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A Great Suit Fit By The Numbers

No-Punches-Pulled Advice From A Long-Time Suit Dealer
Image by Joel Strickland You might think twice--or three times, or never--about dropping many hundreds of dollars on a dapper tuxedo. A skydiving suit, however? Shut up and take my money, dear manufacturer. Just make sure it’s in my colors and that the sponsor logos are right.
When you’re slinging that kind of cash around, the last thing you want is for the object of your ardent longing to show up too loose, too tight, too short, or too long--and, due to a bafflingly high instance of improper measuring on the part of the buyer, that happens all the time. Take it from Joel Strickland, double British gold medalist (in both freestyle and freefly) and dealer for the venerable Vertical Suits. He’s been wrapping innocent skydivers in measuring tape for some years now, and he has excellent advice for the un- (or under-) initiated.
1. Relax.
“Measuring is not as difficult as people think it is,” Strickland soothes, “So, if you follow a few simple rules, it is pretty straightforward.” In other words: don’t get too nervous about this.
2. Get someone to help.
“While it’s technically possible to measure yourself,” Strickland explains, “It is not recommended. There will be some touching. Try not to make it weird.”
3. Make it a dress rehearsal.
Strickland advises everyone who comes to him for a fitting to wear what he/she would normally wear under a suit: base layers, thermals, underpants, jeans, whatever’s usually under there. You’ll want that suit to fit comfortably over your usual undergirdings, not strain over a pair of baggy, beloved chinos you didn’t wear to the fitting.
4. Follow the video.
“It is difficult to get it wrong if you use the talking pictures,” Strickland says. “We live in the future. Few people are ever more than ten feet from a device that will let you do this. No excuses.”
He’s referring specifically to the Vertical Suits fitting video, of course, but similar helping hands are available from other suit manufacturers.
5. Measure twice, cut once.
“Always measure twice,” Strickland insists. “Maybe switch hands or stand on the other side and do it the other way around. Perhaps switch the limb being measured. See that the numbers match up.”
6. Don’t tweak.
“Suit design has grown into a very precise process using science and maths and brains,” Strickland says. “The manufacturers ask for a lot of measurements for a reason, and the best results come from sticking to the plan. If you mess with them, it can throw out the form of the suit and compromise its awesomeness.”
7. Let the company know about your special needs.
If you do require a specific area to be looser--for example, if you wear a brace--reach out to the manufacturer for advice instead of altering your measurements to suit what you think the suit requires. They’ve almost certainly seen your issue before and can give you the best advice.
8. Don’t fudge the numbers.
Your measurements now are what counts. “If you want your suit to fit,” Strickland sighs, “Do not adjust anything based the diet you just started or the gym membership you just bought.”
9. Be gentle.
“When wielding the tape measure,” he continues, “You should be aiming for tickle, not strangle.”
10. Come as you are.
When being measured, stand naturally. “Don’t puff out your chest or suck in your stomach or clench your buttocks or whatever,” Strickland explains. Your suit will feel better, fly better and look better if it fits you as you really are, right now.
11. Look to the experts, if you really want to nail it.
The best way to get all of this stuff done is to seek out one of your chosen suit’s stable of official dealers. “In and around all the places where skydiving is popular,” Strickland advises, “There are people who work closely with the company as boots on the ground to help.”
These dealers have the benefit of many years of combined experience, as well as a direct line to the manufacturer for questions. They’ve generally tried and tested many different jumpsuits through the years, and can offer horse’s-mouth feedback on any issues or questions you might have. Sniff around at boogies or events--not just under the loudly-logo’d tents, but in the crowds, as well.
“They will go on and on,” Strickland assures. “You will wish they would shut up about it after a while.”

By nettenette, in Gear,

How To Show Your Three-Ring System You Care

Three-ring systems look pretty tough. They’re made of thick, heavy metal, after all – what could possibly go wrong? Bad news: lots.
The rings are husky little guys, that’s true. However, they depend on the webbing behind them–and the cutaway cables that fasten them in the ready position–in order for them to work. It behooves you to know when and how to maintain the system.
How Sloppily Maintained 3-Ring Systems Can Cause a Bad Day
Nylon webbing, the material used to make skydiving (and BASE, for that matter) risers, stiffens over time to conform to the position in which it’s usually stored.
Sometimes, they “set” so firmly in that position that the risers can’t flex the backing nylon–and can’t detach from the harness when the jumper engages the cutaway system, especially during a low-drag malfunction (such as a streamer).
This, of course, is a very bad thing.
The B-Sides
You’ve probably gotten used to looking at the little snowmen of your three-rings during your preflight gear checks. Great! How often do you look behind them? The loop that connects the cutaway cable to the three-ring system can get dangerously abraded over time. You should peek at it every time you pack.
The Deep Tracks
To keep your three-rings in proper working order, the three-rings need to be manually disassembled, the cables checked and the webbing treated to a little massage.
For skydivers, this is the stuff of riggers. According to Federal Aviation Regulation Part 65-111, skydivers “must be under the supervision of a rigger when performing any maintenance on a parachute system.”
Don’t let your rigger have all the fun, though. Having a hand in the process has the significant benefit of familiarizing you with the operation of the system and increasing your confidence that it’ll be there when you need it. The best advice is to go through these steps every three months, whether or not you’ve been jumping the rig.
Check your user’s manual for specific instructions. You can always find this on the manufacturer’s website.
Pull the cutaway handle. Set the cutaway and connected cables on a clean surface. (Do not pull the reserve handle – unless you need a repack, of course.)

