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  1. The culture of skydiving attracts an eclectic group of people and for me, some of those people stand out by character, resume and history. I recently met a couple that fascinated me because of their longevity and passion for the sport. They are Gerry and Debbie Harper and they are the DZO’s of Canada’s, Skydive Vancouver. Gerry and Debbie are still very active skydivers and involved in running their drop zone. Their enthusiasm after all of these years of skydiving was inspiring as many people get burned out, stop jumping because of relationships or just lose their zest for the sport and the people. And not only do they have the enthusiasm, they have grand goals of keeping their drop zone open in Canada even though there are many challenges to face. So I sat down and asked them some questions: First Jump Gerry: Christchurch, New Zealand on May 20th, 1967 Debbie: Lynden, Washington on June 17th, 1974 Total Jumps Gerry: 16,000+ Debbie: 5,600+ What inspired you to make your first skydive? Gerry: Doesn’t every kid want to skydive?! Debbie: It was something that had always intrigued me while I was growing up. In my travels I met a fellow who just started and was so excited, he told me where I could go. What keeps you motivated to stay in skydiving? Gerry: It’s simple. I still love it! One of our instructor’s once said, ‘As long as we keep jumping, we’ll stay young.’ Debbie: I think this is such an exciting time in our sport. I look at what the freefliers are doing and I am in awe! It’s challenging and inspiring. AND, I get to play in the sky with my husband and son everyday. How did you two meet? Debbie: I met Gerald [Gerry] when I went to make my first jump and he was my instructor. The rest is the age-old story! We lived together for several years then married in 1983. What has been your proudest moment in skydiving? Gerry: Representing my country (Canada and New Zealand) at World Meets! We won the Canadian Nationals in 1971 for Style and Accuracy, and I represented New Zealand in 1970, 1972 and 1974. Debbie: My proudest moment is when my dad came out to the DZ for the first time to watch me skydive. He came out only after I had a couple hundred jumps. By then, he knew he wasn’t going to talk me out of it. I was so proud when he watched me! (I landed in the ditch!) He offered to buy me a new jumpsuit. I guess he didn’t like the one I had, or thought it might improve my accuracy! Biggest accomplishment in the sport? Gerry: Winning Gold in the Canadian Nationals! Debbie: Getting the 30 way Color Concepts (organized by Roger Ponce) over downtown Vancouver in 1995. Who was your skydiving mentor? Gerald was mentored by Jimmy Lowe. We both thought very highly of Jim and considered him a friend. When did you open the DZ? We took over Abbotsford in 1977 in western Canada and is called, Skydive Vancouver. What inspired you to take on the challenge of opening a skydiving center? Abbotsford has been a drop zone since the 1950’s. Gerald and his friend, Rod Bishop, Canadian Team Member, were training students in the late 1970’s and grew into taking it over. What’s a cool fact about Skydive Vancouver? The first US/Canadian Nationals were held here in 1961 or 1962. In the past, skydivers always leased property to use for jumping, when this property came up for sale, the jumpers organized to buy the land before a blueberry farmer did. What is your season? And what do you do in the off-season? We consider our season to be March through October, although we often jump in February and December. Having slow time in the winter allows us to work the airplanes and getting gear ready for the next season. In the off-season, we like to take some time off- like going to the Puerto Escondido Boogie over New Years. Nothing hard core, just fun. You had stated that skydiving is fun, but what about being a DZO? It has its moments. We may write a book....if we ever had time! What was it like when your son, Jess first started jumping? Gerry: I never questioned it. He has always been capable. Debbie: Jess was determined to skydive from an early age. We ignored his requests because he was so young. However, he started asking questions to other Instructors. When they told us what was happening we knew we couldn't ignore him much longer. He did a Tandem at 8, Static Line at 16, then AFF. I knew it was inevitable that he would be a skydiver, but I never wanted him to run a DZ and I pushed him to get an education. He got a diploma in Mechanical Engineering, but he has been working at the DZ since he finished school. There was probably never any way of stopping him. Now he is my boss! Advice to new jumpers? Gerry: Don't be afraid to ask questions. Debbie: Slow is fast. Advice to not-so-new jumpers? Gerry: Complacency kills. Stay vigilant. Debbie: Remember why you got into this sport: because it is fun! Future goals? Gerry: We have seen a lot of DZs close for various reasons. We have to operate commercially in Canada, which has overburdened many small operators financially and created a paperwork load that many find overwhelming. Some have lost location due to building etc. We want to keep skydiving alive, available, safe and fun in the Lower Mainland. Debbie: To make more fun jumps and learn from the kids. Anything else you'd like to add? Gerry: I am happy to be jumping my Stiletto 120 and square reserve and not my 28' C9 and my unmodified 24' twill reserve! Debbie: I feel so very fortunate to have met and so many wonderful people in this sport. People I meet when I travel to other DZs and skydivers that come to our DZ; people that have become lifelong friends and people I met just yesterday. Customers who make 1 jump and skydivers I have learned from, some more experienced and some less experienced than me. Everyone adds a piece to the puzzle.
