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Published: February 1, 2013
If one wants to truly strive to become an excellent freeflyer, honesty is the key. If one cannot be honest with one's own skills or another skydiver's skills, digression and possibly disaster are the results. If there are individuals teaching freeflying who are not truly proficient, but who claim to be, the progress of a student is marginalized.
When we fly, we want to analyze the skydive fairly. On one side of the coin we want to point out the positive and utilize constructive criticism to become better skydivers. On the other side, however, we do not want to lie to make ourselves feel better. For example, if three freeflyers go up and make a skydive the plan is obviously to skydive together.
If one member of the group is not near the other two, then he or she is not ready to go on a three way. Not only is there no point to doing a three way if only two of the three will be there, but it is dangerous as well. Especially when there is video, it is clear to see that one member of the group is not there. That fact should be pointed out. It should not be handled in such a way to ONLY make that individual feel good.
All too often people sugar coat debriefs and do not point out that one member should perhaps do some solos or coach jumps. Instead, people go back up in the air, that same person remains a hazard and fate is tempted again. And, that person does not necessarily get better or learn anything. Does this scenario sound familiar? Please strive to be honest when you skydive. Know what you can do, and know what you cannot do. If you want to learn something, learn it the right way. Do not try to figure it out when you're already in over your head.
Now, that being said, if you are having trouble finding someone to help you learn - don't be afraid to ask the DZ or instructors there. They will be in the best position to assist you in finding someone who can help you. I've seen new flyers giving tips to others when the person giving tips and advice has barely learned it himself or herself. That is not the best remedy for learning.
No one wants to be "that guy" to tell someone that they can't be included in a jump, but sometimes when one is trying to learn, adding people who are not necessarily proficient either only makes for a dangerous zoo dive. How bad is it for 2-3 people trying to learn to sit fly who are corking and flopping to belly and back and being all over the place - one is up - one is down - one is on their back - one is holding the sit but backsliding, etc. Then comes pull time and people are everywhere - or worse, if one is on their back and the person under them corks up and hits them, neither even see it coming.
Now you can see the benefit of keeping the learning team to small one-on-one groups until you become proficient. I've done solos to try and learn certain things, then add in one additional person as a reference or to add in a camera view for debriefing. I feel bad telling people, "sorry, I am working on something so we cannot include you in this jump" but at the end of the day, that is the best thing to do in that situation. I'd rather them be angry at me then to put all of us in danger in the air. It is not personal.
Now, once you start becoming proficient, by all means you can add another person to the group. Even on belly - how successful will it be to throw 10 new belly flyers into the air to build a round? We've seen that disaster. It is a scary sight. It is better to start off with 2 people then gradually add from there.
We are all friends and all want to jump together and there is nothing wrong with that, however, when learning new skills, it is best to be honest with our abilities and only put ourselves into situations that we know we can handle and if we can't handle them - don't fret. That just means there is a chance to learn and with that, keep the groups maybe one-on-one and gradually increase from there.
The sport should never become "personal". I've seen people get annoyed when not included in jumps or feel left out when excluded from certain types of drills or dives. Use that as motivation to improve your learning and get some coaching to get better. One can only get "better" by jumping with people better than you - so get some coaching, do some one-on-ones and get ready to be included on jumps.
Now, once you've mastered certain skills, it is always nice to give back to the sport. Too many people learn and reach new levels of progression where people look up to them and in turn, they then look down on everyone who is not on their level now. Remember, you were that newbie once too - looking for someone to help you out and teach you some new skills. How awesome is it that now "you" are that person that someone looks up to as a pro to help them along?!!!! That is a huge compliment that now you are in a position to be looked up to. Try not to forget the little guys. It is always gratifying to give back to the sport and help someone along the way, the way you were helped along.
I've heard some say, "I paid for all of my training, why should I just pass it on to someone else for free? They need to earn it the same way I did." Well, I for one, pay for my coaching, so I can't speak for anyone else, although I think most people looking to learn are willing to pay for your assistance and help. And if you are feeling generous, think of it as a pay-it-forward. You will be helping someone progress in the sport to the point that they are safe in the sky, and they will some day do the same to the next group of newbies, etc. and at the end of the day - our skies are a fun and safer playground to play in.
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