Inspect the Velcro on the cutaway handle and the seating on the harness. You may need to use a stuff brush to “fluff” the Velcro and clean off any adherence-preventing dirt, especially if you jump at a dusty drop zone.
Check the ends of each cutaway cable to be sure they haven’t developed any kinks or rough edges.
Run a microfiber cloth over each cable. While you do, check for smoothness.
Disassemble the risers.
Carefully check each riser for signs of wear. Look especially carefully at the white loop that “locks” the cutaway cable to the three-ring system. (You should be checking this loop each time you pack the rig, but this process gives you a better, closer look.)
Twist and flex the webbing of each riser near the ring system. You can safely be vigorous. You’ll likely feel the problem-causing stiffness as you do this.
Reassemble the system. Refer to your user’s manual to ensure you’ve done it correctly.
Before your next jump, have an experienced jumper or a rigger confirm that the system is correctly reassembled.
Enjoy a little more gear confidence, dear reader. You’ve earned it.

By nettenette, in Gear,

Countdown To Luke Aikens Heaven Sent

When the first astronaut landed on the moon, it was "one small step for man." Now, 47 years later, the next "giant leap for mankind" will be made by a skydiver hurtling 25,000 feet down to earth – without the help of a parachute or wing suit*.
This first-of-its-kind event will be broadcast LIVE Saturday, July 30 (8:00-9:00 PM ET live/PT tape-delayed), on FOX, when world-class skydiver Luke Aikins jumps out of a plane with nothing but the clothes on his back and lands safely in the Southern California desert as his family and friends wait for him on the ground. The special will offer an exclusive behind-the-scenes look into Aikins' training and preparation, before culminating in the historic skydive.
A third-generation skydiver, the 42-year-old husband and father has 18,000 jumps under his belt and helped train Felix Baumgartner for his historic Stratos jump. While he has performed a variety of skydiving stunts for tentpole action films, this will be his most challenging jump ever. By negotiating his fall and landing – using only air currents – Aikins will make skydiving history.
"Whenever people attempt to push the limits of what's considered humanly possible, they're invariably described as crazy," said Aikins. "But to me, this jump is simply the next logical step in a lifetime of extreme challenges."
The Stride Gum brand from Mondelēz International, Inc. is sponsoring the historic live stunt experience. "When we first heard what Luke Aikins was going to attempt, our jaws hit the floor," said Bonin Bough, chief media and e-commerce officer for Mondelēz International. "Bringing Luke's vision to life will redefine what's possible for skydiving and stunts moving forward. His focus, courage and intensity inspire us on so many levels."
"Luke is actually a very down-to-earth guy," said Laura Henderson, global head of content & media monetization at Mondelēz International. "But his thinking is so bold and intense that we all felt this was the perfect event to team up with as we launch our new mad-intense Stride Gum campaign."
Perhaps no one is better prepared to take on such a challenge than Aikins. In addition to his movie stunt work, Aikins serves as a safety and training advisor for the United States Parachute Association (USPA) as an instructor to the instructors. As the owner of Para Tactics, Aikins provides advanced skydiving training to elite military special forces. He is also a staff member at Kapowsin Air Sports in Washington and has contributed to the family legacy with three world records.
"Everyone is calling this my 'coming-out jump' – which is ironic considering I've been skydiving since the age of 16," said Aikins. "But nothing even comes remotely close to this. I expect Heaven Sent to change me, skydiving and the future of live spectacles forever. It's going to be mad-intense and I'm thrilled to have Stride Gum on board as my teammate."
STRIDE GUM PRESENTS HEAVEN SENT will be broadcast live as a one-hour special on Saturday, July 30 (8:00-9:00 PM ET live/PT tape-delayed) on FOX.
Co-created by Chris Talley of Precision Food Works and Amusement Park Entertainment's Jimmy Smith, the event is being produced by Mondelēz International, Amusement Park Entertainment, and four-time Emmy winner Al Berman. In addition to the FOX broadcast, the event will be available via online streaming and pay-per-view around the globe.
"It's not every day you get a chance to be part of something that's truly historic," remarked Talley. "We're very proud to support Luke in this amazing endeavor. Minds will be blown all over the world when Luke makes his giant leap."
"HEAVEN SENT is the epitome of what we do at Amusement Park: create a larger brand story that is so compelling, it can't help but become part of the cultural landscape," said Smith. "I've never worked on a project so inspiring and mind-boggling all at the same time. It's one of those events where perhaps over a billion people will remember exactly where they were when Luke made history. Dope!"
Aikins' leap represents the culmination of a 26-year career that will set a personal and world record for the highest jump without a parachute or wing suit. In fact, it's precedent-setting, since it's never been done before – period (at least, not intentionally). "Of course, this is a personal goal, but I'm certainly not doing it alone or in a vacuum. Beyond all the marketing hype, this is a once-in-a-lifetime feat that has taken the world's best skydiving experts, scientists and engineers many lifetimes to pull off," added Aikins.

