Friday, August 03, 2012


When the  plane reaches 1000 feet, we're expected to unfasten our seat belts, spread out, and, if it's a toasty day, open the door.  This means someone gets to sit on the floor, untethered, inches away from a big drop.  When that person is me, I don't like it.
Yeah, I get that I have a parachute on and should be able to save myself if I fell out, but it still freaks me.
Guess who's not a natural at this?
Guess who also still exits the plane like this?
I knew I wasn't the most graceful creature, but it wasn't until I saw video after video of my exits that I realized how all over the place I was.  Its ridiculous.  I knew how to arch.  On the way to altitude I was visualizing myself leaving the plane and arching.  What was up with the rag doll moves?
And then there's the landings. They often look like this...

but sometimes I... standing up.  Whoohoo!  Okay, this is something many of my peers have mastered in their student days... ...but for me it's a treat.

I try to be safe.  I fear "stealth goof ups"- that is, doing something bad without noticing it.   A recent lowish pull comes to mind.  This makes me mad on two counts- I've done something wrong and put myself (or others) in potential danger.   Not safe.  Not cool.
Recently I was planning my landing pattern when I noticed the wind sock at a right angle to its usual position.  We're supposed to land perpendicular to the runway, and that's the way the wind usually blows.  Not today..  What to do?  Follow the rules and find out what a crosswind landing was like?  Or do a pattern lined up with the wind?
 Whatever you do, I thought, stay out of everyone's way!   No surprise turns.  No cutting people off.   Got that?*
I looked around.  I was at the far end of the DZ.   My only neighbors in the sky were a pair of hawks.  They were flying with the windsock.
Okay, I thought, if the hawks know what to do...
Downwind... crosswind... into the wind... toggles up... toggles up... flare half... all-the-way...
Wow!  I landed a stand up landing!  
The shuttle van drove up.  Lisa, the driver said:

"Lucky Duck?"
Oh Geez, I thought.  What bullet had I just dodged?  What stupid, reckless thing had I just done?  Had I put anyone else in danger?  Maybe I had no business doing this skydiving stuff!
"Lucky," Lisa continued.  "You got to fly with the hawks!"

I may be a lucky duck, but it seems I'm also a nervous, high strung one.  The feedback I get from the many coaches who put up with me is "Relax!"
They're right.  Being tense makes my moves crude and clunky.  Being calm makes things easier.  My challenge is to learn to get calm and stay that way.    It's one thing to sit in a chair and relax.  Plunging through the air and relaxing is trickier.
Even a lot of my tunnel time is devoted to relaxing.
It's less spooky than the sky even with an audience of Universal Citywalk tourists watching.   Never mind that some of my peers are learning sit fly moves now.  If learning to relax was what I needed, that was what I was practicing.  It did make it easier to do control what I was doing.

I usually jump with  other people.  We attempt some formations.  I'm usually the one who ends up too high or backslides away.  Even when I get close, I have trouble docking.  On a recent jump I  found myself level with another diver.  Would I be able to grab his grips  without backsliding?
Calm down!  I reminded myself. Relax...


It worked!  I was able to dock..  Then let go and was able to dock in a second formation.  This is very basic stuff, but for me it was a miracle.  I couldn't believe it.   Maybe I could be a decent skydiver after all...!

*for non-skydiving readers both canopy collisions and low turns (to avoid them) are very dangerous. 


Anonthemouse said...

You're not the only one with these problems, my duckling. I'm the kind
of person who asks every possible question to make as much out of the
jump as possible, but these questions only come to my mind when it's
too late. For example: The wind had changed on my last jump... I had no idea
what to do, since the 2 rules are "Follow the given flight path!" and
"Always land against the winds!". I went for option 2 since I was
cleared from everyone else.

For the relaxing part, i'm doing great! I even felt so comfortable
that I fell asleep in the plane while visualizing the jump! Glad
someone noticed and woke me up. Never closing my eyes in there again ;D


Namowal said...

You can doze off on the plane? Dang, you're good. I was proud of myself that after all these jumps I wasn't terrified any more, but I'm still way to nervous to sleep!

It's always a mini surprise when I get low enough to see the sock and find it doing something unexpected. I almost expect it to throw in a Nelson Muntz (Simpsons) "Ha HA!" when it does that.

Linda Davick said...

Oh Namowal. These illustrations are great. I am laughing like a nut.

Namowal said...


Uli said...

This is great to read. :) It all hits home.....the awful exits, bad landings, the fear. Ohhh that fear!

You may not be the world's best skydiver (yet), but you have an awesome talent! :)

Namowal said...

Thanks, Uli!