Are you a new skydiver with a shiny new A license? Or maybe you’re a skydiving student already thinking about the fun things you’ll do after you graduate? Congratulations on becoming a part of the global skydiving community! We’re glad you’re here. 🙂 Now let’s talk a little about the skydives you’ll do once you graduate. There are so many choices!
One thing we see frequently, perhaps because we are a big dropzone with a lot of students graduating all the time, is new skydivers jumping together. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that! You are cleared to self-supervise your own skydives because you’ve proven that you have the necessary skills to save your own life after throwing yourself out of a perfectly good airplane. However, one skill you may have not yet developed is the ability to assess the inherent risks of different types of skydiving than the small, one-on-one belly jumps you have done until now.
Back to all the choices… there are bigger belly-fly jumps, sit-fly, head-down, hoop dives, raft jumps, tracking dives, angle flying, canopy flocking, canopy relative work, high pulls… it’s a smorgasbord of fun! But all of these dives carry more or different risks than the individual risks you learned about in the Skydiver Training Program. When you do bigger belly jumps, you need more awareness of where everyone is in the sky to stay safe. For sit-fly or head-down, you would need all the control you learned in the program on your belly, but enough skill to exercise that control at freefall speeds almost half again as fast as what you’re used to. For tracking/angle dives, you need all that awareness and skill along with awareness of where your group will travel across the sky and whether it will interfere with other groups on the load.
And no matter what kind of flying you’re doing, you will no longer have an instructor with you whose sole focus is to stay with you and keep you safe. Chances are quite good that you’ll start learning just how good your instructors are when you jump with others… 😉 And when everyone on your group is relatively inexperienced, chances are good that none of you have the experience and awareness to do a lot of the new activities safely and effectively.
None of this is intended to scare you or create reservations about jumping outside of the program. Far from it! Rather, we’d like you to consider that since the freefall world is now open to your interpretation, that you use that freedom wisely and safely. If you’re doing something on your skydive that you didn’t learn in the program (this will be many things), take a few minutes to ask one of our instructors or organizers for tips on doing that activity safely. If they say you need XYZ skills before trying what you want to do, trust that they are not trying to stifle your fun, but that they want to keep you and other skydivers safe. We’ve seen a lot of people make mistakes simply by not knowing what they don’t know, and the good thing about Spaceland is that there are so many people here that I guarantee somebody knows more about what you want to try than you do. Find these people, pick their brains, and keep learning! Keep an open mind and you’ll keep learning as fast as if not faster than you did in the student program.
Another aspect to learning quickly is to take advantage of jumping with people with more experience than you whenever you can. At Spaceland, we have the mentor program whereby jumpers under 100 jumps from any dropzone can get free coaching from a USPA-rated coach or instructor every weekend day in a 3- to 4-way format. Every month, we have a larger event on the first weekend of the month focused on a particular topic, be it dive and dock, turning pieces, accuracy, etc. Keep jumping with people who have lots of experience whenever you can, and get all the tips they can offer. Don’t feel that you should stick to skydives with your fellow graduates to avoid ruining someone’s jump who’s more experienced, because we all grew up in the sport with people taking time to help us out. We’re giving back what was given to us, and we know you may not be perfect. We aren’t either! We just want to skydive, improve, and have fun, knowing that whatever we give you will be paid back when you’re ready to do so.