An online skydiving logbook

February 24, 2008

No pull

Only one day of jumping this WE, and lots of things to do before I can go to the DZ. So I get up at 6.30 and I am in Schaffen around 11 am. Weather is cloudy (a thin cloud layer between 3000 and 4000 ft, so no problem there). We are just having a completely crazy winter. It is only February after all!

I start off with another FF jump. I am still not quiet sure when you stop funnelling and start freeflying, but I am definitely getting there. When I am have difficulties sitting, I push into a stand-up. I find it easier to just cut through the air, rather than trying to handle all this air around me and trying to keep track of all my limbs and what they are doing. I often say to my AFF students that I need more "je m'en foutisme" in there jumps. Time to apply one of my own rules, it seems!

Next jump is awkward. A guy with 51 jumps. It took him over 30 jumps and 45 minutes of tunnel time to complete his AFF, so I guess it is safe to say that he's not a natural. But he has the spirit (and the money), that's for sure. Last WE, he went unstable at pull time and that was it. He didn't do anything any more. He pulled no handles. He landed under his reserve after an AAD fire. We talked to him, gave him homework to think about. Stuff like "Can you handle a life expectancy of 4.5 seconds?" (by the way, I love the "point five" bit here. It really contributes to the dramatic affect of the phrase) And now (contrary to what we were expecting) he is back. We left him the option and he took it. There's his determination again. First jump he has to do is an AFF 4, with some additional focus on altitude awareness. During the jump he has to signal me at 11, at 9 and at 7 kft. Wave off and pull is at 5. If he misses one of those by more than 500 feet, this was his last jump at our club.

First I give him the full briefing on altitude awareness and pull priorities. I start by explaining that if he wasn't altitude aware, he is unfit for jumping, and if he was altitude aware and didn't pull, he is crazy and unfit for jumping. I think he got my point :-) Next, when I take him through a refresh of the first jump course, he shows me how he will first open his reserve before releasing his main. He insists this is how he was taught. I don't believe him, but the net result is that the refresh takes a lot more time than I originally planned. When we finally go up, the jump is not bad. He does what is asked of him. But it is a bit of stress for a jumpmaster, when you know that if you fuck up, your student has not-pulled before...

When you look at the video, you can clearly see how he got unstable at pull-time on the previous jump. During his practice pull, as well as with the real pull, he stretches his legs, ups his ass, brings down his head, and his left arm, instead of being over his head, is somewhere under his chin.

Next jump is great. I exit on my back, I feel the speed building up, push myself up into a sit, and for the remainder of the jump, I push myself into a stand-up, back to sit, back to standup, etcetera. Waaahooo!!! My first FF jump where it felt like I controlled it all the way!

Fourth jump is with the no-pull-guy again. This time the jump is about his body position at pull time (and about altitude awareness of course). Just practice pulls, one after the other, throughout the jump. I make a face at him immediately after the exit, and he reacts to it by sticking out his tongue. It is me signalling that I like jumping with him, but at the same time it is a test to check how composed a student is during exit. He passes this test. And his body position is better than the previous jump. He will always be a higher risk jumper, just because of his lack of talent, but my advice to the people who make the decisions is to let him jump again. I sincerely hope I'll never have to regret this decision.

Sunset load to end the day. A simple FF 2-way. Ending the day with a swoop straight into the setting sun. Why, oh why do I love skydiving so much? (well, there is of course the beer afterwards, but that's not the whole story...)

February 17, 2008

4 more jumps

Not much time to blog. 4 jumps today: 1 FS, a 6 or 7 way, I can't remember, 2 tries at sitting and a tracking jump with two former students of mine.

February 16, 2008


It's 4-way time again today. This is good, because I love it, and this is bad because as a belly flyer team, you have to sit in the back of the plane, and it is cold today. -15° at 13.000 ft. Minus windchill, brrrr. There are few skydivers. It is almost eleven o'clock before we have enough people to fill the plane.

First jump we go for a Unipod exit, followed by stairstep diamond, murphy flake, yuan and meeker. Anybody seeing a pattern here? Yeah, right, that's just A, B, C, D and E. Not the most imaginative briefing, but it makes for a nice jump. We start off by funnelling the exit. Sus (centerfloat) and I (backfloat) are on our backs immediately, and we are all tumbling happily through the sky for a few seconds. Once we recover, it is indeed a nice jump. For the yuan - meeker transition Door is the only one who moves, but he turns too much on his chest, rather than around his knee, so while I should just have to flash and retake the same grip, it always opens up.