  2. MissMelissa

    Exit Separation

    Great info! I've written a simplified version on how to calculate Exit Separation on my blog here: http://www.melissaairheart.com/exit-separation-time-really-matters/
  3. Skydive Orange. Nestled in the countryside of the historic town of Orange, Virginia. The town’s old Silk Mill was one of the major producers of parachute cloth for World War II. However, what we skydivers know Orange for is the drop zone’s annual Skydive Orange Boogie and this year’s theme was tight and bright! A little over a year after completion, the annual boogie was held under their new hangar which held the 228 registered jumpers. Like many skydiving centers going from the historic barnstorming-type hangars, Skydive Orange’s new hangar is one to boast about: tons of indoor, padded packing space; large flat-screen TV’s for debriefs; and nice, clean bathrooms! The short-lived weather holds and weather forecasts did not detour many. Over the three-day boogie there were 1,129 jumps made from a super otter, CASA and R44 Helicopter. RW Organizers Kirk Verner, local Jim Smith and Joost Luysterburg kept all levels from big ways to beginner 4-way formations. Freefly organizers Matt Fry and myself did everything from tube jumps, beginner head down, angled and tracking jumps. And Andreea Olea and Cristopher Kotscha fed the birds wingsuit flocks all weekend. Undoubtedly Skydive Orange has a colorful tradition – awesome themed parties! These parties are the not-to-be-missed. This is where the sexy, the weird, the questionable and the creative deck it out in some ridiculous threads – or lack thereof! And for historical purposes, stripping down and laying the numbers (if this doesn’t make sense, it means you need to go and find out next year)! Quotes from random jumpers, “Memories of glow sticks flying through the air, and a glowing figure decked out lit up in Christmas lights running down the runway…” “Some idiot tried to take a ghost pepper challenge. And lost horribly! He was gracious enough to run and hurl outside the Tiki Bar though.” Ghost pepper one, Mike Norton zero. Props to DJ Ron Douglass, who tirelessly spun rhythm and bass until, more or less the next day. Skydive Orange ran like clockwork: smooth operators. This goes with the efforts of many who are up early and up late making sure the planes are fueled, jumpers and manifested and registered, organizers are fed, bathrooms are cleaned, planes are flown and everything in between. Props go to: the manifest crew, pilots, loaders, Liz Kang-event organizer, load organizers, Barclay & Collins band and the vendors who donated prizes: L&B;, Paraclete, Aerodyne, Join, Vertical, Liquid Sky, Blue Skies Magazine, Tony Suits and Cookie; to the vendors who came out: Chuting Star, Icarus, Sunpath, Birdman, Invertica and Liquid Sky.
