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  1. Thanks for the replies everyone, and sorry again if I'm being overly anal with all my questions. I'm not risk averse by any means, but I do tend to be very pragmatic and methodical about it. I'm just trying to gather as much information as possible so if/when I do start, I'm more able to ask the right questions and reduce the "don't know what I don't know" situation. I still don't know a hell of a lot, but at least I can begin at some level of knowledge beyond absolute zero. wolfriverjoe, point taken about those most likely to be seriously injured. I've actually seen exactly this in scuba diving, where someone with 30 to 40 dives starts disregarding all the accepted save diving practices as not applying to them because now they're "experienced". I have upwards of 400 dives (which in itself isn't terribly high), and still follow them pretty religiously because I think drowning would be one of the more unpleasant ways to die And I hadn't considered the possibility of reevaluating our comfort with the risk after training. I had been approaching it more as "I know I'm going to love it, so I need to be comfortable with all the risks before starting and be ready to purchase gear". Whether or not we love it, we can still decide it's just not for us after training. On the other hand, if we continue, we can always pay for additional instructor/coached jumps when we're on our own gear. My focus on gear up to this point is because it's the one aspect that I can at least learn something about on my own. I think the more information I have at the point I'm sitting down with an instructor to discuss appropriate gear, the better the chances are that the recommendation will fit our ultimate desires in the sport. Anyway, thanks again everyone.
  2. I'm absolutely not doing this. I'm simply trying to understand the risks involved so we can make an informed decision on whether or not this is something we can justify doing (we have a son, so that naturally complicates any decision to take on an inherently risky activity). I know we can start training at any time, and the instructors would be the best people to evaluate our abilities and recommend appropriate gear. I'm confidant we'd both complete training without much trouble, but from my perspective, that is getting the cart before the horse, because we haven't even made the decision to start yet. Understanding how different types of gear effect the chances or severity of malfunctions plays into that decision - if those high-g inducing, spinning malfunctions were just as likely to occur on low-performance gear, then I'd honestly probably pass on taking up the sport all together. So that's something I'm interested to find out before we spend a rather large amount of money on 2 sets of training and 2 sets of gear. We've met and talked with several people locally who skydive and who also have children. The difference is that they had learned before starting families, so they got through the more risky novice stages while having comparatively less responsibilities. Since that's not the case with us, it's going to take very careful consideration before we're comfortable taking that first step towards actually pursuing the sport. I would love to just stop reading about it and sign up, we're just not at that point quite yet. And that's exactly what we're trying to do.
  3. Perhapse I did the wrong type of jump, because the answers to my question never magically appeared in my head! And thanks Dave and Joe, that confirms what I had thought. The reason I ask is that my wife has expressed interest in learning to skydive. On the one hand, I would love for her and I to be able to enjoy the sport together, but on the other, it scares the hell out of me because she tends to freeze up in stressful situations. The more we can eliminate the likelihood and/or severity of all-out malfunctions through gear choices, the more I'd/we'd be comfortable making the decision to start jumping. I've watched videos where a canopy will spin a dozen or more twists in the lines within the space of about 3 seconds, flinging the jumper out to the side under high G's, and I honestly don't know if she'd be able to function in that type of situation. If that's far less likely to happen on low-performance canopies, it would reduce (some of) my concern.
  4. So I've read in several places that lower performance canopies (lower wing loadings) are less likely to experience malfunctions, and when they do occur, they're less violent. Can anyone elaborate on if, and if so, why this is true? I could see, for example, how a faster flying canopy (resulting from a higher wing loading) would be more prone to winding up the lines in a line twist, spinning the jumper out horizontally. Yea, I've probably been watching too many YouTube videos , but that seems like it'd be pretty damn scary. What I'm having a harder time understanding is why a higher performance or higher loaded canopy would be more prone to malfunctions in the first place. Is it a case where the initial malfunction causing conditions are the same, and a lower performance canopy will simply tolerate them better and/or resolve them naturally (a few line twists, to continue the example), where a high performance canopy will wind them up causing a more serious malfunction? In other words, is it not as much that they malfunction more, but given the initial conditions of a malfunction, a higher performance canopy is more likely to amplify those conditions into a full blown cut-away requiring malfunction? Sorry if this is a common knowledge question, I'm just trying to wrap my head around the physics of precisely how different gear choices will effect the likelihood or severity of malfunctions.