We decide to do the same jump again. We ask a proper 4-way team how to do this unipod exit, we do a quick re-brief of the transitions, and up we go. This time the jump is really good. The exit works, the jump is clean and quick. As soon as we are back on the ground, we discuss the possibility of ending on a high and starting on the beer, but since it is only 12 o'clock, that would be an even more high-risk activity than skydiving itself, so we just manifest for the next load.

Next is Open accordion, cataccord, bow, donut, hook. You guessed it: that's F, G, H, J, K! Nice jump for Jean, our front diver: his biggest move of the dive (actually his only move) is the few inches he has to come forwards from the open accordion to the compressed accordion. Apparently we are having difficulties with our exits today. Even the (very easy) open acc almost goes wrong. It takes two or three seconds before we can start working, but from there on it is OK. Somewhere in the third round, Jean looses track of the jump. He stops moving at all, and just takes up grips when they are thrown at him :-). Good enough!

We decide not to do this one again, since apart from the exit there were no big issues to correct (well, there is Jean's over-20-seconds-brainlock, but he's beyond hope anyway). Next, we don't go for L, M, N, O, P. We want a nice little block in our jump, so we decide on a sidebody exit, phalanx, cat+accordion - cat+accordion, star. On exit we are in the door for way too long, and when we finally jump, I still don't have any grips at all. You gotta ask Door (inside centre) how he manages to find a way to position himself so that I can not reach either his arm or his leg grip. But the exit is good: I just pick up two grips instead of one :-) The jump is not so good. Randoms are OK, but instead of just turning to do the block, we fly circles around each other. Shame on us!

I have too leave earlier than normal, so this is all we have time for. We decide to start of our next session with a repeat of this last jump and we assign Door to remember this, which means chances are slim...

February 10, 2008


A lazy day. It's almost noon when I arrive at the DZ. The weather is still unbelievably beautiful, sunny and warm. Yesterday was the hottest Feb 9 since they (whoever they are) started measuring those things.

I join a group of bellyfliers for a 6-way. I am front float and i totally f**k up my exit. The rest of the jump is also not good (in Luk's words: "this was definitely a sub-optimal performance"), but that's no more because of me: we all seem to have an off day (or an off jump at least). There's absolutely no wind, so landing is fun!

Next I make a complete-fun-jump: I exit tracking on my back, wobble a bit, make speed, salto-ing to normal track, going steeper and steeper to an almost vertical dive, even steeper, falling over and coming out of this in a back-track once again, and so on. Drop was much too far: I exited last, 1.6 mile past the DZ centre point, and I did my tracking perpendicular on the jumprun. I open a bit higher, I am under canopy at 4kft. I love floating around up there.

Third jump today is a sit. I can't help feeling a bit ridiculous. Everytime I check altitude, I turn at least 180° :-))

There's time for one more jump. Two guys who are training to become AFF instructors, ask me to film their practice jump. So that's my first "real" camera jump: I mean where I am filming other people, rather than just filming the jump I am doing. My exit works out fine: my timing and position are OK (well of course it could be better, but I have seen far worse than this my first attempt). And for the jump, well, what can I say... They handle the exit very well. The guy in black who comes from inside, I have more than a few jumps with. I know he's good, much better at FS4 than I am, and still... The fake student is not doing very much, but a bit of stress, an unusual situation, and in a few seconds the jump goes from OK to complete mess. That's what training jumps are for, and they sure learned a lot from this. They both gave permission to show the video, so here it is:

We all deserve beer after this :-)

February 9, 2008


Some time ago, I bought me a camera helmet. Two weeks ago, I received the wide angle lens I ordered from paragear. And this week, I adapted the helmet for my (old) camera, so now I am ready to do my first ever jump with a camera.

I decide on an easy 2-way to check out the helmet. It is a bit awkward in the plane, I can't find the start button, so I have to take of the helmet again, and so on, but hey, we manage to exit with the camera running. Chantal is floating, I am diving, she makes a good exit, I want to start our routine, but my head is falling aside, this helmet and camera are very present on my head, I feel the weight and the air it takes, I have to pay attention to keep my head up straight, strengthen my neck muscles. But hey, all this takes only a second or so :-). The jump is nice, I don't know how Chantal manages to turn in place, she looks everywhere except at me, but she can do it. So here it is : my first ever video! The camera position and line of sight seem OK, I'm happy!