By admin, in News,

Overcome Skydiving Fears

Your palms are sweating, stomach turning…no this isn’t a scene from the movie 8 Mile this is your first skydive jump, but don’t worry we’ve all been there. We understand the gut that it takes to make that first jump, and we take every tandem jump seriously, first-timer or not, so RushCube put together our “5 Ways To Overcome Skydiving Fears”
It’s all in your head. You’ve heard the saying “FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real” and that’s what your concerns are. Statistically skydiving is safer today than it’s ever been.
What seems like a couple of minutes is actually a life-changing moment that YOU experienced, a fear that you overcame and no one can take that from you. Who knows this could be the start to a list of fears you overcome.
Take that fear/negative energy and use it as fuel to push forward. Like to be in control? Ask as many questions as you need, remember your safety is our number 1 concern. Why not volunteer to help pilot the canopy, taking your mind off of fear.
What’s more relaxing than some familiar faces along your journey, who’s knows you might be overcoming a fear together.
You more you know the more at peace you’ll be so do some research before heading out. While at the drop zone you’ll notice many skydivers on their phones, packing (para)chutes, or eating a sandwich, but none will be nervous this is because they all did their research and paid attention to the instructors. Again your safety is our concern.
Skydiving is the most adrenaline-packed sport that there is. Nothing is more exciting than taking that first step off of the plane. After the parachute is open and you take a deep breath, you’ll have a moment to realize what you have just accomplished, and a few minutes to enjoy a breathtaking view. These moments are what fuels our passion.
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By RushCube, in General,

The Art of DZOing

Meet the Forces of Nature That Turn Your Loads
Originally published 2014. Postscript follows.
Dan McNulty - Skydive the Wasatch
When I call, it’s 7:00 p.m. for me. It’s 6:30 a.m. in Afghanistan, where Dan McNulty is talking to me (presumably, with a big mug of coffee in-hand).
Dan’s about to become the proud owner of a brand-new drop zone in Nephi, Utah – a quiet little one-horse town about an hour south of Salt Lake City along highway 15. The airfield is sized just-right for the easy-going, mom-and-pop affair Dan envisons: four tidy hangers, a well-maintained runway and acres of green grass for soft landings. Mt. Nebo, the highest point in the entire Wasatch and the snow capped centerpiece of the southern range, rises to a majestic 11,928 feet just alongside. Dan closes on his hangar next week. He’s stoked.
He’s never actually seen the airfield, but that doesn’t bother him a bit. He’s already named it, even: Skydive the Wasatch, naturally.
The season starts the second week in April. He gets home from Afghanistan March 26th.
In just weeks, then, he’ll be adding a three-letter acronym to his name that only a few hundred other humans can claim: “DZO” – Drop zone Owner.
Skydive the Wasatch didn’t happen overnight. Dan’s been working on this for almost two years – almost entirely remotely, patching it all together with emails and phone calls. Seeing little growth on the horizon of his current job as a security contractor in Afghanistan and being very familiar with the skydiving industry, he decided that opening a drop zone was, in his words, a “natural progression.”
After an abortive attempt to set up shop on an airfield in the Heber Valley, which ended up effectively denying skydiving access with a combination of prohibitive policies and price-outs, Dan discovered the pretty little airfield in the placidly agrarian town of Nephi.
“It turns out that Nephi is perfect,” Dan says. “It has everything we need. It’s close to Salt Lake City and Provo. And the city is really excited for skydiving to come to town, which is really rare and really important.” When the papers were signed, Skydive the Wasatch was effectively born (though it won’t be open for business until springtime).

Dan McNaulty To run a skydiving operation, you need a plane. Working from Afghanistan, Dan sourced an aircraft from Skydive New Mexico, a DZ with – uniquely – the same altitude as Nephi, 5,000 feet ASL. He knows, then, that this particular souped-up Cessna 182 can do the same trick for him as it did for them: climb 11,500 feet in a crisp 20 minutes. The pilot is a Moab expat with a few hundred hours flying skydivers at Skydive Canyon lands, another high-altitude drop zone.
“We’re starting streamlined,” Dan says. “The basics. We’ll build as we grow. And we do intend to grow.”
John Hamilton - Skydive Elsinore
John Hamilton, the owner and General Manager of Skydive Elsinore, knows all about growth.
Though Skydive Elsinore has been an operating drop zone since 1959, the landscape of the sport has changed almost unrecognizable since he bought Skydive Elsinore with business partner Karl Gulledge. Since then, “Elsi” has burgeoned from its previous status as a small-but-historic airfield to one of the largest, highest-grossing drop zones in the world. To date, Skydive Elsinore hasn’t just hucked hundreds of thousands of skydivers over the rolling landscape aside the soaring Ortega mountain range. It has been a key partner to the advancement of parachuting technology and aerospace at large, hosting scientific studies for JPL, Pioneer Aerospace, Airborne Systems, Vertigo Inc., JSAF, Cirrus Aircraft Recovery Systems and a great many of the world’s elite air force parachuting groups.
“When I first became a DZO, big surprises were a daily occurrence,” John remembers. “I guess in the beginning I can look back and say that ignorance was a form of bliss.” He laughs. “I don’t know if I ever would have taken on the challenges that awaited me if I really knew what I was getting into.”
Part of John’s blissful ignorance was that he was about to become an unwilling expert in the formation of companies, legal issues, governmental regulations, employment challenges, marketing, accounting, customer service, budgeting, banking regulations, web development, social marketing, online community-building, search engine optimization and a long list of other non-skydiving-related subjects. He also had a crash course in effective communication, which he hails as the most valuable weapon in his DZO arsenal.
“At the beginning, I felt like I was eating an elephant, one small nibble at a time,” he says, his smile wry.
John’s relationship with skydiving has evolved from a “pure passion for the sport” to a round-the-clock focus on the business. He admits to sometimes losing sight of that original passion – he was a BASE jumper and a competitive 4-way skydiver, after all – in the thick tangle of ownership responsibilities. As he relates them, he peeks out toward the sky, a grin suddenly playing at the corners of his mouth.
“You have to keep the balance. When I get lost in all this, the plane is right outside my office. I can always make a sunset load. It does the trick.”

