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Found 272 results

  1. nettenette

    Lessons Learned with Amy Chmelecki

    Images by Amy Chmelecki When we catch up with Amy Chmelecki, she’s getting ready for what is, for her, a pretty normal travel schedule. From her Eloy home base, she’s heading out for one week on the coast of Barcelona, and then two weeks in Portugal’s Algarve, and then one week at a pop-up drop zone in Sicily. “I’m not sure of the details of where I’m going to be off the top of my head,” she laughs, “mostly because I couldn’t pronounce any of the names.” At this stage of the game, Amy’s own legendary last name is the one that needs the most emphatic pronunciation. She’s at the top of her game, after all: a flagship athlete with Red Bull, and certainly one of the most sought-after skydivers in the world. With head-to-toe branding, of course, comes great responsibility. Amy is no stranger to high-profile skydiving--she’s been a leading athlete in the sport for many years. Even so, her career’s constant up-level trajectory wouldn’t be a great fit for just anyone. “I’ve debated the ‘sacrifice’ question on a philosophical level with some of my friends,” Amy muses. “Sure, there’s a level of financial insecurity involved in this kind of career, but I don’t mind it. You have to be comfortable with the constant unknowns and have faith that it is going to work out. I get it that some people wouldn’t be comfortable with that, but speaking for myself, I don’t feel like I’ve sacrificed anything. Like having children, for instance. A lifestyle like this would be difficult with children, but I’ve never really wanted them--so it just fit.” It doesn’t hurt that Amy has had some pretty awesome female mentors along the way. “I actually talked to [Rigging Innovations Co-Owner] Brenda [Reid] quite a bit about this,” she continues. “I don’t know if she remembers those conversations, but they meant a lot to me when I was starting off in my career. The ‘kids’ question was something that I was nervous about, because there was this fear in the back of my head, like, am I going to regret my choice? Brenda has never had children, and I sat her down and talked to her about it extensively. She really filled me with a calm that I needed. Here was this extremely successful woman in the sport of skydiving. Since then, she has been put in the Skydiving Hall of Fame. She and [husband and Rigging Innovations Co-Owner] Sandy [Reid] have this beautiful marriage; life; career. And she has zero regrets about not having children. It was nice to hear that from someone that I admire so much.” “People still tell me I’m going to change my mind,” she laughs. “It’s happening less and less, but it still happens. The other day in Atlanta, a taxi cab driver told me I’d want kids one day, just wait and see. I’m like, dude, I’m 41. I’ve been all around the world this month. He had no idea what he was talking about. It was funny.” As any woman in airsports knows all too well, that cab driver’s oafish mansplain certainly doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Even for us girls in the rank-and-file, misconceptions abound. Amy, however, gets the rarified opportunity to blow them to bits. For instance: recently, Amy was hearing a murmur in the press bemoaning the fact that Red Bull only hires teenage girls to be its star athletes. “So then Red Bull puts out this video on Women’s Day,” she grins. “And I was, like, hey! Guess what! I’m in that video, and I’m 40. I like representing this new part of me, being a woman in her 40s and still an extreme sport athlete and still getting better, and evolving, and doing more and radder things. Sometimes, like everybody, I get a little bit of an impostor syndrome--but I’m really proud of that video and what it meant for females. This is really still happening. I’m still doing this. This is possible.” The idea of “possibility” is one that Amy gets to play with quite a lot in her daily life as a top-shelf airsports performer. If you’ve seen any of the jumps she does in that shiny silver helmet with the bull on it, you know just how far she (and the rest of the team) are able to push possibility on any given day. I’m sure we can all agree that it’s inspiring for a tidy stack of reasons. That said: Not all impossible feats are what they seem. For instance: Most people probably assume that the hardest demo Amy has ever done was the landmark wingsuit flight over the New York City skyline. Surprisingly, Amy insists that it wasn’t. “Honestly, it was relatively easy,” she insists. “There were no obstacles on the entry to the barge, first of all. We had space all around. We could approach from any direction, so we were able to go favorably into the wind.” “There was a moment when I was coming in for the landing,” she adds, “where I thought I was going to go a little long. I just let my wingsuit fall from up on my chest down on my legs. In hindsight, I was okay already, but that little bit of added drag slowed me down just a touch. That was easy to manage. There was lots of room for forgiveness on that one.” It is not, as you might imagine, always that way. “Compare that with some of the other demos we do,” she says, “where the only possible approach is to, for instance, make a right-hand 180, get close to something in the turn, avoid the crowd lined up all along one side and slip in somewhere. Those are a lot harder, even if the landing area might appear to look a lot bigger. Or, of course, a stadium demo.” And what about Amy’s dream demo? If “possibility” didn’t have to figure in anywhere? Her answer comes in record time. “I’d jump off a rocket,” she laughs. “No one has done that, have they? I should do a two-way with Jeffro out of a rocket.” She pauses to think. “I wonder if Elon Musk drinks Red Bull? He must. It says he sleeps only 4 to 5 hours a night. There has to be something keeping him up. I’m sure we could get him involved. Anyway. who doesn’t want to go to Mars?” “Seriously, though,” she leans in, “for me at this point it’s mostly about continuing to do what I’m doing--and taking care of myself more, because as you get into your 40s you have to make changes physically, and you have to work harder at being able to keep up with this type of lifestyle. My goals are to keep this sustainable for as long as I possibly can. To me, that means caring for myself physically and emotionally, and just continuing to do the hard work and evolving as a sponsored athlete.” Wise words, indeed. We wanted to know: From all that wisdom, what would 40-year-old Amy have to say to 20-year-old Amy if 40-year-old Amy walked into the Bent Prop on her kid counterpart’s very first shift? “Buy bitcoin,” she deadpans. “Okay, right. If I could go back with the knowledge and the experience and the brain that I have now, I would nurture a plan B along the way more. I would save money earlier; budget a little bit more wisely; invest. Now: The reason I say ‘with the mind I have now’ is that, honestly, I wasn’t capable of that kind of thing in my early 20s. Living this lifestyle, that’s one thing. Harnessing and nurturing a Plan B as well as saving money along the way? That’s something else entirely. When you’re younger, you’re thinking, ‘what if I die tomorrow?’ Then you get to a point where you’re, like, ‘what I live until my 90s?’ Living is way harder.” Anyway, with this kinda life--why would Amy want to do anything differently? In all honesty: she doesn’t. “Even with my own advice,” she chuckles, “I would probably do everything the same.” Good choice, Amy.
  2. StarLog Skydiving & Rigging Logbooks Price: $12 Brand new line of Skydiver and Rigger Logbooks. All spiral bound for easy logging and fit inside all standard size logbook covers. StarLog Skydiver holds 304 jumps StarLog Pro holds 1456 jumps StarLog Rigger holds 684 logs Available at ChutingStar Power Tools Price: $19.95 Want a great stocking stuffer with a low price? Give your loved one a Power Tool packing tool in holiday colors! Available at Para-Gear Hanging Handcrafted Wood Swooper Dude Price: $20 Made of mahogany, coconut and jute, the details on this handcrafted swooper includes a canopy, lines, rig on the back, hair, determined swoop face and skirt. Available at ChutingStar Rig Hangers Price: $42 With these colorful hangers you can hang your skydiving rig wherever you want. Whether it's on a rack at the dropzone hangar, on the back of a door, in your closet or anywhere else you can think of. These powder coated hangers make it easy to spot your skydiving rig, as well as give it a nice accent. Available at Para-Gear The Summer I Became A Skydiver, Children's Book Price: $25 Skydiver Ben Lowe wrote this children's book that tell's the story of a boy's introduction into a summer of skydiving. This 29-page hardcover book is a great short story that also helps explain skydiving to youngsters. Available at ChutingStar Glow Face Alt III Galaxy - $169 Meters and Black Only. The phosphorescent face provides a background glow to assist in low light conditions. The glow lasts over 2 hours in complete darkness, and is perfect for either night jumps or those sunset loads when it starts to get dark. The Glow Face Altimaster III Galaxy features a field replaceable lens. In case your lens gets scratched or cracked you will now be able to replace it yourself instead of having to send it to get serviced. Available at Para-Gear Selections Skydiving Photo Book by Michael McGowan Price: $43 This giant, hardcover photo book from McGowan is the perfect coffee table book of some of the most amazing shots in skydiving. Packed with more than 100 large, full-page photographs. Includes forward by Michael McGowan as well as liner notes from Angie McGowan and Tom Sanders. Available at ChutingStar Para-Gear Parachute Gear Bag Price: $85 Durable fabric and heavy duty zippers make this bag ideal for storing and carrying all the gear needed for skydiving. ID sleeve for personal information Dual zippered main compartment with zip protector Back pocket with additional inner zippered-pocket for storing accessories and documents up to size A4 Rubber handle on top and side Heavy duty metal buckles and comfortable-shoulder straps Durable, easy to clean, splash proof material. Available at Para-Gear
  3. Get Ready: Here Comes the Turbine 206 When Joel Strickland and I jumped in all fifty states this summer for our Down For 50 project, we saw the insides of a lot of 182s. A lot. That’s no surprise, of course--the 182 is the undisputed workhorse of our sport. It could be argued that the valiant little 182 keeps our sport going. But what if there were a better way? As it turns out, there is. I found out about it when Joel and I made our Oklahoma stop. Understandably, we fully expected to see another 182 out there. Instead, when we wandered across the hangar of the (super tidy, spacious and impressive) Oklahoma Skydiving Center to see what was parked outside, we had to double-take. There was a 206 parked out there. A 206 with a very funny face. A turbine. For reals. Our first look at the toothy open grin of that jumpship was to start something of a minor obsession for me. First of all, it became apparent that its presence there had engendered the healthiest sport community of any smaller dropzone I’d ever visited. No wonder: that thing gets six jumpers to 14,000 feet in less than half the time it took the DZ’s old 182 to huff four folks up to 10k. The door is big. And this thing -- for lots of reasons -- puts turbine power within the reach of dropzones that never dreamed they’d be able to get there. I’ll let its champion, Andy Beck, cover all that. (Andy Beck is Co -DZO of the Oklahoma Skydiving Center, a small DZ between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, as well as the co-owner of BAM Aviation, which has been specializing in this conversion since Andy himself discovered its existence.) Pretty cool, right? I’ll leave the explanations to the expert. Below follows the conversation I had with Andy about this beautiful beast. If you’re not as enchanted with this plane as I am by the time we’re done here, I’ll be very surprised. Q: What’s your love story with this plane? Andy: My dropzone [the Oklahoma Skydiving Center] is somewhere between a small and a medium-sized DZ. For years, we were, like, man, we want a turbine airplane, just as instructors and fun jumpers. It’s easy to relate to that. I grew up on a single airplane drop zone. That’s where I started; that’s how I learned to skydive: A single airplane 182 drop zone. When you’re in a situation like that, you spend your whole life sitting around, watching people skydive, doing tandems and AFFs, just praying that there’s an airplane load that has empty slots. And that’s okay, because that’s all you know. But then you go somewhere and you suddenly realize there’s a different model that means you can skydive more than once or twice a day. you see how much more time you have for the fun part of the sport in a turbine, compared to what you can get out of the 182 that’s waiting for you back home. Since my wife Alyssa and I bought this dropzone four years ago, we wanted to bring that other model to our own DZ. The first thing we did -- immediately -- was to bring in a second 182, so we could have one for tandems and AFF and one for fun jumpers. I understand why people don’t want to mess with fun jumpers, but to me the reason that I think that you need the experienced-skydiver scene is because -- if you don’t -- then how do you convince anybody to do more than one jump? If all they ever watch is tandems, they’re one-and-done. They think that’s all there is. If they have to go somewhere else to jump after AFF, that’s not good either. People want to stay where they learned. They know the people. They want to travel and visit, but they love their home. That’s where they want to be. That’s their home base -- their friends -- the people they like to jump with. To teach people to jump and then tell them to go somewhere else just seemed dumb to me. So you have to grow to support your experienced skydiver community. Q: Why not just get an old King Air like everybody else? Andy: Long story. As a DZO, when you start looking at turbine airplanes, yeah, you think, maybe I can afford a King Air, but the only ones that anybody sells that any small-to-medium DZ can afford are about worn out, and worn out King Airs are a huge maintenance situation. Then, you think: I really love the Caravan. And that’s a cool plane. It is one of the starter-type turbine investments. But most of the Caravans worth having cost between $1.2 and $1.8 million dollars, and you’ve got 16 to 20 slots to fill. At a smaller DZ, you just can’t reliably fill it. That’s just not a very doable business model. And before, there really wasn’t anything that was, basically, half of a caravan. So I kept looking. The 206 has been around forever as a skydiving plane, but it really has a bad reputation because -- with the standard configuration -- it’s super slow. In the Oklahoma summer, you can hardly get to 10,000 in one, even if you’ve got the turbo version. For our purposes, it’s just not much of a plane. Then, one day, I heard about the new Pratt Whitney PT6 turbine 206 conversion from a fun jumper. It sounded like a myth, but I was intrigued, so I called the aircraft conversion inventor, Van Pray, who was partnering with Turbine Conversions on the Turbine 206 concept. Van has been around dropzones, skydiving, and airplanes all his life and turbine conversions has been modifying agricultural aircraft to turbines for decades. I asked Van to bring his plane down for a weekend so I could see if maybe this was going to be the answer to my problem. Turns out, it was better than I could have ever imagined. Anyway, Van and Emiko Pray brought their plane down, and we basically rented it like a boogie for two different weekends to try it out. I wanted to see how it cash flowed; how much fuel it used. There is no way anybody could tell you that information without seeing it for yourself. Since I paid all the bills, I could really see how economical it was. After that, I just knew that’s what I had to do. We had to build one. Q: What do the numbers look like? What does the turbine 206 specifically bring to the table here? Andy: Well, you can get a 182 for about $60,000 dollars. The Turbine 206 goes for around $600,000 depending on airframe, engine, etc... So of course it’s expensive when you look at it like that. But you have to remember that what you’re actually getting for that is half of a Caravan. Depending on your airframe -- engines and all that -- the fuel burn is half of a caravan or less too. Before I got the turbine 206, we had an average of three planes at OSC. We would always fly two, but on a lot of really busy days we would fly all three. In the summer, with a 520, or a PPonk, or a higher-horsepower 182 that actually can go to 10,000 feet in a reasonable time, you burn 7 to 8.5 gallons of fuel alone. Obviously, when they’re full, heavy and hot, it’s more like 8 to 8.5 gallons, but when you’re flying cool, light loads you could do a little over 7 gallons. That’s what my average was, at least. The turbine 206, on the other hand, will average ten gallons consistently to 14,000 feet AGL. The other big thing is that AV gas is getting a little bit harder to find in the first place, and the price of it is consistently higher than jet fuel pretty much anywhere you go, especially in more remote areas -- but if there’s a commercial airport anywhere around, no question, you can get jet fuel. So: When you look at expenses, the turbine 206 doesn’t burn very much more fuel per load, and the fuel it burns costs less. You also get the industry standard Pratt Whitney PT6 dependability and reliability. With the high-horsepower 182, I could count on two loads an hour: four people per load, to 10,000 feet. With the turbine 206, you get six people per load and you can do three loads per hour -- to 14,000 feet -- with one plane. Every hour throughout the day, you just keep getting farther ahead, because the plane doesn’t slow down with the heat. The density altitude doesn’t affect it the same way. It just goes and goes. On a good Saturday we do 30 loads in the 206 -- three loads an hour for 10-plus hours. We just fly and fly and fly. Q: The fun jumper community here seems to be seeing some real benefits. These guys have crazy healthy jump numbers for being based at a small dropzone. Andy: Yeah, we’re proud of that. The quality of every skydive is better, and that makes a difference to the bottom line, too. We wanted to offer the best possible experience to all of our jumpers! In the last two years, we’ve finished way more A licenses and created way more fun jumpers, because on each skydive they’re not getting 25 to 30 seconds of freefall, they’re getting from 50 to 60 seconds on every jump. It’s like trying to ride a bike. If your parents let you ride a bike for 10 to 20 seconds, take your bike away, then give you another 10 to 20 seconds on it the following weekend, it is going to take a long time to learn how to ride a bike. Skydiving is way harder to learn than riding a bike. If you give them more time on task and more jump availability, people are going to learn and be better and safer skydivers. They’re more current. They’re more excited. They make more jumps. It just gets better in every direction. Fun fact: We do 18,000-foot jumps occasionally, and we could even go higher than that if we wanted to. This plane climbs just as good at 18,000 feet as it does at 10,000 feet. It’s just a whole different beast. We have a lot of fun here. Q: So when did BAM Aviation start doing the conversions? Andy: That’s a funny story. When we built the first one, we had absolutely no intention of building more airplanes. That wasn’t why we did it in the first place. We did it for our dropzone. But, in the process of figuring out how to do it, we partnered up with Turbine Conversions and they made us an authorized installation center. They came and took a tour of our facilities, saw what we had and asked if we wanted to take on some more. This conversion is not crazy-hard, but it’s not just a straight, bolt-on modification and it takes real skill to do. It is a lot of sheet metal work. And I was lucky enough to have access to some real talent with Mike Palmer and Brian Wattenberger. I myself am learning, but the two guys that work with me really are master mechanics. They’re very unassuming, but when you get in the shop and watch their creativity, it’s incredible. They are true masters of the trade; true craftsmen. There would be no airplane business if it wasn’t for Mike and Brian. That’s a fact. I mean: I’m the skydiving business owner, and the guy that came up with the idea to convert the first plane, but without the mechanics, there would be no BAM Aviation (which stands for Brian, Andy, Mike). That’s for sure. At this point, it’s busy here. We have another one that we’re more than halfway through and several others in the works. We’re prepared to scale up, depending on need. I’m sure that the more people that know about it, the more people are going to be interested in it, because it the turbine 206 is a real option for that small/medium drop zone to be able to expand without going a million and a half dollars in debt. I do it because it’s good for my dropzone and it’s good for the sport.
  4. nettenette

