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News

    Skydive Arizona Event Updates

    Skydive Arizona began in the early 1990s when formation skydiving was dominating the scene and freeflying was just starting to become popular. Skydive Arizona has been the training grounds since then of fostering a great skydiver because of the weather, on-site wind tunnel, and access to multiple turbine aircraft. The DZ is thrilled to announce exciting changes to some of the classic events for the 2016 season!
    Skydive Arizona has retired some long-standing traditional events such as the Valentines 4-Way FS Meet and Turbine Madness. The Valentine’s 4-Way FS Meet was a staple of a formation skydiver’s experience. However, with the access to turbines and tunnels, the event saw a decline and decided to retire the event. The Turbine Madness will now focus on the Challenge which will also see a few new additions.
    Airspeed Big Way Camp
    Changes to current, annual events: The Arizona Challenge organized by Arizona Airspeed for formation skydivers will add Arizona X-Force organizing a Vertical Sequential Challenge. The Freefly Money Meet which was a scrambles-style event, is now the MFS (Mixed Formation Skydiving) Money Meet. The MFS style event is meant to be a platform for National competitors to train.
    MFS Money Meet
    All boogies that Skydive Arizona hosts (Easter Boogie, Patriot’s Boogie, Halloween Boogie, Thanksgiving Boogie, and the Christmas Boogie) will continue to include camps in various disciplines.
    An incredible new event is slated for this November 3rd – 6th called, The Wingsuit Rally. The format of the event is to be an educational extravaganza from First Flight Courses to preparing for Wingsuit BASE to seminars, suit demos, state records and more. Wingsuit coaches that have confirmed include: Katie Hansen, Scotty Bob, Doogs, Taya Weiss, Jay Moledzki, Travis Milke, Petter Mazetta, and Matt Frolich. Vendors are still confirming at this time.
    Wingsuit Rally
    Upcoming Events:
    Airspeed Big Ways -- Registration: $50/person (February 12-14)

    MFS Money Meet -- Registration: $200/team (February 20-21)

    VFS Challenge -- Registration: TBD (May 28 – 30)

    Patriot’s Boogie -- Registration: $25/person (July 2-3)

    US Nationals (October 19-30)

    Halloween Boogie -- Registration: FREE (October 29-30)

    Wingsuit Rally -- Registration: $50/person (November 3-6)

    Thanksgiving Boogie -- Regisration: FREE (November 24-27)

    Christmas Boogie -- Registration: TBD (December 24 – January 1)

    Collegiates (December 28 – January 2)
    For detailed event information, go to www.SkydiveAZ.com/experiened/events.

    By admin, in News,

    The Road to 100 Dropzones - 77 and Counting

    I often get asked by Whuffos "Why do you jump out of planes?" At first it's always fun to say "Because the door was open" and after a few laughs I try to explain. I try to explain the 60 seconds of absolute peace. That 1 minute that nothing else matters and you're 100% focused on the moment and what you're doing. To a non jumper that explanation isn't ever really good enough I feel, and often refer to the cliche quote of "To those that jump, no explanation is necessary, and to those that don't, no explanation is possible" Because it's the closest thing to the truth.
    I feel lucky to be apart of a community of amazing people! People that put aside status, careers, race, politics and are so excited to share the amazing sport of skydiving with new jumpers like myself. I didn’t know that about skydivers when I did my first tandem jump, nor did I know that I would end up traveling all over the US, meeting people from all walks of life, people I would end up calling friends and my sky family. However, one thing I do now know, is how thankful I am to have started this journey.
    Everything started for me on October 14th 2013 and the set of upcoming random circumstances would lead me to so many different Dropzones around the US, which resulted in me being asked to write this story.
    I was working in an industry where it was common to work really hard for 4-5 months and then take a couple months off. Right after my work season ended I decided I was going to skydive. A decision I arrived at due to various circumstances I found myself in. I was previously in the army and broke my foot the week before airborne school and always regretted not being able to jump and be apart of an airborne unit in the army. A few years after that I was working on my pilots license at a very small airport in Goshen Indiana that had a small skydiving operation on the other side of the field. Other than hearing "Jumpers Away" and making sure I didn't hit any of them while practicing take off and landings I never made it over there, even though I told myself repeatedly that I would try. Then a couple years later I met a guy by the name of Tim Kelly, randomly on a cruise ship and he had just started his skydiving training a few months before and was so excited to share with me his excitement and how awesome the sport of skydiving was! These events always left me wondering if I would take the time away from flying and scuba diving to start a new hobby.

