Sunday, September 07, 2014

Born to jump!!! Not...

  There are certain people in this world that are born to do certain things. Michael Jordan and LeBron James were born to play basketball. Derek Jeter was born to lay baseball. Tony Stewart was born to drive race cars. Some things just come naturally to people. Well, as I found out Saturday, Dale Hall is not a born skydiver.
  When I took my initial scuba diving classes, my instructor said he saw something in me in the first class and thought to himself, "This guy is a scuba diver." And, most of the stuff did come pretty easy to me. I have gotten all my ratings with ease and have never had a real issue with anything new concerning scuba diving.  I can assure you, my skydiving instructors are not thinking the same thing about me.
  Saturday, 6 Sept 2014 was my Level 3 AFF jump. Level three is where they let go of you for the first time. And, if you remember the multitude of steps I had to do in Level 2, that I did all in the wrong order, this jump was MUCH easier.  All I had to do on this time was: Exit, and when stable, call out altitude one time, 1 practice pull, tap my toes together, and then stay steady when they let go. Hold heading, lock at 6000, wave off and pull at 5500. Under canopy, I only had to try and stall my canopy and then I could play around until 2000 feet and then start my landing run at 1000.  Easy-peasy!!! Well, the steps were easy to remember.
  Today, my instructors were two I had never met before. My main-side was Ryan and my reserve-side was Ashton. Ashton is a tiny female that weighs about 100, if that. So, because she doesn't fall very fast, they put me in a HUGE jumpsuit to slow me down. (Only because she's tiny and not because I'm a fat ass.. Um, yeah. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it)  After I did my first jump of the day briefing with Gary, they hooked me up with Ashton and Ryan. We did the gear check and when we got the 20 minute call, we geared up and went to the mock up to practice the exit and dive flow.  Everything seemed good to go.  We boarded and after doing my handle checks and practice wave and pull at 5500 feet, Ashton turned around and did the final gear check for me and we went back over everything. At about 11,000 feet, the "skydiver handshake" was being done all around and around 13,500 feet, the door opened. The green light comes on and the Silver Wings pile out in one big group. After them, a single fun jumper went and then it was my turn before a big load of tandems. Again, the nerves were there but nothing that couldn't be handled. That truly does get better each time. In the door, Right Hand, Right Foot, Left hand, Left foot. Check in, Check out. Prop! Up! Down! Arch, Arch, Arch! Down the "hill" we go and we get stable. I check altitude and yell over to Ashton. I didn't wait for her to give me the "OK" and moved over to Ryan. Then, I see both of them give me the "Legs" signal. I push them out and get better. I do my practice pull and my toe taps. Check altitude. I feel them start to let go, but I keep feeling like I want to turn. I get the "Arch" sign and try that and then I see another "Toe Tap" signal from Ryan. I do it, but I still feel like I want to turn. I'm struggling to stay steady and although not tumbling through the sky, I feel totally out of control. Maybe not "out of control" but definitely not in control. I'm watching altitude while struggling to maintain heading and stability. I finally lock on at 6000 and wave off and pull at 5500. (I was happy I was finally able to wave off and pull on my own this time) When the canopy opens, both left and right end cells didn't inflate, but I grab the toggles, one quick flare and everything is square, stable and steerable.  Under canopy, I did my stall. You can't really stall that big of a canopy, but I did get it to slow enough where it pendulum-ed me forward. After that, I just played around with spins and turns over the playgroup. Over in the distance a big thunderstorm was happening and it looked awesome from a 3000 foot vantage point. That was the first time I wished I had a camera with me. Ryan talked to me a bit on the radio to keep me away from some tandems and then I brought myself for another text-book butt-scoot landing. One of these I'm going to stand one up, but not today.  After I was down, Ryan came over to help me with picking up the canopy. I thought I knew how to do it, but I was so bad at it, he had to have me put it back on the ground and start over three times before I finally got it right.
  During my debrief, we went over the dive. To make a long story not too much longer, I had de-arched slightly during the dive and I had one leg that was a bit lower than the other. Those two issues caused me to want to spin. I asked if they even let go of me and he said they did, but they stayed close and blocked me with their arms to keep me from spinning. I never got out of the wanting to spin stage, but they were hands off for most of the jump.  He said my canopy run was fine. He said my landing was started about 2 feet too late and I was slightly slow on the flair which resulted in the butt scoot. If I start a bit higher and flair a bit faster, I'll be spot on. All in all, it was good jump, however, in level 4 you must go hands free while making 2 90 degree turns and dock with your instructor on forward flight, they weren't confident to let me go on to that level. He said, to help me progress, he does feel confident I can go with one instructor, but he wants me to repeat the Level 3 dive flow with a single instructor. Although bummed that I didn't totally pass it, I totally agree with his assessment. I have to be able to stable before I can turn and dock. So, instead of moving on the Level 4, I will be doing, what I call,  Level 3-B.
  Like I said, some people are born to do certain things and those things come natural to them. I am not a born skydiver, but I can be taught.
Until next time...
Top pic is me coming in on final.
Bottom pic: Waking back in with Ryan after FINALLY getting my chute picked up.

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