    Why and How to Stop Believing in Talent

    Your Mindset Matters, In the Sky and On the Ground Usually, when someone tells you that there are “two kinds of people in the world,” you’re either in for a bad joke or a cringeworthy platitude. That said, here you have it: Illustration by Nigel Holmes So: Are you blue, or are you green? If you’re a skydiver, there’s a good chance you’re green--and that’s a good thing. (We’ll get into that later.) The above graphic, and the decades-long body of research behind it, derives from the work of Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, Ph.D. In Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol goes into some depth regarding how the belief in our ability to change over the belief that we just kinda *are* one thing or another conspire to create us. Here’s her TED talk summarizing the work: https://www.ted.com/talks/carol_dweck_the_power_of_believing_that_you_can_improve#t-106915 While Carol’s TED talk revolves around this mindset dichotomy in the context of childhood development, make no mistake: This is by far not a kid thing. This is an everybody thing. According to Dweck’s research, a “fixed mindset” insists that our character, our intelligence and our abilities are carved in stone from the start. They’re static. We can’t change them in any meaningful way. If a fixed mindset person enjoys a success, it’s because they are successful and talented. The flipside is that fixed mindset people feel like they must avoid failure, no matter what the cost, because if they fail they are a failure, and that they’ve proven wrong the people who praised them for being smart and being good at things. Every challenge, then, is a gladiatorial trial whereby they’ve gotta prove themselves or wear the cone of shame. When the pressure is on, fixed mindset would much rather lie and cheat than ask for help. A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, doesn’t look at it that way. A growth mindset sees failure as a heavier weight to lift so it can develop a heretofore weaker muscle. Failure isn’t failure. Failure is simply the state of not having succeeded yet. And, instead of running from challenge (academic, interpersonal, developmental, athletic, and onward), growth mindset runs toward the empty spaces. When growth mindset meets success, it says “Okay, then. What else ya got?” Growth mindset wants to be better where fixed mindset wants to look better. Ironically, growth mindset has an uncanny knack for scoring on both counts. Growth mindset, as Dweck puts it, “luxuriat[es] in the power of ‘yet.’” Fixed mindset is “gripped in the tyranny of ‘now.’” There’s more. Disquietingly, whichever mindset looms predominant tends to act as the motor for our entire lives. It drives not only our functional relationship with success and failure, it drives our behavior, our choices, our relationships and, in the endgame, our happiness. So, now, to the sky. Look around you for the good news. The lion’s share of skydivers, most of the time, are growth-mindset people. Y’know that graphic that pops up on Carol’s talk at about 07:40? The one that shows electrical activity in the brain when subject students encountered an error? I’m willing to bet that’s every skydiver’s brain on pretty much every jump. As a group, we just love to build out our neural networks, and our culture helps us along that delightfully meandering uphill path. First off, we see and we honor the work. We watch the hard-charging learning process of the athletes we acknowledge to be good at what they do. We share the workshop where they make their refinements. The exact measurements are up for debate, but we still rattle off jump numbers and tunnel hours and years in the sport when we calculate our expectations. Our licensing system, even, reflects that deference to workmanship and walking the long path over showmanship and cutting corners. Secondly, our sport has a pretty stark way of showing us the danger of operating out of a clearly deterministic mindset. Generally speaking, jumpers who consider themselves talented tend to behave more recklessly than jumpers who consider themselves lifelong learners. Right? Finally, our sport’s podiums are consistently graced with teams who bootstrapped themselves into shiny medals. We inherently know that, if we put the time and effort in, we can get there too. Here’s the cool part: For all that focus on growth, we can still get better. There aren’t “two kinds of people in the world,” after all--and Western culture has doused us in such a steady stream of fixed-mindset malarkey for so long that it’s really hard to get the stains out. First, we can rinse the idea of “talent” out of our collective hair. “Talent” is a fixed-mindset classic. It describes an ingrained quality, not a hard-won achievement. “Talent” is limiting, and it tends to keep the athletes under its banner from trying anything that might leave its fingerprints on their carefully burnished shine. Secondly, we can use every available opportunity to praise more wisely in situations where we’re called upon to give feedback. Instead of praising talent (“You’re a natural!”), we can praise process (“I saw you working to control that spin. It was much better this time.”). Finally, we ourselves can learn to love “not yet.” We can stop laughing off forged logbooks, pay-to-play ratings and the practice of egging ourselves (and other jumpers) on into extralimital skill situations. We can continue the tradition of our forebears in the sport, who carved out enough deep space for growth that we can sink our roots in deep before repotting. The space they created for us is a cherishable gift. As Dr. Dweck puts it: “Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.“ ---------
  5. Dr. Randy Brown of the UW STOMP Study Talks Us In If you huck yourself out of aircraft for fun, you already know that it doesn’t always go according to plan. It follows that there are a couple of facts of which you should probably be aware: Victims of traumatic injury are at greater than normal risk for opioid addiction. Initiates of opioid misuse who progress to injection frequently cite prescription of an opioid for an injury as their first exposure to opioid, and the event that led to their eventual addiction. If you’ve been in this sport for a while, you almost certainly know someone who ended up battling opioid addiction for precisely that reason. And, if you’re in a hospital bed with a ‘fun button’ under your thumb the first time you think about opioids, you might be in for a rough ride. It was next to just such a hospital bed, after a very bad couple of days, that I first heard about the STOMP study. (“STOMP” stands for the Screening in Trauma for Opioid Misuse Prevention.) The three-year study, based at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, draws on expertise in Addiction Medicine, Trauma Surgery, Public Health, Systems Engineering, Social Work, Pain Medicine, and Primary Care. The goal: to improve medicine’s understanding of opioid misuse and the development of addiction specifically in the context of traumatic injury (Ding! Ding! Ding!) and pain management. Ultimately, its goal is to develop protocols which will intervene early in the process to prevent opioid misuse, addiction and related complications. The STOMP program is hope on the horizon. I reached out to the program’s Principal Investigator, Randall Brown, MD, PhD, FASAM, to get a little wisdom for those of us tossing ourselves into harm’s way. Annette: How’d you become interested in pain medicine? Dr. Brown: I did my initial training in family medicine in California’s central valley, in a town called Modesto. At the time I was doing my training, the area was producing 90% of North America’s methamphetamines -- and consuming a fair chunk of it, as well. In hospital, we saw a ton of complications resulting from injections, methamphetamine use, and the struggles in that population -- where, despite having a horrifically painful surgeries and hospital stays, would reliably leave the hospital and resume their use. It made a deep impression on me. For someone to go through the pain these patients went through and return to the use so immediately, this addiction thing must be a pretty compelling state of affairs, and I don’t think the health care system, in general terms and settings, is adequately prepared to facilitate recovery from addiction. I found that troubling and fascinating, and so I pursued further training and gradually moved my focus from broader family medicine to substance use issues, prevention and treatment. I came to Madison in 2001 to do a research fellowship. I have been here involved in that sort of work to some extent for 17 years now. A: What changes have you seen in the field over that 17-year period? Dr.: In brief, the opioid crisis the biggest thing that has emerged since I’ve been doing this. Opioids are a much bigger deal than they were when I started on this path. Substance use issues have always been a major problem -- and, currently, substance misuse is the most common root cause of preventable death and morbidity in the US. It shifts from time to time, but it is always there: whether it is alcohol, which is always there, or methamphetamines, or opioids, which picked up steam in the 90s. Opioids have really skyrocketed over the last 15 years. A: How did opioids rise to power, would you say? Dr.: The literature guiding pain treatment in the 90s evolved over a landscape of imperfect science. The message that experts in pain management were putting out there back then -- with fair frequency -- was that “we are not treating pain adequately.” They specifically meant chronic, non-cancer pain. The literature out there in the 90s insisted that we should be using opioids more liberally to alleviate that suffering. The literature insisted that addiction was rare; that complications were rare. Honestly, we didn’t really know otherwise. There really weren’t data out there to tell us that wasn’t the right thing to do, and it seemed like the right thing to do -- to alleviate pain and suffering. The other thing that was put out there via the literature was that opioids don’t really cause any organ damage, so there wasn’t a clear ceiling to the daily dose. Again, we didn’t really have data in the literature to tell us otherwise. Around 2009 and 2010, the state of science started changing a little bit. We did have studies appearing in the literature indicating that these higher doses were associated with greater risks, particularly for overdose and death. That’s where there really started to be a sea change around prescribing patterns; trying to rein in those daily doses; trying to bring them down to less risky levels. On the flipside of that, from the public health standpoint, while it’s a smart move to reduce the absolute supply of opioids out there, the tricky piece is doing that in a reasonable and compassionate way, not cutting people off or assuming that these dosage recommendations are a hard ceiling for everybody. Opioids are still really important medications. They aren’t going to -- and they shouldn’t -- go away. We just need to be more mindful about monitoring their use, and educating patients about how to handle of them, to dispose of them appropriately if they aren’t using them. A: Can you summarize the STOMP study for me? Dr: STOMP recruits UW hospital patients who have been admitted for a traumatic injury. We collect information from them about their medical history, their personal history and their mental health. We then follow them forward for six months after discharge to collect further information that measures around mental health symptoms, anxiety, post-traumatic symptoms that may have developed as a result of the injury, information around their current opioid and other substance use patterns. We are trying to tease the data apart to see if there is some way that, all the way back to the time of injury, we can identify some factors that are strongly predictive of someone developing difficulty controlling their use of opioids. A: Let’s talk about my community: the “skyfamily” of airsports athletes. A lot of us are highly mobile, without an established healthcare provider, and a lot of us get injured when we’re traveling. Oftentimes, we’ll find ourselves inured far from home, where there the standards of medical care may be very different than we’re used to. Where would you suggest that folks go if they’re in that position and they need good information? Dr: That’s a really great question. Honestly, when we were putting this study together, STOMP, Screening in Trauma for Opioid Misuse Prevention, I was not finding much of anything out there, to tell the truth, and this was only a couple years ago. The stuff that is out there in prominence and taken up widely really is more targeting chronic pain -- like long-term stuff. The CDC has released a good set of guidelines regarding the reasonable taper rates for opioids and a patient information packet. The most common situation that folks struggle with after a more serious injury is that taper, and that information is good to have as soon as possible. These can certainly apply in situations with injuries which have resulted in severe pain that needs to be managed for a few or even several months. The other information contained in those guidelines that I think is really important for folks to know regards the safe and responsible handling of opioids: storing them appropriately, not advertising to the world that you have them (because of the potential for being victimized) and the safe disposal of unused medication to protect public health. In the setting of traumatic injury, I honestly have not been able to find a lot more out there. That’s why we’re doing this study. A: Is there any additional wisdom you want to offer an athlete who suffers an injury and realizes that they may be facing the reality of a long-term course of opioid medication? Dr: Recognize early that successfully navigating this process will take a collaborative effort with an established provider that can track your progress over time. Even if you’re lucky enough to be living in a stable residence geographically, know that, in this clinical setting, you’re likely to be moving between specialists and other care providers. Sometimes, monitoring -- and appropriate care in coming off of higher-dose opioids -- can fall between the cracks. Establish a relationship with a provider and stick with it for a period of months. That’s a challenge anywhere, but particularly for folks who are highly mobile. A: What are a couple questions that folks can ask of a potential provider to establish whether or not the provider they’re with has an appropriate functional understanding of opioids, so that we know that the experts we’re trusting really understand what they’re prescribing? Are there flags that can indicate if you are dealing with a savvy and empathic prescriber? Dr: My instinct would be to ask that provider the fairly open-ended question around their philosophy regarding the use of opioids for managing pain after an injury. Warning signs would be, for example, a provider who tells you that they “hate prescribing opioids, ever,” or, conversely, someone who says, “No problem! We’ll keep you on opioids as long and as much as you need them!” The provider should have a thorough, thoughtful answer to that question that incorporates a balance. That answer should involve informing you that there is some risk for physical dependence, but giving assurances that s/he will be here to work closely with you as you’re coming off of them when it becomes appropriate. You’re looking for a provider who demonstrates mindfulness of what physical dependence and opioid withdrawal is like, but isn’t someone who is just going to write the opioid prescription because it is the easy thing to do. A: Tell me about what the future of pain management might look like. Dr.: It’s pretty exciting, actually. We have been doing work here at UW to investigate the therapeutic potential of psychedelic substances, primarily Psilocybin, but also MDMA. We are going to be launching another study to see about the therapeutic potential of Psilocybin in the setting of opioid addiction or opioid use disorder. We are excited about that. Then we also have a study upcoming on therapeutic potential of MDMA for PTSD, which bears a relationship to substance use risk. It’s important to differentiate between clinical and recreational use. One of the really important components of the studies on the therapeutic potential of Psilocybin and MDMA involves the pieces of the intervention referred to as “set and setting.” Set refers to a number of things, including a relationship that is built up with a guide, the development of trust, orientation to the experience, exploration of current symptoms of mental health issues or underlying issues and preparing the participants for the therapeutic session itself. The setting can also be quite important. These supervised administrations tend to happen in an environment that is comfortable, homey, and not your typical clinical research, hospital-ish looking room, but the variables are still all under strict control, and the patient is being monitored by medical personnel. Both set and setting are understood to be really important to the potential therapeutic outcome. Recreational use takes all those controls away, so the extent to which those experiences can be therapeutic is a lot more unpredictable. Luckily, we’re getting closer and closer. When these treatments will be approved is a little unpredictable, but both are moving toward FDA approval. We’re participating in the studies that will hopefully lead to that, but it’s probably a couple years down the road. It’s an optimistic future, for sure. To learn more about Dr. Brown and the STOMP study, visit the study’s landing page at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine website.
  6. nettenette