  5. I wouldn't get on that thing WITHOUT a parachute... I can't quite put my finger on it, but something about that plane just doesn't look like it belongs in the sky.
  6. Thanks for the added info regarding student gear. When I had read about the differences, I assumed it was that student gear was designed to be overly conservative and reliable. Obviously no piece of skydiving gear should be "less" reliable, but my thinking was that I would happily choose conservative/reliable over performance. But it seems all containers/deployment systems are equally reliable if used/maintained properly. That's pretty much my approach to activities with inherent risks. With scuba diving, I trained through divemaster and mild technical diving (decompression diving) not because I indented to get into that, but just so I was more comfortable/competent in the standard recreational diving I was interested in. I've always thought it better to be trained a few levels beyond that which you intend to participate in a given sport. So another question regarding conservatism is deployment altitude. Standard is around 2500 feet, with student's up to 5000 to 6000? (I think tandem is 6000?). Is it discouraged to continue to deploy moderately high once off student status? I would assume exit order takes into account intended deployment altitude so as to avoid potential collisions? While I enjoy freefall as much as anyone, I would happily trade 5 to 10 seconds of it for more altitude with which to deal with potential malfunctions... Thanks again everyone for all the information and advice. I still need to win the wife's approval and make sure she's comfortable with the idea of my taking up the sport. And honestly, I have to address my own concerns and comfort with the idea as well, and these questions are all part of that process. Had I still been single and without a child, I'd have already begun training, but that decision isn't so easy when there's a family to consider. At minimum, we could always just do the occasional tandem, but man, it's such a tease... it just makes you want to do it that much more!
  7. I've read about people not letting it go of the PC, and it just seems crazy that you'd forget. On the other hand, I always thought it was crazy to read about people hopping off their motorcycles while forgetting to put the kickstand down... until I did it myself! Yea, I definitely get that, and that's why I mentioned my motorcycle experience - that my choice of bikes meant that I'd have to be much more cautious and willing to invest the extra time it would take to learn, and I did exactly that. I'm in absolutely no rush.
  8. Thanks for the replies everyone. So there's nothing inherently "safer" about student gear. I was just curious to read that certain manufacturers choose certain features (like rip cords over alternative deployment methods) specifically for student gear and wondered what that was based on. As far as decisions on where/when/who to jump with, that wouldn't be an issue. There's a rule in scuba diving that anyone can end any dive at any point for any reason, no questions asked. Sometimes things just aren't "right" and there should never be pressure for someone to make or continue a dive if he/she isn't completely comfortable with the plan or conditions. And I've never been one to give in to the pack mentality, so... Yea, I considered it, but I've watched a number of videos of seemingly spontaneous canopy collapses and it just seem like those things drop out of the sky left and right. I assume the size and relatively light wing loading of the canopies would make them pretty susceptible to winds/gusts causing problems. Honestly, I'd be much more interested in hang gliding than paragliding. I've actually wanted to hang glide since I was a kid and my wife and I will be taking some tandem flights this summer to see what we think. Skydiving just came up because my wife wanted to try it and we both did tandems. It just reminded me what an incredible experience it is and how much I enjoyed it. Statistically, it seems to be a toss-up between skydiving and hang gliding safety-wise, but skydiving wins in ease of participation - it's a lot easier to store/transport skydiving gear than a hang glider and we live literally 10 minutes from a local DZ. We'll see. My father had a small Cessna when I was growing up, and I used to fly with him everywhere. I've always loved flying and would love to be able to enjoy some type of aerial activity. Just grappling with the risk factor...