I immediately follow up with a chute assis. I curse myself all the way down, for not being able to just quietly sitfly. I am definitely better at it than say 10 jumps ago, I feel the air much better, but I still suck big time...

Third is an attempt at a 2-way FF. I funnel the exit, it takes me quiet some time to find out what's up, what's down and what position I'm in, and by the time I get it, Gunther is some 10 metres underneath me. The gap only grows, but at least I can check that I am falling straight (or maybe i just have the same backslide he has ???)...

Then a student from last year comes up to me and asks me if I want to do a currency jump with him. Of course I wanna do that! He has 16 jumps, didn't jump for three months. We brief a level 5, I give him the complete safety briefing again, I give him a refresh on the whole caboodle of malfunctions, and there we go. Please watch my first ever self made student video:

I love his smile a few seconds after exit, when the stress is gone and he remembers the feeling, feels it once again!! Apart from that he was better when we did level 7 than he is now, some 10 jumps later :-).

Last jump of the day (it is still only february, days are short) the weather has completely cleared out. From up there you can see the North Sea, Antwerp and even Zeeland are crystal clear, I can easily make out Middelburg, and although I am not completely sure, I think I can even see Rotterdam. That's about the farthest view I ever had in the 1500 or something jumps I made on this DZ. Wonderful!

The jump is a hybrid. Steven and I are bellyfliers, Nick does a standup, hanging from our chest straps, 6 others are sitflying, trying to dock on us from both sides. Our hanger is swinging all over the place, so it is hard work to stay stable, but we manage not to funnel. Nobody docks, but everybody was there, flying very disciplined, a real nice jump. We had outside video on it, so if it is posted somewhere, I'll link to it here.

So... first ever camera jump, first AFF of the year, first two-way FF attempt: some beers are in order!

February 3, 2008

4 way

At long last, another jumping day. Door, Jean, Sus and I made an appointment for a day of 4-way, so without further ado, let's jump!

First jump is an easy one, with a nice rhythm, just to get going. Meeker, satellite, sidebody, bow, star. Our exit sucks. A meeker is generally considered an easy exit, but the thing we launch is turning quiet a bit, so we need at least 5 sec before we have a satellite. From there on, it goes nicely. There is some winter rust on Door and Jean, I am OK, and Sus is flying (he did the christmas boogie in Empuria, so he is really sharp).

We can go up again almost immediately, so we decide to do the same jump again. Only things to specifically correct are the exit, and the bow, where the two centre fliers were too far apart, so that I (I am rear float) couldn't take both leg grips at once, and had to fly with my arms stretched out. Exit is still not good, but better than the previous one, so that's something at least. The bow also builds correctly now. The overall rhythm is much better than the previous jump. It's really flowing, what a lovely feeling. At one point, Door forgets the sidebody, and goes straight from the satellite to the bow. Jean tries to shake free his leg, Sus knocks him on the helmet, and I have him in a sidebody, so I give him a good shake all over. When we are down, he starts bragging about nobody noticing his tiny little brainlock...

Since this is the off season, we share our plane with another dropzone nearby. This is very cost efficient, but also really lousy if you don't like long waits in between jumps. So with 2 loads and a refuel at the other DZ, it is already past 2 o'clock before we can make our third jump. We decide on something a little more difficult. Exit is a crank. Next is hammer - hammer, and then open acc and diamond.

We are a bit unsure about launching the crank straight, but we try it anyway, and it works great. I am relaxed enough to, in the exit, give a thumbs up to Jean (who is front diving) before we build the first hammer. My first 270° turn in the block is too short. I fly into Sus, rather then present grips to him. Second time round, there's a zap on the centre cat (a loose grip). Third time round and it's better. Fourth time, I hit Sus' helmet with my knee, so that was definitely too close :-).

Fourth jump, we do the same one a second time. Exit is a bit shaky this time, and now my hammer-turns are too wide. Third time we are going around, there is confusion. Jean starts his 270° from the crank. It takes the other three of us a second before we realise what's happening, and then, on the spot we invent a new block move: crank - hammer. The rest of the jump is a bit sloppy...

With all the waiting while the plane is at the other DZ, that's all we have time for today. The jumps weren't spectacularly good, but hey, they weren't too bad either. Anyway, lots of fun, great laughs, and we all enjoyed it. At the bar, we first drink away the brainlocks, and then we just have a few more beers :-)