John Hamilton While skydiving remained relatively predictable in its equipment and disciplines for many years at the beginning of John’s tenure, the pace has picked up significantly. “In today’s skydiving industry, challenges arrive almost overnight,” he asserts, “And they change just as fast.” Modern DZOs must constantly adapt to the logistical, safety and economic challenges posed by the sport’s ever-changing pantheon of disciplines.
“With the advent of horizontal flight – wingsuiting, tracking, angle flying, etcetera – we have had the challenge of integrating a whole list of new safety policies, while at the same time working with the governmental agencies who govern our sport.”
“The feedback from our jumpers varies widely,” he continues, “and much of it makes me think that the vast proportion of jumpers don’t understand the hard work we must do in order for them to enjoy these new methods and technologies. It’s about so much more than the sum of its parts, and jumper cooperation is key, but I am ultimately responsible for the safety conducted on the drop zone.”
John refuses to create an atmosphere that influences younger jumpers to push their own abilities too far. He’s known for his tireless encouragement of Elsinore’s instructional staff – and experienced jumpers, too – to lead by example, even as the community undergoes exponential growth.
“I understand the thrill for newer skydivers to want to push the limits of disciplines in the sport. Trust me, I do. But it’s important for those jumpers to understand that keeping a safe culture lets us all continue to skydive.”
Elsinore’s track record, for the number of jumps made here, is stellar. However, it’s a numbers game – and it doesn’t always work.
“The biggest headaches of my job are, almost without exception, those that stem around the many legal risks and challenges associated with running a skydiving center – the intersection of personal responsibility and DZ responsibility, for the most part.” John pauses. “For example: a student will turn themselves into the ground, then will doggedly challenge the waiver and try to find blame in everyone else, without taking any responsibility for their own actions.”
“It’s challenging, yeah. It can be a Herculean undertaking.” He pauses. “However – I get to see people’s faces after they land from that first tandem skydive. I get to know that I was part of that life-changing event for every one of them. It brings a huge smile to my face, every time. I get to help the next generation of skydivers grow as athletes and as people. It is absolutely worth it.”
In passing, I tell John about Dan McNulty and his new drop zone in Nephi. John leans in.
“Here’s what I’ve learned from my experience: Find a good lawyer. Then find a good accountant,” he says. “Also: It may seem unnecessary – counterproductive, even – but do things by the book in all cases. You may think you’re saving money, or even making money, by doing one or two things in the proverbial grey area. You’re not. Trust me.”
He continues. “Learn to accept the rule of thirds: one-third of the people you deal with will like you, another third will tolerate you – and the last third won’t like you one bit. That doesn’t matter.” He takes a level breath. “When you’re dealing with a difficult situation, forget about public opinion and ask yourself the following before you communicate a response: am I doing this because it’s the right thing to do, or because I want to prove myself right? The answer is almost always obvious.”
Lelo Mraz & Claudia Blank - Skydive Taft
It’s unsurprising that John inspired others to follow a similar path: specifically, two good-looking Brazilian kids with megawatt smiles.
Lelo Mraz and Claudia Blank have been beloved members of the Southern California skydiving world for a couple of decades. Recently, they joined business partner Michael Choi to become the proud new owners of their own facility: Skydive Taft.
Lelo and Claudia arrived in Redondo Beach in the early 2000s from different small towns in their shared native country, and promptly fell in love. Lelo had started jumping seriously in Brazil back in 1995; he’d logged hundreds of hours in the Perris sky and tunnel by the time the two showed up to Elsinore as a pair. Claudia, on the other hand, hadn’t made so much as a tandem. Suddenly, in 2008, she decided offhand to do a jump. Naturally, Lelo ran outside video. By 2009, Claudia was an inveterate skydiver and, like Lelo, had a full-time job at the Skydive Elsinore DZ.
The pair loved their jobs. They loved the Elsi community. They loved the skydiving. But they’re also clever, enthusiastic folks who love a challenge, and Lelo knew they couldn’t stay there forever.
“I came up with the drop zone idea a couple of years ago,” Lelo remembers. “I’ve always known that I wanted my own business, and I know skydiving really well, so I was kicking around business plans, trying to come up with numbers that would be workable.”
“I first looked into wind tunnels, but the investment is around ten million dollars. When I started to investigate drop zones, the money part started to make sense.”
He started talking to mentors: not just John Hammond, Karl and Laurent “Lob” Lobjoit from Elsinore, but Rich Greene from Oceanside, as well as other pros who had walked the mine-strewn path before him.