    The Last Frontier

    Down For 50 Jumps Alaska, And Annette O’Neil Tries to Rise to the Occasion Image Credit: Melissa Dawn Burns When I grapple my way out onto to the float, I notice two things immediately. First: It’s impossible to maintain a relaxed attitude while sitting on the pontoon of a floatplane in full flight. My mental image of myself doing this is going to take a major revision in the translation to reality. Secondly: My pilot chute has never felt so vulnerable in all my jumps. For almost the entirety of this once-in-a-lifetime skydive, as I keep a resolute smile trained on the camera aircraft flying next to us, a sepiatone clip plays over and over in my head: A pinch of (actually very securely and conscientiously packed) fabric managing to wiggle itself out of my (actually tight-as-a-new-pair-of-jeans) BOC and bolt mischievously between the pontoon and the step, deploying my beautiful new Crossfire one last time as we spiral, nose-first, into Alaska’s forested wetlands. But I digress. Before we came to Alaska, we were warned. “Ah, mosquitoes: Alaska’s state bird,” said one. “They don’t bite you. They carry you home and feed you to their children.” “You’re only there for five days?!,” breathed another. “Good luck with that. You should have planned on at least a week. You’ll never get a break in the weather.” “A college kid just got eaten by a bear while he was running a half-marathon out there in Anchorage,” chimed in another. “It chased him off the trail and into the forest. He was calling his mom as it was running him down.” Since my previous knowledge of Alaska was gleaned almost entirely from the Calvin & Hobbes ‘Yukon Ho!’ collection and a single viewing of Grizzly Man, I’m a receptive audience. I decide not to go for runs. When I arrive in Anchorage, I walk through a neighborhood from my airport hotel to a car rental storefront. The gardens, clearly nothing more than a salad bar for the local deer population, have been scrupulously stripped of anything edible. The one with remaining flowers is surrounded by a high fence. A woman crosses in front of me, walking her toy yorkie. She is carrying bear spray. I speed up, having no toy yorkie to cast off as bait. Image Credit: Melissa Dawn Burns When I get to the rental place, they issue me a Subaru. Clearly, they assume I’m not messing around. And clearly, we are not. The next morning, we—myself, my Down For 50 co-adventurer, Joel, and Brett, along for the ride on this particular state’s adventure—are on the road, bound for the town of Talkeetna. Ah, Talkeetna, Alaska: the acknowledged “doorway to Denali,” home to a heterozygous mix of hippies and lumberjacks, a private pilot mecca. The latter becomes evident even miles away, on the long road into town. The traffic overhead, after all, is significantly more congested and varied than the traffic on ground level. I’m glad I’m not driving; I’m transfixed looking out and up, checking out the rush hour trucking over the trees. Soon, following the instructions given in a flurry of arranging emails, we wind through a series of deeply wooded roads to arrive at our pilot’s lakehouse/hangar/office/flight school/community hub. The pilot himself, Don, is an affable fellow with a handsome mustache and the air of a man you’d immediately trust with your life. In fact, I do: When he suggests that we head over to the airport to conduct a quick aerial requisition of the available parachute landing areas “in the Breezy,” I immediately offer myself up. We hop in the rough-and-ready fuel truck (okay: the rusted-through blue pickup with a tank of AV gas in the bed) and off we go. The airfield is, to put it mildly, a candy store. All manner of aircraft sit gamely waiting, lined up as tidily and fetchingly as pretty ladies in an Old West brothel, all waiting expectantly for a pilot. Don and I cruise along in front of their expectant glass faces. Will we hop into the shiny red one? The bare-metal number that looks like it’ll have a sign on the door that says “silk scarves required”? The race-car-faced green-and-white one with its dancing shoes on and the freshly-chamwowed gleam? What’s this blue thing? As I’m wondering what I’m looking at, we pull to a stop. I take a closer look. This aircraft—I’m finding it difficult to call it a “plane”—is a robin’s-egg-blue latticework of metal with a wing laid across the top. There’s a prop. There’s an engine. There’s a Wizard-of-Oz-style picnic basket strapped in for storage behind an open, park-bench seat. It looks like the pilot is meant to perch on a piece of wood that sits directly in front of that. Suddenly, I realize that Don’s walking right towards it. Oh. The BREEZY. That looks pretty breezy, alright. Don hands me a motorcycle helmet and a bib jumpsuit “so he doesn’t have to worry about me.” I sit down on the park bench. I fasten the single lap belt as fastidiously as I can manage. Then, as Don works the engine like a lawnmower, I read the little metal placard fastened to the seat in front of me. It says, “Passenger warning: This aircraft is amateur-built and does not comply with the federal safety regulations for standard aircraft.” For some reason, that’s all I need to start enjoying myself. As we taxi out, I’m smiling so hard in my helmet it hurts a little. Twenty minutes later, I’ve found Jesus. I’m reeling from the feeling of being in the dead-on sweet spot of everything I love about flying and motorcycling and adventuring, all bound up into one ugly-ass not-quite-aircraft. We rode the river like a track day. We bounded over forested hillocks and gravel outcroppings and one enormous, out-of-place old satellite dish. We buzzed the lakehouse, waving at my astounded companions. As we land, I decide I might not be bluffing about wanting my fixed-wing license anymore. I tell Don. “Oh, you don’t need a pilot’s license to fly this thing,” he grins. “I can get you checked out on it this afternoon.” I backpedal. Hard. When we arrive back at camp, it’s late. It doesn’t look late, but it is late. Don, the pilots and us jumpers congregate on the dock, four floatplanes bobbing cheerfully around us, and go over the flight plan. As it turns out, they want to do our jump as a stacked formation—each of us in our own chariot—with queenly Denali throwing her white skirts around in the background. There will be a photographer (my preternaturally gifted, multi-hyphenate wonder of a friend, Melissa) passenging in a camera plane, ready to capture it. Our flight instructors thrill to the plan. I am assigned the one that’s mostly purple, bedecked with little hippie daisies. I am much pleased. After the meeting, Joel and Brett and I trundle up to the room that Don has graciously offered us, with its wide deck overlooking the twilit lake and the visiting pilots trading stories around the fire pit. We (very ineffectually) close the shades. We try to rest. Tomorrow’s a big day. Image Credit: Melissa Dawn Burns The night segues seamlessly into the morning. I wake when my sleep mask shifts and the 4:30AM sun sears my eyelids. Brett wakes when I bump his shins, hanging over the padded arm of the loveseat upon which he reclines. Joel is already up. Coffee in hand, we meander down to the dock under a cloudless, bluebird sky. There’s a four-month-old Bernese-Blue Heeler mix rolling around the lawn, doing its best to learn how to be a dog, its fur bunching adorably in handfuls, waiting to be grown into. Two chubby golden retrievers stalk fish offshore. Two pigs, wire-haired and curious, wander over and present themselves for belly rubs. We kit up. Taking off from water is a new experience entirely. It’s smoother than I think it’ll be, as the glassed-off lake is feeling nary a tickle of wind this fine, blue morning. Before I know it, we’re tooth-and-clawing our way up to six grand. “I forgot how pretty it is from up here,” my pilot smiles when we get to around four. I, for myself, had forgotten that most people—especially people around here—don’t blow through four grand like the front door on a cold night. Once we’re up at six, we circle, building the formation. Let’s be clear: these are really, really good pilots, but they’re not formation pilots, and there’s most certainly a trick to it when you’re wrangling low-performance aircraft that were made to do nothing of the sort. With the door open, six thousand feet over Alaska at the entrance to glaciertopia, it is cold. The twenty minutes it takes them to get together has me clinging to the back of the passenger seat like it’s a lover returned from the wars. I hope my hands still work when it’s time to get out. Image Credit: Down For 50 Which, coincidentally, it is. I see Melissa’s plane figuring its way alongside us. I uncertainly stick out a foot and screw it down onto the sandpaper surface of the step. Then I offer my body up to the full blast of the relative wind and lunge for the strut. I get a purchase. I, ungainly, perch. I’m doing it. There’s a yoga to staying here, one iron grip around the strut, the other hand “casually” in my lap, my brain stuck firmly to my pilot chute. Most of me aches to tumble into the familiar arms of freefall. The rest of me grabs that part of me by the cheeks and shouts into its face: For chrissakes, woman, pay attention to this and here and now, because it has an expiration date that is less than a minute in the future and this is what you came for. I heed it. Suddenly, I can see. I see the red and white camera airplane, framed by impossible mountains. Denali, of course; Mount Huntington; Moose’s Tooth; Little Switzerland. I see a sky of a blueness Alaska pretty much never sees, yet here I am, sitting in it. I see Melissa, concentrating behind the winking black eye of her lens. I can’t see them, but I feel Joel and Brett, doing their own pontoon yoga practice behind me and above me. I see so much of what I love about being in this world, hanging here and now in the suspended animation of complete attention. And then there’s the landing area below—a cleared construction pad, tucked up next to the Talkeetna airport runway. My pilot nods. I had planned some sort of fanfare for this exit. As it stands, however, all I can manage is a dizzy-eyed smile and a bog-standard hop. My pilot hollers to watch me go. She’s never seen anything like it before. When we land, parachutes slung over shoulders, I’m exhausted with the effort of committing it all to memory. I decide to walk back to the FBO and let it all process—Don’s generosity; the force of the community here; the entirely new sensations of flight. It overwhelms my hardware. It’s only later, as we hunch over plates heaped with pancakes, that I happen to glance at the collection of grinning pilots clustered in black-and-white on the Talkeetna diner wall. It crystallizes what I’m feeling: The momentum of a long tradition. Those smiling faces, proudly next to their planes, captured over the entire history of aviation, seem to prove that this place—Alaska, the last frontier—was created by and for adventure. Alaska turns energy to adventure like some sort of spiritual chlorophyll. Every single one of these guys grew tall, strong, enduring lives with the force of that alchemy. Alaska pushes out the envelopes of the willing like leaves bursting from ever-lengthening branches. This is its job. It does it well. ----------- Down For 50, the first 50-state skydiving road trip accomplished in a single journey, is happening from May to October of this year. To follow the journey, to check out when it’s coming to your state or simply to help out (thanks!), visit downfor50.org.
  7. Three Cognitive Tools to Help Keep You In One Piece Image by Kenneth Grymen Uncertainty is a foundational element of skydiving, and managing that uncertainty is one of our most important responsibilities in the sport. Right? Right. Unfortunately: what we know from laboratory experiments is that when humans come up against probabilities—all of which are, technically, conditional probabilities—our minds seize up when they try to make an inference from that data. We all hold carefully constructed illusions that comfortably surround the ideas of certainty, responsibility and safety. Learning about the structures we build out of those illusions forces us to open up to the idea that we don’t know jack. And man, we don’t like to do that. As a culture, we’re also tripped up by the fact that statistical thinking isn’t a cornerstone of our educational system. We’re friggin’ terrible at juggling statistics, in fact. (Esteemed mathematician John Alan Paulos calls this phenomenon “innumeracy”: literally, an illiteracy of numbers.) With that in mind, co-nerd along with me on this path to understanding how we stumble around in our own heads. Clearly, a library of cognitive phenomena relate to our beloved sport; I’ve picked my favorite three biggies to start the conversation. #1: The Dunning-Kruger Effect If you walk away with only one new tool in your cognitive toolkit, let that be the Dunning-Kruger Effect. The Dunning-Kruger effect is a relatively new discovery, as these things go. It was set out in experiments run by David Dunning and Justin Kruger at Cornell in 1999. The Dunning-Kruger Effect is a cognitive bias (defined as a systematic deviation from rational thinking) that prevents people from being able to know with any accuracy how skilled and/or informed they are. Basically, the research found that incompetent people overestimated (sometimes, hilariously vastly) their own abilities. Skilled people, however, tended to downplay their competency. What repercussions does this have for you as a skydiver? Holy dachshund puppy in a hot dog bun. SO MANY. It only takes a little extra listening to recognize it in the people around you--and yourself. Our sport is--just like the rest of the world--chock-full of the “confident incompetent”: those who lack the metacognitive ability to recognize that they (at least for now) suck. What’s a smart skydiver to do? Firstly and most importantly: Underestimate your abilities and the abilities of the jumpers around you. Get professional coaching to uplevel; that’ll come with a bonus of an outside perspective on your actual skills. Then make it a project to find truly competent fun jumpers to enrich your educational environment. Remember: People who know nothing are far more likely to make themselves be heard than people who know a lot. The fun jumpers who actually know a lot will likely be much quieter, so it’ll take more work to find them. #2: The Stress-Influence Tendency Every human makes decisions under varying intensities of stress; far fewer of that number regularly, intentionally make life-and-death decisions under stress. Of that smaller population segment, a pretty large fraction does it for a living. For fun? Yeah. We’re a weird crowd. We play stress games. We need to play them as consciously as possible. The Stress-Influence Tendency pops up when the stakes are high and not enough information (or cognitive resources) are present to reasonably guarantee a good choice. Here, it’s the pressure that matters. High-pressure environments dramatically change human decision-making strategies. You might think that your decision-making under pressure is solid, but you’d be wrong: Studies that compare outcomes often show vast differences in decision-making quality between high-pressure and low-pressure environments. Here’s why. According to psychologist (and Nobel Prize laureate besides) Daniel Kahneman*, we humanbeans have two routes to the endgame of a decision: the fast route, labeled System 1**, and the slow route, labeled System 2***. System 1 is snappy and pretty much automatic, kicking in to respond to an external stimulus. System 1 can be the result of genetic hard-wiring (Eek! A rat! Climb up the bookcase!) or long-term, hard-practiced skillbuilding (Eek! A rogue toddler in the LZ! Braked turn!). These responses have a tendency to feel involuntary. System 2, on the other hand, has to do a bunch of library research and take up the whole damn operating system to do its work. System 2 puts together a spreadsheet and a PowerPoint presentation of the pros and cons associated with each option. It’s the farthest thing from involuntary, but it can flexibly check, modify, and override the decisions from System 1, if given the chance. Ideally, System 1 sits down with System 2 and offers a solution, and System 2 either vetoes that judgement call or gives it the blessing of reasoning. An overdose of stress, however, pulls that chance right out from under System 2. It diverts all the cognitive resources that System 2 needs for its ponderous function, subbing out instinct for conscious reasoning. In lots of cases, that works out just fine. The problem is that System 1 is simple. It’s a habit memory system. It’s rigid; it only has a hammer, so everything looks like a nail. System 2 can bring the rest of the toolkit to bear on the problem, but only if it has the chance to get there. The only way to reliably get System 2 into the room is to reduce the amount of stress you’re under. Strive to limit your variables. Example: Doing your FWJC? Awesome. Doing your FWJC at a new dropzone in suboptimal conditions? You just locked yourself in with System 1 and chucked the key out the window. If you need a more reasoned solution for a problem than the one System 1 throws out first, you’ll be out of luck. Another thing: When you’re learning new skills that overlap with skills you’ve trained deeply, be mindful that your System 1 responses are going to overwhelmingly favor what you’ve trained. (This is why swoopers have a tendency to over-toggle paragliders, and why multi-thousand-jump skydivers sometimes panic-pull off of big-wall BASE exits in the opening phase of their low-speed belly careers.) #3: The Availability Heuristic (a.k.a. The Availability-Misweighing Tendency) Because our decision-making process has its roots in the systems that sent us scrambling for food and running from better-physically-adapted beasts, those systems are built for immediacy. They’re designed to make quick assumptions and finalize a decision using that scant criteria while consuming as few resources as possible in the process. The system works like a search engine, and we’re only ever really interested in the top three results. In precisely the same way as a search-engine ranks its resultant listings, the system ranks the stuff that pops up according to the number of times it has been accessed. “Availability” is analogous to top-ranking search position. Top ranking alone creates the illusion of truth and reliability. It’s easy to forget that simple repetition got it there. Beliefs, in kind, propagate by repetition, and our sport is no exception. Examples abound. A nail-biting number of skydivers (and aircraft operators, besides) remain super-casual about seatbelts in the jump plane because it’s pretty rare that a forced landing makes the news, making them cognitively unavailable for decisions. Make no mistake: There are plenty of forced landings goin’ on. In another example, the prevalence of a certain brand of gear on your dropzone (or in the advertising you consume) will make it significantly more “available,” driving your purchase decision more than you realize. And another: A regional community’s oft-repeated mantras (Ex.: “If we didn’t jump in clouds, we’d never jump!”) are most certainly available due to repetition and not the unaltered truth. Thinking outside of availability takes work. It takes curiosity. Often, it takes the willingness to say or do something out of lockstep. How often do you visit the second page of the search results? Maybe it’s time to start. As I said before: There are loads of these cognitive heuristics that, in one way or another, bring their kerfuffle to bear on your skydiving (and, of course, your life at large). Most of these biases complicate the problem by tending to overlap and interweave, creating a series of false bottoms and fake doors in your thinking. Learning to recognize them is a good first step; the rest of the demolition work is up to you. * Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow ** “Intuition” in the “stress induced deliberation-to-intuition” (SIDI) model *** “Deliberation” in the SIDI model
  8. joelstrickland

