Friday, November 18, 2011

Skydiving Duck: AFF Level Seven

When I signed up for  AFF, it was on a "I'll try this level and we'll see about the others..."  basis.   Videos of the each level  seemed intimidating, but the video of level seven freaked me. 
Tumbling out of the plane!?  Backloops?  Barrel rolls?  No way was I going to do stuff like that!  I didn't do  those things.  That wasn't me.

But now, a few months later, I was ready to do the dreaded level seven.
Thanks to my history of bungled roll 'n' flop exits (including ending up on my back by mistake), this wasn't exactly unfamiliar territory anymore.  Sure, I was still nervous, but the sky and  drop zone had become more fun.  The  "what the hell am I doing here!?" vibe had faded.
It reminded me of Toontown from Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
It was colorful, friendly, unique, exciting...
...and what was more surreal and cartoony than falling through the sky?

Of course, Toontown wasn't Disneyland.  Someone could drop a flowerpot  (or a piano) on your head.   Both Toontown and the sky require caution.

The plane ride is getting easier.  The facing-the-firing-squad terror has fizzled away.    Walking to that door is another matter.  Remember when Curly from The Three Stooges gets scared and goes "Nyaaaaaahhhhhhh!?"  That's me at the door!

It's amazing how dropping out of that door is easier than walking toward it.
I went through my routine.  I tried the backloop.
 It worked!
Now the barrel roll.  That sort of worked, but I don't think you were supposed to keep rolling until you were on your back again.  Whoops.
When I righted myself I tried tracking (for you non-skydiving readers, that's pulling your arms back so you fly forward).
How graceful was I?  Think "Peter Pan on horse tranquilizers."
Soon the canopy was open.  I remember thinking "That feels like a line twist" and looking up to find one.  I'm getting good at kicking them out.
As for the landing...
 ...I still haven't been able to do a stand up.   Guess I need more practice there too.
But guess what?  I passed the level!
(To see what happened when I tried level 8, click here.)

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Skydiving Duck: AFF Level Six

As I work my way through AFF, my attitudes are changing:

My thoughts on the ride to altitude have been more consistent, but I'm shaking less than I used to...
All week I'd anticipated the exit to be like my previous ones:  I'd leave the plane with the instructor holding on to a jumpsuit handle.  Not so, I learned.  We'd get into the usual exit position, but I was to leave first, and he'd follow.
What!?  I thought.  Jump out of the plane unattached?  That's nuts!
Then I thought, Well, I don't see why I couldn't do it...
Soon enough I was on the plane, at altitude, stepping towards that screaming evil blowhole called "the door."   (The primitive part of my brain is still convinced that door = bad news.)   Fighting my instincts and the wind, I somehow got into position.
Ready!  Set!  Go!
Holy  Smackerel!  I thought as I flew  Did I really just jump out of the plane?  Wow!  I can do this...!
Or could I?  In seconds I was on my back.  Whoops.  Time to try out the "bring one arm in and you'll roll over" trick.  It worked.  I was back in position.  Sorta.
Out of nowhere the instructor grabbed my arm handle, gave me the Relax! signal and let go.

Oh yeah.  Relax!  I'd forgotten about that.  I relaxed (as much as I could) and found myself more stable.  From there it was easy: spin left 360 degrees stop, spin right 360 degrees, stop etc...   It was weird seeing the view twirl so fast, and even weirder to think I was causing it.

The canopy ride was uneventful.  I still haven't mastered a stand up landing, but I'm not getting bruised either.
I thought my tumbleweed exit might have disqualified me, but I passed the level.  On to level seven!