Fun Jumps-

Making the Most of Your Skydive

by Gary Peek

Original text from an article written for Sept. `93 Parachutist

Note: Since 1993 there has of course been a major change in the types of skydiving practiced. Freefly and head down skydiving at some drop zones has surpassed relative work (formation skydiving). Some of the ideas I described as "new" in 1993 are now so commonplace that it sounds funny! However, even though some parts of this article are dated, it still contains some ideas for things to do when you get tired of the "same old". I'm sure you can think of even more. G.P. 2003

For many years now freefall relative work has been the most common form of skydiving we do and is being practiced almost everywhere. The friendship and comaraderie it has produced has extended around the world. Most of us want to be good at relative work and make it a regular part of our skydiving. There comes a time however when we want to do something different but just cannot think of what kind of jump we want to do. Here are some ideas for if you want to challenge yourself in other areas, if you have been working too hard at relative work with your regular group, or if you have just gotten tired of the usual "flat and stable" in freefall.

Some other disciplines:

Freestyle is a quick and easy replacement for relative work. One of the biggest advantages in trying freestyle skydiving is that much information has become available recently on this discipline including training manuals and video tapes produced by champion freestyle skydivers. To start with you do not need to change even a single piece of gear, and you can do it alone. All you really need to do is learn to dirt dive by yourself!

Skysurfing is another option that is related to Freestyle skydiving, so much in fact, that most people agree that you need to be very experienced in Freestyle before even attempting to skysurf. It would be worth your while safety-wise to get the best equipment and instruction before attempting to skysurf. If you are simply interested in bringing along something to put a little more horizontal movement into an otherwise nearly vertical sport and you do not have the experience to give skysurfing a try, possibly a "Boogie Board" would be a better option. These lightweight surfing style boards are not very hard to control and it is not a big problem if you drop one.

Canopy Relative Work (Canopy Formation Skydiving) is another type of jump that has available a lot of information about how to get started. In some cases the equipment needs are special, but many people can still make use of the canopy they jump now. If the idea of safely doing CRW concerns you, then make it a "no contact" CRW jump to begin with. Simply flying your canopy alongside someone else with precision is a challenge, and with almost no risk, even while flying back to the DZ after doing RW. After doing this for a while you may get more comfortable with the idea of CRW and want to do some. If you still aren't comfortable with the idea of touching another person's canopy you can take "no contact CRW" a step further and choreograph your canopy movements with another jumper into a type of "Canopy Ballet". It looks great from the ground and can be used at your next demonstration jump. Even if you have a great deal of experience in CRW and RW there are still things that you probably have not done. You and your friends will know that you are really hot skydivers when you can do a "4 by 4", a speed 4-way followed by a speed 4-stack on the same jump.

If you that think turning points quickly in relative work is difficult just try doing it in 3 dimensions! Traditional Style still has a group of dedicated followers especially those involved in competition. It may be hard to get training in this type of skydiving if no one you know is doing it. You may need to visit a competition site to get information and training in this discipline.

Some of the most gratifying jumps that can be made are those that end by placing your foot on a small pad in the center of a pea gravel pit. Accuracy is a discipline that can be practiced by almost everyone and can be combined with most other jumps. The biggest advantage is that it gives you something to work on when the clouds are low, and you won't spend nearly as much money. For those jumpers who have high performance canopies that cannot be made to sink into the pea gravel pit, a little creativity may be necessary to provide a challenging landing area. Swoop Accuracy landings can be practiced by breaking strips of crepe paper between 2 poles or knocking over an old duffle bag stuffed with newspaper. This type of practice may even tell you whether you should really jump that new high performance canopy at your next demo.

Things to try in conjunction with relative work:

Relative work teams always try to launch the first point in a sequence but some of the more unusual formations are a lot of fun to launch and challenging too. With practice you can launch almost any formation from almost any aircraft, even one of those "happy gorilla" formations and other inverted formations. If everyone wants to practice their diving skills you can try a "No Show" exit, one in which no part of the base is "showing" in the door of the airplane, much like Speed 10-way competition.

Freefall Video has become commonplace at dropzones now, but how did those video photographers get that good? Most of them started out doing video for free or for their slot until they got good enough to charge, so you may be able to seek out one of these people and do a "Fun Video" jump. A lot of things look interesting on video and some things look downright funny. You can organize a jump just to geek the video camera or video something new you are trying, either way this is your chance to get more on the video than just your rig and your backside.

If all you have is a 2 way to work with you can add a little manueverability exercise by jumping on your buddy's back and riding them like a horse, called a "Rodeo Dive". Keep an eye on your buddy's closing flap though, and on your altimeter, this dive can build up speed after a while. Jumpers have been known to ride their "horse" over to dock on another horse.

With a couple of more friends and an airplane with a larger door, you can take grips on the legs of the person in front of you to form an outside loop and roll a "Tube Dive" out the door. A tube will generally rotate and the centifigal force will make it round. The tube will eventually rotate on it's side and letting go of the upper grip is said to create an inverted donut formation the easy and fun way.

A solid base of jumpers and a good fall rate can provide a nice platform for a jumper to stand or kneel on, thereby creating a "3-D" jump. Organizing a three dimensional jump will give everyone involved a little bit better idea of what stability really is. Just be careful of everyone's rigs.

One of the oldest and most challenging accessories with which to freefall is the Hoola-Hoop. It has been around for decades and awards have even been created for various manuevers through a hoop. If you think you have become good at tracking and swooping, have a try at a "Hoop Dive". Your no-contact relative work will be challenged here as you try not to bend the hoop while being one of the jumpers holding it.

There is certainly no limit to the number of objects you can take with you in freefall, but the challenge here is to do it safely! Make sure your spot is well out over a field and even then, try to hold onto the object at pull time. "Hedge Apples", some types of melons, any many other objects have about the same fall rate as a skydiver and are fun to play catch with, and swooping for a bad pitch will be challenging, but be careful!

If you are confident of your ability to exit an airplane well you can attempt a "Mr. Bill" dive. If you use the right gear and exit well, it is not hard to hold onto a friend deploying their canopy right off the step, but don't try this kind of jump with a small high performance canopy. "Sluggo" needs a very slow opening parachute to allow Bill to hang on successfully. This type of jump requires a lot of care, also. Watch out for your handles on your rigs and check them after opening.

For those jumpers who may have forgotten what it was like to be a student there are several interesting jumps you can make:

With Tandem and AFF training so prevalent now, many among us have never even done a Static Line jump. If you do one, try to do it just like a student might do. You might even experience what it feels like to be nervous again!

If you are really fortunate you may know a Tandem Instructor that needs to regain their currency in Tandem jumping by taking an experienced jumper on a Tandem jump. Don't pass up this opportunity, you will experience a much different type of freefall and will fly a very interesting canopy.

Those jumpers who have always been curious about how they might do as an AFF Jumpmaster can try a simulated AFF Jump with an experienced jumper, or better yet, an AFF Jumpmaster playing the part of a student. Some of the most challenging relative work to be done is on some AFF jumps, and your "student" will be able to think of many ways to have some fun with you.

Give them a try-

There are a lot of ways to make a skydive more interesting and more fun and we all have our favorite disciplines and variations. These are just a few of the ideas that people have come up with over the years, and there will surely be more. It seems that people just keep coming up with new things to to while skydiving, (as if jumping out of a plane isn't enough!) If you give some of them a try you probably won't have any trouble finding people to go along with you for the fun of it.