Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Would Today Be the Day I Got My "A?"

 Would today be the day I did the grad jump and get my "A" license?
Fellow students had theirs.  What was taking me so long?

There were signs I'd need more work.  Recent coach jumps (more than required) showed my stability and docking needed work.  To help things along, I'd spent ten more minutes in the wind tunnel, where I was stable.
"Is this your grad dive?" my DZ friends asked.
"It is if I pass it!" I said.
 But would I pass?
As I waited for my instructor, something spooky glided across the landing area.  A dust devil! 
Uh oh.  I knew they were bad news.  Whirling thugs who snuck up on folks and slammed them into the ground.    If these are on the loose, I thought, I'm not jumping.
Minutes later, student jumps went on hold thanks to unpredictable winds.
A mock up, hanging three ring release gizmo stood nearby.   I was surprised nobody was using it.  With my instructor's permission, I played with it..  Pull the red handle, pull out the lines- clink!  Reassemble,  repeat.
The winds calmed down.  I was  cleared to go!
I repeated the dive plan in my head as the plane gained altitude:  Exit with the instructor, dock, follow the instructor up or down, dock two more times, break off by 6000, track away, pull by 4500.  This was doable.
We left the plane. 
I found myself on my back.  I flipped myself  in place.  Time to dock, I thought.  Then I flipped over again.  What was going on!?  I was fine in  the tunnel.  Why was I getting more unstable in the sky?
I knew better than to get upset.  I got stable, docked...
... let go, followed the instructor "up"... dang, she was rather far.  Was I backsliding again?  I tracked to her for a second dock.  I followed her down, tried to dock, and missed.  One more try... no wait, what's the altimeter say?
Whoa!

 The needle had passed 6000.  Break away!  Track away!
 I turned, tracked and almost flipped over again right before I pulled.   The canopy popped out.
Ah well, I thought.  I didn't get the three docks in  but at least I got two of them.  Maybe next time I'll pass.
My landing was soft and could have been a standup, but guess who tripped?  Then a gust inflated the canopy and dragged me across the landing area like a sack of potatoes*
  
My instructor  would have passed me with only two docks, but my late break off and pull had  pushed me into DoOverville.  (She didn't use the term "DoOverville").
 Fair enough.  As much as I wanted the "A", I wanted to earn it properly.  If I needed a few more attempts to master the routines, then that's how it went.
Then I saw it: 
My instructor played back the video she'd taken of me with the helmet cam.  I couldn't believe how sloppy my form was.  I looked like I was doing a Jerry Lewis routine.
What was going on?  After all these skydives and so much tunnel time, why was my stability getting worse?   My inner critic tried to throw a hissy fit, but I couldn't 't take him seriously.
Okay, I thought, I need to keep an eye on that altimeter.  I need more practice.  I need to be more stable.
 But how do I get more stable?
 I knew from earlier dives and the tunnel that I was capable of being stable.  What was going wrong in the sky?

* I might have prevented the whole ride if I'd pulled one of the steering toggles down to begin with.

15 comments:

Black_Eyes said...

oh well, that sounds like this skydive didn't go very good... try to make a jump where you just try to stay stable and do a couple of turns.. maybe that would help!

just think of what your teacher tought you at the beginning of your aff course! ;-)

how much jumps did you make so far?

BlueS and good landings,
Black_Eyes

Leander said...

Oi! Bad jump! If you haven't already, ask your instructor what you can do about your bad body position. Weird how your stability is decreasing

I love ilo 3 and 8 by the way :D

Leander said...

*wanted to add this:*

Almost flipping before you pull is way too dangerous!
Fixing stability is priority 1 now!

MikeJD said...

OK, I admit I scrolled straight to the last picture because I was in a hurry to know whether you'd graduated. Your inner critic mouthing off told me 'no'. :( But I'm glad to see you're fighting back these days. :)

Bad jumps happen, by the way, and I think they're relatively common at your experience level just when you think you've 'cracked it'. Sounds to me like just a failure to relax and do what you already know how to do. Maybe the pressure of your graduation dive got to you more than you think!

Your instructors will tell you what you did wrong phsyically, of course. All I'd say is, put that one behind you. :)

Namowal said...

Black_Eyes,
I've thought about having my next jump being a simple "practice stability" one too.

How many jumps? Twenty six. :)

Leander,
I agree it's weird how my stability is suddenly decreasing. If I'd guess, I'd say it was from not relaxing or over focusing on the jump goals, but who knows?
The instructor said my legs should have been closer together. In earlier jumps I've been told they were too close. Obviously I need to learn a happy medium.