    Getting Licensed
    So there I was in La Porte, IN several years later and woke up one morning and decided today is the day! I'm gonna jump out of a plane! I called all the Chicago DZ's and none of them could take me because I weighed 260 lbs. so I called around the Indianapolis area and it was the same result. A friend told me "I think they jump over in Plymouth call them" At this point I was pretty discouraged, but I had already made up my mind that somehow I was going to do a skydive! I couldn't believe that all the big operations couldn't accommodate me, but somehow the little DZ 25 min down the road might be able to. I called them up with my situation, desperate to jump, and the DZO said "Come on in. We will take a look at you and depending on your height and build we can take you if it's safe to do so".
    Dropzone #1!
    I hopped in the car alone and drove straight to the DZ! After arriving a gentleman named Steve Verner came over and after weighing me and sizing me up decided that it was no problem. The main parachute was rated for our combined weight and he was more than confident (with over 10,000 jumps) to safely take me on a tandem skydive. I was beyond stoked! And started filling out paperwork, watching the mandatory videos and soaking up every bit of instruction Steve was giving me.
    The plane ride up consisted of Troy the DZO and Pilot on that day, Steve my Tandem Instructor and his wife Jenny the videographer. It was a 20 minute ride of smiling, while also refreshing everything I had learned on the ground. I was very impressed at all the attention that was put into safety! 10,000 feet, door opens, head back followed by 40 seconds of amazement! As soon as we landed I said I have to learn how to this! I don't care what it takes, let's get started!
    That day I filled out a USPA membership application and scheduled ground school, along with my 2nd mandatory tandem, which I scheduled for the next day at the same DZ (Plymouth Sky Sports). After completing my ground school and 2nd tandem the next day I bought my first Cookie G3 Helmet. I was also measured and even ordered my first jumpsuit. I was already committing to the sport after only 2 jumps! The Dropzone would be closing for the winter 2 weeks later and the upcoming weather wasn't looking great either. I would have to wait until the next season or travel somewhere warmer to continue training, which is exactly what I did!
    Dropzone #2
    I called several Dropzones in Florida because I was told that with my weight and being a student, I would need a 300 sq ft Canopy to start my training (300lb Exit weight). After about my 5th call the Florida Skydiving Center in Lake Wales Florida, they told me to come on down! They had a rig that would fit me and instructors to provide the training. 1 week later I rented a small 1 bedroom house in Lake Wales and walked into the DZ to fill out paperwork. After spending a few days on a weather hold I decided to drive up to Deland and order my first container from Mirage. Apparently most people don't order their first rig until they know they are going to make it through the training, but I was committed and in my mind there was no turning back! The manager measured me and helped me design my custom green and black colors and then the wait would begin!
    2 days later after a very successful AFF Level 1 skydive and a very bad no flare/no wind landing that left me wondering if I could even stand up or wave my arm to ensure my instructor I was ok (as he pleaded with me over the radio). As I heard the words "Holy Shit Bro, are you alive?" coming from a golf cart that was approaching me, I learned there was a lot more to skydiving than simply jumping out of a plane. Yes, I was alive. It was while being driven back to the hangar on the golf cart that I learned the importance of a flare. 6 hours later while in the emergency room at the VA hospital in Orlando I would also learn that a mans ACL doesn't agree with 300lbs falling from the sky without a proper flare. A lesson I wouldn't forget.
    Dropzone #3
    4 months later I was fully healed up and working in San Antonio Texas. This is where I would resume my training at Skydive San Marcos. My new rig was completed and I showed up at the DZ looking like a seasoned pro in my bright colored jumpsuit, helmet and new rig (but still had no idea what I was really doing). They would confuse me for a licensed fun jumper who was waiting to fill out a waiver when I was really there to start with my 4th overall jump and only my 2nd solo! After telling them an interesting story and that I was actually brand new they paired me up with 3 of the most amazing instructors I have met to date. Hank, Kevin & Pun. These were the guys that would train me now that I was healed, give me my confidence back and nurse me through 3 months of weather holds and countless times riding the plane down with other students, due to the winds kicked up too high. I stayed at San Marcos through jump 15, when a new Dropzone opened not far down the road. I ended up taking a trip there with some of my new skydiving buddies to check it out.
    Dropzone #4
    I decided to continue my training at Skydive Lonestar because at this point I was on coach jumps and they would allow me to use the new rig I had sitting in my car. Something the other DZ wouldn't allow me to do per their rules. This would save me gear rental fees and allow me to start getting comfortable in my own rig. The Dropzone had only been open a week and I would be their first AFF student. The staff and DZO was amazing, salt of the earth people. For days and days they would send the Otter up with only 6 or so people just so new guys could jump and I could keep training. I would always be grateful for this and wouldn't realize until later how rare it was. I would complete another 5 jumps there before moving to Houston.
    Dropzone #5
    I moved to Houston and Skydive Spaceland would become my new home for a while and 5 jumps later I earned my A license! It felt great to finally be a real skydiver because it had been 9 months, 5 Dropzones, several instructors and 1 injury later that I was finally able to achieve this goal. I would then learn the meaning of "BEER!" As I got my A license and stamp at Skydive Spaceland. I would learn that tradition again a few weeks later when I would biff my landing and my cutaway handle would be pulled between myself and the ground while sliding 10 feet across wet grass. (I guess that doesn't happen a lot and I have yet to see it happen again) It was apparent when the skydiver picking up his canopy 30 feet from me yelled "How the fuck did that happen! I have never seen a reserve pilot chute pop out while someone was sliding across the ground before! I bet you owe beer for that one!” Needless to say the gas station down the street would get to know me well in those first weeks.
    Dropzones 6-77
    Over the next year while traveling all around the country for work and taking some trips, going hours and even hundreds of miles out of the way just to jump at a new Dropzone I would figure out why I was traveling to all these DZs. I loved to jump, as anyone that completes training does I'm sure, but I found that in all my life that skydivers was the most interesting and awesome people that I have ever met. They are the only group of people (besides poker players) that you could sit amongst people without worrying about class, race, work status and discuss something you truly loved and share stories and drink beer and it would never get old. A member of the PD factory team would jump with you just to help you learn, guys and girls with thousands of jumps would share there knowledge and not make you feel inferior; But instead would share their experiences to help better everyone around them. I figured as long as I was traveling anyway I would make it a point to go to as many Dropzones and boogies and I could and seek out these amazing people to hear there stories and learn from them.
    Heading For 100
    It was probably about Dropzone 20 or so that I was jumping with new friends and the fact came up on how many DZs I have been to. It wasn’t strange to me to travel all over the country for work or to find new dropzones because i desperately wanted to keep jumping! However to my new friends that always jumped at the same DZ since they got licensed they found it very interesting because in a lot of cases 1 plane is all they knew. I met 100’s of people that had only jumped from a 4 person Cessna and nothing bigger. I decided then that since I was able to travel, that I was going to make it a goal to visit 100 Dropzones and try to jump at as many as I could, and from as many different planes, helicopters and balloons that I could. I knew weather would play a part and some places would only take tandems, but I was gonna do my best and just have fun with it. I started taking the "Selfies" next to the DZ sign early on to document my journey. Several years earlier I drove to all 48 continental states and did the same thing. A lot of people watched my journey on Facebook and thought it was fun, so I thought it would be a good idea for skydiving as long as I was out here doing it anyway.

