a naked jump, a bunch of people get on it. It can easily turn into a big zoo, with a dozen people on the jump who have never jumped naked before. That’s not a good idea.
    Naked jumping is entirely different from clothed jumping in that it changes the amount of control you have over your bodyflight. There’s a whole different dynamic: for instance, coming into a formation. If your mode normally is to come in fairly hot and slow down last minute to enter the formation, you’ll soon discover that that doesn’t work as well with a naked jump because you don’t have the drag. People often find they can’t stop. So if you can do it with 2 or 4 people--something like that--it usually works out better.
    When you’re in freefall, you’ll feel like the container is falling off of your back--or is not centered--because it’s touching your skin and you can actually feel where it is. Don’t freak out. If you’ve done your straps up nice and tight, it’s not actually coming loose; it just feels different.
    Also: You don’t want to get too wrapped up in the naked part of the skydiving and forget about all the other parts, which brings me to probably one of the most important parts about naked skydiving. This goes for any kind of extraordinary skydive. You’re still making a skydive, and you still have to do it safely. You have to make sure your equipment is right, and you do all of your checks. It is really easy to get caught up--especially if we’re talking about a 100-jump person--in the excitement of what’s going on, and forget about the things that are necessary.
    One more word to the wise: Choose a day when the conditions are right for a stand-up landing. If you slide in even a little bit, you are going to know it. Even grass acts like sandpaper.
    Q: Any final words of wisdom?
    Dawson: Do everyone a favor and be cool about it. If you go out and flash unsuspecting tandem students and airport authorities, then you’re crossing the line.
    Sky Knights operates a PAC in the summertime and when I’m ready to make a naked skydive, there will usually be tandems on the load. I won’t surprise them with my nakedness. Before they are even manifested, I’ll find out from manifest who they are, introduce myself and ask if they’d mind if I’m on the same load. I’ll also do that with other jumpers I don’t know. Most people are fine, especially when I tell them it’s going to be a world record--because every time I make a naked skydive, it’s a world record.
    I try to be sensitive about who is on the load and not make anyone feel embarrassed. Being polite about it has allowed me to do all those jumps.
    Got at least one naked jump? Join SANS! It costs a whopping $5 dollars to join, and with that membership fee you get a member number, a certificate for the wall of your cubicle, some stickers and a refrigerator magnet.

    By admin, in General,

    Understanding Camera Switches

    Taking photos while skydiving is easier today than it has ever been, yet doing the job properly remains serious business. Camera technology marches ceaselessly forwards, and while the gap between the products aimed at the casual consumer and the lofty professional is narrowing - any freefall photographer that considers themselves proper job will very likely rock a stand-alone stills camera as part of their setup.

    Try as you might - you will never be this cool. Action cameras are great. Their small size, plus both the features they present and the quality of media they capture make them highly useful for everything from skydiving to attaching to your cat to find out where it goes at night. However - any occasion you have to directly compare the images recorded by these teeny wonders with those of a more traditional camera will highlight the superior quality a dedicated stills unit has to offer.
    The exponentially multiplying capacity of digital memory means that with a GoPro or whatever, you can just set it going at some point before the start of your jump, forget all about it until at least ten minutes after you finish packing then sift through an ungodly amount of chaff later in search of the choicest shots to share about the place. Everybody knows this is cheating though, and that photos created serendipitously by a piece of gadgetry that happens to be attached to your forehead is not your work - but is in fact the subtotal of all human endeavour leading up to this exact point, where you got lucky.
    A stills camera is the tool of the craftsperson and must be activated manually when something awesome happens. There are a few choices available for this, all of which involve using your mouth to activate the camera and get the job done. As with a lot of things in skydiving, people sometimes feel very passionately about what they believe to be correct tool for the job and will offer to fight you to the death for besmirching their good word by thinking differently - and camera switches are no exception. While all pretty straightforward to operate, they each have some subtle strengths and weaknesses so a little forethought might help you arrive at what is best for you.

    This man is called Trunk. Trunk runs a company called GetHypoxic. If you are building a camera platform or simply wish to geek out about skydiving technology - this is your guy.

    Bite Switch
    The bite switch is either straight or L-shaped with a section somewhere in the middle that you hold between (specifically) your front teeth and bite softly to operate.
    The Good:
    Good Feedback: Of the choices available a bite switch provides the most satisfying little clicks to reassure you that you are getting shit done.
    The Bad:
    - Head Movement: Operating a bite switch involves moving your jaw a little bit to bite down, which can put a visible wiggle in your framing - particularly if you are capturing video.
    - Moisture. If you eventually chew through the plastic casing, condensation or saliva can get inside and short out the connections.

