Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Elusive A

"You can't skydive.  " I thought, as I drove to the dropzone.
"I've done this before!  Lot's of times!"
"Yes, but that was a fluke.  You can't do this... you can't do this..."
"I'm doing it anyway."
Soon I was in a Cessna Caravan, riding to altitude.  I watched someone fall out for a hop 'n' pop.

"Aaarg!"  the primitive part of my brain squawked.  "Person falling!  That bad!  No want do that!  No, no, no!"
"Calm down," I thought.
 I'd practiced this jump- my second attempt at the Check Dive,  a zillion times in my head, down to watching the altimeter and keeping my fingers relaxed.  I'd kept an eye on the winds and had the landing pattern planned.  This was doable.
"Oh no!  Climb out time!"
I'm not a fan of the float exit (that's the one where you hang from outside of the plane).  It's awkward. It spooks me.  The wind blast fights you as you back out.
Somehow I got in place.  Kick back, kick forward, arch!
Whee!  I was in the air!  But on my back. 
"You know what to do", I thought, barrel rolling into place.  "Now fly to the instructor and dock..."
I flew forward, almost docked, but reached, which pushed me back.  D'oh! 
I followed her up and docked.
  Then I followed her down, and was about to dock...
...but my altimeter was near breakaway time.
"You won't pass this if you don't do a second dock," I thought. "but it's better to break off on time.  You can try again later." I broke off and tracked away.
The parachute opened.
I was surprised how far from the drop zone I was- at least 4000 feet west of the landing area!
How on earth?  I thought.  Had I backslid?  Tracked too far?
I pulled the toggles at half breaks.  Would that help me get back to where I was supposed to be?.  I was getting closer... closer...
...3000  feet.... 2000 feet...
"Hmmm," I thought, "If I keep going straight I may make it, but I'll cross runways low, and may get in the way of people flying a regular pattern.  Better pick a clear spot out here...."
A patch of land to the west looked suitable.  I carefully manevered myself downwind, cross wind, and into the wind...
...Holy Windsock!  this was a completly new "ground" coming at me.  Would I flare on time?
Incredibly, I did, and stood up too.  The wind puffed up the canopy but I pulled a toggle hard to keep it under control.  It fell into a bush and I tried to rescue it as gently as I could.
Dang, was I far away!

When I got back to the DZ, several friends asked me if I passed.
Not yet, I said.  I needed one more crack at it.
Then my instructor gave me the news.  I'd improved remarkably since my previous  check dive.  The fact that I chose to break off on time and land off showed that I understood about safety.  I was getting my A.  An A!
 My card got stamped, as did my forehead.  I did it!  I did it!  After all the fear, the blunders, the goofs, I'd succeeded! 

I still can't believe it.  Me, the big chicken who still gets spooked at altitude (shame!), has an "A" licence?
Now I've seen everything!


Anonymous said...


Linda Davick said...

Holy Windsock! This is SO GREAT.

Anonymous said...

Can i Get a WHOOP WHOOP Nice one chica :)

Namowal said...

Thanks, Anon I, Linda, and Anon "Squeak" II. :)

Linda, I'd originally written "Holy Mackerel," but decided to change it into something more silly. Wasn't sure how "Holy Windsock!" would go over, but it has one confirmed fan!

Sally said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sally said...

YAY HOORAY YAY HOORAY and great blog post/drawings too!

Wolf River Joe said...

Way cool Namo!!!
The A stamp looks good on the duck (It looked good on you too, I'm sure).
Your instructor had said she wasn't as woried about nailing both docks and was more concerned about the lack of altitude awareness in the last try, right?

And some of us grew up watching the old Batman show on afternoon re-runs. Hoy Windsock, Holy Linetwists, Holy Turbulence, Holy Headwinds (I like that one best). It's all good :)

Namowal said...

Thanks, Sally!

Wolf River Joe,

On my earlier check dive I was so determined to get the docks in that I let the altitude slip a bit. This time I made sure it wouldn't happen again, even if it kept me from passing the test.

And yes, I thought of Robin with the "Holy Windsock" remark.:D

Jeff Donohue said...


CodeFarmer said...

Awesome job... I've been reading this from the beginning and can't wait to see what you get up to now you're qualified.


Namowal said...

Thanks, Joe & Codefarmer! :)

Leander said...

From screaming all the way down on a tandem to getting your A lisence... I'm proud of you :) congratulations! All those babysteps got you here. Now you're free to go your own way! Keep em comming.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations! My friends and I have been following your blog ever since someone sent me the link to the post from your first jump. It is awesome how far you have come.

Namowal said...

Thanks, Anon!

Natalie Gurley said...

Hi! Skydiving Duck.... Your blog has been really helpful to me. I am an AFF student at Elsinore. I made it up to Level 6 last year but ran out of money between jumps and tunnel costs (I was a starving grad student). Since then I have graduated from school and now have a little bit of cash to spend. It's been a year since I've jumped. I did my retrain two weeks ago but my frog brain has been winning. I'm scared to get back up there again. I'm feel very similar to how you feel about jumping. I'm a type A highly wound up person that can't even relax on the ground much less in the sky. My instructors tell me to relax upon meeting me. I tell them, this is just me, this is how I am all of the time. I know you ended up getting your license. How can I do this? How can I get frog brain and inner critic to shut up, so I can get my license. I love skydiving. My first jump was the best moment of my entire life. If you have any advice let me know. I sure could use it right now. Thanks, Nat (I'm the same girl who sent you an email last year saying I love your blog)!

Namowal (Jennifer Bourne) said...

Hi Natalie,
Well, I'm hardly an expert (and it's been a few years since I jumped last) but I can identify with being high strung and nervous, especially right before a jump. Some things that helped me (and remember, this is anecdotal, as I'm not an instructor!)
*On the (long) drive to the DZ, I listened to comedy routines and funny podcasts to distract me from "Oh noes, what if..." thoughts.
*I studied each jump, plus the what-to-do-if (insert complication here) occurs, so, even though I was still nervous, I knew I was familiar with what to do in case something went wrong. (To this day I'm surprised how pragmatic I was about my accident- instead of freaking out, I was thinking "okay, how do I get myself on the ground without hitting buildings or trees?)
*If possible try to schedule your jumps closer together. They seem less intimidating that way.
*and of course, if you have questions about anything, ask your instructors.
Well, that's what I can offer. I hope it helps!
Thanks again for your kind words! :)