    Improving Your Indoor Flying Outside The Tunnel

    How First-Person Videos Can Supplement Real-Life Learning Image by alphamedak If you’re like most people, there’s only one reason you’re not, like, the best tunnel flyer in the world. It’s the annoying digital thing that barks out at you from the driving room window. 00:00! 00:00! 00:00! The cruel little clock leaves you with a knuckle-biting question that lingers in the air: Is there training that you can do that optimizes the time you spend in the airflow while the damn thing isn’t ticking down? Apparently, there is. But let’s dig into a bit of theory, first. Embodied theories of learning and instruction are having something of a moment in airsports. When we talk about “embodied learning,” we’re talking about the ways our physical actions lay the neural groundwork for new information to take root in meaningful ways. That neural groundwork is a physical, real-world thing that’s being manufactured in your head right now. The material is called myelin, and its part in the process is called myelination. Without myelin, you’ll never nail that layout. Myelination is the method by which your brain paves the pathways you tell it are most important. Like wrapping a copper wire in rubber, it wraps the axons of those prioritized neurons, protecting the neuron and helping it conduct signals more efficiently. Repeatedly, deeply practicing a move--getting it a little wrong, making adjustments and trying again--is the most efficient way to build up that myelin and, by extension, get better at what you’re working on. (For more of this in a super-readable pop-sci format, check out Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code.) When you only have a few minutes in the tunnel--or a few seconds, hopefully very occasionally, to mess with a malfunction--you need all the help you can get to get the myelination process wrapping neurons. If you’re not actually doing the activity you’re trying to myelinate, the trick is to make your brain believe that it is the actor that’s practicing the action. Learning physical skills has always begged for embodied learning methods, but modern technologies are hopping the fence in places between the things you absolutely have to be physically present to learn and the things you can reinforce--or even learn--on your own couch. Take, for example, the virtual reality malfunction videos released as a collaborative project between Sig.ma and the USPA. These are, in this author’s opinion, set to exponentially improve the way new skydiving students learn malfunction response. (Heck--they might even be instructive for you if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of seeing one or two of these babies overhead.) Visualization has proven useful for this kind of thing, but you have to keep in mind its limits: Visualization works, but only if you’re able to very realistically, very precisely visualize the task at hand. You already have to know what you’re doing first. Visualization is a very useful tool for competitors training for a world competition; it’s not terribly helpful for someone at the first stages of working on an outface snake. First-person/VR environments are for learning new stuff, and they do it very well. The results are in: first-person video works. Check out this 2017 study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, which tested whether first-person videos were better task-teaching tools than third-person videos. (Sure, the study participants were assembling components on a circuit board, but doesn’t putting together a complicated line kinda feel all fussy-fiddly, too?) Across two experiments conducted in different labs, the first-person group performed the task more accurately, hands-down, and more time-efficiently to boot. There’s a problem, of course: It has not, historically speaking, been an easy task to find first-person video of tunnel flying. And that’s where Johannes Bergfors, a Swedish tunnel instructor and coach, comes in. Johannes has produced a fine set of these, available for free on YouTube, called First Perspective. Simply put, it’s a series of online videos filmed from the flyer’s POV. They show repetitive flying of dynamic flying motions on several speeds, both solo and duo. Filmed over a few days in the Flystation wind tunnel in Munich, local instructor Nick Poland flew the lead as Bergfors filmed following. (As a bonus, there are also some first-person videos posted there of non-single-move exchanges between Bergfors and Poland and also freestyles by the legendary Leonid Volkov.) "Your visual experience is a muscle memory,” Johannes explains. “For example, if you’re trained as a gymnast and have made a thousand front flips from the trapeze, then you will be more prepared to do a front layout, because you have already seen your world spin in front of you on the vertical axis so many times and will be able to navigate at the same time. If you don’t have that experience, you can expect everything to be a blur in front of you. Without that basis reference, you’ll have to perform a new type of body motion at the same time as your visual is dramatically changing." The idea for First Perspective has been on Bergfors’ to-do list for quite some time. Before he took his first tunnel gig in 2014, he had about 20 hours of tunnel time, which he’d paid for with a less-than-princely chef’s salary that made every second count. “Also, I was not a very good student,” Bergfors laughingly adds. “I was always complaining. My expectations were too high, and I spent a lot of time stressed out. I also had really lousy body control since I never really did any sports before that except for skydiving. If I had videos like these when I began, I think they could have helped me, and I think that’s probably true for a lot of people out there. I don’t claim it’s perfect, and it’s not a series of instructional videos about how to fly--it’s about what could be presented visually in front of you when you fly certain lines, and about teaching your body to embody this information in kind-of a sneaky way.” Johannes plans to expand and improve the collection in time. That said: It’s a damn good start. For those of us who’ve been looking for a way to invest in their progression without the clock ticking down the dollars, it’s a sweet discovery--and, hopefully, one of many emerging innovations for inspired airsports instruction. First Perspective on YouTube: https://tinyurl.com/fallrates2018
  9. admin

    All About Naked Skydiving

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

    Understanding Camera Switches

    Introduction Taking photos while skydiving is easier today than it has ever been, yet doing the job properly remains serious business. Camera technology marches ceaselessly forwards, and while the gap between the products aimed at the casual consumer and the lofty professional is narrowing - any freefall photographer that considers themselves proper job will very likely rock a stand-alone stills camera as part of their setup. Try as you might - you will never be this cool. Action cameras are great. Their small size, plus both the features they present and the quality of media they capture make them highly useful for everything from skydiving to attaching to your cat to find out where it goes at night. However - any occasion you have to directly compare the images recorded by these teeny wonders with those of a more traditional camera will highlight the superior quality a dedicated stills unit has to offer. The exponentially multiplying capacity of digital memory means that with a GoPro or whatever, you can just set it going at some point before the start of your jump, forget all about it until at least ten minutes after you finish packing then sift through an ungodly amount of chaff later in search of the choicest shots to share about the place. Everybody knows this is cheating though, and that photos created serendipitously by a piece of gadgetry that happens to be attached to your forehead is not your work - but is in fact the subtotal of all human endeavour leading up to this exact point, where you got lucky. A stills camera is the tool of the craftsperson and must be activated manually when something awesome happens. There are a few choices available for this, all of which involve using your mouth to activate the camera and get the job done. As with a lot of things in skydiving, people sometimes feel very passionately about what they believe to be correct tool for the job and will offer to fight you to the death for besmirching their good word by thinking differently - and camera switches are no exception. While all pretty straightforward to operate, they each have some subtle strengths and weaknesses so a little forethought might help you arrive at what is best for you. This man is called Trunk. Trunk runs a company called GetHypoxic. If you are building a camera platform or simply wish to geek out about skydiving technology - this is your guy. Bite Switch The bite switch is either straight or L-shaped with a section somewhere in the middle that you hold between (specifically) your front teeth and bite softly to operate. The Good: Good Feedback: Of the choices available a bite switch provides the most satisfying little clicks to reassure you that you are getting shit done. The Bad: - Head Movement: Operating a bite switch involves moving your jaw a little bit to bite down, which can put a visible wiggle in your framing - particularly if you are capturing video. - Moisture. If you eventually chew through the plastic casing, condensation or saliva can get inside and short out the connections. Blow Switch The blow switch is a small unit about the size of your thumb that you mount to the outside of your helmet. The part that goes into your mouth is a straw-like tube that you blow into to activate the camera. The Good: - Durability. With no wires and such directly in your mouth there are fewer parts that are subject to moisture or wear, and you cannot damage it by biting too much. The Bad: - Low Feedback. With nothing that clicks actually pressing against any part of your mouth you do not receive any direct indication of operation from the device itself. - Breathing. The action of blowing into a tube to depress the button can potentially disrupt your breathing, and vice-versa - having to breathe at some point can interrupt your photo taking. - Gunk. Clean it, you filthy animal. Tongue Switch The tongue switch is usually L-shaped. You grip it between your teeth wherever it feels most comfortable and depress a little button with the tippy end of your tongue. The Good: - Separate Actions. By holding the switch with one part of your mouth and operating the button with another, this option has a sensible tactile nature. - Flexibility. You can hold this switch anywhere amongst your teeth that feels right for you. The Bad: - Due to the available mobility, the internal wiring can wiggle loose and the switch possibly wear out over time. - Moisture. As with the bite switch - if you eventually chew through the plastic casing, condensation or saliva can get inside and short out the connections. - Hilarity. If you use a tongue switch you will quickly grow very, very tired of jokes about your increased sexual powers - from pretty much everybody. A tongue switch and a bite switch respectively. Photographed on a moist houseplant. This is me. The truth is that all these devices work perfectly well. I have a tongue switch now because I have always had a tongue switch. I don’t remember why that was my choice and yet I see no reason to change it. Every now and then someone will tell me it is a worthless piece of shit good only for the bin, yet I rarely miss a photo. There is immense satisfaction to be found in ‘getting the shot’ and if you are serious about the role of aerial photographer a good stills camera is essential. High pressure situations like freefall turn small issues into bigger ones, and although just a small element your mouth switch is an important piece of your camera helmet. One that works well for your needs over something not-quite-right can be the crucial difference between kicking ass or not kicking ass much more often than you think.
  11. admin