    More of Justin's images can be seen on his Dropzone.com profile
    Common Questions
    Now I could write pages and pages about my experiences, stories, boogies, jumps etc etc. But as I travel and people find out that I have jumped so many places and will continue to I get a lot of the same questions which I'm always happy to answer and still developing new answers as I jump. So I wanted to share a few of those Q&A;'s at the request of Dropzone.com and because I know I had a lot of the same questions about different places.
    1. What's the nicest Dropzone you have been to?
    That's a hard one to answer because there are a lot of nice DZ's. However my personal choice is CSC (Chicagoland Skydiving Center) Their facilities are amazing, all there rental equipment is top notch. The staff there go above and beyond to welcome new people to the sport and they have the nicest gear shop and restaurant in the country in my opinion. It was pretty much built for skydiving. The DZO is one of the friendliest guys you would wanna know. I don't just mean a friendly skydiver but Doug is just a pleasant friendly person in general and his attention to detail in running his operation is second to none. All of these things make it the nicest facility that I have had the privilege of jumping at.
    2. What's your favorite Dropzone?
    Always a difficult one to answer because it's really a 6 way tie for different reasons and the people that jump and work at these Dropzones make them a great time not only to jump at but to also hang around and have fun. They also all have a very high level of respect for safety and people willing to help you learn from your mistakes when you mess up. Those would be Skydive Windy City in Michigan City, IN. Skydive Spaceland In Texas, Chicago Land Skydiving, Skydive Chicago, Skydive Lonestar and Skydive San Marcos. I have jumped at these places more than any other and I have good friends at each of these DZ's which makes them really fun to jump at when I can.
    3. What's the best view?
    For me that's a tie between Skydive Utah & Skydive Windy City. Utah has these amazing mountains and the view of the Great Salt Lake. Growing up and living most my life in the Midwest I don't get to see mountains a lot and certainly not jump near them so Utah is amazing. I also love Skydive Windy City. I consider this my home Dropzone (formerly Plymouth Sky Sports) and between all the trees that surround the DZ and the view of Lake Michigan and the Chicago City Skyline on clear days it makes it a beautiful jump!
    4. What's the best gear store?
    Well in my mind there is no contest and that's Rock Sky Market. They are located at ChicagoLand Skydiving Center and literally have everything a skydiver could want in stock and probably with several different colors to chose from. I have purchased almost all my gear from Steve and Jenny since day one when they were selling t-shirts and pull up cords out of the corner of a hanger in Plymouth and they are the best people to work with. Not only are the knowledgeable on so much with years in the sport and well over 10,000 skydives between them but they have first hand knowledge on most of the products because they jump almost daily and use them. Between everything being right there to buy that day, there knowledge and the excellent customer service it's no contest in my mind.
    5. How many DZ's have you jumped at in 1 day?
    The most different Dropzones I have jumped at in 1 day is 3 and all 3 was in different states. I started off at Skydive Midwest in Wisconsin for a fun jump and then went down to Chicagoland Skydiving Center in Illinois to buy a helmet case and jumped there then on my way home I jumped at Plymouth Sky Sports in Indiana. That was an exhausting day.
    6. What's your favorite boogie?
    This is always a tough question but the 2 that come to mind are Summerfest and Couch Freaks. I don't know if they will hold the Couch Freaks boogie in Fort Dodge again and I might have attended the last year for it but I had a blast! Just read the back of the boogie tickets and you know you're in for one hell of a ride! I really hope they have that boogie again because the stories from the old timers there about the start of big event skydiving are second to none. As a new jumper at the time I attended I really got an education! Summerfest is also amazing with the amount of planes that come in you can really jump as much as you want. From the fireworks and glowing wing suit flights to the dinner time meals and dancing into the night. Summerfest at Skydive Chicago is really a top notch boogie!
    To finish things up I’m really thankful for all the friends I have made along my journey and hopefully will continue to make. All of these opinions are of course my own, and being so new in the sport I’m sure they will continue to change as I learn and grow. I hope to hit 100 DZ’s and a few more boogies before summer is over. I hope in writing this article that the 1,000’s of jumpers who are in there comfort zone of 1 DZ will get out and experience some new DZ’s and make some new sky family. I haven’t had a bad time yet and all dropzones are welcoming to new jumpers I have found and are excited to share there stories and there sky with you! -EFS-
    Justin Baker B-40015

    -Blue Skies-

    By admin, in News,

    The Journey of an AFF Student - Part 5

    This article follows a previous article of an AFF journal submitted by John McDarby. We hope sharing this series of articles detailing the experience of his journey may be able to provide some insight into those looking to do their AFF course, while also entertaining those who have been through the process.
    AFF5 – Saturday 8th August
    What an awesome jump!!
    Got down to the DZ for 8am and was straight onto the manifest - I got on load 2 for 9am – what a start to a Saturday!
    Delighted with myself.
    Got given the same instructor with whom I did my AFF4 repeat with.

    We did the dirt dive and walk through a couple of times and he just kept telling me to relax and I'd nail it.

    I was very cool on the climb - no nerves really - just the tingles of anticipation.
    Door opened and we were second out - I was much faster getting stable than previously.
    Once stable, I performed my first 360 - then awaited the go ahead for the second in the other direction.

    Upon completion, he gave me thumbs up and for the first time ever, I give out a big smile AND gave him back two thumbs up! That’s how cool and calm and together I was. It’s actually starting to make a bit of sense to me now. Has this clicked?

    This was by a mile, the best jump so far – brilliant fun

    Though, I made a total disaster of the landing - haha.
    Winds picked up then and due to get stronger all day - the whole place was on a weather hold, so I stayed and talked to a few people for a couple of hours and left them to it at 2pm.
    Class!
    AFF6 & AFF7 Qualification – Friday 14th August
    Finally, we got there in the end!
    Had a day in lieu to take from work, the sun came out and the club was open - all the stars aligned.
    It was nice and quiet down there with me being the only AFF student - about 90% tandems and about 5 or 6 fun jumpers - and 1 SL student.
    Did my brief for AFF6 and nailed it - really pumped up for spinning out of control and regaining stability - it’s the first time that I had to prove to myself, that I could get it back - delighted with that.

    Then a bit of tracking. I've never really done the tracking properly before so this was a bit unnerving to be honest - but it worked ok - better than on AFF7 actually, where I didn’t do it very well at all.

