Ending Hiatus

Hello, my name is Matt, and it’s been 93 days since my last jump. I’ve been trying to get a jump in for a couple of weeks now. The weather has not cooperated much this fall/winter season. Since we returned to an El Niño weather pattern this fall, getting jumps in has been rather difficult. It’s been cloudy and rainy—great for alleviating summer’s drought.

It cleared up this weekend. Yesterday was a bit windy, so I decided to wait until this morning. I called the DZ, and though it was cloudy, they said to come on out since the forecast called for the clouds to clear within a couple of hours of sunrise. Due to the lapse in my jumps, I had to do a extensive emergency procedures review. Greg, my frequent instructor, was in charge of making sure I still remembered everything. After we reviewed everything, I got my usual pack and checked it out. Thus began the waiting. I had anticipated it being busy, so I brought my Kindle along for some reading. I got a couple of chapters in before noon and realized it wasn’t going to clear up. They were going to give it about another half hour before calling it for the day, but I decided to leave.

I was feeling pretty nervous on the way out. With such a big lapse in jumps, I had way too long to think about it. So I’m glad I was able to go out today and relax. By the time I left, I felt a lot better. I think with the chiropractic care and some work we did today on ways to keep my arch, I will well on L2 attempt 4 when I finally get to do it. Hoping for blue skies on Saturday!

A Break

So, I decided to skip a week between jumps. I went to Academy to buy an exercise ball on my mom’s suggestion. I ended up with two of these strange peanut shaped exercise balls. I’m able to suspend myself between them in what sort of looks like an arch. It’s definitely really uncomfortable. My back doesn’t stretch that way. It’s pretty strange. I tried doing an arch against a wall and found it difficult to hold for a whole minute.

I had planned to get back to the drop zone after skipping a weekend but had to head out of town for a family death. The following two weekends have been full of bad weather and thus yielded no jumps. I’ve hit the 30 day between jumps mark and will have to do a refresher course when I make it back. I have a minor surgical procedure to remove a cyst that will keep me from jumping the first weekend in December. I may have picked the worst time of year to pick up this sport.

Over the last couple of weeks, I took some further advice from several friends and decided to go see a chiropractor. Something was not quite right in my lower back, and I needed to figure out what. To make the story short, my back is much tighter than is should be. We’ve got it a little looser and I find that heat helps. I may look like an idiot, but I’ve got a heating pad in my car to use on the way out to the DZ whenever I can get there. My last visit to the chiro raised a few flags that will be looked into more tomorrow. I may have a bit of scoliosis that has cause some extra muscle tension that may need to be worked on. So maybe it’s best that I haven’t been able to jump in a while. I may not physically be ready yet. I have some vacation time that I have to use up before February, so maybe I’ll use that time to get some jumps in, if the weather is good. I’ll find out more about my back soon and keep everyone posted. The doc says it’s been helpful for me to have a goal of arching my back. He’s tailored my care to achieve that goal, so we’ll get there. I’m just not terribly patient/

I’m not giving up. I’ve already prepaid the DZ a lot of money. I’m just waiting for the back to work out and for the weather to cooperate. This is one of those times living in Southern California would be helpful. They’ve seemed to have clear skies everyday the past month nearly. Oh well. I’ll get back up in the sky soon enough. Actually, I’m flying to Dallas for a Ducks game this week since I can’t do any sports. But I won’t get to jump out of that plane.

Blue skies!

Jump #7

Well, I ventured out to the drop zone for another Friday jump. I was determined to get this one right. Things were running a little slow at the DZ, so I didn’t make it on the first load. I was paired with my usual instructor Greg, to go over the pre-jump checks. They were pretty quick because I was starting to get the hang of it. My second instructor, Ray, joined us halfway into the checks. I’d never seen Ray before, but he was a refreshingly mellow guy. Since I was having issues relaxing, this was a good thing. I knew that my only real problem was the arch. The RW is pretty easy to pick up once you can get stable. I’d tried to get some stretching in at home, but it’s really uncomfortable to do when you don’t have 120 mph winds holding you up horizontally. I tried some vertical stretching, but that just made my lower back hurt. We were prepped for load 2 and went out to wait for the plane.

I knew the biggest thing I needed to do on the way up to altitude was to relax and breathe. Thanks to some sound advice from the great community at skydive-info.com, I had some various techniques of chilling to try. When it was finally our turn to exit the plane after a quick circle back, I was much calmer than I had been on any of my previous jumps. The exit wasn’t perfect, but we quickly settled down, sort of. I still can’t arch enough. My stretching trials during the week hadn’t helped. I feel like I really just can’t arch my back like a normal human being. It was rather frustrating. We never really got into position this time, so I didn’t get to try any of the maneuvers. I was still calm, but really didn’t know what to do to make things work. I was arching best I knew how to no avail. Obviously I failed again. But I felt better about the jump, just disappointed. I’m thinking I need a week off to get some stretching in.