  4. Teamwork: work done by several associates with each doing a part but all subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole. Have you ever been a part of a team? Felt the pressure of performing? Emotionally and physically put your efforts on the line for a common goal? That’s what we did August 1st – 3rd – a group of 23 women from Mexico, Canada, Dubai, Sweden and all over the US converged to participate in the Women’s Vertical World Camp hosted by myself in the cornfields of Skydive Chicago during Summerfest. This is one of several camps in preparation of the upcoming Women’s Vertical World Record attempts to be held November 27th – December 1st at Skydive Arizona. The specialty of this camp was designed so women could experience 2-plane shots, practicing different exits, flying in a formation, and on the last day, attempt to break a state record. (The current Illinois Women’s Vertical Formation State Record an 18-way set in 2005.) Every camp faces their own set of unique challenges – cutaways, fatigue, nerves, etc. Our camp especially did. Participant, and overall badass, Stephanie Eggum died from a low reserve deployment on our 3rd jump of the first day of the camp. An hour later after the news digested, we re-grouped. I asked, “I’m going to jump. Does anyone want to join me?” Unsure how to move on, the entire group agreed they were ready to jump. “Then we’re going to do 2-plane shots.” Some gentleman jumpers joined in to be the base and grew our group to practice 30+ ways. Each jump a special camaraderie was developing even though our jumps only yielded 19 to 20-ways. The next day we awoke to cloudy skies, but met to discuss the finer techniques of formation skydiving including exit techniques, showing videos from the current 138-way co-ed Vertical World Record, talking about the mental and physical aspects and what it takes to get on a world record skydive. We also took this time to introduce ourselves, state our home dz, jump numbers and goals. Not too much later the skies started clearing and we were back up doing 2-plane shots. After lunch the camp’s direction shifted gears in selecting a group to break the state record. “This is where it gets emotional,” I began. “It’s not political or playing favorites. This is about being a team. Even if you’re not selected to be on the record, you’re still as much a part of this team. Our goal is to build the safest, largest state record.” We finished the day building 14-ways. Saturday’s weather couldn’t have been more picture perfect – high, puffy clouds, light winds, and 70°F temps. There was an intense feeling as we walked together as a group to the skyvan. We were 20. The plane ride up began with clapping, the silence. From the first day till now, some of the women weren’t ready to build a 20-way. But now, they stood at the door with the experience and skills to be a part of a team, to build a record. We huddled around 11,000’ and I said, “I know you can do this, that’s why you’re here. Now you have to know it too. Be safe and let’s build a record!” The skyvan door opened and I could feel my own heart beating faster. I smiled, “Ready, set go!” The formation didn’t build on the first jump. Nor the second or third. I re-engineered the formation and we tried again. No success. I re-engineered it again. By this time, the whole drop zone was rooting for us. Spectators watched us intently with awe as we’d board the plane and greet us when we landed asking if we were successful. Although each jump wasn’t successful, something greater was happening – we were truly becoming the essence of a team. It’s easy to go up and do one jump and be successful. But can you do it over and over? Especially after two days of an intense camp, lack of sleep and having lost a comrade? We really had to dig deep for the energy and motivation; we had to keep doing our best even when we were doing our job and others weren’t; we had to be patient and keep moving forward. The sun was low on the horizon and the temperatures were slightly dropping. We huddled together on the ground in support of each other. “I believe in you girls. Level, slot, dock. Be safe, let’s do this!” We cheered loudly as we got on the skyvan. We clapped, hooted and hollered on take-off and became quiet with focus. “No pressure, but now there’s pressure. This is the last jump of the camp and our last attempt. Stay focused. Stay safe. Let’s build it!” We exited cleanly. The stingers were docking. Wackers were building. Levels were awesome. The formation was flying! When we landed we ran to each other because the dive just felt so good. It felt so good we were unsure if we made the state record. We smiled, laughed, high fived and hugged. In that moment, it didn’t matter if we built it or not. We knew how much we progressed as a team and that was our best jump together! After reviewing the video, we saw we were super close to building the formation, but at the last moment, ditters were going off and we broke off. So close!! At the close of the camp I didn’t feel defeated. I was lucky to have a great group of girls who stuck by each other’s sides, improved their flying, and was so determined that we embraced the real spirit of teamwork. And in that, we were successful. My heart goes out to the Eggum family. Your daughter was determined to be on the next Women’s Vertical World Record. We will remember her during the attempts. Much respect. This camp’s success also goes with having to give praise to the many who helped make it happen: Mike Bohn from Colorado came out to assist in