    Winds were quite strong, which helped with my very first stand up landing! I actually jumped up after the stand up and let out a yelp, I was so chuffed with it.
    I then had about 45mins until AFF7 came around - this was my first time doing 2 jumps in a day – a big deal for me.
    Quick briefing, head first exit and a backflip - bit of tracking and a couple of turns - “keep it simple” was the key of this one. Simple? Head first and a backflip?? Sweet Lord!
    I’d never done a head first exit and had no idea how to do it “pretend you’re diving into a pool – don’t over think it” simple advice and worked a treat – it was really cool and it’s now my exit of choice.

    Stability was very quick – bit of turn and it was fixed, then onto the back flip and just chill for the rest of it.

    Watching the videos I can see I’m not using enough legs and I’m backsliding, but hey, I’m still on AFF here!
    Made a complete mess of the landing pattern though - was too high on entry and then ended up way downwind and wasn’t making progress back - was pretty much sinking straight, over a tree line - I could see I wasn't making any forward motion so at about 300ft I made the decision to pull out and headed down wind towards a big hay field, turned back into the wind and brought it down, mellow enough landing on my butt (boy am I getting used to that), but it was my first ever out so I was really concentrating on PLF and bales of hay more so than a stand up.
    Got back to the hanger and the CCI said he was watching and that I made the right decision as regards giving up and landing out, but gave me a ticking off for being in that situation in the first place - fair enough, I shouldn’t have been there, I just got it wrong.

    Whatever anyway, I got down safe and had the walk of shame back to the hanger - I was obviously the talk of the place for the two minutes as about 15 people (tandems and fun folk) all applauding and laughing at me Haha - not for the first or last time either
    Then as I was laying out my rig for packing, congratulations for me graduating AFF came out over the Tannoy and I got a round of applause from everyone.

    I felt a hundred miles high and my chest was out – I’d done it
    Epilogue and Next Steps
    I took up snowboarding 15 years ago because “that looks like fun” and I have never missed a season since
    Having travelled across Canada, the USA and Europe in search of powder and memories
    Perhaps this new sport can introduce me to warm, sunny, summertime places that I never normally get to see. Everywhere I go is cold and white. It would be nice to wear shorts and flip flops on a holiday for once.
    AFF and jumping from planes has definitely been my second greatest achievement in life, after quitting smoking.
    It really has been a journey for me - I've learned a lot more about what I'm made of - what goes on in both my head and in my heart.
    I don't want to sound like a hippy, but this has been an enlightening journey so far.
    A skydiver I met on a forum mailed me this upon my AFF qualification:
    “I think you will find (as I have) that skydiving is neither difficult nor is it easy. Looking back on the training and the jumps, I think it's safe to state that every nerve in the body is challenged and tested. Much like the game of golf, skydiving does not define character so much as it reveals what is already there.“
    “So, I think you had a lot going for you in the first place. You just did not know it and now you've found it. “
    I’ve never had such lovely words said to me by essentially, a complete stranger whom I know by a web forum alias and first name only.
    Since completing AFF, I’ve gone on to continue with the consolidation jumps and if I were a betting man, I’d stick 10 bucks on me going on to complete my A licence.
    What does skydiving hold for me? I have no idea. I really don’t. I guess I’ll keep going, one jump at a time.
    The skydiving community are a very friendly and welcoming community and there has been no end of advice and assistance at all times from every angle.
    Whatever I do and however far I go, I must pay that back

    By admin, in News,

    The Journey of an AFF Student - Part 4

    This article follows a previous article of an AFF journal submitted by John McDarby. We hope sharing this series of articles detailing the experience of his journey may be able to provide some insight into those looking to do their AFF course, while also entertaining those who have been through the process.
    AFF4 – Saturday 13th June
    Well, that was quite the weekend of ups and downs.
    Failed AFF4 on Saturday (they don’t call it failing as its all learning each time) so repeated it on Sunday and got through, just about!
    Saturday was an odd one - my first proper experience of loss of altitude awareness - total loss.

    I'm down to one instructor now instead of two - we had a perfect exit but then entered into a spin (not a crazy one) which the instructor corrected - as it happened, I was oblivious to it - how? I don’t know, because it looked quite hectic on the video afterwards. My log book entry from the instructor states “John was a little over whelmed on this one”
    That is the understatement of the year, I feel.
    So by the time we were all steady and my instructor came around to the front, we'd lost most of the freefall time - but I didn’t cop it – the dive plan was, once we were steady, he’d come round the front and we’d kick off from there – but by the time we were stable and set, it was too late – for some reason, I seemed to have had that point as my trigger to start work, rather than watching the alti all the way.
    So, I checked my alti now and we were at 5500ft - deployment height - I nearly had a heart attack - normally I’d have seen 9, 8, 7 etc on the way and I’d be well aware that 6 was coming, lock in, 5500ft deploy - this was the first time I missed ALL of that - I deployed just after 5500ft and had a super canopy down - I cursed for the first minute or two after deployment as I knew I’d failed, utterly - I didn’t do one single task for the jump - it was referred to afterwards as a "brain fart" where the brain just shuts down with the overload of tasks to do - there was never any danger as such as I copped it on time and everything was fine - but my instructor said he was giving me another two seconds before he dumped me out himself if I hadn’t done so.
    On the ground as I gathered up my canopy and walked over to my instructor, the two of us just started laughing "Johnny, what the hell just happened there - what were you doing?"