Mike JD,
Thanks!
One consolation is this- almost everything I'm "good" at is something I was once "bad" at. Stick-to-it-ivity is my friend.

Linda Davick said...

You've lost me with many of the terms--but I can say with certainty that my favorite illustration is the Jerry Lewis routine--that sky is beautiful and the duck is wonderfully uncoordinated.

And I love it that you didn't take your inner critic seriously! Maybe he'll get tinier and tinier and harder to hear.

Namowal said...

Thanks Linda!
I sometimes forget that not everyone knows these terms. Here's a summery:

The "three ring release harness" thingy is for practicing cutaways. A "cutaway" is when you detach a (malfunctioning) parachute in anticipation for opening the reserve parachute. (If you didn't detach the bad parachute it might interfere with the other one).

"Docking" means approaching another jumper in freefall and grabbing onto them (usually their arm or a handle on their jumpsuit).

Flying "up" means slowing your fall rate so you appear to rise above other jumpers.

"Braking away" means halting any formation (or in my case, attempted formation) and tracking (moving forward) away from the other jumper, so we can open our parachutes without getting in each other's way.

"Backsliding" means going backwards (in my case, unintentionally).

Thanks for complimenting the "Jerry Lewis" pic by the way. I crammed some golden section geometry into that illo. Order within disorder. :D

Wolf River Joe said...

You are getting better at ignoring your "inner critic". Perhaps a large stow band around the beak would help (the critic's, not yours).

The hardest thing in this sport to do is try really hard to relax. You get focused on accomplishing a goal (like a dock or something) and get all tense, and then things start to go...

Not so well. And it builds on itself. The worse things go, the worse it gets.
A couple of "no stress" jumps may be just the ticket.

And you've only got 26 jumps. Some of us took a few more than that (some took a lot more).

And to be just a little nitpicky, it's "breakoff." That's the pre-determined altitude where the fun and games stop and everyone moves as far away from each other as practical in order to have a safe seperation for opening.

Wolf River Joe said...

You are getting better at ignoring your "inner critic". Perhaps a large stow band around the beak would help (the critic's, not yours).

The hardest thing in this sport to do is try really hard to relax. You get focused on accomplishing a goal (like a dock or something) and get all tense, and then things start to go...

Not so well. And it builds on itself. The worse things go, the worse it gets.
A couple of "no stress" jumps may be just the ticket.

And you've only got 26 jumps. Some of us took a few more than that (some took a lot more).

And to be just a little nitpicky, it's "breakoff." That's the pre-determined altitude where the fun and games stop and everyone moves as far away from each other as practical in order to have a safe seperation for opening.

Wolf River Joe said...

Oops. Double post. Sorry, this stuff still confuses me.

Namowal said...

Wolf River Joe
Ha! A stow band on the critic's beak would be perfect.

I agree a few jumps thrown in to focus on relaxing might be the ticket- as even being a little tense could cause trouble.

And, okay, "break off" and not "break away." ;)

No worries on the double posts. Blogger does that to me sometimes too.

Anonymous said...

I did my first (of a few) check dive on what had to be the last jump of my trip. I kicked the door on exit and spun around for a couple hundred feet, THEN it got bad...

I put that "A" on a pedestal and just kept screwing something up on each dive. I just had to forget about getting the license and focus on being good - then it was too easy!

Just have fun and be safe, the license will come before you know it!

Namowal said...

Anon,
You "kicked the door on exit and spun around for a couple hundred feet, THEN it got bad..."
It got worse!? What happened?

It wouldn't surprise me if it took several stabs to master the check dive. Not because I'm a rotten skydiver. It just sometimes takes me several times to try something before it "clicks" in my head.
A good example of this was my first extended tunnel session. The goal: learn how to turn. I understood I was supposed to dip my shoulder to turn, but what I was doing and what I thought I was doing were different things! It took the whole session before I was able to do it.
Now I turn just fine! :)

The UN said...

Well, I got stable and docked. I did a back loop and barrel roll relatively fine.
I had spent time that morning in the tunnel, worked on turns. In the air, I almost orbited my foot into the instructors face. Then I thought I looked down, but I pretty much transitioned to knee flying to get my bearing. I also landed off after a decent pattern.

I actually still watch that video about once a month. It's funny to watch from time to time, I can't wait to show it to students of my own someday that do the same things we both did.

Anonymous said...

OMG can’t wait for April looking at starting my course soon and love your cartoons. I am from Sydney Australia and found your site from recommendations on Drop zone.com