Lelo Mraz & Claudia Blank It took time, of course.
“I spent a lot of time looking into airfields around California – we love California, and definitely didn’t want to leave. Nothing seemed to work, though. Then one day I was joking with my partner, Michael Choi, that maybe we should go check out Taft – even though it’s in the middle of nowhere – and that day, I saw an ad that it was for sale. It seemed like it was meant to be.”
From there, things moved quickly. There were signatures on the paperwork by last October, and the new crew took over the DZ on November first.
The Taft airfield is surprisingly big for its slightly out-of-the-way location. It has several hangars, a paved runway, two parking lots, a huge landing area and plenty of room for an active community of jumpers to settle in. So far, the pair is strategically running a small plane and slowly, thoughtfully rolling out a master plan for the DZ to be a regional center for training, rigging, courses and ratings.
It’s no easy task for young entrepreneurs – especially, for longtime members of the skydiving community – to take over a dropzone that’s been operating for as many years as Skydive Taft. Over the facility’s 24-year history, it had accrued a small-but-very-loyal following of fun jumpers who hadn’t seen much in the way of change before Lelo and Claudia appeared smilingly in the office. Ever.
“Most people like us, and we try hard to be fair, but we had to implement some policies that we felt to be extremely important from a safety standpoint,” Claudia explains. “A lot of the people who have been at Taft for so many years feel like it's their drop zone – like they own it. We don’t want to lose them, but some people get angry if we even move a couch.”
She continues, “We decided to make changes little by little, taking a more careful approach than we thought we’d have to take.” Claudia gives a wry smile. “So far, so good. But it isn’t easy.”
Leaving the tight community at Elsinore, too, was a struggle – and remains so, as the move is still fresh.
“I can honestly say that I had no complaints at all about our ‘old life’ in Elsinore,” Claudia muses. “It was so hard to completely walk away from what was already a dream job. I made money on the weekends and jumped for fun on the weekdays at one of the most beautiful DZs in the world. I loved it, and I loved my coworkers.”
“I was in denial until we finally had the paperwork,” she continues, “I knew that as soon as I made it official and quit, there was no turning back, even though they made sure to tell us that the door would always be open. This process – it changes something inside of you.”
The Elsinore team threw Lelo and Claudia a huge, very-well-attended farewell party, popping up with little surprises all day long, paying for as many jumps as the couple wanted to do and dedicating one of the drop zone’s signature paving tiles to them as a memento of their long service. There were tears.
It’s hard to spend time in nostalgia, however, when you have so much on your plate. For example, the first big boogie for the new drop zone is just around the corner: the Cal City Reunion, on March 22nd. Taft is sporting a bigger plane for the event and getting ready to welcome its biggest-ever crowds.
“For now, we're really new. We have a lot to learn. We have been going with the flow, but being very strategic with funding. We're not going into debt; we're working with savings. It was a leap of faith, but now – even though it’s winter – business is picking up, and money is coming in, so we feel OK.”
Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, Dan McNulty is working on the final details of the Skydive the Wasatch process. The tandem rigs are already bought and inspected,
Today’s checklist includes arranging for delivery of the plane and closing on the hangar.
“This has been a very creative process, so far,” Dan notes. “When I set out to do this, I was sure about one thing – that I'd never work for anyone else, ever again. It means that I am 100 percent responsible, for better or for worse. But it means that everything I do means something.
John Hammond seconds the sentiment. “Just when I think I’ve seen it all,” he laughs, “I am quickly reminded that I haven’t. Each and every day I run this dropzone brings new people, new challenges and new surprises.”
There is, clearly, an art to DZOing.

----------- Postscript: In the seasons since this article’s first publication, both Skydive the Wasatch and Taft have, predictably, thrived. Claudia and Lelo are hosting the full-on Liquid Sky Free fall Fest in August. Dan McNulty has even picked up another drop zone: Piedmont Skydiving, in North Carolina.
Go jump with these guys and give ‘em a high-five!