    I had no idea - I just phased out – I can't fathom it - but I was told it happens to everyone at some stage, it’s just a case of when - it’s one of the reasons students have to deploy so high - it gives that margin for precisely what just happened - we deploy at 5500ft whereas experienced divers deploy at 3000ft or so - that gives them another 12 seconds of freefall - so there was never a danger on my jump - it was just a case of "Johnny, get your head in gear"
    There was the opportunity to go again later and rectify it but I really wanted to sit down with a beer and think about what had happened and why.
    I needed to analyse it and make sure it didn’t happen again.
    One of the things I came up with was that my previous "jump" was the tunnel - and that was two minutes at a time - perhaps my brain thought I had that amount of time rather than 45 seconds – I’m not sure - it doesn’t explain the total freeze and lack of one single task being completed, however.
    So I went back the next day to jump again - I couldn’t let that go until next weekend as it would have gotten bigger in my head all week.
    Wonderful jump - loved it and passed it...
    AFF4 Repeat – Sunday 14th June
    I got a different instructor whom I'd never met before - a really nice chap who trains the army jumpers - I told him what had happened and that I didn’t care in the slightest if I passed today or not - all I wanted was to jump and "get back on the horse" and be totally in the zone with my alti – that’s all I wanted.
    He was good with that but at the same time "let’s plan on passing the jump and doing everything we're supposed to do, right"
    So we dived it on the ground, all was good, climbed, perfect exit, a little longer than I would have hoped to get stable but we got there.Then he let go and came around the front, face to face and off we went with our tasks - just a couple of 90 degree turns.
    I have never seen me check my alti so many times! He said I was fixated with it and that I need to find the middle ground between Saturday and Sundays jumps - but boy did I know what height I was at the entire jump.
    I thought I’d failed it to be honest as I didn’t do a 100% right turn but he told me in the debrief that I was good to pass as once I was stable, I was rock solid and the turns were perfect - but I didn’t think so once I'd deployed - but honestly, I didn’t care - I had a super canopy down - couple of spirals again and got myself into the landing pattern real nice - came down a bit fast but not heavy - skidded onto my butt as usual - I can live with that!
    I met up with the usual lads back in the hanger and had about 15mins before debrief - got a cuppa and moaned about how I'd failed it yet again - but that I was just happy to have jumped after the fiasco of the day before - then I was called for debrief and he said it up front immediately that I'd passed - I nearly fainted - and then he proceeded to go through the video and explain why - and he was right I feel, he could have failed me too but it would probably have been a bit mean - either way, I do the same jump again for AFF5 but this time with full 360 degree turns – I’m fine with that.
    My goal for today was just to jump again and be altitude aware - I got that AND I passed, so it was a double bonus and I’m delighted with it.
    I was very comfortable going up in the plane - no willies at all - and I was sitting on the floor again as we were first out - it’s a different position and takes getting used to - when the door opens, you're kneeling right beside it looking down 13,000ft - you truly have to block it out.
    And as you're first out and the plane is making its pass, you can't hang around as the people behind you also need to get out close to the DZ.
    So there really is no hanging about - door opens, assume the position, exit - it all takes about 5-8 seconds - You cannot question it - just do it.
    Which is good too, as it doesn’t leave time for the brain to start thinking “why am I doing this?"
    I'm now really starting to enjoy the canopy - both rides this weekend were great fun - I think my brain said "feck it, you've failed both jumps, just enjoy the ride down" which I really did - nothing too exciting but a couple of spirals and really working out the landing with the wind directions etc.
    What a view when the door opens eh?
    You can see my red runners right beside the door - I had a quick peek down but then looked away - it doesn’t help looking down at that – he he.
    You can see the number of times I’m checking my altimeter - like a watch on my left hand.
    I was all over it this time.
    And you can see, once I got stable, I was very stable - it was just getting there.
    And then I put in a decent left turn - I had time to turn back but I just locked in on the alti and left it at that.
    Loved under the canopy again this time - a real mellow buzz - so much more relaxed than I have been.
    I actually look quite relaxed during the freefall there too.
    Part 5 will be published shortly, keep an eye out on the dropzone.com homepage to follow John's journey through AFF

    By admin, in News,

    The Journey of an AFF Student - Part 3

    This article follows a previous article of an AFF journal submitted by John McDarby. We hope sharing this series of articles detailing the experience of his journey may be able to provide some insight into those looking to do their AFF course, while also entertaining those who have been through the process.
    AFF2 – Sunday 10th May

    Awesome - even better than awesome.
    That’s the best jump ever.

    Better than the tandem and miles ahead of AFF1.
    Very nervous during the climb - I was surprised how much so - much more so than AFF1. My instructor spotted this and told me to slow my breathing, deep breaths and just relax.
    Once we got to "2mins to door" I was actually in great form and ready to nail it.

    I got a super exit, good COA and then a 90 degree left turn, then a bit of forward tracking. All good and a nice, clean deployment - mellow canopy ride down and soft landing skidding onto my butt, not a bother.
    The wind was a different direction, southerly and our landing area is E-W so it means we're landing short ways rather than with the length of the runway.

    That just made me a fraction more nervous coming in - but even short ways, there was tons of room - which my instructor told me afterwards and I agreed - it won’t be a concern the next time.
    All in all, I am utterly delighted with that jump - it was fantastic!
    Damn, this is fun.
    AFF3 – Sunday 24th May

    I had almost zero nerves on the climb – very strange – if on a scale of the dentist 100% being dentist scared, on AFF2 I would have been about 35% - nice and nervous but not wetting myself – for this, I’d say I was about 5% - I was very confident that I knew my job and what was required – “now just do it”.
    Again, my instructor said during the climb “just do your job – nothing else” – it’s all very matter of fact – there is no pissing about when it comes to the task at hand – there is lots of laughing and messing – it’s a fun sport after all – but when you’re one on one, its do it by the numbers and do it right.
    When you go to the door “ok John, to the door please” you already have switched off all thoughts of “Jesus man, I’m jumping out of a plane” you just shuffle to the door and get into position and then start your drill – it’s that simple – in fact, it’s kind of surreal – you’re not really there – it’s like you’re looking at yourself from a distance or something – maybe like being a soldier where they just follow orders without question.

    I think, once you get on the plane, that’s it – you’re not coming back down in it – I think if you did, you’d have to leave the club – nobody would rip you to your face because you can’t really laugh at someone for NOT leaving a plane – but you’d definitely be the talk of the hanger – for five minutes anyway until they all rip on someone else – haha.
    So we exit, get stable and after a short time, my reserve side instructor backs off, I’m still steady, then main side pulls away. I make an unintentional left turn which I work out and bring back.
    Then the guys come in again for deployment.
    Deployment was fine, did my 4 count and looked up – total line twists – oh no – I don’t need this. There was no mistaking it. It was exactly as we’d been shown in class. I didn’t panic or freak out. That’s not really my nature in any situation. And I’ve been in some snowy mountain situations that were not pleasant.