    Blow Switch
    The blow switch is a small unit about the size of your thumb that you mount to the outside of your helmet. The part that goes into your mouth is a straw-like tube that you blow into to activate the camera.
    The Good:
    - Durability. With no wires and such directly in your mouth there are fewer parts that are subject to moisture or wear, and you cannot damage it by biting too much.
    The Bad:
    - Low Feedback. With nothing that clicks actually pressing against any part of your mouth you do not receive any direct indication of operation from the device itself.
    - Breathing. The action of blowing into a tube to depress the button can potentially disrupt your breathing, and vice-versa - having to breathe at some point can interrupt your photo taking.
    - Gunk. Clean it, you filthy animal.

    Tongue Switch
    The tongue switch is usually L-shaped. You grip it between your teeth wherever it feels most comfortable and depress a little button with the tippy end of your tongue.
    The Good:
    - Separate Actions. By holding the switch with one part of your mouth and operating the button with another, this option has a sensible tactile nature.
    - Flexibility. You can hold this switch anywhere amongst your teeth that feels right for you.
    The Bad:
    - Due to the available mobility, the internal wiring can wiggle loose and the switch possibly wear out over time.
    - Moisture. As with the bite switch - if you eventually chew through the plastic casing, condensation or saliva can get inside and short out the connections.
    - Hilarity. If you use a tongue switch you will quickly grow very, very tired of jokes about your increased sexual powers - from pretty much everybody.

    A tongue switch and a bite switch respectively. Photographed on a moist houseplant.

    This is me.
    The truth is that all these devices work perfectly well. I have a tongue switch now because I have always had a tongue switch. I don’t remember why that was my choice and yet I see no reason to change it. Every now and then someone will tell me it is a worthless piece of shit good only for the bin, yet I rarely miss a photo.
    There is immense satisfaction to be found in ‘getting the shot’ and if you are serious about the role of aerial photographer a good stills camera is essential. High pressure situations like freefall turn small issues into bigger ones, and although just a small element your mouth switch is an important piece of your camera helmet. One that works well for your needs over something not-quite-right can be the crucial difference between kicking ass or not kicking ass much more often than you think.

    By admin, in General,

    When Right is Wrong

    By Bryan Burke, Safety and Training Advisor
    Image by Serge Shakuto In March of 2017 I posted a review of a canopy collision that took place at Skydive Arizona on December 30, 2016. The post included two videos, one shot by a participant in the collision and one shot by an outside observer. The videos make it pretty clear what happened and I hoped they would spur discussion about traffic management. If you have not read the thread in the Incidents Forum and watched the videos it might be helpful to do so before reading on. Before going on, though, let me caution the readers about a few things. One, some of the comments to my post are stated in a way that suggests the commentator knew what was actually going on in the heads of the two who collided. We don't know, and this kind of baseless assertion seriously diminishes the usefulness of the Forum. Two, if you watch closely there was traffic to both right and left of the overtaking canopy. Lens distortion makes it hard to know just where it was in the final seconds before the collision, but it may have affected the decision making of the top canopy pilot. We could argue endlessly about whether or not the top pilot could have avoided the collision. The fact is that he did not come up with a solution to the problem fast enough to avoid it. Three, the landing area is tight even without heavy traffic. Nevertheless, this collision could have occurred anywhere because it essentially was caused by one parachute turning into the path of another, which is the ultimate cause of almost every canopy collision. Finally, Skydive Arizona does have a lot of guidelines because we have a lot of visitors from drop zones that apparently don't. Breaking the rules isn't a grounding offense in most situations. In this particular case I doubt if either collision participant was actively thinking about those guidelines. In all likelihood the bottom jumper let established habits override the guidelines, and the other was trying to deal with that.
    I found it worrisome that several people staunchly defended the concept that "Low Canopy has Right of Way" overrides all other considerations under canopy. In this case the low canopy was almost entirely responsible for the collision and the event never would have occurred if that person had flown in a safe, predictable manner. I want to review the concept of Right of Way and challenge whether it is even a useful or safe idea to teach in skydiving when expressed as an absolute. If we are going to retain the concept we need to understand the origins and the exceptions.
    Technically the term Right of Way has nothing to do with navigation by boat, car, parachute, or other conveyance. It is a legal term to describe access to property. For example, if my land is surrounded on all sides by someone else's land, I can be granted a legal Right of Way to my land. Similarly, if tradition allows the public to cross private land at a specific place, a Right of Way exists.
    At some point the phrase was adopted to nautical traffic, although technically the proper phrasing is "give way" as "In situation X, vessel 1 gives way to vessel 2." But to be absolutely clear, the rules about who gives way in traffic have a lot of exceptions, all based on common sense. Ultimately they are intended to minimize confusion and de-conflict traffic problems, but they are not in any way absolute rules. Here are some examples:
    A powered vessel gives way to a sailing vessel. Unless the powered vessel is actively fishing, or needs a deep channel that the sailboat does not. And any sailor with an iota of experience and common sense knows that sailing a yacht in front of a massive container ship is a sure way to be run down, regardless of your unpowered status.
    Between two sailboats, the default rule is that a vessel on a port tack gives way to one on a starboard tack. For those who aren't sailors, that means if the wind is coming over your left side, you give way to a boat that has the wind coming over its right side. In fact this is probably where the phrase "right of way" comes from because the boat on the starboard tack is to the right of a line drawn back to front through the boat on the port tack, and vice versa. Eventually this was applied to cars: if two cars were approaching a crossroads, the one to the right had ‘right of way.’