By nettenette, in General,

6 Ways to Be Less Dumb When You Buy Used Skydiving Gear

Image by Lukasz SzymanskiPaul Iglin has been brokering used skydiving gear for more than a decade. He’s seen it all.
He has definitely seen your kind before, and wants you to know a few things about the buying process, so you don’t make the same mistakes he’s seen over – and over – and over. I asked him what people need to know about buying used skydiving gear when they begin the process, and he had plenty of sage advice to share. Here’s what he has to say about it.
1. Curb your enthusiasm.
“Your job as a buyer is to get the right gear at the right time and at the right point in your skydiving career. It’s not as easy as it sounds.
Every once in a while I have had people contact me who have not actually started skydiving yet. It is very rare, but it happens. They are clueless – and they are dangerous to themselves from a financial standpoint, because they have no idea what they’re buying. I tell them to go to somebody else; I won’t sell them gear. Before you start shopping for gear, you need to know what you are shopping for. So, if you don’t: Stop right there.
Good shape, good brand, good used gear at the right price: Make no mistake; that’s hard to find. In skydiving gear, the supply-and-demand curve is really messed up. There’s very little supply and very high demand.
It’s also seasonal. Come March and April, everybody rushes to find gear, and then demand stays strong all the way through end of the season around September. Try to shop outside that time frame if you can.”
2. Don’t trust your friends.
“Man, people get their advice from some terrible sources. A lot of the time, they’ll just go to their friends. But when you’re a new jumper, most likely your friends are also newer jumpers who basically don’t know jack****. Their understanding is very, very narrow; they have blinders on. Like: they bought themselves a brand-new Infinity rig with a brand-new Optimum with a brand-new Sabre 2, and it works for them, so that’s what they tell their friends to get.
Now, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the gear they’re recommending is the worst. It just means that these people don’t have a statistically relevant sample, so their opinion doesn’t really count for anything. And they always tell whoever’s asking that ‘this is the best,’ as opposed to making the correct statement: ‘This is the one I have, and it works well for me.’”
3. Do your homework.
“All of this ties into the fact that people often just don’t do proper research. How do you do proper research? Well, whenever people ask me this question, I tell them this: Look at the gear as tier A, B and C as far as manufacturers, quality and pricing. I’m going to go ahead and throw some manufacturers’ names out there. You have your tier-A manufacturers: your Vectors; your Javelins; your Mirages; your Infinities. All those guys have been around for a long time. There are no questions about quality. They are very reputable. All the options are available.
Then you have your tier-Bs: Icons, Wings, Perigees, whatever Dolphin became and a whole lot of other brands that are either obscure or very localized to another continent or a particular country. Avoid the latter if you’re a new jumper, because you don’t know what the **** you’re doing.
You may have somebody try to sell you another brand that’s technically TSO’d, but you’re really going to suffer when you try to resell. You’ll have a hard time finding replacement parts if you are outside of the country of manufacture – and you’re going to get killed on shipping, and support is going to be pretty crappy. Be aware.
Your can ask any rigger what the tier-C manufacturer is. They’ll tell you.”
4. Make peace with your pants size.
“One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is being a over-optimistic about their weight. It happens a lot, because it’s usually people who are just slightly overweight that make the biggest mistakes. For example: a 5’10”, 180-pound person says, ‘I am going to be exiting at 210 pounds, so I should get a 210, But I’m going to work out and lose weight, so I’m going to go with a 190.’
I immediately tell them not to shop for the future. You shop for right now. If you need a 210 based on your current body weight, for chrissakes get a 210. Because in my experience -- and this is 15 years of skydiving speaking -- it is very unlikely that you will actually get to that goal weight. Sorry. It is possible, sure, but nobody has ever gotten hurt because their canopy was bigger rather than smaller. Don’t be stupid about it.”
5. Then add to that number. More than you think.
“The other problem that I see a lot of people early on in their careers -- and a lot of times even as they become experienced skydivers with a couple of hundred jumps -- is that people don’t account for exit weight. People add a couple of pounds and call it a day, and that’s completely wrong.
You step out of the shower, and that’s your body weight. Then you put on your clothes. You put on your boots. You put on your rig. You put on your helmet and whatever suit you wear and your cameras and whatever else you’re jumping with. Then you step on the scale, and that’s your exit weight. You know all that already.
Even knowing that, a lot of people don’t bother with the scale and egregiously underestimate what their rig weighs. A lot of people estimate 15 pounds for gear. Seriously?! What the **** are you talking about? You are going to put on 10 pounds just of clothing and boots alone. Then a canopy weighs about eight pounds. Your container weighs 8-12 pounds, depending on the amount of hardware. Your reserve? About six pounds. Your AAD, even, weighs six ounces. Your jumpsuit is going to add another couple of pounds. None of that stuff is magically
Add 30 pounds for your gear. Maybe more. Don’t underestimate! You’re only hurting yourself.”
6. Consult the chart.
“The loading chart that I share with my customers – Brian Germain’s chart -- is the easiest one that I think is out there. I’m not necessarily saying it is the best one; I just think it’s the easiest to grasp. What he says is this: If you have 100 jumps or less, you should load one-to-one or less. For every 100 jumps, increase your wing loading by .1. That means that if you have 300 jumps, there is no reason you shouldn’t be jumping the 1.3 wing loading.
Of course, you have caveats. People who jump at high-altitude dropzones and people who jump in very windy areas will need to choose different gear than people who jump at sea level, and so on and so forth. If you live in Colorado, you should probably jump a bigger canopy, because the air is thinner. If you jump where it’s really, really windy, you may get away with a slightly smaller canopy because you really do need the speed.
Also, keep your head.
“If you get a 170, you weigh 210 pounds and you’re 50 jumps into the sport, you are not doing anybody any favors. You may survive. You may not. But I certainly won’t be the person selling you a 170-square-foot canopy.”
In general, please: Don’t go into it blind. Ask very experienced people for advice. And if you come to me as a buyer, expect me to tell it like it is. Because I will.”

By nettenette, in Gear,

Turbulence Is Trying To Hide From You - Here’s Where to Look

Image by Brian BucklandRemember hide-and-go-seek? Well: you’re probably better at it than turbulence.
So why are so many skydivers still caught off-guard?
The answer is probably--predictably--complacency. After all, skydivers aren’t as vigilant about rough air as, say, paragliding pilots. That said: the devil’s invisible rodeo remains a serious hazard for every single person in the air, whether or not their ram-air is meant to get them down instead of up.
Most of the time, you’re gonna be lucky. You’ll meet turbulence under a skydiving canopy high enough above the ground that you’ll just rumble around for a little bit before cruising into smoother air.
Sometimes, though, your luck will run out. When those bumps happen in close proximity to the ground, turbulence tells a very different (and sometimes quite painful) story. Don’t despair--you can use your grownup-level hide-and-go-seek skills to stay in one piece.
Let’s start with the key takeaway: Like the dumbest kid on the playground, turbulence near the ground tends to stick to a few predictable hiding places.

They’re gonna hide downwind of solid objects.
This includes trees, buildings and anything else that’s tall, sticking out of the ground and wider than a flagpole.

They’re gonna hide above differential ground features.

You can expect different surfaces--such as the lawn of the landing area and the asphalt next to the hangar--to reflect heat differently. You will feel that difference as, y’know, bumps.