    So I did exactly as I was taught to do. I commenced my post deployment checks – canopy, cells, lines, slider – all good. Check for line twists, full on twists. Damn. I’m not sinking or spinning in any dramatic fashion, I’ll come back to them.
    Harness checks – all good. Quick look around for traffic, all clear. Now, let’s deal with these twists.

    I wasn’t happy with them and I wished they hadn’t happened on just my third jump – but they had, and I needed to deal with them, and now.
    Reaching up with both hands, I grabbed the lines by groups and began pulling apart. A little movement but needs more. I tried again but this time along with some kicking in the opposite direction.
    Moving...moving...and we’re clear! I popped into the normal position and all was good above me.

    Releasing the toggles, I performed a couple of flares, determined we were all good, and my first “major drama” in skydiving was passed!
    In hindsight, it was good that this happened as it demonstrated to me that the instruction is good and to be taken as fact. That if you do what you are taught to do, you will reduce the risk and make a favourable outcome more likely.
    If I thought AFF2 was good, then this was miles ahead!
    So much so, that I went and bought the hardback logbook, goggles, helmet, altimeter and gloves!
    I’ve now made the commitment!
    Part 4 will be published shortly, keep an eye out on the dropzone.com homepage to follow John's journey through AFF

    By admin, in News,

    The Journey of an AFF Student - Part 2

    This article follows a previous article of an AFF journal submitted by John McDarby. We hope sharing this series of articles detailing the experience of his journey may be able to provide some insight into those looking to do their AFF course, while also entertaining those who have been through the process.
    Image Credit / Link Sunday 26th April
    Well, that sure was something else. Nothing like the tandem at all - totally different.
    Really weird but, I had no fear whatsoever - it was all "focus on the tasks" I just didn’t have the time to fear.
    I was nervous going up and one of the instructors saw it and told me to smile - that it forces you to be happy and helps get rid of nerves – it works!
    He then told me to close my eyes and visualise the dive from start to finish - that really was a good idea and I shall continue to do that
    Then at about 11k feet the pilot gave a two minute notice for the door.
    Everyone started doing high fives and fist pumps to each other - it really was awesome.
    Eight of us squashed into a ford fiesta (or tiny car of your choice), all about to jump from 12,000ft - it felt very special - like I was part of a very elite club that nobody else knows - it felt great.
    My two instructors and I were last out as we were deploying highest. Two head down flyers went first as they would be the fastest fallers and lowest deployments. Then 2 sit flyers, then a solo guy with about 20 jumps - he was just chilling out – we have become good friends since and he has helped me, mentally on many of my subsequent jumps
    Then us...
    I had no nerves at all - I just kicked right into my routine and thought of nothing else
    I actually didn’t even see the ground until I deployed - head up, looking at the horizon all the time - you don’t look down ever – In fact, it wasn’t until my first consolidation jump that I had both the time and the peace of mind to have a look about.
    So I did the exit, really well - I was delighted with that – we were stable faster than I expected.
    Then I did my COA - circle of awareness – check heading, check altimeter, check left instructor, check right instructor to ensure we're all set and ready to begin tasks - all good, let’s do it
    Then began my 3 practice touches - check alti, arch, reach for pilot chute handle, squeeze, recover.
    Do that 3 times to show that you know where the pilot chute for deployment is and that you can get to it yourself and that you actually have the wherewithal and you’re not phased out.
    Sensory overload is a big one on AFF1 so perhaps my previous tandem helped with this.
    That’s all that is required of AFF1 to pass, that and the actual deployment - and I did it with about 2000ft to spare - that’s about 10secs of freefall - the instructors said to me afterwards that they deliberately kept throwing hand signals at me for those 10 seconds to see how I would react to being overloaded.
    I got some of them but I missed some too - just too much information coming at me - but that wasn’t part of the dive - it was just extra stuff
    My main side instructor said afterwards during debrief "ah, you just ignored me - I saw you looking and just rolling your eyes"
    Ha ha – there is probably an element of truth in that.
    So I "locked in" at 6000ft and then deployed at 5500ft - and then it’s the longest 4 second count in your life Count 4 thousand and look up and hope to goodness it’s all there and looking good - which it was.
    I chilled then for a moment to let the adrenaline settle and then commenced my checks – I should have done them immediately but I was really overwhelmed to say the least - I’d guess I was about 3-5 seconds at most before I did my harness checks and twists checks – all good, phew!
    Next up, I released the toggles for steering and pulled 3 good flares to get a feel for it, as instructed.
    Then a quick alti check - just about 5000ft - Jesus, it’s a long way down when you’re hanging there alone.
    So I pulled a hard left and dived down to the left, then another to the right, then a few circles around - all to get a feel for the canopy as I need to know how it will handle when coming in to land
    It was very stable and comfortable and turned when I asked it to – as I discovered later, of course it was stable, it was 260sqft – Godzilla could have jumped this canopy..
    At about 3000ft the radio came crackling in my ear with the instructor telling me directions – I’d forgotten about those guys – lovely to hear a guiding voice right now.
    But it cracked out at about 1000ft and I couldn’t hear him – however, I already had my flight plan worked out
    Be over the hanger at 1000ft, then downwind along the tree line to 600ft then hard right 90 degrees and down to 300ft across the wind then 90 degrees into the wind for final approach – we had been through that on the ground and I’d watched a bunch of jumpers before me to see it in action.
    It was really bumpy and I got thrown about but it was all about keeping it steady with minimal inputs under 300ft - just go straight and let it fly itself down.
    The instructor said afterwards that no other students would be flying today and that it was right on the edge for students but that my (cough), mass, was an advantage for such conditions!
    So I landed on my feet, all excited and relieved but then a gust of wind grabbed the canopy and I was on my butt and dragged backwards - I got it sorted and that was it, gathered it up and walked over to the hanger - where a bunch of them laughed at me and took the piss - but in a friendly way.
    One guy came up to me "what number AFF was that?" I told him number one, and he stuck his hand out for a shake "welcome to the club, man"
    I felt so chuffed.
    I was part of an elite club.
    Brilliant, brilliant experience.
    Then one of my instructors went through the video with me pointing out both good and bad things of the dive
    He got some other students over to view it also as they were unable to jump due to the wind
    Then we got the creepers (like skateboards) out and we (4 students) started to practice AFF2 dive flow - It’s much the same but with some added turns - which are new to us.
    We will have to do 90 degree turns both left and right - then a kind of "head first" position a bit like superman but hands back (later to be informed, tracking) and then back to standard stability and recover.