    10 Gift Ideas for Skydivers 2017

    We're back again for the 2017 festive season, bringing you some gift ideas for your skydiving buddies or family members. We've spoken to the guys over at ChutingStar and Para Gear, and asked them what they recommend to those looking to fill some the stockings with some skydiving gifts, while at the same time, not breaking the bank. Full-Face Helmets - $285-$428 Get a free ChutingStar Helmet Bag with the purchase of any Full-Face Helmet on ChutingStar.com. Just put both items in your cart and the ChutingStar Helmet Bag will be discounted 100% at checkout! ChutingStar stocks full-face helmets from Cookie, Bonehead and Square1 in all sizes and colors. Available at ChutingStar Selection of Goggles Provide your mate with quality eye protection, with an affordable gift of goggles. Para-Gear offers a variety of skydiving goggles to fit your price range. Available at Para-Gear Manufactory MX Series Shorts - $149 MX Series Skydiving Shorts are triple-needle stitched with reinforced seams and bartacks on all high stress areas. A Cordura Nylon exterior with an internal breathable mesh liner allows effortless comfort with structural integrity. Available in 4 colorways in sizes 2XS to 2XL! Available at ChutingStar Glow Face Alt III Galaxy - $169 Meters and Black Only. The phosphorescent face provides a background glow to assist in low light conditions. The glow lasts over 2 hours in complete darkness, and is perfect for either night jumps or those sunset loads when it starts to get dark. The Glow Face Altimaster III Galaxy features a field replaceable lens. In case your lens gets scratched or cracked you will now be able to replace it yourself instead of having to send it to get serviced. Available at Para-Gear USPA Skydiving Calendar 2018 - $15 13 months of incredible 11x14-inch photographs by skydiving's best photographers! The 2018 USPA Skydiving Calendar is the perfect holiday gift. Available at ChutingStar Cookie G3 Helmet - $379 Welcome to the G3 headgear, Cookies latest release full-face headgear and a result of significant refinement of the previous full-face headgear. The G3 features the original VMech Visor Locking System that works unlike any other in the industry. The system makes for easy opening and positive locking of the headgear visor. The visor is 2mm polycarbonate and features a complex curved design for extra strength, unsurpassed field of view and an anti-fog coating. The headgear's cinching system is simple and secure, adjustment can be made to customize the headgear fit and once locked down just throw the headgear on and jump. Available at Para-Gear Parachuting Flipping Santa Musical Christmas Ornament - $24 This large parachuting Santa Claus sings Jingle Bells while he performs front flips and back flips under a round parachute! The perfect skydiver Christmas ornament! Available at ChutingStar Power Tools - $19.95 Want a great stocking stuffer with a low price? Give your loved one a Power Tool packing tool in holiday colors! Available at Para-Gear Dropzone.com Picks In addition to the products above, selected by both ChutingStar and Para-Gear, we've selected some of our own staff recommendations for gifts this season. Turned On GoPro Status Indicator - $79 The first true hard-wired status indicator for extreme sports, tells you the exact status of your GoPro Camera while it’s mounted on your head. Its ultra-bright LEDs shine unmistakably in your peripheral vision: blue for “standby,” red for “record” and yellow for “warning/error.” The Turned On device gets your mind back in the game -- and off your headgear-mounted GOPRO® HERO3, HERO3+ and HERO4. As you know, optimal performance in extreme sports requires an absolutely clear head (and nothing good can happen when personal safety takes a backseat to a blinking light). Available at Para-Gear Aluminum Personal Rig & Helmet Wall Rack - $99 Tired of seeing your spouse's gear lying around causing a clutter? The personal rig & helmet wall rack will provide an ideal way to store their skydiving gear in a style way that keeps their helmet and rig up on the wall. Available at ChutingStar Happy shopping!
  12. How NZ Aerosports General Manager Attila Csizmadia Found His Niche When I talk to Attila Csizmadia, he’s out of breath. He has just finished shaking down his four-year-old son for a set of puckishly “stolen” car keys, and it was a hell of a hunt. “Sorry,” he says, “I was running around the house like crazy looking for them.” Hidden keys are certainly not the only thing Attila runs after during the course of any given day. Since 2005, he has been the General Manager of NZ Aerosports--the central hub of operations for one of the sport’s most innovative, prolific and beloved parachute manufacturers. This is a dream job for a lot of skydivers, naturally, but it didn’t come easily. Indeed, one can’t help but think that running an office staffed with 30 to 40 staff is excellent preparation for the rigors of parenthood. The four-year-old is one of Attila’s two; the other is 13 years old--not far off from the age Attila was when he first started skydiving. “I am not sure if [my sons] will skydive or not,” he muses. “If they want to and they ask me for it, then I’m going to make it happen. It’s up to them.” It’s worth mentioning that if Attila’s boys start jumping, they’ll be a third-generation legacy. His own father was a skydiver and, though he stopped jumping when Attila was born, he’s much of the reason that Attila dove into the parachuting industry. “He was jumping in Hungary, where we’re from,” Attila explains. “He was old-school, a military guy. As I was growing up, he was in keeping contact with his friends that were still jumping, and they were always talking about skydiving, even when I was a little kid. Then, when I was about 14 years old, I was talking to one of his friends who was still jumping; listening to his skydiving stories. I remember saying--and meaning it--that I could never skydive. But then a friend of mine brought it up. He’d just watched a record attempt or something on TV. He begged me to try it with him, and I agreed. He stopped after five jumps; it changed my life.” “For me as a 16-year-old, getting into that group of people was just perfect,” Atilla remembers. “I was in school. It was all boys. I didn’t enjoy it. But then I went out to the dropzone and there was this friendly, crazy bunch. I was like, this is totally me. It felt like coming home.” It was 1988. At the time, Hungary was still Communist country. Everyone skydiver in the country jumped really old, really dodgy military gear that was “15 years behind the rest of the world,” and every skydiver in the country knew every other skydiver in the country. In 1991, the World Championships were held in what was then Czechoslovakia. They brought out some helicopters for the event, and the German, French and Italian 4-way team all came to Hungary to train. “They were jumping these square parachutes that we’d never seen in real life before,” Attila laughs. “These guys were swooping, and we were just, like: what is happening here?! It was like watching spaceships land. We didn’t know what was possible. When these guys came here in these jumpsuits and small gear and like awesome canopy work, we were blown away. And I was inspired to start doing 4-way and competing.” A few years of hard work later, Hungary had a young team. “Because it was a new sport in Hungary,” he grins, “We won the Nationals pretty easily. Then we were the national team for a long time--almost 10 years. I was burning to get out there and travel and to jump everywhere I could overseas and to get a better rig and just do more.” He split his time between the US and Hungary for about five years, studiously avoiding European winters; he switched his seasonal pattern to Australia when he went to the World Championships there in 1999. To date, in fact, he has competed in no less than seven world championships. “The last time I tried it, I couldn’t extend my visa,” he explains. “So there I was, facing returning to the middle of a European winter. I just couldn’t do it; there was nothing for me there.” His solution: Hop the channel to New Zealand. He got a work visa and picked up a job at a dropzone throwing drogues and teaching AFF. He soon joined the NZ 4-way team. Everything was going well--but then the tone changed. “My boss at the DZ was becoming a real a**hole,” he explains, “And I just desperately wanted to leave, but no one was hiring. Everybody had their staff. I needed to keep that work visa or I was going to be thrown right back to Hungary.” As a last-ditch effort, he asked a couple of friends who worked for NZ Aerosports and if they were hiring. They were. It was 2005. Attila went right to work making line sets and cutting canopies. “When I started working here, I thought I knew a lot about parachutes because I had been flying them a lot,” he says, wryly. “But when I got into the manufacturing side of it, I realized how little I actually knew. I found it really interesting and wanted to learn more and more.” He found a peerless mentor in NZ Aerosports’ legendary founder/mad scientist/gear innovator/party animal, Paul ‘Jyro’ Martin. “Jyro enjoyed that I was really interested in this stuff, and he just gave me so much information,” Attila says. “Then the guy who was managing the company at that time left. Jyro asked me if I wanted to do it. Of course I said yes.” It had been just six months since Attila had first accepted the job. At the time, NZ Aerosports was a much smaller company. They only made six canopies at that time, and they had two sewing machinists. When Attila started managing, he was still the one cutting all the canopies. As he did so, he’d always have the office phone on him, taking orders; he’d be sorting out emails and charging credit cards with one hand and shipping out the canopies with the other. The work was, to put it mildly, intense. “One of my main tasks,” he laughs, “Was making sure the beer fridge was always full.” “At the beginning it was really hard,” he relates. “I didn’t have any background in the business and hardly knew anything about it. English is a second language for me, so that made it a little bit harder too. I had to pretty much figure out everything for myself. At a certain point, I almost gave up because it was so stressful and things were not going really well. But then we pulled ourselves together with the manufacturing and started developing some new canopies. First, we released the JFX. We hired some new people, which brought in a nice newenergy. Then we met Julien [Peelman, Aerodynamics Engineer], and we started working on some of the really new canopies. There was no way I was leaving after that.” Now, the NZ Aerosports office buzzes with the work (and play) of about forty people, all of whom report to Attila. “It was a big learning curve, figuring out how to manage such a large number of people and deal with personal issues so that they still enjoy working together with all their differences-- the cultural gaps, the religious gaps and the age gaps between them. We have a big range. The youngest [staffers] are fresh out of school, and then we have some 60-something-year-old people working right next to them. We have people from Fiji...Canada...from all around the world, really. It’s like a dropzone.” If you talk to anybody at NZ Aerosports, they’ll tell you that much of that vibrant energy came from Jyro’s influence--and, in March of 2017, we lost him. The loss of “the soul of the company” took a massive toll on the community that had formed at his feet, and Attila had to work even harder through his mourning. However, the spirit that Jyro instilled--in Attila, in his team at large and in the business--kept it from coming unglued. “It is good to make some money, sure, but Jyro made sure it has never been our number-one motivation,” Attila explains. “You can see that the team is here all day, every day, working hard, and we always wanted to create a really nice environment for them that they truly enjoy working in. Because of that, people don’t really leave here. We’ve hardly changed any staff since I got here in 2005, and I think it’s because this is just a really good place to be. We all really pulled together when we lost Jyro. I think that’s what saved us--the people here, and our customers’ faith.” Attila insists that that faith--the passionate support of the NZ Aerosports fan base--is the phenomenon that really drives the machine. “I think that people respond to the fact that we are always trying new stuff; that we’re always improving,” he says. “That’s the part that’s interesting for us. We aren’t just developing new products. We actually want to make better products, and so we’re always searching for improvements on the designs. We have like 20 skydivers working here, so it is not just about driving revenue. I think that’s why people relate to it so strongly. This has always been more of a lifestyle than a business.” If NZ Aerosports is indeed about lifestyle, Attila is great evidence that they’ve nailed the art. “I think I found what I was trying to find in my personal life--a balance between family, the hobby and the business--in NZA,” he smiles. “I think that was always my goal, even if I didn’t know it at the time. Right now I feel that I’m in a really good place, and I’m ready for whatever comes next.”
  13. bryanburke