the camp as a coach Camera: Norman Kent, Jim Harris, Brandon Chouinard (To view or orders from Summerfest, please check out Norman Kent’s gallery here: http://www.normankent.com/photogallery-eventphotos-summerfest2013) BASE BOYS: James Garnant, Ben Roane, Paul Jones, BJ Miclaeli, Pat Collins, Dennis Cowhey, Ryan Risberg, and Doug Legally WVWR Camp Participanats: Melissa Nelson – Utah Hermine Baker – Sweden Julie Wittenburg - Dubai Amberly Brown – Hawaii Cate Allington – New York Stacy Powers – Pennsylvania Helen D’Astous – Canada Katie Blue – Texas Logan Donovan – New York Noelle Mason – Florida Stephanie Eggum - Illinois Kelly Isenhoff - Tennessee Valentina Solis – Mexico Natalie Pitts – Colorado Tyfani Detki – Florida Emily Royal – Missouri Amy Cowhey – Illinois Paula Rodrigues – Mexico Jen Sensenbaugh – Texas Jen Frayer - Indiana Alyssa Manny – Colorado Stephanie Beeguer - Switzerland Lauren Piscatelli – North Carolina
  5. AFF students are awesome! They are incredibly excited, nervous, and sometimes quite hilarious. Ben Lowe and I have complied some of our favorite experiences with teaching and getting to know some of our students over the last few years. A graduated student of mine came up to me as calm as could be. The way he looked at me was that he was in trouble.I asked him, “What’s up?” “I had a cutaway,” he replied. “That’s awesome! You saved your life!” I replied as thrilled as could be. “What type of malfunction did you have?” “I think it was a hard opening.” “How do you know it was a hard opening?” “I opened up so hard I lost my shoes.” Ben and I had a student who sheepishly walked in the student room on a Sunday morning. “Good morning,” we said. “How are you?” Laughing he replied, “I’m at church!” Ben and I look puzzeld at each other, “Church?” “Yes, I tell work that I have to go to Church Sunday mornings so I can jump!” One of our favorite water training responses: I had a student who wore a digital altimeter that recorded her freefall speeds and liked writing them down in her logbook. She was about my size, 5’3” 120 pounds. After one jump she ran out of a room holding her altimeter high. “Melissa! Melissa! I reached a max speed of 168mph! That’s a freefly speed!” Ben and I always give our student’s the opportunity to always ask us questions, even after they graduate. This was one of our favorite downsize questions: We had a student who repeated Level 4 several times. Although discouraged, she kept moving forward and ended up graduating to her A-License. The following season after accumulating 100 jumps and tunnel time and ran up to Ben, “I want to do a jump with you to show off my bad ass 360° turns – in control!” Ben had been working with a student on exits for several jumps. She finally just said, “I’m terrified about jumping out of the plane. I’m just gonna throw myself out, then get stable.” I was walking into the student room and I had overheard several students giving shout outs for their landing stats. “I have 2 corn landings,” one says. “I have 1 corn and 1 bean landing,” says another. “Oh yeah, I have 1 corn, 1 bean and 1 runway landing,” he said laughing with a few gasps and questions. Then another pipes up. “Well I landed in the corn 2 miles away!” and the laughter ensued! It’s pretty tough as an Instructor to beat YouTube these days. But you have to stand your ground! Teaching is something Ben and I also take seriously as we know our actions will make a lasting impression. However, the rewards are great as we get to meet so many different people and watch them progress in the sport we’re so passionate about. If you’re an AFF student, I encourage you to keep going and keep learning! Got any interesting stories about what you've heard coming from AFF students? Share them with us in the comments section below... Find good articles here: http://www.melissaairheart.com/category/education/
  6. The topic of “Line of Flight” seems to be a mysterious, yet cool term that is often misused and/or misunderstood. As a freefly load organizer and instructor, I’ve realized the lack of knowledge about this subject so I figured we can take a moment and break it down: Jump Run – the direction of flight and configuration of the plane while jumpers are exiting Line of Flight – The 3-dimensional profile of Jump Run The Line of Flight is essentially the same “line” as Jump Run, however in skydiving, the Line of Flight is discussed in terms of three-dimensional space. Next, where Jump Run begins (or the point where the first group exits) is known as “Down the Line of Flight” and where Jump Run ends (towards the last group exiting), is called, “Up the Line of Flight.” According to these illustrations, note the compass rose and which direction the plane is flying. You can determine that the plane is flying from the South, towards the North. This establishes Jump Run and Line of Flight. So, what makes this “Line of Flight” important? To avoid collisions!! Potential Collision Hazards Freefall Drifting (outside the given exit separation and given column of air) Break-Off & Opening Canopy Opening and the First 10-15 secondsOn every jump, in any axis, we all experience freefall and canopy drift. (Reference http://www.melissaairheart.com/winds-aloft/) Therefore, pre-planning the spot, Jump Run, Exit Order (reference http://www.melissaairheart.com/exit-order-of-business/), and Exit Separation (reference http://www.melissaairheart.com/exit-separation-time-really-matters/) turn out to be important elements of safety for Line of Flight. Taking into consideration the day’s Jump Run, the