    I wasn’t ready to do it again today even if I could - too much information to take in and I want to do the dive over and over first because it’s hard to think when in freefall - it’s so extreme.
    Things need to be more instinctive first for me.
    Next weekend looks like a wash out.
    So hopefully the week after.
    But oh boy, what a buzz - I may well have found what I was looking for.
    Part 3 will be published shortly, keep an eye out on the dropzone.com homepage to follow John's journey through AFF

    By admin, in News,

    Gift Ideas For Late Shoppers

    Got a Christmas bonus that needs spending? Have you left it a bit late in getting your Christmas shopping done? Still need to pick up something for one of your mates or partner? Well if they happen to skydive, we've got a few suggestions for you last minute shoppers in order to make sure the tree isn't left bare this month.

    Skydiving Christmas Cards & Gift Tags ($4-$14)
    Keep the skydiving spirit through the holidays with Skydiving Christmas Cards and Gift Tags! Available individually or in multi-card packages.
    More Information

    Peeksteep Spike Parachute Packing Tool ($20)
    The skydiver's packing tool is now available in 5 different colors! Brighten your skydiver's holiday with a Parachute Packing Tool in their favorite color.
    More Information

    Vented Tropos Arch Goggle ($45)
    The Vented Kroops Arch goggle features a patent pending soft elastomer frame that provides a comfortable, cool, and dry fit on any face size or shape.
    More Information

    ChutingStar eGift Card (Any Amount)
    The ultimate gift for the skydiver in your life that you just can't decide on what they want or need. The perfect last-minute gift too as the ChutingStar eGift Card is delivered immediately via e-mail!
    More Information
    Viso II+ Altimeter ($283)
    The VISO II+ is a digital faced visual altimeter for those skydivers who prefer a digital display over a traditional analog display. VISO II+ is packed with features and is the perfect visual solution for skydivers.
    More Information

    Cookie G3 Helmet ($380)
    Welcome to the G3 headgear, Cookies latest release full-face headgear and a result of significant refinement of the previous full-face headgear.
    More Information
    Other potential gift ideas can include:
    - Skydiving DVDs

    - Clothing

    - Rigging Equipment

    - Sunglasses

    By admin, in News,

    The Journey of an AFF Student - Part 1

    Over the course of the next few weeks we will be sharing the journal of John McDarby, who documented his experience as an AFF student. This journal should allow for new students to get an idea of what to experience during their first steps into the sport.
    Accelerated freefall (AFF) is a method of skydiving training. This method of skydiving training is called "accelerated" because the progression is the fastest way to experience solo freefall, normally from 10,000 to 15,000 feet "Above Ground Level" (AGL).
    “As far back as I can remember, I've always wanted to be a gangster. ...” Ray Liotta
    Goodfellas, I always loved that movie. I guess it’s kind of like living that gangster life for 2hrs which is so utterly foreign to anything most of us would know.
    Skydiving is something I’d always wanted to try, ever since a young age.
    I remember seeing a clip of people in a wind tunnel when I was about 12 or 13 and thinking “I’ve just got to have a go at that”
    But the usual trials and tribulations of day to day living, seemed to perpetually push it out.
    During my twenties, I actually went as far as getting the sponsor forms to do a charity tandem. But that’s as far as it got. It was placed on the back burner for another twenty years.
    One fateful day, a surprise email from my cousins wife arrived. “Can you come up with an idea for you and him to do something different for his 40th” was the request.

    Race car driving? White water rafting? Paintball? All the usual silly ideas we both bounced off each other.

    Then, the light bulb went “ping”
    We booked in for us both to do a tandem – he was as yet, unaware. The day came and the colour drained from his face when informed of the plan for the next few hours. That’s actually on video somewhere and is quite comical. For me, I’d had a month or two in order to come to terms with it.
    As it turned out, the rain came and the gig was off – honestly, I think we were both equally relieved and disappointed.

    We re-booked and again, it was rained off. I decided at that point, if it was rained off a third time, then that was it for me. It was a proper sign that skydiving was not something I was destined to take part in.

    But not this time. This time Thunderbirds were go.
    The day came and we hit the DZ. We signed our lives away, we jumped and we loved it.
    It was a surreal experience and one that I will never forget. No matter how many jumps I ever make through the rest of my skydiving career, I will never forget that first time sitting on the edge, feet dangling.
    On video, my tandem master asks prior to the jump:

    “Will you do this again or is this a one off, tick the box?”

    To which I reply categorically “one time, one time only”

    Yes, let’s see how that worked out...
    I must apologise for the soundtrack. Prior to the jump, whilst at the DZ, we had to select 3 songs from a list of thousands that were to be added to our video afterwards. I was much too preoccupied to choose them so the task was given to my niece of 12 years. “This will be hilarious” was the giggling consensus. And I was informed in no uncertain terms, that I was not to see the track listing until the final product.
    Which was later aired on the big screen in the hanger to much laughter.

    I’m a living joke...

    But...the deal made with my niece was that if she decided to choose the songs, then she would have to do a tandem when she turns 18.

    Aoife, the clock is ticking!
    So that was it. I walked away from a wonderful tandem experience and was determined that if nothing else, I had to complete “at least” one more jump. I couldn’t go through life and not try it again
    Knowing me and how I think, it made sense to sign up for AFF rather than another tandem.
    “I’ll do the ground school and one jump, then reassess” I told myself.
    Multiple emails back and forward to the IPC Irish Parachute Club, had me booked into school for the second Saturday in April – about 7 weeks after the tandem.
    I was hyper and couldn’t wait for the day to come.
    As it approached, the bravado began to wear off and nobody was happier than me that we did not get to jump that day due to weather. We would have to wait for the following Saturday.
    This was something that stuck with me until AFF6. I would never have been upset not getting any of the first 4 AFF jumps on the day. It was a genuine fight with myself to gear up and just do it. But afterwards, it was always such a buzz.
    At times, I even thought “I wish I could just fast forward the jump bit and get to the après-jump buzz” and go home.
    Unfortunately, you have to load and exit to get that.