    When Right is Wrong

    By Bryan Burke, Safety and Training Advisor Image by Serge Shakuto In March of 2017 I posted a review of a canopy collision that took place at Skydive Arizona on December 30, 2016. The post included two videos, one shot by a participant in the collision and one shot by an outside observer. The videos make it pretty clear what happened and I hoped they would spur discussion about traffic management. If you have not read the thread in the Incidents Forum and watched the videos it might be helpful to do so before reading on. Before going on, though, let me caution the readers about a few things. One, some of the comments to my post are stated in a way that suggests the commentator knew what was actually going on in the heads of the two who collided. We don't know, and this kind of baseless assertion seriously diminishes the usefulness of the Forum. Two, if you watch closely there was traffic to both right and left of the overtaking canopy. Lens distortion makes it hard to know just where it was in the final seconds before the collision, but it may have affected the decision making of the top canopy pilot. We could argue endlessly about whether or not the top pilot could have avoided the collision. The fact is that he did not come up with a solution to the problem fast enough to avoid it. Three, the landing area is tight even without heavy traffic. Nevertheless, this collision could have occurred anywhere because it essentially was caused by one parachute turning into the path of another, which is the ultimate cause of almost every canopy collision. Finally, Skydive Arizona does have a lot of guidelines because we have a lot of visitors from drop zones that apparently don't. Breaking the rules isn't a grounding offense in most situations. In this particular case I doubt if either collision participant was actively thinking about those guidelines. In all likelihood the bottom jumper let established habits override the guidelines, and the other was trying to deal with that. I found it worrisome that several people staunchly defended the concept that "Low Canopy has Right of Way" overrides all other considerations under canopy. In this case the low canopy was almost entirely responsible for the collision and the event never would have occurred if that person had flown in a safe, predictable manner. I want to review the concept of Right of Way and challenge whether it is even a useful or safe idea to teach in skydiving when expressed as an absolute. If we are going to retain the concept we need to understand the origins and the exceptions. Technically the term Right of Way has nothing to do with navigation by boat, car, parachute, or other conveyance. It is a legal term to describe access to property. For example, if my land is surrounded on all sides by someone else's land, I can be granted a legal Right of Way to my land. Similarly, if tradition allows the public to cross private land at a specific place, a Right of Way exists. At some point the phrase was adopted to nautical traffic, although technically the proper phrasing is "give way" as "In situation X, vessel 1 gives way to vessel 2." But to be absolutely clear, the rules about who gives way in traffic have a lot of exceptions, all based on common sense. Ultimately they are intended to minimize confusion and de-conflict traffic problems, but they are not in any way absolute rules. Here are some examples: A powered vessel gives way to a sailing vessel. Unless the powered vessel is actively fishing, or needs a deep channel that the sailboat does not. And any sailor with an iota of experience and common sense knows that sailing a yacht in front of a massive container ship is a sure way to be run down, regardless of your unpowered status. Between two sailboats, the default rule is that a vessel on a port tack gives way to one on a starboard tack. For those who aren't sailors, that means if the wind is coming over your left side, you give way to a boat that has the wind coming over its right side. In fact this is probably where the phrase "right of way" comes from because the boat on the starboard tack is to the right of a line drawn back to front through the boat on the port tack, and vice versa. Eventually this was applied to cars: if two cars were approaching a crossroads, the one to the right had ‘right of way.’ Obviously this didn't work very well with cars, or we would not need four-way stop signs or roundabouts. But for the purposes of this discussion, we're much more like sailboats than we are like cars or powerboats. To further confuse things, if we go back to sailing there are many more exceptions to the rule. A windward vessel gives way to leeward. Shallow draft gives way to deep draft in a narrow channel. An overtaking vessel gives way to the slower vessel, ideally passing to the rear if they are on different courses. But most importantly for applying these guidelines to skydiving, the vessel being overtaken is obliged to maintain course and speed, or if it must maneuver, clearly signal its intention! Parallels in skydiving would be that a canopy over open area should give way to one over obstacles, higher to lower, and so on. But regardless of the guidelines, it is understood that the root rule is all flight in the landing pattern must be predictable! Without predictable flight no set of guidelines or rules can prevent collisions. This collision came down to that: an unnecessary and unpredictable turn into the path of an overtaking canopy. Let's also get over the idea that all parachutes are similar in handling characteristics and therefore a blanket rule can keep them safely separated. For example, USPA asks Group Member Drop Zones to separate "high performance" landings from - presumably - ordinary landings. What does that mean? A Valkyrie at 2.4 on a straight approach is going as fast as a Sabre 2 at 1.2 coming out of a 180. It's too much to ask skydivers to sort themselves by canopy type, wing loading, and flying style other than by a general designation of high performance landing areas. In Skydive Arizona's case, we limit one landing area to turns of 90 or less, and nowhere do we allow turns over 180. (Except when the jumper exits on a pass dedicated to HP landing.) However, we do ask that people refrain from S turns or flying at an angle across the final approach. This is something we should expect of everyone, and if everyone does it, there should be minimal problems with a fast parachute finding a clear lane next to a slow parachute. In the collision in question, the low parachute failed in the most basic of navigation duties: maintain course and speed and make your intentions clear. This is a cultural issue. Older skydivers or those taught by older skydivers may have been taught that right-of-way is absolute, taught without the essential caveat “maintain course and speed, make intentions clear.” It may also involve drop zone culture; wide open DZs without much traffic seem to neglect canopy control skills and DZs where people don't travel much may spend little time teaching their jumpers what to look out for when they visit a big DZ. We used to teach people to fly in deep brakes and perform S turns to fine tune their landing point. Now we know this is dangerous in traffic and we don't teach it any more. There is no reason a big seven cell can't safely land in the same area as a tiny, ultra-high performance canopy, but not when using obsolete rules of the road. The low person does not have the right to turn into the path of an overtaking canopy, period. Finally, low or high, never assume you know where all the traffic is. The assumption you should make is that there is overtaking traffic above and behind, in your blind spot, and you must fly predictably to minimize the chances of them colliding with you.
  14. Exit at Mother City Skydiving. Image by Christopher Teague If the long flight puts you off--or if you’re new to the whole African-continent thing--let me be the first to tell you to get over it and get down here. You’ll be so glad you did. When the skydiving season is literally cooling off in the northern hemisphere, the southern hemisphere is just heating up. And it gets good. While December-friendly dropzones in the States tend to be one-trick ponies (I’m looking at you, middle-of-the-desert DZs), their South African counterparts offer more than drafty hangars and lukewarm swimming pools for your landside entertainment. Much, much more. In fact, this author insists that every skydiver in the Northern Hemisphere should get a gear bag together and abandon bad weather for points south. (Spoiler: Sure, it’s about the jumping--but it’s about so much more than the jumping. When it comes to adventures, Africa never disappoints.) Reason #1: Trip-of-a-lifetime ways to get your boogie on. December is smack-dab in the middle of the summer boogie season in South Africa, so skydivers have even more incentive to book the trip. Skydive Mossel Bay, for instance, is planning some seriously sweet turbine-fueled freefly shenanigans for December 16-31. You can expect gold-medal coaching, all the organized jumps your fluttery little heart desires, a flurry of exotic aircraft, landing after landing on the bay’s powdered-sugar beach and a South-African-style party you’ll be talking about for years (if you register in time). If that’s not enough, point your navel at the ground and make some shapes at the belly-themed JBay Boogie, where you’ll jump with a view of the world-famous righthand pointbreak that is Jeffrey’s Bay. (Pro tip: Book both boogies and bring all your swimwear.) View of the Cape Town area, with Table Mountain, as seen from Signal Hill. Image by Bryn De Kocks If you end up in-country in November instead, don’t despair: There’s the Tonto Boogie up in Johannesburg from November 25-27. Sure, there’s no jaw-dropping ocean view--but there are plenty of planes, plenty of organizers, plenty of new friends and plenty of good vibes to make up the difference, and the “braai” (bar-b-que) is legendary AF. Reason #2: (You guessed it.) Animals. Want to wake up on the right side of the bed for a long day of jumping? Try taking a private open-air shower while listening to lions make big-kitty noises on the ridges nearby. That’s totally possible at Skydive Mossel Bay, which is just down the road from five-star safari digs at Botlierskop Private Game Reserve. If you feel like taking a coastal drive to explore around Mossel, do it with a purpose: You’re just a couple of hours from canoodling with pachyderms at the Knysna Elephant Park. African Penguins along the Western Cape coast. If you end up heading inland to do some jumping at Skydive Robertson, take a day to explore the “kloofing” (hiking) around McGregor village, where several beautiful conservation areas provide many miles of baboon-dodging along your route between the various waterfalls and bushman’s caves. And if you’re kicking around Mother City, take a long afternoon to swim with the penguins, go dassie-spotting on Table Mountain or stroll around Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens. (Insider tip: Don’t miss the summer concert series.) Reason #3: Chain restaurants and sorry Mexican food? Nopey nopey nope. The exchange rate is currently favorable enough to turn your dropzone food strategy into a downright white-tablecloth affair, so don’t miss the opportunity. Skydive Mossel Bay sits right next to some of the best beachside braai spots in the country, as well as a couple of standout oyster bars and several coffee shops that are well worth a visit. Skydive Robertson’s choice spot in the Robertson Wine Valley puts a posh spin on the green light, offering up dozens of tasting rooms for your boozy perusal. Then, of course, there’s Mother City Skydiving--which is less than an hour from what is (in this author’s opinion as well as the Telegraph’s) the world’s best city, replete with gastronomic stunners, artisanal cocktails served in suitably slinky venues and pop-up supper clubs. Reason #4: You’ve always wanted to. You’ve wanted to see Africa for yourself since you first saw ‘The Lion King.’ (C’mon. You know damn well that’s true.) And now, as a mostly-grown-up skydiver, you have the perfect excuse to finally go: Staying current. There’s a nice bonus, too, for the moment: With the exchange rate being what it is, your USD--or GBP, if that’s your thing--are going to go surprisingly far towards those bucket-list African adventures. (Y’know: shark diving; cheetah snuggling; dancing around with the kids in an actual-factual village.) ...So it’s settled then. I’ll see you in December up in the big, blue African sky. Right? Right.
  15. "We live longer in three seconds than some people live their entire lives." That's one of my favorite quotes from a fellow BASE jumper, and it was at the forefront of my mind as I read BBC broadcaster and psychology writer Claudia Hammond's new book, "Time Warped: Unlocking the Mysteries of Time Perception." The book tackles the alternately baffling and encouraging science behind our brains' relationship with the arbitrary measurements of our wristwatches. More to the point: It puts that information in a framework that makes total sense for an airsports athlete. Time works a little differently for us, after all. Linear time lies at the heart of the way we organize life, sure--but it also lies at the heart of the way we experience it. This might be the bigger concept--because what's within our own minds is under our own control. Skydivers--especially in high-stakes moments, like competitions and records--can relate to the curiously changing shape of time. Saturated with focus, it feels as though some experiences are being scrubbed through in super-fast-forward, while others are playing out almost frame-by-frame. It turns out that fluxes in time perception aren't simply an athletic and personal deficiency; these mental gymnastics around the concept of time's passage are a "defining feature of how the human mind works."It turns out that, in a physiological sense, the "slow-motion car crash" isn't a myth -- it's "a cognitive reality." Hammond's hypothesis is compelling in its simplicity: that the way we experience the passage of time is not an external process we're subjected to. Instead, time as we know it is actively created by our own minds. It isn't reliable and it is certainly not objective. Neuroscientists and psychologists call this "mind time," and Hammond describes how we as humans -- and, by extension, we as extreme athletes -- can shape it and use it to our own benefit. Much of the challenge we face as airsports athletes is exerting a practical amount of control over our physical and mental responses to overwhelming stimuli. No amount of mental gymnastics will turn a BASE exit with a seven-second rock drop into an exit with a 12-second rock drop; however, if we can start to see "mind time" as flexible and ourselves as active participants in our experience of it, Hammond suggests that we can stay in flight just a little longer in our own minds. (This is a deeply appealing and useful thought experiment for athletes who practice a sport that often requires us to dedicate days of our time for scant minutes of freefall.) "Time Warped" is a profoundly conceptual but still, somehow, practical book. It addresses the way our internal clocks dictate our lives and the ways in which mindfulness works as a tool to master that internal clock. One of the book's most beautiful passages sums it up brilliantly: "We will never have total control over this extraordinary dimension. Time will warp and confuse and baffle and entertain however much we learn about its capacities. But the more we learn, the more we can shape it to our will and destiny. We can slow it down or speed it up. We can hold on to the past more securely and predict the future more accurately. Mental time-travel is one of the greatest gifts of the mind. It makes us human, and it makes us special." Other Resources: Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman Felt Time: The Science of How We Experience Time by Marc Wittmann
  16. admin