  9. I did a search and couldn't find a discussion on this question specifically. And I'm not sure if this would be better placed in the gear forum, if so, feel free to move it. But since the overall theme is safety, I'm posting it here. Anyway, I'm curious to what degree and in what ways gear choices effect the overall safety of skydiving and the likelihood of experiencing a malfunction. In looking at the web sites of various manufacturers, certain features seem to be either more prevalent or standard equipment on student gear, for example, ripcord deployment instead of BOC/throw-out pilot chutes, the use of RSLs, etc. If these features are thought to increase overall safety (I'm assuming, please correct me if I'm wrong), what is the advantage of alternatives that justify the assumed loss of safety? What are people's opinion on continuing to jump "student" gear after someone is off student status? I've done two tandem jumps and would love to learn/continue to skydive, but with a wife and child, I have to consider more than simply my desires. So I'm interested in knowing how much of the risk can be mitigated by using conservative gear and jumping in a conservative manner. Years ago, when I became interested in motorcycles, perhaps foolishly, I went out and bought a 1300cc sportbike (a Hayabusa) for my first street bike. I justified the decision because that bike in particular fit the type of riding I was ultimately interested in - more touring than outright sport riding. I knew the risks involved and was committed to taking a very careful and conservative approach to learning to ride. Over the first 5 years, I put over 50,000 miles on the bike, never had an accident, consider myself to be sufficiently proficient, and still enjoy riding the bike today. In different ways, that both is, and isn't, the approach I would take to skydiving, if I ultimately end up perusing it. In the respect that I can already see what my long-term interest would be, I would want to choose gear specifically suited to that interest from the start. But unlike my choice in motorcycles, I have really no interest in the "high performance" end - just jumping in itself would be more than enough for me. From the incident statistics I've read, it seems swooping is the primary cause of roughly 1/2 of all fatalities, so if the statistical risk can essentially be cut in half just by avoiding that one activity, then I would absolutely do so. So gear suited to the performance requirements of activities like swooping would be of no interest to me. Almost to the contrary, in my two jumps, I've found I enjoy the flight under canopy as much as the freefall, and so if a big canopy with a low wing-loading would translate into a slower descent and more time between deployment and landing, all the better. Small pack size and small containers also seems to be prominent in gear today. I get that a small rig looks cool, but cool and/or fashionable isn't something I've ever been, and at 38, married with a kid, it's not something I have any interest in attempting to be. So if a big canopy stuffed into a big container would equal lower overall risk, I would be perfectly fine with that. So, to avoid this post getting too long-winded, to sum it up, I'm saying that if my absolute only interest in gear would be to get from point A (being deployment) to point B (being the ground) as safely as possible, would there be any reason NOT to continue jumping with student gear? And if that's the case, could anyone offer suggestions on what a good student setup might be? Can you still get non-spectra lines? Can you still get a non zero-p canopy? I've seen a number of discussions on injuries caused by hard openings, and this is something that I would be interested in avoiding as well. Thanks for your time. -Chris
  10. It's several things. Statistically, skydiving is probably in the middle of the activities I already engage in (scuba diving, which is probably a fair bit safer, rock climbing, not sure where that would fit, and riding motorcycles, which is almost definitely considerably more dangerous). Equal to the risk of dying, there's also the risk of a serious injury that could/would impact my ability to do other things. My wife and I met hiking, and we've taken our son hiking with us since he was 3 months old. It's a big part of our lives, and a spinal or some other debilitating injury would be pretty devastating. Lastly, there's the issue of my wife most likely wanting to take up the sport as well. She absolutely loved her first jump (tandem). The issue for me is that I have some reservations about her ability to maintain composure and respond appropriately in the case of a malfunction. Over the years, I've had bad scuba dives, some seriously close calls riding, and while I haven't had any major slips rock climbing, the general situational stress really forces you to control your body's natural reactions, remain calm, prioritize and think through the problem. Without any of these prior experiences, my wife tends to freeze up when she gets scared, and freezing up in a skydiving malfunction is a pretty bad thing to do. I would love for us both to be able to enjoy the sport together, but I'm questioning whether it's worth risking so many other things that we enjoy. We have a great life and already enjoy many exciting and adventurous activities, am I/are we being a little greedy in potentially adding in yet another high risk (relatively speaking) sport? If it was 100% safe, then we wouldn't be risking all that we already have and the decision to take up the sport would be easy. On the flip side, we've had several family members or acquaintances who've died in all sorts of ways - car accidents, motorcycle accidents, simple slips/falls, health issues both a long time in the making and completely out of the blue. I had done a tandem with the instructor who was recently killed along with his tandem passenger just 5 days after our jump. So, we know at some point, it's all a crap shoot - you can take all the immediate risk out of your life and still die completely unexpectedly from something else. So yea, despite how much I/we loved it, and how much I in particular desperately want to do it, there's a lot of factors to consider when a family is involved and it's not an easy decision to make. I'm sure it is!!