Exit Order for the load and Exit Separation for the day’s conditions, each group (assuming they are a traditional RW, Freefly, student or Tandem group) is given a “Column of Air” for freefall. If a group is moving towards the boundaries of their given column, there now exists a potential for a collision. How does one get towards the boundaries of the column if they exited in the right Exit Order and given the appropriate Exit Separation? Example 1: New Freeflier Freefly speeds are increased from 120mph to roughly 150mph. Typically, new sit flyers have a tendency to lean forward which causes a dramatic backslide, which can cover a great distance. If that jumper is facing Up or Down the Line of Flight, they are increasing their chances of converging with another group. A solution is to have newer freefliers identify themselves in the loading area, and let others know they’ll be taking the Line of Flight into consideration. Then make sure to face perpendicular to the Line of Flight during freefall. Example 2: Break-Off To avoid collision on break off, it is suggested to track perpendicular to the Line of Flight. Let’s say there is one 4-way RW group (no video), and three 2-way freefly groups exiting from a caravan – given Exit Separation 6 seconds, Jump Run South to North, and each group exited appropriately. To assure avoiding running into groups, the 2-way freefliers are able to track perpendicular to the Line of Flight, allowing more separation between themselves and the other groups. However, in a 4-way or larger, inevitably, part of the group may track Up and Down the Line of Flight. There are 3-options to this variable: 1: The 2-jumpers tracking Up or Down the Line of Flight may reduce their tracking speed so as not exit their Column boundaries, yet still gaining an appropriate distance; and the 2-jumpers tracking off the Line of Flight do a max track to assist in maximizing group separation 2: The 4-way could adjust their break-off and off-set their trajectory by at least 45° so as to break-off, off the Line of Flight 3: The group exiting after a group of 4 (or more), leave a little extra time before exiting to account for enlarging the Column of airspace for the previous group’s need space for break off [Larger groups will absolutely need more time between groups to account for a larger distance covered on their break-off.] Note: Angled, tracking and wingsuit groups are exceptions to the “Column of Air” example as they fly in a broader airspace and need special consideration for their flight paths. This requires communication and awareness from the entire load, including the pilot. Why is Line of Flight important for canopy? Example 1: Canopy’s Flight Path The canopy’s forward movement after opening still increases the distance towards the boundaries of the prior or previous group’s Column of Air. Therefore, after ensuring a functioning canopy, it’s important to fly OFF the Line of Flight for approximately 10-15 seconds after opening. In theory, you should be able to look Up the Line of Flight and see the group after you breaking off or just opening; and look Down the Line of Flight and identify the group Down the Line of Flight under canopy and slightly below (depending on opening altitudes). Example 2: Landing Area and Opening Point This will vary depending on Jump Run’s direction, surface winds, freefall drift, etc. However, if the landing Target Area is under Group 3 shown in the next Illustration, then Group 1 and 2 will have to fly Up the Line of Flight. If you find yourself in Group 1 or 2’s situation, fly off the Line of Flight and identify the groups that exited after you before you fly to the the Holding Area and Landing Pattern. Try this at home: 1. Figure out Line of Flight (or Jump Run) for the day’s conditions and identify landmarks for specific directions 2. Make sure you note if your group is drifting up or down the Line of Flight; then assure you track accordingly 3. After deployment and opening checks, fly your canopy off the Line of Flight (if safe to do so) for 10-15 seconds. 4. Identify a safe flight path to Holding Area and Landing Pattern Another great resource is USPA’s Power Point presentation on “Canopy Collisions” found here http://www.uspa.org/USPAMembers/Downloads/tabid/84/Default.aspx (scroll towards bottom, under “Miscellaneous” topics. There are always exceptions to the norm and many variables. Therefore, maintain awareness and use your best judgement in each situation. Note: If this does not make sense, please consult an instructor at your Drop Zone for further explanation. This is not meant to be a sole training tool for skydiving or parachute flying. Full instructional methods will be provided at your skydiving school. Drawings are not to scale
  7. I appreciate USPA's efforts in trying to pass on safety, however it's up to us to educate, not regulate. HOWEVER, if we do not self-police and look out for each other, then recommendations WILL become rules. This discussions is long overdue as there are more incidents happening, more concerned people, no educating, and one recent fatality overseas. Norman Kent's new You Tube video released later this year will be a FREE educational video. Instructors at your local DZ or videographers should be able to do orientations for people who wish to jump any type of camera for the first time. As Norman said to me in the interview, "If you give someone a knife who knows nothing about a knife, they won't know it's dangerous until it cuts them or someone tells them about it." Let's pass on good information!