    Obviously this didn't work very well with cars, or we would not need four-way stop signs or roundabouts. But for the purposes of this discussion, we're much more like sailboats than we are like cars or powerboats.
    To further confuse things, if we go back to sailing there are many more exceptions to the rule. A windward vessel gives way to leeward. Shallow draft gives way to deep draft in a narrow channel. An overtaking vessel gives way to the slower vessel, ideally passing to the rear if they are on different courses. But most importantly for applying these guidelines to skydiving, the vessel being overtaken is obliged to maintain course and speed, or if it must maneuver, clearly signal its intention!
    Parallels in skydiving would be that a canopy over open area should give way to one over obstacles, higher to lower, and so on. But regardless of the guidelines, it is understood that the root rule is all flight in the landing pattern must be predictable! Without predictable flight no set of guidelines or rules can prevent collisions. This collision came down to that: an unnecessary and unpredictable turn into the path of an overtaking canopy.
    Let's also get over the idea that all parachutes are similar in handling characteristics and therefore a blanket rule can keep them safely separated. For example, USPA asks Group Member Drop Zones to separate "high performance" landings from - presumably - ordinary landings. What does that mean? A Valkyrie at 2.4 on a straight approach is going as fast as a Sabre 2 at 1.2 coming out of a 180. It's too much to ask skydivers to sort themselves by canopy type, wing loading, and flying style other than by a general designation of high performance landing areas. In Skydive Arizona's case, we limit one landing area to turns of 90 or less, and nowhere do we allow turns over 180. (Except when the jumper exits on a pass dedicated to HP landing.) However, we do ask that people refrain from S turns or flying at an angle across the final approach. This is something we should expect of everyone, and if everyone does it, there should be minimal problems with a fast parachute finding a clear lane next to a slow parachute. In the collision in question, the low parachute failed in the most basic of navigation duties: maintain course and speed and make your intentions clear.
    This is a cultural issue. Older skydivers or those taught by older skydivers may have been taught that right-of-way is absolute, taught without the essential caveat “maintain course and speed, make intentions clear.” It may also involve drop zone culture; wide open DZs without much traffic seem to neglect canopy control skills and DZs where people don't travel much may spend little time teaching their jumpers what to look out for when they visit a big DZ. We used to teach people to fly in deep brakes and perform S turns to fine tune their landing point. Now we know this is dangerous in traffic and we don't teach it any more.
    There is no reason a big seven cell can't safely land in the same area as a tiny, ultra-high performance canopy, but not when using obsolete rules of the road. The low person does not have the right to turn into the path of an overtaking canopy, period. Finally, low or high, never assume you know where all the traffic is. The assumption you should make is that there is overtaking traffic above and behind, in your blind spot, and you must fly predictably to minimize the chances of them colliding with you.