Also notable: when the sun heats two dissimilar surfaces to different temperatures, dust devils have the conditions they need to form. These “baby tornadoes” are standbys of desert dropzones, and they can form from uneven heating even when the winds are otherwise calm.

They’re gonna hide behind spinning props.

Remember shielding your pretty little face from the prop blast as you hopped on the plane? Well, that wind doesn’t go away just because you’re now landing. Keep your parachute (and everything else you care about) well away from the spinning propellers of airplanes chugging away on the ground.

In fact, keep as clear of any propellor as you can, whether it’s spinning or not, always.

They’re gonna hide behind other parachutes.

Parachutes chum up the air (especially behind them) just as much as any other airfoil would. Don’t be surprised when you’re thrown around when you tuck into an ill-advised CReW move--or chase somebody too closely in your landing pattern. Not so bad? Okay. Stop smiling so smugly, though: there are a few factors that make the situation way, way worse. If you bumble into the bumps thrown by these suckers, you’re going to have a bad time.
Stronger wind. If the wind is pretty much zero on the ground, you can generally get away with landing closer to a turbulence-throwing obstacle than you would if the wind were hauling (or even moderate). If you see movement in the wind indicators, do yourself a favor and keep clear.

Bigger obstacles. The wind will pretty deftly wrap around a narrow tree. A hangar, however, is another story. Tall walls, outbuildings, silos -- they’ll all be bubbling, toiling and troubling on the lee side when the wind is pushing. According to the USPA: “You can expect to feel the effects of turbulence at a distance as far as 10 to 20 times the height of the obstacle that the wind is blowing across.” Do the math: wind blowing across 50-foot-tall trees can cause turbulence 500 to 1,000 feet downwind. Yikes. One of the first diagrams you’re forced to stare at when you get your initial paragliding license (and every skydiver should, by the way) is one that describes rotor. Since paragliders are basically riding the wind that’s coming off of very, very big obstacles, those rotor diagrams are a good macro view of the turbulence that pours into any wind shadow. As an object gets bigger, those diagrams pretty handily describe the way wind tucks around and churns into the empty space on the other side of it.
Are you ready to play? Thought so. Now count down from 13,500 and find turbulence before it finds you.

By nettenette, in General,

The Straight and Narrow - Cross-Wind Landings

Image by Andrey VeselovNobody’s going to argue that landing directly into the wind is the best way to go, but we’re not always that lucky. Got a long, narrow path between obstacles? Unless you’re super-duper lucky and the wind direction seems to have been designed entirely for your landing pleasure, you’ve got yourself a crosswind landing, my friend.
If you jump at a busy DZ with a super-strict canopy pattern, you’ve undoubtedly honed your crosswind skills. Great--but that’s not the only place that crosswind landings rear their skinny heads. For instance: you’ll find them lurking at an overpopulated boogie, where the landing area is a human forest with a clear patch at the very edge…or a forehead-slapper of an off landing, where your only choice is a road...or pretty much every beach landing, ever.
The importance of your landing direction should override the wind direction in a number of circumstances. Here’s how to make it work.
1. Stop bellyaching and get used to it, already.
Ask any airplane pilot: landing with the wind at an angle to the runway is, like, totally normal. Ask any beach-dropzone bum or coastal-soaring pilot, and they’ll definitely elaborate on the benefits of landing smoothly with the wind pushing in hard from the side.
Let go of the worry. Your ram-air wing is perfectly capable of flying with the nose pointed at an angle to the runway. That maneuver even has a name: “crabbing.” (The difference between the direction the nose is pointing and the pilot’s path--“ground track”--is called the “crab angle,” which always kinda makes me think of melted butter and tongs.)
2. Get lined up.
If you’ve got a long, narrow path in front of you, guess what? You’ve got yourself a landing strip. Start humming ‘The Danger Zone’ into your helmet and get ready, Goose.
Your biggest task when you line up a landing is to snag yourself as much of a headwind as possible while keeping away from the obstacles you’re certainly avoiding. Anything up to a 90-degree crosswind will work. (Your task: to avoid any kind of tailwind, if at all possible.)
If you have a choice, use the longest runway you can find to increase your margin for error.
3. Get creative.
As you come in on that final, you’re going to be doing something of a dance with whatever wind is pushing at you from the side. You can be assured that this wind is going to be pushing you toward something you do not want to fly into. It may be pushing you unevenly. And it may be pushing you pretty damn hard.
Your approach, therefore, is necessarily going to be a little less cut-and-dry than your typical downwind/base/final box. You’ll most certainly notice that your downwind leg is not actually, like, downwind and you’re not getting the distance you’re used to. What’s usually your base leg is likely to be the actual downwind, so stay vigilant and don’t let it shove you into an obstacle.
4. Hold your focus.
As you tuck into your final approach, glue your eyes on the middle of the far end of the runway. Nail them there. Staple them there. Weld them there. Do not start looking at the obstacles to either side, or you are very likely to get suddenly intimate with them.
5. Let it do its thing.
From there, you have one single job: to keep the wing/canopy level while you fly in a straight line.
Not so bad, right? Calmly make the necessary inputs without overcorrecting. Let the nose point in whatever direction it needs to point.
Warning: this bit of the flight might seem pretty wiggly. Don’t let that motion distract you from maintaining your heading. Any inputs required to keep that straight-line heading will simply increase your crab angle and point your nose into the wind, slowing you down.
6. Come to a full and complete stop.
To flare in a crosswind, make a slight adjustment to your normal procedure: use moderate emphasis on the upwind brake to get into a wind-facing position. (Please note that “moderate emphasis” does not mean “full-on, panicked toggle punch.”)
7. High-five somebody.
If it’s a beach landing and you managed to drop your canopy in the saltwater, go ahead and high-five the side of your own face--but no matter what, slap that palm to something. You deserve it.