  8. The sleek, low-profile design, an easy-to-use system, so small it’s hardly there, and it’s oh-so-glorious high quality images – the Go Pro, Hero. In this social media society, the Go Pro is seductive, yet it’s oh-so-risky. For all you rebels at heart, those willing to learn, and especially those with less than 200 jumps - let’s lay down some tracks about being courted to don the camera. As an AFF Instructor and having been in the sport for nearly two decades, I have developed a hearty outlook about jumping a camera. But let’s slip on a bit of perspective mixed in with a bit of old school and new school thinking. So to round out this discussion, I interviewed two well-respected and well-known camera flyers about the topic – Norman Kent and Brian Buckland. Norman Kent, a life-long photographer and artist has been jumping a camera since 1975. Norman only wanted to try skydiving once. However, he experienced something so captivating, he saw an opportunity to capture the moments of beauty that was so different and so freeing in the sky. He admitted to be a fast learner, however he first strapped on a camera only having 24 jumps – it was a Kodak Instamatic with 126 cartridges. Norman didn’t have a skydiving photographer mentor. In fact, there weren’t many people strapping cameras on their heads in those days. It was an arduous and expensive venture for those willing to try. And for Norman, he made his own contraption by using a motorcycle helmet with no chin cup, wired a mechanical plunger, and confessed he didn’t know anything. So as he jumped his equipment, the air pushed the helmet up and the buckled strap choked him as the helmet moved all over his head and he fumbled in the sky. While these set backs were disappointing, it did not detour him. Instead, he was motivated to invent something that worked better - this approach lead to many camera helmet and jumpsuit innovations over his career, leaving a legacy of pioneering in camera flying. I asked Norman what he thought of today’s USPA’s current regulations for jumpers to wait until they had 200 jumps to fly a camera. “Regulation is a good idea, a good guideline,” he says. “It sounds hypocritical to say because I started with the ‘yahoo’ approach, but it’s wise to wait.” I’ve known Norman for a long time. I’ve seen him jump enormous contraptions carefully constructed upon his head. He’s a proficient and a well-respected camera flyer and we talked how different it is today with the Go Pro being so small. I ask him if he sees any dangers. “It all comes down to the attitude of the jumper,” he begins. “Because the Go Pro is small, it’s inviting people to use it who aren’t even in photography. It’s [jumping a camera] not so simple and there are dangers involved.” Norman and I both agreed that there is a shift in thinking in skydiving from the renegade days of the past. The development of tandem jumping and social media have greatly changed the image our sport, attracting more types of people to experience skydiving that the thinking of the past has to change. Norman elaborates, “People learn so differently that I’m not pro-regulating, I’m pro-educating. We need to develop a training or an awareness program [about jumping a camera.]” Although he recognizes the dangers happening, he also sees this as an opportunity for the sport. “This is an opportunity for coaches and instructors, for inventors, for schools…” Norman is currently working on a project for a You Tube production geared towards camera flying educational purposes coming out later this year. Let’s bring it back in the day where these young lads photographed below are sporting some serious state-of-the-art camera gear in 1988. Brian Buckland comes from an entirely different background. Brian made his first jump in 1994 and didn’t jump a camera until 5 years later and racked up about 500 jumps. Brian’s philosophy was to become a proficient flyer first; so he logged about 200 belly jumps, then learned how to freefly. During this time he notes that he was becoming more aware of his routine with gear checks, canopy skills, and landings. Finally the time came and he strapped on his first camera – a Canon Rebel 2000, with film. Brian went to Radio Shack after buying an off-the-shelf flat top camera helmet to wire up a shutter release. He admits to being nervous since his routine greatly changed with having to be concerned with battery life, clean lenses, and correct camera settings, in addition to checking his gear and high fiving everyone. When he landed from his first jump, he looked over his wares and was surprised how well they turned out. He submitted them and they were published. “I learned about photography after the fact [of getting the first photo published]. So I went to a continuing education course for photography and started translating that to the sky.” Over the years Brian has developed a systematic routine and is busy the entire flight making sure everything is in order prior to jumping. “It’s important to be comfortable with gear, build good habits, and safely skydive with others.” Brian also didn’t have any skydiving photography mentors. However, he looked up to the likes