    By bryanburke, in General,

    It’s Not Your Imagination. Skydiving Actually Changes the Shape of Time

    "We live longer in three seconds than some people live their entire lives."
    That's one of my favorite quotes from a fellow BASE jumper, and it was at the forefront of my mind as I read BBC broadcaster and psychology writer Claudia Hammond's new book, "Time Warped: Unlocking the Mysteries of Time Perception." The book tackles the alternately baffling and encouraging science behind our brains' relationship with the arbitrary measurements of our wristwatches.
    More to the point: It puts that information in a framework that makes total sense for an airsports athlete. Time works a little differently for us, after all. Linear time lies at the heart of the way we organize life, sure--but it also lies at the heart of the way we experience it. This might be the bigger concept--because what's within our own minds is under our own control.
    Skydivers--especially in high-stakes moments, like competitions and records--can relate to the curiously changing shape of time. Saturated with focus, it feels as though some experiences are being scrubbed through in super-fast-forward, while others are playing out almost frame-by-frame. It turns out that fluxes in time perception aren't simply an athletic and personal deficiency; these mental gymnastics around the concept of time's passage are a "defining feature of how the human mind works."It turns out that, in a physiological sense, the "slow-motion car crash" isn't a myth -- it's "a cognitive reality."
    Hammond's hypothesis is compelling in its simplicity: that the way we experience the passage of time is not an external process we're subjected to. Instead, time as we know it is actively created by our own minds. It isn't reliable and it is certainly not objective. Neuroscientists and psychologists call this "mind time," and Hammond describes how we as humans -- and, by extension, we as extreme athletes -- can shape it and use it to our own benefit.
    Much of the challenge we face as airsports athletes is exerting a practical amount of control over our physical and mental responses to overwhelming stimuli. No amount of mental gymnastics will turn a BASE exit with a seven-second rock drop into an exit with a 12-second rock drop; however, if we can start to see "mind time" as flexible and ourselves as active participants in our experience of it, Hammond suggests that we can stay in flight just a little longer in our own minds. (This is a deeply appealing and useful thought experiment for athletes who practice a sport that often requires us to dedicate days of our time for scant minutes of freefall.)
    "Time Warped" is a profoundly conceptual but still, somehow, practical book. It addresses the way our internal clocks dictate our lives and the ways in which mindfulness works as a tool to master that internal clock.
    One of the book's most beautiful passages sums it up brilliantly:
    "We will never have total control over this extraordinary dimension. Time will warp and confuse and baffle and entertain however much we learn about its capacities. But the more we learn, the more we can shape it to our will and destiny. We can slow it down or speed it up. We can hold on to the past more securely and predict the future more accurately. Mental time-travel is one of the greatest gifts of the mind. It makes us human, and it makes us special."
    Other Resources:
    Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

    Felt Time: The Science of How We Experience Time by Marc Wittmann

    By admin, in General,

    Skydiver's Anonymous

    For the average weekend-warrior, skydiving is the great escape. The end of each dreary workweek is met with excitement and anticipation. Time to skydive! This is our chance to be with friends who share our passion, and escape the mundane, while we embrace life on our own terms. But with every wild weekend at the dz come the frustrations of another Monday morning…back to “reality”.
    And as the weekend highs become increasingly potent, so, too, do the lows of the following week back in the “real world”. This is a problem. Or at least is has been for me.
    Skydiving is so much more than the physical act of each jump. It’s exciting, challenging, rewarding, and – at times – incredibly fulfilling. It also brings a sense of community, place, and purpose to the lives of many of us. The bonds created at the dz are strong, and the times spent together with friends in the mutual pursuit of pleasure can be as rich and vital as nearly any other human experience. This is why we jump.

    But not everyone has something equally rewarding or exciting waiting for them at home. In fact, many of the dedicated skydivers I’ve known sacrifice a substantial amount of their time, energy, and resources in support of those two sacred days each week that they get to spend doing what they love. In many ways, it’s like a drug.
    The comparisons are obvious:

    It’s expensive
    It’s exciting and intoxicating
    It’s quite addictive
    It leaves you in withdrawal when you’re unable to jump
    It’s not always socially acceptable (sometimes even forbidden by friends / loved ones)
    It can eventually have negative effects on other parts of your life (relationships, finances, etc.)
    It can consume your mind and thoughts even when you’re not jumping
    It can begin to rule your life, as you reshape your time, energy and resources to better support your habit
    What, then, becomes of our prior reality? It’s hard to replicate the floods of dopamine and surges of endorphins unleashed over the course of a weekend in the sky. And as you progress in skydiving towards more demanding disciplines that require greater focus and dedication, all else can become comparatively dull and uninspired.
    But there are no support groups for us crazy few. No meetings to attend with mantras to repeat aloud in sober solidarity. We’re left to our own devices – bored and daydreaming about our next fix. This duality doesn’t sit well. At least not with me. I’ve had a very difficult time adjusting to a life split between two utterly separate and diametrically opposed worlds – one of hedonism and excitement, and the other of drudgery and toil.

    For me, these two paths could no longer be bridged. I’ve had to choose. And I’ve always been a much more talented hedonist than I have a cubicle-rat, so my choice was fairly clear. Granted, not everyone is in a position to completely cutaway. Some of you have spouses, kids, mortgages, magazine subscriptions, softball practices, and various other entanglements with which to contend.
    These types of responsibility have always terrified me. But I’m very interested in hearing from you! How is it that you, the reader, who I presume lives to some extent in both of these worlds at once, is able to reconcile them? What sacrifices must you make? How do you divide your time between the sky (the friends, the bonfires and other sanctioned mayhem) and the so-called “real world”? Perhaps there’s something I’ve missed in my pursuit of balance. And I’d love to hear what that might be. Your thoughts and personal insights are welcomed and invited below!