By nettenette, in Safety,

The GoHawk - GoPro Expansion Pack

POA Labs has announced the launch of the GoHawk, an expansion pack for the GoPro Hero4 that adds three new levels of functionality for POV Still and Video photographers.
The GoHawk adds three new camera ports, allowing the user to connect:
Remote shutter button. Save time by only shooting photos when you want to. Choose from hands-free mouth switches or a thumb triggered handlebar switch. Works with any 2.5mm remote shutter switch.
Remote LED indicator lets you know that your camera is on and recording. The bendable indicator can be mounted in your helmet or wrapped around your handlebars.
Auxiliary USB Power Input for extended shooting - plug into any battery pack and never run out of power again.

The GoHawk enhances the process of shooting POV photos with your GoPro Hero4. Choose from a mouth-operated shutter button (best for chest or helmet mounted cameras) or a handlebar-mount push button (ideal for handlebar mounted cameras, cyclists, and motorcyclists). Simply plug your switch of choice into the GoHawk and start shooting!
For still photographers, the GoHawk can be used in Continuous or Burst photo modes to capture the pictures you want, and ONLY the pictures you want. You’ll never have to spend hours sorting through the contents of a full memory card for that one magical shot. If you shoot video, you can easily start and stop recording using any external shutter switch.

With the bendable LED’ll never have to worry if your camera is on, taking a photo, or recording. A blue standby LED lets you know that your camera is on and flashes to let you know when your battery is low. A red record/shutter LED mimic’s the GoPro’s own shutter button lights no matter what mode you’re in.
No special software is needed to operate the GoHawk. Simply plug it in and start shooting. The GoHawk is perfect for photographers and videographers who value the durability, price, and compact size of their GoPro’s, but need more
control over how they capture the action.

For more information, visit:
the kickstarter page
If you're interested in backing this project, you can support it on their kickstarter page, which is now live.
About POA Labs
POA Labs is a Portland-based product incubator focused on developing new and innovative products that enhance the lives of people who take their fun seriously. We want to enable our customers to do more - do it better, do it easier, and
do it safer. Have more fun.

By admin, in Gear,

Your First Reserve Ride - Go Time

Dave Rhea gives his Skyhook a workout over northern Arizona

Photo Credit: Dave Rhea
You’re as ready as you’ll ever be. Right?
You know what a malfunctioning main looks like. You know the sequence*. You’ve done your homework (like we reviewed last time). Before you pull that handle, though, make sure you know the rest of the story: how to make that reserve ride as un-traumatic an experience as possible.
1. Do not overthink it
If you believe that your main is unlandable, you are going to have a reserve ride. Lots of skydivers have landed under reserves, realizing later that the problem was solvable.
Lots of skydivers have also gone in while striving to sort out malfunctions that did not get solved.
Pick your poison.
2. Do not worry about stability
This is the very least of your problems, as you are on the world’s most intractable timer. Worry ONLY about altitude.
3. Pull the cutaway handle until no lower than 1,000 feet
If your pull is sufficiently low (shame on you for that, by the way--gotta say it) and you have an unlandable main, you’ll be testing your reserve’s opening characteristics in the most potentially lethal way. Take note: the USPA not-so-recently raised the minimum deployment altitude even for eminently experienced D-licensed jumpers. Initiating a reserve ride below 1,000 feet isn’t always deadly, but it has an unnerving tendency to be. Don’t take the chance.
4. Hold on to your handles
...or, y’know, do your best. If you manage it, you’ll save a bit of money, and you’ll save face when you land.
5. Make sure it’s out
Arch and look over your shoulder for the reserve pilot chute. Reserves deploy fast, so this head position may rattle your neck – but if the pilot chute is somehow caught in your burble, this should either shake it loose or make it clear to you that you need to do some burble intervention, stat.
6. Keep an eye on your free-floating main
However: do not try to chase it and grab it in the air. (People have died doing that, bigshot.) Don’t “chase the bag” if it means you’ll land in a dangerous LZ. Use landmarks to get a bead on where the gear is headed, then take a deep breath, leave it to the fates, and prioritize your mortal coil.
7. Remember: Your Cutaway, Your Business
When you land a reserve, you’re going to be the talk of the DZ (for about five minutes, usually). During that five minutes – longer, if the loads are turning slowly – you’ll probably be approached by a gamut of big talkers and would-be mentors, questioning your malfunction and eager to discuss your decision to cut away.
My advice: speak to your trusted mentors and co-jumpers about it in private, and tell the rest to go suck an egg. When you suddenly need to get proactive about saving your life in the sky, make no mistake: you are absolutely alone. In the entire world, there exists only you and two handles. Your cutaway is your business. You were there. They were not.
Review your own footage to determine the nature of the malfunction and review alternative methods of correction, if applicable.
8. Buy a bottle of posh booze for the rigger who packed the reserve you rode, and keep the reserve pin for posterity.
It’s tradition.
* Arch, look down at your handles, grasp the handles, pull cutaway, pull reserve.

By nettenette, in Safety,