of Norman Kent, Joe Jennings, Mike McGowan, Tom Sanders, Craig O’Brien and later, Jason Peters. Now with established photographers in the sport, I asked Brian what he thought of USPA’s camera regulations. “The numbers are decent because the time in sport and time in the air are important in building a comfort level. Adding something new when you’re new and not comfortable with the everything else, something like a camera becomes a distraction.” Both Norman and Brian elaborated how the common attitude is, “it’s [Go Pro] not a camera, it’s so small, you-don’t-even-notice-it” attitude. Brian conveyed a story how, against his advice, a tunnel instructor with about 100+ jumps had lost two Go Pros! And we’ve all seen the photo on Facebook with an AFF student’s pilot chute wrapped around an instructor’s Go Pro. The Go Pro is a snag hazard and most people who wear them use non-cutaway helmets and screwed on mounts. This is an excerpt from USPA on September 1st, 2011: Adhering to Camera RecommendationsUSPA has been receiving an increasing number of calls and e-mails from Safety & Training Advisors and instructors regarding what to do about inexperienced skydivers who want to jump with small-format video cameras, such as the GoPro. Many new jumpers seem to feel that the small camera does not pose a risk, and they simply want to wear the camera while jumping. For that reason, the new jumpers do not consider this to be a video jump that falls under the 200-jump recommendation in the Skydiver’s Information Manual [SIM]. The truth is that even though the camera itself may be small, it still represents a significant snag hazard to any jumper. This is especially true considering the various camera mounts jumpers use. In addition to the snag hazard, no matter how much a jumper thinks the camera will not become a distraction during the jump, it will. There are plenty of cases of newer jumpers forgetting to fasten chest straps or creating dangerous situations in freefall, etc., that were directly attributed to the distraction of the camera. USPA’s camera recommendations appear in Section 6-8 of the Skydiver’s Information Manual. Be sure jumpers at your drop zone are following these guidelines. They exist for very important reasons. The SIM is an excellent outline about camera safety and requirements, but it doesn’t educate. I agree that too many people have a careless attitude about the jumping camera equipment too soon and that we need more education. We’re fortunate to have an organization that mediates our government relations, memberships, insurance, etc. However, they do not govern, they suggest and that gives us the freedom to self-police safety amongst ourselves. If we want to see change for the better, we need to take it into our hands and pass on good information. Allowing newbie’s to jump camera equipment just because they’re “heads up” isn’t a qualifier to allow them the privilege to wear one. I visited a DZ and asked the S&TA; about their policy of jumpers with sub 200 jumps wearing a Go Pro. The answer I received was, “If their heads up, it’s ok.” I quizzically looked at him and said, “How do you know he’s heads up? Have you jumped with him?” Two hundred jumps is, although not the best, a measure of experience. At least I can assume they’ve earned their B-license (including the canopy progression) and have a bit of time and experience. I don’t have a chance to jump with everyone to qualify someone with sub 200 jumps “heads up,” and who’s to judge whose heads up anyways?! There’s so much more to just jumping a small-little-thing like the Go Pro. Because of social media, there are ethics that ought to be tied into this conversation. Excited newbie’s may use their footage unjustly and this effects more than the person jumping it. For example, Gerardo Flores – an uncurrent, 30-jump wonder sneaks a camera on his jump and has a “near death experience” that goes viral on the web. This situation affected the skydiving community negatively and gave a sneak peak to the public how “reckless” skydivers can be. Not to mention other videos that go live streaming on the web. I asked Brian what advice he’d give to those thinking about jumping any kind of camera and he said, “Be comfortable with yourself well before strapping on a camera. Be proficient under the parachute, build your awareness, know your emergency procedures, know your gear and wear the proper gear. Then, learn about the camera prior to jumping it.” Although Norman and Brian didn’t have mentors, both have been a huge help and inspiration to aspiring camera flyers over the years. Both have made themselves available to help give direction and may be reached through their websites, www.BrianBuckland.com and wwww.NormanKent.com. And stay tuned for Norman’s upcoming video on You Tube, "The Dangers of Being a HERO". Now, for all you rebels at heart and those willing to learn, I cannot tell you what to do but share my experience. However, when you meet the camera flying requirements, it’s like earning the rite of passage to don a camera on your head. Throw in a bit of education in there and believe me, it’s totally cool and absolutely worth the wait.