    By admin, in General,

    Why You're Normally Deviant (And Why You Shouldn't Be)

    “This particular aircraft doesn’t have seatbelts, but we only have it for this one boogie--and we’ve never had a forced landing, anyway.”
    “There’s no AAD in this rig, but I’m only going to jump it this once while my regular rig is being repacked. It’s just so I don’t miss the record attempt. I’ll be back on my regular rig on the next load.”
    “We always jump in cloud here. Otherwise we’d never get to jump! The pilot has GPS, anyway, obviously, and he’s never been wrong.”
    The final sentence--which always follows, right?--is the kicker:
    “I’m sure it will be fine.”
    Are you? Really?
    USPA Director of Safety and Training Jim Crouch introduced a really important concept in April’s Parachutist (‘Safety Check’; April 2017). In it, he brings up The Challenger Launch Decision, written by sociologist Diane Vaughan. Vaughn very usefully summarized the kernel of this human tendency. She even coined a term for it: the “normalization of deviance.” Normalization of deviance comes up pretty much everywhere in life (foregoing your helmet just to bike down to the neighborhood park; speeding; not bothering with the condom). High-variable, high-pressure, high-safety-requisite circumstances breed the normalization of deviance like bunnies at a bunny swinger’s convention.
    For some insight into how the normalization of deviance affects you in your airsports career, let NASA Astronaut Mike Mullane bend your ear. Mullane was a fighter pilot in 1978, when he was selected as a Mission Specialist in the first group of Space Shuttle Astronauts. He chalked up three space missions (aboard the Shuttles Discovery and Atlantis), spending more than 350 hours in the void. And, solely in the years after he celebrated his 60th birthday, Mullane summited Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Rainier and 35 of Colorado’s 14,000+ers. You can safely assume that Col. Ret. Mullane is an expert in managing his own risk envelope and that of those around him--and, yet, even he is still influenced by the normalization of deviance. How ‘bout that.
    Why is it so tough to fight immunity to unacceptable risk? Cause damn, it’s hard. It’s cultural; it’s about preserving a certain quality of relationship. It’s personal; it’s about preserving a certain self-image. Finally, it’s transactive; it’s about trading off a potentially good experience now for the chance to have more good experiences later, in the absence of much data at ****all.
    “The natural human tendency,” Mullane notes, “Particularly in pressured circumstances, to want to take a safety shortcut. [You say,] ‘I’ve done a [jump] like this a thousand times in the past, and nothing bad has ever happened. I can certainly do it this one time [...] and nothing bad is going to happen. [...] The absence of something bad happening when I took this safety shortcut means that it’s safe to do so again.’”
    There will always be a next time. And you’re going to be mightily tempted to do it again. When you do it--whatever ‘it is--enough times, the shortcut becomes the norm. The loop is reinforced. In Mullane’s words, “The deviance is now invisible to you.”
    And when invisible deviance leaves a very visible mess? Well, Diane Vaughn coined another term in her book for that eventuality: a “predictable surprise.” Those involved in the Challenger debacle readily admit that the explosion (and the resulting deaths) constituted a predictable surprise. So does a catastrophic wingsuit collision in the absence of one jumper’s AAD. So does a plane full of broken jumpers after a forced seatbeltless landing (of which--make no mistake--there are very many). So does a double tandem fatality at a dropzone with an it’ll-be-fine attitude towards instructor training.
    Image by Brett Kistler The itchy issue we face as airsports athletes is that we’re not under pressure from the government, as Mullane and NASA were. We’re not under pressure from the market. The pressure you’re under on the dropzone is your own. If you think it’s a good idea to scratch, you can damn well go ahead and scratch. You can roll your eyes at anyone who gets after you for it--the manifest; your buddy; your team at the Nationals. Most of the time, though, you don’t. You stay on the load, and--probably significantly more than nine times out of ten--you build another nanolayer on your normalization-of-deviance callus.
    The old triusm that familiarity breeds complacency makes a little more sense, no? That newbies are generally more risk-averse than intermediate-to-mid-career jumpers (a trend which tends to reverse as the jumper amasses significant empirical data)? That you’re more willing to do--well--gloriously stupid shit at a dropzone you know really well, as opposed to one you’re just visiting?
    Take it from Richard Feynman, compared the practice of predictive reasoning to Russian Roulette: “The fact that the first shot got off safely is little comfort for the next. [...] Nature cannot be fooled.”
    In real life, of course, it’s more uncertain than that. He was talking about binary predictive reasoning (with an either-A-or-B result). We’re not playing a binary game when we’re jumping and flying; we’re not playing Russian roulette. Honestly, we don’t even know how many bullets are in that gun. But we’d better remember that it is a gun, and it is loaded, somewhere in there--and the safety culture we’ve inherited is a desperate attempt to introduce proven failsafes in the face of our old nemesis, randomness.
    Walking out to the pointy end is fun. Randomness is fun. Deviance is fun. That’s a big part of why we do this, right? That said: understanding why we make the decisions we make--and, perhaps, even learning to make better ones--can do much to extend a career.
    For more, do yourself a solid and check out Vaughn’s The Challenger Launch Decision, which originally coined the phrase. It’s a riveting read--and I bet you’ll readily recognize the culture which worked to create the conditions for the tragedy.

