Friday, October 14, 2011

SkyDiving duck VII: Arch Nemesis (AFF level four)

Normally skydiving seems interesting and cool, but when I'm in that plane watching people drop out the door, I change my mind.  Suddenly I'm nostalgic for the days when "trying something new" meant sampling Absinthe or making rugelach.
Why was I in this stupid airplane?  How on earth was I going to jump out of it?
Fear pestered me on the way to altitude.

This jump required a new exit.  Instead of crouching in the door between two instructors I'd be hanging out the door with one.  The idea of hanging out the door seemed even scarier than falling from it.  One of my subconscious rules must be "Don't hang from speeding vehicles."
When the time came I forced myself into position and went through the routine I'd practiced over and over:
Check right (instructor), Check left (propeller), kick forward... no wait... it was kick back, then forward.. hey, you're blowing it, dummy!  ...kick, kick, arch!

Another sad, sloppy exit was underway.  
This drives me batty because I know how to arch.  Why can't I do it right away like I'm supposed to?  Arrgh!
Then things got better.  I arched properly, the instructor let me go, and I stayed in place.  
I pulled on time and the chute opened normally.  No twists!

It's funny.  In the relative safety of the plane I feel scared, but when the canopy opens, I feel relieved.  This in spite of the fact that I'm dangling from a kite, thousands of feet in the air, with plenty of opportunities to get mangled*
My landing went smoothly...
...until the "contact with the ground" part.  I flared on command but there wasn't much wind, so it was another PLF roll.  I'm getting good at those rolls.
And that's how I passed level four.
As for level five, well, click here to find out what happened.
*following directions and paying attention minimizes these risks, but I try not to fool myself into thinking "Yay!  The 'chute opened.  Now I'm safe!"


Linda Davick said...

You're crazy! I'm so proud of you!

This is such a good story, and the illustrations are super.

Namowal said...

Thanks, Linda.
Getting myself out that door is like getting a cat into a bath. In either case primal instincts are shouting. No!
Yesterday I took the level five lesson, but that didn't go as well. Arrrg. On the bright side, I no people, animals or property were harmed. ;)

Wolf River Joe said...

It's one thing to crouch in the door, but "a whole 'nuther" thing to climb out and hang on the outside. It gets fun after a little while.
Don't forget that for the first couple seconds of the jump you aren't up to full speed and aren't in as much control. Stability while still "subterminal" can be challenging, even with a perfect arch.
If your drawings are any indication, you are a lot more confident with your PLFs. That's a very valuable skill that will pay off in the long run.

Namowal said...

Wolf River Joe,
I believe you about the hanging from the door. I think it's a matter of getting used to it and tuning out the part of my brain that says "Hey! What are you doing!? Get back in that plane!"

As for the PLFs, one of my wiser moves was insisting that I practice them over and over again in my first AFF class. (The class was just me and one other guy so it was flexible). Too bad nobody taught me to do them when I was a kid. They would have come in handy for leaps off the jungle gym.

MikeJD said...

Love it, especially your drawing of the exit climbout!

And it makes perfect sense to me that you should feel worse in the plane than hanging from a parachute. That's the (often unhelpful) nature of anxiety, i guess.

You're right of course that 'under canopy' doesn't mean 'out of danger' - especially when you start jumping with lots of other boys and girls - but from the moment you leave the plane you're already committed, so there's nothing for that Fear guy to try and talk you out of any more. He just sits back and sulks. And if it's any consolation, once you get his behaviour under control then he'll be your best buddy. So long as he's doing nothing more than skulking in the background and poking you in the ribs every now and then, he'll help to keep you alive! ;)

What were you doing on your level 5, turns? It's been so long I can't remember. Anyway, I guess I'll just have to wait for the next post!

Namowal said...

Thanks, MikeJD. I'm looking forward to the day "The Fear Guy" becomes more helpful. (Now he's sort of like a smoke alarm that starts shrieking when I turn on the oven.)

Level five is supposed to be controlled 90 degree turns, but I had trouble with the "controlled" part, as you'll soon see...

Pile Girl said...

I agree with everything that Linda said!

Bill said...

It's always a pleasure to see an artistically talented skydiver.

Namowal said...

Thanks, Bill!

p.s. Are you the same guy who captioned the video of you-know-who having a meltdown because nobody wants him to swoop at 50 jumps?

Bill Voelker said...

Yup, I am the guy who subtitled the Hitler parody of swooping. It's funny because almost everything about it is true! :)


Bret Gross said...

As is par for the course (my life) I’m late to this party - to your well-written & beautifully illustrated story AND to skydiving.

Bravo on your lessons, successes, and stories!