    Now, I’m really happy and excited during the hour or so prior to kicking off. But that took a few jumps to get there.
    During the next week, I read the SIM twice. I looked at everything there was to see on YouTube. I even had my first skydive dream!
    Figuring that jumping from a plane, this time unattached to someone who knew what they were doing, I thought it best to know as much as I could.
    I did the AFF1 dive flow, over and over again in my head during the drive to and from work. I ran over my emergency procedures again and again. In fact, I still have the laminated cards with the bullet points, sitting on the dash of the car so that I see them every single day. I practice my EPs daily – numerous times.

    Rinse and repeat….always repeat.
    I went through my notes from class – why was I the only person taking notes? I’d never paid as much attention in all my school and college years combined. I asked more questions in that classroom than everyone else put together. This stuff was important and I wanted to know it down here rather than not know it up there.
    And then the day came…
    Part 2 will be published shortly, keep an eye out on the dropzone.com homepage to follow John's journey through AFF

    By admin, in News,

    Para Gear Photo Submissions For Catalog 80

    Over the years Para Gear has used photos from all of skydiving's disciplines. We do not have a preference as far as what type of skydiving photo it is, rather we look for something that either is eye-catching or pleasing to the eye. In light of the digital age, we are also able to use photos that in one way or another may be less than perfect and enhance them, removing blemishes, flipping images, altering colors, etc.
    The following are preferences. However what we prefer and what we get, or choose, are not always the same. If however we came down to a choice between two photos of equal quality, we would opt for the one that met more of our preferences. We typically prefer that the photo be brighter. In the past we have used sunset photos and even a night jump photo, although by and large most of the photos are daytime. We like the subject of the image to have contrast with the background. Subjects that are wearing brighter more colorful clothing usually stand out more. We prefer to have the people in the photo wearing equipment since that is what we sell. Headgear, goggles, jumpsuits, altimeters, audible altimeters, and gloves are all good. We also prefer to see skydivers wearing head and foot protection.
    We do not print any BASE jumping nor any Tandem photographs. No submissions of these will be accepted. We are not interested an any photos of individual or groups of skydivers standing on the ground
    Our basic criteria is as follows:
    Vertical Format. The front and back covers of the catalog are both in a vertical format. We can use a horizontal (landscape) shot, as opposed to a vertical (portrait), and then crop it as long as the image lies within a vertical cropping.
    Photo Quality. The front and back cover shots will be printed as 8 ½ x 11 in 300 dpi format. Any film that can hold its quality up to this size and print dpi is fine. Digital format is preferred. In the event of a final cover choice, we prefer to be sent the original digital image or slide for getting the best quality out of the image.
    Back Cover Photo. The back cover photo is no different from the front except in one respect. We need to have room on the left side of the image for the thumb index. In the past we have taken images and been able to horizontally flip them thereby creating this room.
    Originality. Anything that is original, eye-catching, or makes someone take more notice of the catalog covers is something we look for. It could be a photo from a unique camera position or angle, a scenic skydive, shots under canopy, landings, etc. We look for photos that have not been previously published and most likely would not accept them if they have, as we want a photo that no one else has seen yet. We also do not want any photos that are chosen as the front or back covers to be used for other non Para Gear advertising for a period of one year.
    Para Gear offers $500.00 each for both the front and back covers we choose. Our current deadline for catalog cover submissions is January 11th 2016. Sending sample pictures by e-mail to curt@paragear.com, If you are sending sample digital pictures please note that they do not need to be in a very large format. If we like the sample picture we will then ask you to send the higher quality original. Please feel free to contact me directly with any questions.

    By admin, in News,

    Legendary Author Dan Poynter Passes Away

    World-renowned author and skydiver Dan Poynter (D-454) passed away peacefully yesterday after recently being diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia and Renal Failure. While Dan may no longer be with us, his writings and the connections he formed within the skydiving community will ensure his legacy is kept alive for a long time to come. He will be remembered not only for his books, which span more than 35 years and include more than 120 titles, but also for his attitude which drove his success.
    Dan's career began with the management of a parachute company in California, after which he became more involved with the design aspect of parachutes and became a design specialist. An active and skilled skydiver, Dan began to write about his knowledge of the sport with a seemingly unrivaled knowledge, specifically with regards to equipment. In 1972 he released "The Parachute Manual—A Technical Treatise on the Parachute", which is often seen as one of the leading early publications on skydiving gear.
    In 1978 Dan released the original copy of "Parachuting: The Skydiver's Handbook" - a book that has been seen by many as one of the cornerstones of skydiving literature. Unlike some of Dan's other work which was focused more on the technical aspects and aimed towards riggers, The Skydiver's Handbook brought to the table a collection of extremely valuable information and advice for all skydivers, from those just beginning their journey to those who already have several thousand jumps. Dan's publications were not limited to his self-published books either, and his column in Parachutist magazine was always thoroughly enjoyed by many.
    Dan developed a keen interest in hang gliding as well, which lead him to write the book "Hang Gliding" which became a bestseller with over 130 000 copies sold and remains one of Dan's most recognized works.
    The fact that Dan was writing on topics with a smaller audience posed challenges for the writer, who realized his best option in the distribution of his work was to self-publish. Dan established 'Para Publishing', where he would spend years being the sole driving force of the company. Writing, publishing, promotion and even shipping was all handled by Dan, despite the numerous copies being sold.
    His determination and drive in the management of Para Publishing lead him to write a book on his experience, "The Self-Publishing Manual". It also lead to him becoming a well known motivational speaker.
    Dan Poynter had always been ahead of his time, from his early technical books on skydiving equipment right through to his methods of book distribution. In 1996 Dan was already selling information products from his website, something that would only become common place years later.
    His achievements both in publishing and in skydiving will not soon be forgotten, with both his work and countless awards testament to the impact he had on skydivers around the world.

    By admin, in News,

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