    By nettenette, in General,

    Learning About Weather: Part 4 - The Small Picture

    It is easy to think of the weather as just being big. All too often as skydivers we assess things in very general terms without really worrying too much about the details - yet the most direct impact weather conditions can have on your skydiving can happen on an entirely personal level, affecting you and you alone while trying to successfully land a parachute.
    I make no claim to being a canopy piloting coach and should you wish to further your skills in that area I recommend seeking out humans that offer professional structured courses in these matters. What follows is simple advice designed to encourage further learning by pointing out some of the more common weather phenomena that you will encounter above and around the dropzone.

    When wind hits something it bounces off in different directions which can cause difficulties for flying one’s parachute through if you are not prepared for it. Dropzones are hugely diverse in terms of layout and construction - from the humble Cessna using a strip of grass in the middle of nowhere to powerhouse operations that utilise a fleet of aircraft and resemble a municipal airport, however wherever you jump the same general rules about what to look for apply.
    Below I have included some examples and a few shit-but-accurate pictures to demonstrate how wind behaves over and around common obstacles. By referring to these you can get some idea about how to be aware of potential hazards and avoid them when necessary.

    Wind over building

    Wind over hill

    Wind over ridge

    Wind over trees
    Unstable Air - When the wind hits something big and flat like a hangar it spills out in lots of different directions at the same time. Depending on exactly where you are this could cause lift, sink, sideways motion or all of these in quick succession. Things can get really rough next to structures when it is windy - so use your brain, apply your training and be somewhere else.
    Wind Shadow - A large enough object might create an area behind it which is clear of the turbulence and has no wind. Where you were previously crabbing like mad or going nowhere fast - if you enter a wind shadow you might suddenly find you have a surge in ground speed and have to adjust where you though you were going to land. Be very ready for more turbulence.
    Bottleneck - This is when wind speeds up rapidly to squeeze a large volume of air in a small gap between two objects. This can also be compounded by the other problems created by wind trying to get around things such as an increase in instability.
    Thermal Activity:
    Thermal activity is generated by the sun heating the air - warm air expands pushing outwards and cold air contracts drawing inwards, causing wind. The most common experience most of us initially have with this effect is via some toothy weather person gesticulating at region-wide areas of a greenscreen map on the telly and describing which way the wind will most likely be pointing. However - thermals gather and release on a much, much smaller scale than this and can be localised enough to effect your flight while navigating a canopy.
    Things to look for are items and areas that are good at causing lift by either reflecting heat such as tarmac (runway/carpark/roads) and metal (hangars), or storing heat such as bodies of water. A small amount of thermal activity is not going to cause serious issues with your flight pattern or your canopy’s performance but some sudden lift or sink when you are not expecting it can mean the difference between landing in your intended spot and somewhere else. In some places thermals can be surprisingly violent and threaten your safety - ask anyone who has tussled with an Arizona dust devil that sprang as if from nowhere on an otherwise perfect skydiving day.
    So what do you do when things get more challenging? Dropzones operate under official limits for jumping and will often have their own rules in place for particular conditions. For example you might be required to land in a different area if the wind is coming from a certain direction or you might have to stop jumping sooner than you were planning due to a particular quirk in the local terrain. Learn these special circumstances and understand why they exist - you never know when such knowledge will help you make a good decision somewhere unfamiliar when the pressure is on.
    Despite established parameters the person responsible for your safety is you. If you decide keep jumping as conditions get ‘interesting’ it is only sensible to modify your behaviour for increased safety:

    If it is getting super windy then use any available space and land clear of hazards and other canopies. Walking a long way back to the hangar is better than crawling even the shortest distance if you have to do it into the back of an ambulance.
    Landing crosswind or downwind into clear space and sliding across the grass like a goose landing on a frozen pond is better than turning low into the wind and flying face-first into the ground.
    If the wind is actively changing direction as you look at the indicators then follow the rules and land the way the arrow is pointing. Again - it is safer to all land in the same direction regardless of which way the wind is going than all try to face into it as it moves around and risk a collision.
    Watch other people land. If the wind is getting up then maybe have a break and watch a load or two. Assess everyone from Captain swoopypants all the way through to the tandems and those with lower experience.
    Try to develop a habitual curiosity about what is going on at the particular spot you like to skydive. Many noteworthy incidents in our sport can be traced back to awareness of small things that could easily be avoided with a little learning.