  11. Definitely get the extra altitude. As for the video, it's probably good to get it... it'll let you relive the experience over and over. The only exception would be if you're not particularly comfortable on camera. I'm not, I always get tong-tied or blank when asked something and look like a fool , so for me, video can be a little awkward. Having said that, I'm still glad I got it on my first jump, but I enjoyed my second (without video) much more.
  12. I know it's a hypothetical question, but yes, I would absolutely want skydiving to be 100% safe. I've only jumped twice, I absolutely loved it, and I'm currently struggling to decide if it's a reasonable and responsible activity to pursue with a child and a wife to consider. If it was 100% safe, that decision would be much easier to make and justify. While the risk may add a certain amount of thrill to skydiving, I think it can also detract from fully appreciating the experience. I also scuba dive, and through the combination of training (I'm a certified Dive Master), and the much less immediate danger, I find I can really relax and just experience all the sounds and sensations - how the bubbles start to take on a sort of metallic sound below about 90 feet, how I start using my breathing to fine-tune my buoyancy without even thinking about it, how I can move around in 3d space with almost no effort, all the life that's down there, on the bottom and in the water column. You can really zone out and open all your senses to the experience. I think skydiving's inherently immediate danger and the focus it takes to monitor that danger limits how much you can loose yourself, so to speak, in the experience. So while removing all the risk might remove some of the thrill, for me at least, I think that would be more than made up for by being able to completely focus on taking in the experience of falling through space. Just my 2c
  13. It's the least I could do. Aleks, Ron, Jimmy and the rest of the guys at the Ranch left such an impression on my wife and I, that I just felt compelled to comment. I've followed the coverage in the news and have also been offended by the lack of recognition of Aleks' loss and the suggestions that he was somehow negligent. From his gear checks on the plane, to his instruction in free fall, to his attention to traffic while under canopy, it was clear to me that he was exceedingly competent. So much so that I was surprised to learn how young he was, I think that level of thoroughness and focus is rare in someone of his age. We only knew him for a few hours, but it's clear by the comments here how highly he was regarded by those close to him. You guys are in our thoughts.
  14. Found this tribute to Alex on YouTube.
  15. I didn't know Alex personally, but had just done a tandem jump with him 5 days prior to his death. I can only offer an account of our jump together. My wife and I both jumped as birthday presents to each other. Her instructor was a New Zealander, mine was Alex. At some point on the ground, someone mentioned accents, and Alex said something with a thick Russian accent. It turns out he was Russian and came to the US when he was 3 years old. My wife is Russian as well, and they immediately started joking back and forth in Russian. As I had been interested in getting my license, I asked Alex if we could practice turning while in free fall. He demonstrated the necessary hand/arm movements, along with going over everything else we'd do on the dive. On the ride to altitude, he methodically and repeatedly went over all the gear. As he cinched our harnesses up, he jokingly asked if I had ever been that close to another man before. I laughed and said the previous closest was probably when I had given a friend a ride on my motorcycle, and he mentioned that he used to ride as well. We were one of the last out the door, and on the jump, we practiced a few 360's as planned, with him guiding my arms to start and stop the turns. After the canopy was out and flying, he excitedly asked "So what did you think of that??!??!". I said something like "it makes doing 180mph on a motorcycle seem downright tame", and he laughed, saying that he had sold his bike and gave up riding because it was too dangerous. We did the usual turns as we glided back down to the landing zone. After landing, as we walked off the field, my 3 year old son saw us and came running up. I put my soft helmet and goggles on him, which looked hilarious. Alex laughed at that, said it was awesome and exchanged a hi-five with my son. He had mentioned the upcoming birth of his first child in January. I had asked if he knew the sex yet, but he said it was still too early. My wife and I both had a great time, and Alex was thorough, professional and confidence inspiring throughout the entire experience. My sincerest condolences go out to his family. Thanks for the jump Alex. I didn't really know you, but you'll be missed. -Chris O'Riley