    Skydiver's Anonymous

    For the average weekend-warrior, skydiving is the great escape. The end of each dreary workweek is met with excitement and anticipation. Time to skydive! This is our chance to be with friends who share our passion, and escape the mundane, while we embrace life on our own terms. But with every wild weekend at the dz come the frustrations of another Monday morning…back to “reality”. And as the weekend highs become increasingly potent, so, too, do the lows of the following week back in the “real world”. This is a problem. Or at least is has been for me. Skydiving is so much more than the physical act of each jump. It’s exciting, challenging, rewarding, and – at times – incredibly fulfilling. It also brings a sense of community, place, and purpose to the lives of many of us. The bonds created at the dz are strong, and the times spent together with friends in the mutual pursuit of pleasure can be as rich and vital as nearly any other human experience. This is why we jump. But not everyone has something equally rewarding or exciting waiting for them at home. In fact, many of the dedicated skydivers I’ve known sacrifice a substantial amount of their time, energy, and resources in support of those two sacred days each week that they get to spend doing what they love. In many ways, it’s like a drug. The comparisons are obvious: It’s expensive It’s exciting and intoxicating It’s quite addictive It leaves you in withdrawal when you’re unable to jump It’s not always socially acceptable (sometimes even forbidden by friends / loved ones) It can eventually have negative effects on other parts of your life (relationships, finances, etc.) It can consume your mind and thoughts even when you’re not jumping It can begin to rule your life, as you reshape your time, energy and resources to better support your habit What, then, becomes of our prior reality? It’s hard to replicate the floods of dopamine and surges of endorphins unleashed over the course of a weekend in the sky. And as you progress in skydiving towards more demanding disciplines that require greater focus and dedication, all else can become comparatively dull and uninspired. But there are no support groups for us crazy few. No meetings to attend with mantras to repeat aloud in sober solidarity. We’re left to our own devices – bored and daydreaming about our next fix. This duality doesn’t sit well. At least not with me. I’ve had a very difficult time adjusting to a life split between two utterly separate and diametrically opposed worlds – one of hedonism and excitement, and the other of drudgery and toil. For me, these two paths could no longer be bridged. I’ve had to choose. And I’ve always been a much more talented hedonist than I have a cubicle-rat, so my choice was fairly clear. Granted, not everyone is in a position to completely cutaway. Some of you have spouses, kids, mortgages, magazine subscriptions, softball practices, and various other entanglements with which to contend. These types of responsibility have always terrified me. But I’m very interested in hearing from you! How is it that you, the reader, who I presume lives to some extent in both of these worlds at once, is able to reconcile them? What sacrifices must you make? How do you divide your time between the sky (the friends, the bonfires and other sanctioned mayhem) and the so-called “real world”? Perhaps there’s something I’ve missed in my pursuit of balance. And I’d love to hear what that might be. Your thoughts and personal insights are welcomed and invited below!
  17. “This particular aircraft doesn’t have seatbelts, but we only have it for this one boogie--and we’ve never had a forced landing, anyway.” “There’s no AAD in this rig, but I’m only going to jump it this once while my regular rig is being repacked. It’s just so I don’t miss the record attempt. I’ll be back on my regular rig on the next load.” “We always jump in cloud here. Otherwise we’d never get to jump! The pilot has GPS, anyway, obviously, and he’s never been wrong.” The final sentence--which always follows, right?--is the kicker: “I’m sure it will be fine.” Are you? Really? USPA Director of Safety and Training Jim Crouch introduced a really important concept in April’s Parachutist (‘Safety Check’; April 2017). In it, he brings up The Challenger Launch Decision, written by sociologist Diane Vaughan. Vaughn very usefully summarized the kernel of this human tendency. She even coined a term for it: the “normalization of deviance.” Normalization of deviance comes up pretty much everywhere in life (foregoing your helmet just to bike down to the neighborhood park; speeding; not bothering with the condom). High-variable, high-pressure, high-safety-requisite circumstances breed the normalization of deviance like bunnies at a bunny swinger’s convention. For some insight into how the normalization of deviance affects you in your airsports career, let NASA Astronaut Mike Mullane bend your ear. Mullane was a fighter pilot in 1978, when he was selected as a Mission Specialist in the first group of Space Shuttle Astronauts. He chalked up three space missions (aboard the Shuttles Discovery and Atlantis), spending more than 350 hours in the void. And, solely in the years after he celebrated his 60th birthday, Mullane summited Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Rainier and 35 of Colorado’s 14,000+ers. You can safely assume that Col. Ret. Mullane is an expert in managing his own risk envelope and that of those around him--and, yet, even he is still influenced by the normalization of deviance. How ‘bout that. Why is it so tough to fight immunity to unacceptable risk? Cause damn, it’s hard. It’s cultural; it’s about preserving a certain quality of relationship. It’s personal; it’s about preserving a certain self-image. Finally, it’s transactive; it’s about trading off a potentially good experience now for the chance to have more good experiences later, in the absence of much data at ****all. “The natural human tendency,” Mullane notes, “Particularly in pressured circumstances, to want to take a safety shortcut. [You say,] ‘I’ve done a [jump] like this a thousand times in the past, and nothing bad has ever happened. I can certainly do it this one time [...] and nothing bad is going to happen. [...] The absence of something bad happening when I took this safety shortcut means that it’s safe to do so again.’” There will always be a next time. And you’re going to be mightily tempted to do it again. When you do it--whatever ‘it is--enough times, the shortcut becomes the norm. The loop is reinforced. In Mullane’s words, “The deviance is now invisible to you.” And when invisible deviance leaves a very visible mess? Well, Diane Vaughn coined another term in her book for that eventuality: a “predictable surprise.” Those involved in the Challenger debacle readily admit that the explosion (and the resulting deaths) constituted a predictable surprise. So does a catastrophic wingsuit collision in the absence of one jumper’s AAD. So does a plane full of broken jumpers after a forced seatbeltless landing (of which--make no mistake--there are very many). So does a double tandem fatality at a dropzone with an it’ll-be-fine attitude towards instructor training. Image by Brett Kistler The itchy issue we face as airsports athletes is that we’re not under pressure from the government, as Mullane and NASA were. We’re not under pressure from the market. The pressure you’re under on the dropzone is your own. If you think it’s a good idea to scratch, you can damn well go ahead and scratch. You can roll your eyes at anyone who gets after you for it--the manifest; your buddy; your team at the Nationals. Most of the time, though, you don’t. You stay on the load, and--probably significantly more than nine times out of ten--you build another nanolayer on your normalization-of-deviance callus. The old triusm that familiarity breeds complacency makes a little more sense, no? That newbies are generally more risk-averse than intermediate-to-mid-career jumpers (a trend which tends to reverse as the jumper amasses significant empirical data)? That you’re more willing to do--well--gloriously stupid shit at a dropzone you know really well, as opposed to one you’re just visiting? Take it from Richard Feynman, compared the practice of predictive reasoning to Russian Roulette: “The fact that the first shot got off safely is little comfort for the next. [...] Nature cannot be fooled.” In real life, of course, it’s more uncertain than that. He was talking about binary predictive reasoning (with an either-A-or-B result). We’re not playing a binary game when we’re jumping and flying; we’re not playing Russian roulette. Honestly, we don’t even know how many bullets are in that gun. But we’d better remember that it is a gun, and it is loaded, somewhere in there--and the safety culture we’ve inherited is a desperate attempt to introduce proven failsafes in the face of our old nemesis, randomness. Walking out to the pointy end is fun. Randomness is fun. Deviance is fun. That’s a big part of why we do this, right? That said: understanding why we make the decisions we make--and, perhaps, even learning to make better ones--can do much to extend a career. For more, do yourself a solid and check out Vaughn’s The Challenger Launch Decision, which originally coined the phrase. It’s a riveting read--and I bet you’ll readily recognize the culture which worked to create the conditions for the tragedy.
  18. Emma Tranter has helped airsports athletes get on--and stay on--the mat for 16 years. You’re next. So, full disclosure: This author has been practicing yoga for many years. I deeply believe that I couldn’t jump or fly without using yoga as a tool to undergird those activities, but it was so difficult to explain why that I generally deflected the conversation. After all, it used to be that chats involving yoga on the dropzone would end awkwardly (usually, with someone trying to fold themselves into lotus pose and falling off a barstool). These days, other airsports athletes tend to be much more receptive--but they often insist they simply can’t do yoga themselves, always calling in one (or more) of these three reasons: I don’t have time. I’m not flexible. I already work out enough. But what if I told you that these are all dismantlable barriers? That you can--and very much should--knock them down? And that it’ll measurably increase your sports performance? You certainly don’t have to take my word for it. Take Emma Tranter’s. Emma is a force of nature in our sport. A longtime-professional-skydiver-and-traveller-turned-extensively-educated-yoga-teacher, Emma has over 16 years of experience melding these two seemly opposing practices (and understands firsthand, the desires, aversions and excuses of the adventure-seeker. If you’ve spent time at Skydive DeLand, you know Emma for her yoga studio: The Yoga Shed, so close to Skydive DeLand that a well-thrown baseball will easily make the journey from the dropzone parking lot to the studio’s front door. Along with running her yoga studio, Emma currently travels the globe from her home base to facilitate Fusion Flow wellness retreats at various wind tunnels around the world, She does this with her twin sister, peak performance health coach, Lucie Charping. Arguably, Emma has the world’s most substantial experience in working with airsports athletes as they develop and advance a yoga practice. If anyone can break down the barriers between you and a yoga mat, it’s gonna be her. So let’s get started, shall we? ALO: Emma, tell us your abridged life story in the sky and on the mat. Emma: I made my first jump at home in New Zealand in 1994. I was professionally skydiving for many years--traveling all over the world for the sport. I eventually came to DeLand and stayed. I started teaching yoga in 2000, but I was still primarily a skydiver--packing parachutes and coaching at Skydive University and all of that kinda stuff. The balance shifted around 2003, when I completed a thousand-hour course in Precision Alignment Yoga. It was a two year training. It was awesome; I am still with those teachers. As the early 2000s went by, I started to get more more dedicated and committed to yoga. I transitioned out of professional skydiving but I stayed very active in the community, and I still fly regularly in the tunnel. The tunnel gives me more space in my life to dedicate to yoga, and teaching yoga is undoubtedly what I am supposed to be doing with my life. This is the sixth year of the Yoga Shed. Opening it in 2011 right next to the dropzone just seemed like the most natural choice in the world. I love to teach skydivers; they’re my people. And what skydivers find in a yoga practice is uniquely helpful to them. ALO: Does it still feel to you like people in these sports have the wrong idea about yoga? Emma: Oh yeah. A lot of airsports people--like the general public, I guess--still have the conception that yoga is about bending yourself into a pretzel or sitting on a cushion and omming. I mean, it is in some practices, but this is a very limited view. Airsports people tirelessly seek a state of flow. When you jump out of a plane or off a cliff and you’re not in that flow state, then that’s usually when things go wrong. When things go really right, it’s when your consciousness is in alignment; when you are fully present and not affected by your ego, when you aren’t thinking about what happened before or what’s coming in the future. You are just in that moment. Yoga gets you there. Airsports athletes make really good yogis because, once they actually establish the habit, they see the immediate, enormous benefits of the practice. They know what that particular flow feeling is when they meet it on the mat because it’s one of the central reasons they jump. The great news is that--once you’ve got the concentration required, when you can align the body and align the mind--then you start to experience that nowness that we all love in airsports whenever you want to. The trick is just to start doing it. ALO: Okay, Emma: I don’t have enough time. Emma: The first thing you have to do is be realistic as far as time goes. I always suggest the same question: How much time is realistic for you to dedicate to your health and wellness practices in order to support your flying, your skydiving, your BASE jumping...whatever it is that you love to do? Is it 10 minutes? 15 minutes? Half an hour? Most people will be, like, okay, I could definitely do 15 minutes. I take longer than that in the shower. Then I’ll say, “Okay. Let’s make this a 15-minute practice. How many days a week do you realistically think you will dedicate 15 minutes to do this practice? Twice a week? Three times a week? Fifteen minutes, three times a week, is very doable. I usually encourage my students to do their practice in the morning, before the day gets going and distractions come along. Can you get up 15 minutes earlier and fit it in before your shower? Do you see that as something that’s realistically possible? The majority of people discover that it’s quite easy to do. It’s more beneficial for people to do a 10- or 15-minute home practice every day than go take a class once a week for an hour and a half. When people start with a 10-minute or 15-minute practice and dedicate to it, that practice gradually lengthens in time. Suddenly that 10-minute practice that they were just going to get out of the way is 15 minutes long. And then, a month later, it is 20 minutes long, because they just felt like staying in it a little bit longer. In time, it grows and grows from within. But If you expect yourself to do a one-and-a-half hour practice, three times a week, right off the bat--if that’s unrealistic, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. If it’s that easy, why isn’t everybody doing it already? Find out in the next installment--as well as the reason “I’m not flexible” is the worst-ever reason not to take up yoga.
  19. admin