    By Deleted, in General,

    Learning About Weather: Part 3 - Upgrade Your Grey Matter

    There are lots of things you can learn about on the Dropzone that will aid you understanding of how all the elements involved in a skydiving operation fit together to make things work. Even just focusing on the assessment of the jumping conditions demonstrates several moving parts that all need to operate effectively to function as a whole. Remember, there are things that you must know, but also things that you can know that will make you better and safer. A helpful way to evolve your knowledge is try to see things from the perspective of others.
    What Other People Know:
    Chief Instructor: Whoever is employed to be in charge of the daily dropzone proceedings will not only be generally very well experienced but likely also highly practised under the conditions of that particular location. You can learn much from this person. When things are busy they will likely juggling many things in their head to keep everything running smoothly, but when quietness descends seek them out and pick their brains as they probably have many, many excellent stories to share - each with an important lesson behind it.
    The Pilot: To become a pilot you have to read books and do tests and stuff. A lot of this is about the weather. While you are trying to gauge the strength of the wind outside by listening intently from under a duvet - a good pilot will be up checking many sources of information to be able to perform their job properly. The information analysed by pilots is a very good place to head if you are keen to take your knowledge about flying conditions to the next level.

    The Jump Master: The person who is in charge of the load needs to be very aware of what is going on both on the ground and in the air. Being tasked as jump master is a serious job that happens relatively early in your skydiving career and while easy to perform with the correct level of awareness carries serious responsibility when there is some kind of incident. Are you confident enough in your decision to take the plane around or bring it back down after spotting a big mess at altitude and have the courage of your convictions when faced with an angry dropzone owner? Being all over the details will make you look like a goddam pro when anyone starts quizzing you. What were the winds doing at the bottom and the top? Which way was it going? What kind of clouds were they and at what altitude?
    The Other Skydivers: Does everyone on the plane know what they need to know? Are the people you are jumping with or those in the group next to you clueless idiots? Should you worry about them? Who is going to tell them the correct information? You do it - for your own benefit as much as theirs. Also worth considering is the perspective of the tandem masters and the camera pool - they keep the dropzone going and thus operate day-in and day-out under all conditions and circumstances. If the plane goes up then almost certainly some of them are on it and their collective knowledge is well worth mining for information about functioning at the fringes of what is possible or acceptable on your particular dropzone.

    Applying some time and effort to learn more about weather conditions will create a return on investment with your ability to judge further out if jumps are going to happen or not. Skydiving is an expensive hobby and happens quickly - so everything you can do to maximise your effectiveness on each jump helps, and understanding more about the weather will make you a better, safer skydiver. Learning about all of the conditions you will be faced with will not only facilitate making good calls when you are jumping, it will also help you to get more out of your jumps when they happen. Nobody is right all the time but the more educated you are the better your guesses will be - and as such you ability to decide wether to drag your ass out of bed before dawn and get down to the dropzone or do something else with your day. Also try remember that there is nothing to be gained from being angry at the sky - it does not give a shit. Also, it is probably healthy to do something else now and then - if your life is a constant battle with the weather you might well end up batshit crazy and living in a caravan on the airfield with mushrooms growing in your hair.
    On a dropzone you are surrounded with ways to learn, and the first time you apply some extra-curricular knowledge in a practical way is immensely satisfying. Every now and then you come across someone who seems to have magical powers when it comes to predicting what the sky is going to do - but they are most likely just a regular human that knows things.