  9. I figured it was most appropriate, lol!! And I'd like to think I have a sense of humor :) m
  10. Aloha Friends!! After finishing another grueling round of editing and re-reading these posts, I'm all stoked again for the publication of the book. I was a little naieve to think it would be out in September. We did update the website and it will be (for sure) out on April 1st (seriously)!! Since I've mostly been solo on this task and doing life, it's taken me a little longer than I thought to finish. So why the long editing process? We had to fill in some missing gaps and under developed characters and other sorts. Since this is based on the true story of his life there was further research necessary to dig up details on certain events to keep the story line as true as possible. Truest as we all have our different perspectives, of course. Now that the editing is going through the final read through, we're drafting the Introduction, Epilogue, Dedications, and Disclaimer (believe me - some names had to be changed to protect the innocent & the guilty!!). I'm so excited and so nervous to share this intimate account of my dad's life. I'm just so over the controversy about him -- really I just want people to enjoy this book. It's just totally epic and I still can't believe that this was my own dad!! So cool. I've had some trying times getting to this point. It's been an emotional roller coaster to relive all this, dig up old information, etc. I've cried, laughed, got goosebumps, and got pissed off in the 25 chapters of this amazing tale. So - April 1st people! You can check out the updated details at: www.SugarAlpha.com. word.
  11. And I'm not sure by what people mean by a "tell all"... but the book is about a certain era based on his life. Going to Nationals with a rookie skydiving team and doing the "other" thing he did on the side. The only thing we had to change were a few names I've read the book in its entirety -- it's amazing, gripping, captivating... and to believe he was my dad!!! I don't want that story line changed. He did elaborate a few details (I had to confirm with mom), like the ole fish stories, but that was my dad, right?? It's a fun story. And I'm glad so many are interested.
  12. Ha ha ha!! Kevin, you are funny!! I AM overseeing the editing the book! I AM self-publishing the book! I AM having my boyfriend do the artwork for the cover! I AM overseeing all the work and fronting all the money. And let me tell ya, I do hope to make a profit because of all the work involved and to pay back these expenses, but there's no downplaying buddy -- the stories on the website are the raw, unedited words from Roger himself!! I love the little assumptions people make. I assure you - we're keeping it real!
  13. I *love* the critics -- they're great for publicity My dad was an amazing man. I had my differences with him for sure, in fact, we didn't always get along -- but in retrospect, he was my greatest teacher. I wish I could convey all the love he had for people in the sport. He poured all his energy into it and was a visionary. I feel that this book gets to be yet another chapter in his amazing life. I'm so stoked he left us with this gift. Blue Skies My Friends!!
  14. Not sure where the best place to post this... Roger (my dad) wrote a book before he passed away. In his own words his describes the adventures of his life. Due to be released at the end of September. Check it out: www.SugarAlpha.com [clicky help anyone?]
  15. This is a very good question, and for some instructors it may be hard to address. There is a certain level of strength you use in order to hold any three-dimensional position. There is no locking, however. Since we are not constant and the air is not constant, there is always slight corrections. It's like sitting and balancing on a large medicine ball. To simplify the relaxing, but be firm, here is how I relate this to all of my students: Be relaxed with your mind, be strong with your body. When we tense up, it's usually because we're either thinking too much, afraid, or have performance anxiety. When we can let all this go and go back to "feeling" the air and having fun, we have connected to relaxing inside of our head. We spend too much time on "exactly" how our body is supposed to be. Once you find your balance, we all fly a little differently as all of our bodies are different. As we've always said, "Skydiving is 90% mental, 10% physical." Hope this helps! Melissa Nelson