    The Power of the Flare

    Squirrel wingsuits just released this amazing video, aimed at illustrating how wingsuits are able to climb in altitude. The concept of wingsuits being able to ascend was disputed by quite a number of skeptics over the past decade, but over the past few years we've seen evidence that not only can a wingsuit flyer gain altitude, but that they can ascend by a few hundred feet. At the time the claims were made, it was probably correct to assume that the wingsuits weren't gaining altitude, but that's only because the performance wasn't there yet. Wingsuit performance has seen a massive gain over the last decade with new companies like Squirrel getting involved in the market, and for the most part, dominating it. The increase in competitive wingsuit flying has also meant there is a larger drive for performance increases from manufacturers. Despite being one of the newest comers to the wingsuit market, Squirrel have already asserted themselves as one of the leading manufacturers in the industry and whose wingsuits have seen a number world cup wins over the past few years. In the video, a group of wingsuit flyers and organizers are seen plotting their flights and discussing what the risks involved with the jumps. The idea behind the video is that they would be using a large canyon in Moab, Utah as a point of scale for their wingsuit ascent attempts. In skydiving, it's generally quite difficult to judge the ascent, if any of a wingsuit flight -- not only because the increase in ascent isn't generally aggressively targeted as a goal, but because there is no static reference to give an indication on the altitude gained. The video, which provides some seriously awesome cinematography -- also shows us, for the first time, just how much altitude can be gained by these modern wingsuits. In some cases more than 250 feet were gained. The measurements were estimates based off both camera angle and in some cases GPS logs.
  20. Holistic Performance Specialist Lucie Charping Talks You In Image by Juan Mayer In our last article, we met holistic nutrition coach Lucie Charping, who works with elite athletes to get them--and keep them--at the top of their game. Often, that game is an airsport. Here’s the continuation of our conversation regarding peak performance strategies for more “normal” airsports athletes, like you and me. (Spoiler: These strategies work just as well if there isn’t a charging bull on your helmet.) ALO: If going cold-turkey on every naughty item in your diet isn’t the way to peak performance, then what is? Lucie: Changes made little-by-little help an athlete increase awareness and get in touch with their body’s natural intelligence by balancing the systems that run us. In actual fact, we're healed by those same systems that keep us going, so--if you balance those systems, such as blood sugar and pH--you'll be setting yourself up for a broad spectrum of positive effects, healing from stress and sports injuries among them. Make better choices until you build the momentum that gets the pathways programmed. ALO: It sounds just like establishing a yoga practice. Right? As soon as you keep the promise that you're going to do it for five minutes, before you know it, it’s 10; 20; 40; 60... Lucie: Absolutely. People think it's matter of willpower. It’s not. It's really a matter of neurobiology--what's happening in your brain, what's happening with your biochemistry, your neurotransmitters, what's happening in your gut--that’s making the decision about what you're going to eat. You can’t fight your hormones. No matter how strong of mind you think you are, you're ruled by your chemistry. You are strong of mind because of your chemistry. So: If you get your chemistry in alignment, you’ve essentially learned to hack yourself. You can not only be happier, more effective, more creative and more motivated in your daily life--but if you’re the kind of person who relishes a heightened-stress, high-consequence situation like skydiving, tunnel flying, BASE jumping, etcetera, then you’ll get even more benefit from this kind of management. You’ll learn faster, you’ll have faster decision-making and you'll have more focus to excel in these unique sports with their unique pressures. Of course, I could say to you, “Here; go to the dropzone with this power-packed superfoods smoothie of maca and cacao with all these berries in it.” And it would be super awesome, of course; it’d give you a short burst of energy for a short amount of time. But it’s not sustainable to do that every time you go to the dropzone; every time you go to the tunnel. If you learn how to balance your blood sugar, you're going to have an abundance of energy for an extended amount of time, and you don’t have to plug a blender in next to the packing mat. ALO: Let’s talk a little more about energy. It’s a big part of airsports to manage your energy when you’re waiting on loads or tunnel rotations or weather, and a lot of airsports athletes struggle with it. How can this stuff help with that? Lucie: The peaks and valleys in these sports are quite steep. I see a lot of adrenal fatigue and overactive minds in the group of people that I work with. For this, I’ll use the term “extreme sports,” because these athletes like to push their minds and physiologies to the extreme. When you put yourself in a high-consequence or high-risk situation constantly, the chemistry that is firing in your brain is full of reward chemicals. It’s highly addicting. Over time, you reset your brain’s baseline for what it means to feel good. When you're on the ground or on the bench, those reward chemicals are not firing. So, what happens is--more often than not, and you can correct me if I'm wrong--we have major addictions in these sports. Not just to drugs, though that is certainly within the landscape. We have addictions to sugar; caffeine; tobacco; all kinds of stimulants, and you can see for yourself how people are having to use those things constantly between jumps and flights. It's not because the individual a yahoo; it’s because their baseline chemistry is telling them this is what is required for you to feel happy now. So, on the ground as an action sport or, say, “extreme sport” athlete--for peak performance, you must learn to cultivate that chemistry whilst not risking your life. And you do that with the food that you eat and with relaxation practices. You can keep your blood sugar level, which keeps your mind and body in a receptive state, then cultivate that satisfying chemical response through breathing. Then you won't have to reach for an energy drink every time you pack, bouncing from one coffee to the next, not eating all day at the dropzone and then binging whenever you manage to get home. Peak performance comes with time. And so, it’s interesting to note, does optimal health and weight, without calorie counting, or deprivation, or guilt. ALO: It sounds way simpler than I thought. Lucie: It’s not really simple, it’s elegant. To me, that's where the power is. If you want to talk about what is both the barrier and the bridge between business as usual and peak performance for airsports athletes, it’s a single path, and it’s not complicated: cultivating these practices of prioritizing your food so you balance your body's chemistry and practicing mindfulness techniques in order to bring a single point of focus to your mind. Not only do you get better at jumping and flying; you become happier as overall person. Your body is magic; it's magnificent, actually We often forget about that. But we never, ever should. ------ Lucie is based in San Diego, but travels to wind tunnels worldwide as the nutritional arm of Fusion Flow Retreats. To reach out to Lucie for a personal consult, pop over to her Facebook page.
  21. Holistic Performance Specialist Lucie Charping Talks You In Image by Serge Shakuto Lucie Charping grew up in the world of food and hospitality--but quite a bit more actively than you might imagine. She founded her first restaurant, in fact, at age 16. Lucie made the food-to-medicine connection early, too. Plagued by a variety of ailments throughout her childhood (as well as adrenal fatigue and a battle with anorexia, which almost killed her), Lucie healed herself through holistic nutrition. Eighteen years later, Lucie’s expertise centers on peak performance, sports injury management and plant-based nutrition--with a particular focus on lifestyle strategies for adventure sports practitioners, elite and Olympic athletes. I had the opportunity to pick Lucie’s brain about peak performance strategies for skydiving (and the shredding of tunnel gnar, to boot). Here’s what she had to say. ALO: So: tell us what you do! Lucie: I'm a peak-performance health coach. I’ve been a holistic nutrition coach for about 18 years. Originally, I worked exclusively within the Ayurvedic model--Indian medicine. These days, there is so much more western science and up-to-date nutritional information available, so I extended my practice to encompass it. The focus is two-pronged: first alignment, then optimization. Once you align your systems, the body can optimize. Most of my clients are adventure athletes of some kind who want to heal from their minor injuries faster; who want to be faster; who want to be clearer in their path towards performance in air sports and who want to have the mental energy that is takes to do these sports well. ALO: At what stage along this path do you usually meet a new client? Lucie: Usually, they come to me already having had an inkling of what needs to be adjusted. With a little bit of age and experience, top-level athletes--and people who want to become top-level athletes--discover for themselves the power of food-as-medicine to improve recovery rates, reduce inflammation, oxygenate more efficiently and focus better. Soon after that, if they’re paying attention--which they are, at that level--they realize that without using nutrition as a tool, they’re effectively shooting themselves in the foot. People come to me because they’re starting to realize how important it is and they want a customized, individualized plan of action--but you can do it for yourself, of course, if you’re willing to put in the research. You’d think that in top-level sports--airsports included--people would know what they need to know about nutrition. Unfortunately, they don’t. In order to be light and strong and focused, you need to eat and balance your body systems. ALO: Most folks that I know who do anything in the human-flight realm are under the impression that they’re doing pretty well, nutritionally. What’s the biggest problem you see with nutrition in airsports specifically? Lucie: In airsports, I come up again and again against the fact that people live predominantly on sugar. Soft drinks and lab-created bars are the major culprits behind the energy rollercoaster. Protein powders and bars replacing real food is a close second. There’s a perception that crap food is par for the course when you’re in the tunnel at 2 o'clock in the morning or out on a dropzone for the weekend--and then you don't know why you can't focus anymore, you don't know why you keep injuring yourself, why you're so frustrated all the time. It’s a matter of blood sugar and stress responses. Once you get your blood sugar and your stress responses under control, the training can rapidly come together. If you manage your body chemistry and your neurochemistry, you can absolutely catapult yourself. You can actually create an environment that sets you up for a state of peak performance--for a flow state. You can cultivate those states within your body, and how you do that is through your food choices and your relaxation practices. We all have these systems built into our bodies; we just need to learn to use them properly. There is a lot of science on this now--about how food choices and relaxation practices can optimize your learning rate; your motivation; your creativity; your focus. You can halve your learning time, for instance. The benefits are across-the-board. ALO: Let’s take a look at your typical skydiver. By that, I mean somebody in their late 20s to mid-30s who thinks that they eat pretty well, but definitely drinks socially--and probably has more quote-unquote “cheat days” than they would care to admit. This hypothetical jumper is starting to feel their age kicking in; starting to feel a little bit less, shall we say, unstoppable; starting to get the little nudges from their body that say something needs to be changed. What are the steps that you first recommend to that person? Lucie: The first thing I ask is simple: Are you eating enough food? Because in airsports--as in most sports--athletes don't eat regularly enough to balance blood sugar. Hangriness is hypoglycemia, which is crippling to an athlete. You can easily manage your blood sugar with plant protein and fiber (for example: hummus and carrots), even while you’re moving quickly at the dropzone. No matter how transient you are, you must think am I eating regularly enough and is my blood sugar stable. That’s step one. ALO: So you’re not telling people to drop everything and go raw vegan. Lucie: Absolutely not. I don't actually agree with that, anyway. I think that a whole-food, plant-based diet is the way forward for health and performance--but, as a coach, you have to meet a person exactly where they’re at. I can prescribe my perfect formula, but it will be a set-up for failure if the athlete can’t or won’t adhere. ----- Next week, Lucie talks about her favorite strategies to make that plan and stick to it.
  22. With more than four thousand jumps over the last fourteen years, Jarno McCordia is one of the most experienced and highly respected wingsuit pilots in the world. Here he joins us to discuss a couple of upcoming projects from the pointy end of wingsuit flying. First up is a look at the soon-to-open indoor wingsuit facility in Stockholm. Towards the end of 2016 footage began to emerge of an angled tunnel facility in Sweden where some ambitious aeronautical engineers have been conspiring to do for wingsuit flying what vertical wind tunnels have done for our skydiving skills - change everything. Brought quietly onto the project in early 2016 by the founder of Phoenix Fly and wingsuit development grand wizard Robert Pecnik, Jarno immediately saw the potential: “The whole thing was already underway a fair bit when I got involved in an active way. Secretly Robert had already been working for almost a year with the team behind the technology to realise the project. The first test flights had already been done when I was invited to come take a look at the flying and help assess things - mostly from an instructional point of view but also to see how far we could push the flying. Normally a lot of the development and testing we do together is open and shared process - so to have Robert tell me he had some news but couldn't show me anything until we met in person made me suspect it was something big.” “The flying I saw at that point was just steady cruising, but it immediately made me realise what I was seeing and the potential of how it could change the sport in a similar way that indoor skydiving transformed Freefly and FS in terms of skills and training.” Many disciplines within skydiving are evolving quickly and wingsuit flying is no exception. Suit designs are continually updated as our methods are refined and our abilities better understood. Steep and fast is the way to maximise the potential of a wingsuit - but getting it right takes time. How does the tunnel work and what have you learned about the instruction process so far? “The whole tunnel chamber is a moving structure of which the angle can be altered from pretty much flat to almost vertical. This ability to do this gives us a glide ratio varying from 1:1 all the way up to 3.65:1 (comfortably more than the sustained full glide on high range wingsuits) and the controllable speed of the tunnel is from 0 to almost 300km/h. Balancing these two factors means the tunnel is able to match the glide angle and for the suit one is flying and be appropriate for the skill level of the pilot. We have looked a lot at the teaching technique for beginners as we see that as being a significant percentage of customers. Experienced wingsuit pilots will also need to learn the basics first so that was an important area to focus on.” The indoor skydiving industry has a complex system of managing students abilities while they are training developed over many years . With good quality instruction accidents are few and far between but there is still some inherent risk. What have you learned so far about keeping people safe? “In terms of spotting and safety, procedures will vary a lot from what people are used to. I cannot go into to much detail yet due to a pending patent, but there is an assisted flight system that holds the student in a central position in the tunnel. There is free range of movement in all directions but only up a certain degree. In a similar way to how a seatbelt works, any rapid movement towards the ground or the walls is halted in a gentle way. Once pilots reach the stage where they can fly around free without any assistance it will be possible to get into close contact with the floor and walls, though experience has shown that the lower windspeed and design of the tunnel make those situations a lot less severe than one would expect. I’ve been practicing some quite aggressive acrobatics and of course it does not always go down without a hitch, though due to the padding and angle of the chamber you never really hit hard and you get gently rolled down to the floor - feet first.” “Initially there is something very intimidating about flying in a confined space but it pushes the accuracy and precision of your flying to a new level. It has definitely helped me realise how much further we can develop the precision of our flying. Even in the smaller test setup we have been flying 2-way and performing advanced acrobatics. Once the full-scale tunnel opens in September the possibilities are limitless - we are already going to host the first indoor acrobatics competition in December. LT1 is currently scheduled to open in September 2017. You can read more about the project and the history of the facility here: https://flywingsuit.se/
  23. It is easy to think of the weather as just being big. All too often as skydivers we assess things in very general terms without really worrying too much about the details - yet the most direct impact weather conditions can have on your skydiving can happen on an entirely personal level, affecting you and you alone while trying to successfully land a parachute. I make no claim to being a canopy piloting coach and should you wish to further your skills in that area I recommend seeking out humans that offer professional structured courses in these matters. What follows is simple advice designed to encourage further learning by pointing out some of the more common weather phenomena that you will encounter above and around the dropzone. Turbulence: When wind hits something it bounces off in different directions which can cause difficulties for flying one’s parachute through if you are not prepared for it. Dropzones are hugely diverse in terms of layout and construction - from the humble Cessna using a strip of grass in the middle of nowhere to powerhouse operations that utilise a fleet of aircraft and resemble a municipal airport, however wherever you jump the same general rules about what to look for apply. Below I have included some examples and a few shit-but-accurate pictures to demonstrate how wind behaves over and around common obstacles. By referring to these you can get some idea about how to be aware of potential hazards and avoid them when necessary. Wind over building Wind over hill Wind over ridge Wind over trees Unstable Air - When the wind hits something big and flat like a hangar it spills out in lots of different directions at the same time. Depending on exactly where you are this could cause lift, sink, sideways motion or all of these in quick succession. Things can get really rough next to structures when it is windy - so use your brain, apply your training and be somewhere else. Wind Shadow - A large enough object might create an area behind it which is clear of the turbulence and has no wind. Where you were previously crabbing like mad or going nowhere fast - if you enter a wind shadow you might suddenly find you have a surge in ground speed and have to adjust where you though you were going to land. Be very ready for more turbulence. Bottleneck - This is when wind speeds up rapidly to squeeze a large volume of air in a small gap between two objects. This can also be compounded by the other problems created by wind trying to get around things such as an increase in instability. Thermal Activity: Thermal activity is generated by the sun heating the air - warm air expands pushing outwards and cold air contracts drawing inwards, causing wind. The most common experience most of us initially have with this effect is via some toothy weather person gesticulating at region-wide areas of a greenscreen map on the telly and describing which way the wind will most likely be pointing. However - thermals gather and release on a much, much smaller scale than this and can be localised enough to effect your flight while navigating a canopy. Things to look for are items and areas that are good at causing lift by either reflecting heat such as tarmac (runway/carpark/roads) and metal (hangars), or storing heat such as bodies of water. A small amount of thermal activity is not going to cause serious issues with your flight pattern or your canopy’s performance but some sudden lift or sink when you are not expecting it can mean the difference between landing in your intended spot and somewhere else. In some places thermals can be surprisingly violent and threaten your safety - ask anyone who has tussled with an Arizona dust devil that sprang as if from nowhere on an otherwise perfect skydiving day. Behaviour: So what do you do when things get more challenging? Dropzones operate under official limits for jumping and will often have their own rules in place for particular conditions. For example you might be required to land in a different area if the wind is coming from a certain direction or you might have to stop jumping sooner than you were planning due to a particular quirk in the local terrain. Learn these special circumstances and understand why they exist - you never know when such knowledge will help you make a good decision somewhere unfamiliar when the pressure is on. Despite established parameters the person responsible for your safety is you. If you decide keep jumping as conditions get ‘interesting’ it is only sensible to modify your behaviour for increased safety: If it is getting super windy then use any available space and land clear of hazards and other canopies. Walking a long way back to the hangar is better than crawling even the shortest distance if you have to do it into the back of an ambulance. Landing crosswind or downwind into clear space and sliding across the grass like a goose landing on a frozen pond is better than turning low into the wind and flying face-first into the ground. If the wind is actively changing direction as you look at the indicators then follow the rules and land the way the arrow is pointing. Again - it is safer to all land in the same direction regardless of which way the wind is going than all try to face into it as it moves around and risk a collision. Watch other people land. If the wind is getting up then maybe have a break and watch a load or two. Assess everyone from Captain swoopypants all the way through to the tandems and those with lower experience. Try to develop a habitual curiosity about what is going on at the particular spot you like to skydive. Many noteworthy incidents in our sport can be traced back to awareness of small things that could easily be avoided with a little learning.
  24. There are lots of things you can learn about on the Dropzone that will aid you understanding of how all the elements involved in a skydiving operation fit together to make things work. Even just focusing on the assessment of the jumping conditions demonstrates several moving parts that all need to operate effectively to function as a whole. Remember, there are things that you must know, but also things that you can know that will make you better and safer. A helpful way to evolve your knowledge is try to see things from the perspective of others. What Other People Know: Chief Instructor: Whoever is employed to be in charge of the daily dropzone proceedings will not only be generally very well experienced but likely also highly practised under the conditions of that particular location. You can learn much from this person. When things are busy they will likely juggling many things in their head to keep everything running smoothly, but when quietness descends seek them out and pick their brains as they probably have many, many excellent stories to share - each with an important lesson behind it. The Pilot: To become a pilot you have to read books and do tests and stuff. A lot of this is about the weather. While you are trying to gauge the strength of the wind outside by listening intently from under a duvet - a good pilot will be up checking many sources of information to be able to perform their job properly. The information analysed by pilots is a very good place to head if you are keen to take your knowledge about flying conditions to the next level. The Jump Master: The person who is in charge of the load needs to be very aware of what is going on both on the ground and in the air. Being tasked as jump master is a serious job that happens relatively early in your skydiving career and while easy to perform with the correct level of awareness carries serious responsibility when there is some kind of incident. Are you confident enough in your decision to take the plane around or bring it back down after spotting a big mess at altitude and have the courage of your convictions when faced with an angry dropzone owner? Being all over the details will make you look like a goddam pro when anyone starts quizzing you. What were the winds doing at the bottom and the top? Which way was it going? What kind of clouds were they and at what altitude? The Other Skydivers: Does everyone on the plane know what they need to know? Are the people you are jumping with or those in the group next to you clueless idiots? Should you worry about them? Who is going to tell them the correct information? You do it - for your own benefit as much as theirs. Also worth considering is the perspective of the tandem masters and the camera pool - they keep the dropzone going and thus operate day-in and day-out under all conditions and circumstances. If the plane goes up then almost certainly some of them are on it and their collective knowledge is well worth mining for information about functioning at the fringes of what is possible or acceptable on your particular dropzone. Conclusion: Applying some time and effort to learn more about weather conditions will create a return on investment with your ability to judge further out if jumps are going to happen or not. Skydiving is an expensive hobby and happens quickly - so everything you can do to maximise your effectiveness on each jump helps, and understanding more about the weather will make you a better, safer skydiver. Learning about all of the conditions you will be faced with will not only facilitate making good calls when you are jumping, it will also help you to get more out of your jumps when they happen. Nobody is right all the time but the more educated you are the better your guesses will be - and as such you ability to decide wether to drag your ass out of bed before dawn and get down to the dropzone or do something else with your day. Also try remember that there is nothing to be gained from being angry at the sky - it does not give a shit. Also, it is probably healthy to do something else now and then - if your life is a constant battle with the weather you might well end up batshit crazy and living in a caravan on the airfield with mushrooms growing in your hair. On a dropzone you are surrounded with ways to learn, and the first time you apply some extra-curricular knowledge in a practical way is immensely satisfying. Every now and then you come across someone who seems to have magical powers when it comes to predicting what the sky is going to do - but they are most likely just a regular human that knows things.
  25. admin

    Health Gymnasium

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