    By joelstrickland, in General,

    Health Gymnasium

    Health gymnasiums
        Those who can afford time and expense involved many wish to take advantage of the facilities offered by health gymnasium. None of the equipment and other facilities provided by gimnasium are strictly necessary to the process of getting fit, but they can add interest and variety to your physical exercises. Two other advantages offered by good gymnasium are constant supervision, which enables you to exercise with safety confidence, and a congenial atmosphere. Exrecising with people who share common purpose can provide extra enjoyment and incentive.   It is necessary first of all to distinguish between the different types of gymnasium. Training fymnasium are essentially for athletes and other men and womenwho wish to develop their skills for particular athletic activities. They provide facilities for athletes to keep themselves for their chosen sports. Health gymnasium provide advice, instruction and facilities for everyone who wishes to become or keep fit, whatever his or her initial physical condition. Their clients range from professional athletes to office workers who wish only to make the best use of their lunch hours.   Health gymnasium vary widely în quality. When choosing one of yourself, you should check that is staffed by qualified and responsible instructors. You may feel flattered to be attended by a sports celebrity, but professionally trained physiotherapists and physical education instructors can be equally, if not more, beneficial to an unfit person. You should expect to be asked details of your medical history, and to be carefully examined before being allowed to use all the facilities.   Three types of exercise   The accesories provided in health gymnasium to help you exercise range form simple wights and benches to more sophisticated equipment such aș pulleys and rowing machine. These accesories are appropriate for different kinds of exercises.   Isometric exercises, the simple type involvea applying muscular strenght by pulling or pushing immovable objects. The muscles are tensed amd this tension is sustained for short periods of time. Because little movement is involved în these exercises, they develop static rather than dynamic strenght.   Isotonic exercises involve pulling or lifting an object to certain position and then returning it to its original position. They cause the muscles to contract as you move but, because the weight or force employed is to the same degree throughout the exercise. The weight or force used can only be that which you cadn lift or pull at the weakest point in the range of motion involved and at other points your muscles are not sufficiently strained to develop în strenght.   The third type of exercise, known as  isokinetic, requires more sophisticated equipment. Isokinetic exercises can be designed for particular needs. For example, a person who is training for a particular sport can do exercises that stimulate exactly the demands of this sport, and also developed precisley the muscles he or she most needs.   Massage   Facilities for massage may be available at health gymnasium or sauna baths. Massage is used in physiscal therapy as a means of rehabilitating patients who are suffering from certain physical pain or aliments but, as a mean of getting or keeping fit, its value is very limitated.     Sauna baths Sauna baths may be attached to health gymnasium or may exist as separate establishments. Most sauna baths are organized according to similar basic principles, although Finnish sauna baths retain their original national characteristics. They have an invigorating effect on the whole body and aid physical and mental relaxation, but their effect on the whole body and aid physical and mental relaxation, but their effect are temporary rather than long-term.    
    Sauna baths provide a healthy and enjoyable means of relaxation, but the sudden rise and pulse rate can be dangerous. Pregnant women and people with high or low blood pressure, should therefore avoid them.  

    By admin, in General,

    How to Team - Hayabusa's Best Tips

    How does the winningest 4-way team in the world get--and stay--that way?

    Image by Danny Jacobs
    If you say “by training hard,” you’re certainly right. Hayabusa, the aforementioned golden boys of 4-way FS, unsurprisingly train their way around the calendar in both the tunnel and the sky. As of publication, they recently topped of the podium in the FAI world championships for both, as you’ve undoubtedly noticed. The top of the podium is, after all, pretty much home for these guys. Their hard training schedule, however, is certainly not the only ingredient in the sweet-smelling success that’s always wafting out of the Hayabusa tent.
    If you’ve got a couple of hardworking skydiving buddies who fly well with you, you might be thinking about going for your own set of medals. Not into FS? No worries. It doesn’t matter if you point your belly button at the ground or the horizon: you can still borrow a page from Hayabusa’s playbook. Here’s what Hayabusa Point Dennis Praet has to say about how his uniquely consistent team keeps their streak going so strong.
    1. Work on the relationships.
    “At the beginning, I really underestimated the importance of team dynamics,” Praet says. “They are super important. You can be an awesome flyer. You can do the fastest 360s. Whatever. But if you don’t have a good relationship with your teammates--if you are not very good friends--then competition is a very tough world.”
    “Don’t underestimate how important it is to have a good relationship with your teammates,” he continues, “And don’t misunderstand that to mean that you always have to accepting someone else’s bad habits or crap. It’s true that it is about coming to terms with some bad characteristics, but it’s more about appreciating the good ones. Like siblings, in a way.”
    2. Fix what you need to and get on with it.
    “We had a very harsh year in 2014 with Hayabusa,” he explains. “It was the year that nobody liked, and it just takes all the passion away. We saw the rough year for what it was, changed the things that needed to change and found that passion back.”
    3. Cross-train outside skydiving.
    “Everybody on the team does their own thing as far as fitness is concerned,” Dennis says. “It’s not a secret that I don’t like running; I would rather go to the gym or do some of my active hobbies, but pretty intensively. I absolutely love wakeboarding and kite surfing, and sometimes I’ll spend the whole day in the water, going hard.”
    “When I train, I focus on the fact that four way is a 35-second sprint--so going for endurance is only helpful in training. You can kind of pick your own sport to optimize your capacity for sprinting. As long as you are fit enough to go through a whole training camp--12 jumps a day, without losing your head--you are in good shape.”
    4. Get your head right.
    “When we are going into a hard competing day,” Praet says, “We try to put all our personal issues on the side. If there is any small thing that might put you off your mental game, consciously put that out of your head. Then just trust the training that you have done; the plan that you followed throughout the year. That way, you know--even if you lose, it is just that the other team was better. It is not something that you have done or didn’t do. That knowledge is comforting.”

    Hayabusa winning 2013 Dubai International Skydive Championship

    By nettenette, in General,