Jump #5 & Jump #6

Well the weather cleared up Friday after all. It was a beautiful jump. So I made it out to the DZ at 10 to make it on the first load. My second instructor was running a bit late, so I was put on load 2. The DZ was a little busy so we got fly the TO instead of the Caravan. When I was at the DZ on Monday, I was sure to pay attention to the instruction given to the young lady (I think her name was Janelle) that was doing L2. Now that I had proved I could deploy my own chute, it was time to work on body position.

This jump adds a 90˚ left team turn, a 90˚ right team turn and a 4-second forward team movement. I knew I could do the third maneuver since I’d done it accidentally in both L1 jumps in attempts to find the sweet spot for my leg position. We practiced on the ground on the spinny thing (I forget what it’s called) and at the mock up. We geared up and prepped for the jump.

I was a little nervous again but at least knew what to expect. There were two tandems and two teams with us on the load so I knew I’d be the last one off as always. I, somewhat successfully, tried to calm down on the ride up. I wasn’t too worried about remember the dive flow. I’d done it twice now and remembered both times. Adding the three maneuvers to the extra freefall time would be a piece of cake…yeah, right.

The two teams exiting before us at 13.5 took their time exiting, so we had to circle back around. This was not helpful on the nerves. The exit was a little less than stellar. I tried to arch better, but it’s really hard to do that when you’re looking down at the ground instead of chin up like you’re supposed to. I had this same problem with skating for hockey at first. I always wanted to watch my feet. Anyhoo, my positioning was a bit off so it took us a while to get stabilized. I tried to follow the leg signals I was given, but I still need to work on minor adjustments, so there was still a lot of overcorrecting. After my practice pulls, I initiated the left turn. I didn’t do a very good job. We sorta did a turn, but it wasn’t 90˚. They signaled to neutralize and try the other turn. It went about as well as the right until Terry pushed my shoulder down a little further. I was trying to do all of the turn with my arm and not my whole upper body. It definitely worked a little better, but was pretty slow.

By this point, we were at 7,500 ft, so I didn’t have time to continue with the forward movement. Here’s where it got a little interesting. We neared 6,000 and I was ready to wave off when all of a sudden, my altimeter flipped out and bounced down to 5,000 and back up to below 6,000. I knew that an altimeter malfunction meant pull and I was just reaching back as Terry gave me the pull hand sign. I complied as I had already planned to and had an uneventful canopy ride. In retrospect, the winds aloft were a bit strong, so I got a little closer to the landing area than I needed to initially, but Greg helped me find the proper playground via radio.

We debriefed and discussed that my body position wasn’t good enough to be let go of yet (necessary for L3) so, I knew I had to repeat L2. At this point it was only 2ish so I had more than enough time to stay around for another attempt. This is starting to get expensive. Understandably, you have to repay the cost of the entire jump to redo it. These early jumps are more expensive because you have two instructors with you for the jump. But, I knew I hadn’t found that sweet spot yet, and knew that it was important to do so.

We didn’t have to wait too long before it was time to gear up for the last load of the day (#4). My consistent chute (99-3, a 250 sqft lime green, yellow and pink canopy) was repacked just in time for me to take it back up. Our equipment check was quick, but safe. Since I’d just used the rig, I knew where everything was to check and was prepped to go.

Arch. Arch. Arch. That’s the only word I was thinking about on the way up other than keeping an eye on where we were over the DZ and relaxing. Apparently mind over matter doesn’t really work for me. We exited better and I kept my chin up, but I still couldn’t find the right position. We “potato chipped” quite a bit and it took a while to stabilize. Once we did, I did my checks and started the left turn. It was much better. We didn’t have time for any other maneuvers. I waved and pulled with no problems. The canopy ride was a bit better placed in the playground. I was much more aware of the winds aloft and knew I needed to steer away from the DZ for a while. The landing was a bit muddy due to the recent rain but pretty solid. I still failed due to the unstable body position. I decided to take a break until Friday. I’ve gotta practice arching at home. I just have to teach my body how to bend that way. It’ll happen. I just can’t keep paying for rejumps. Blue skies!

Jump #4

So I failed L1. It happens, but I don’t like things like that looming over my head. Knowing that winter (and cloudy skies) is nigh, I know that taking advantage of clear days is wise. With my to do list being short due to my project coordinator out one more day on vacation and Friday’s forecast looking rainy, I figured redoing the jump would be best suited for a Monday morning. I arrived at the DZ a little before 10 to find another student doing her L2 waiting in the lobby. After checking in at manifest, I waited for instruction.

After a short wait, we headed to the gear room. This time we went over the equipment inspection procedures and talked about the wind patterns. Having had two semesters of weather at UT, I have a pretty good understanding of the wind forecast and can even, albeit slowly, convert knots to mph. We geared up and I was paired with Erik, who taught my ground school, and Greg. We went over the dive flow outside at the aircraft mock up and headed to wait for the Caravan.

I was definitely much more relaxed for this jump, still nervous, but more relaxed. On the way up, we went over the dive flow in reverse order til altitude. The exit was much better this time. We wobbled a little but settled down. I did the apropriate COA check. Both instructors told me to extend my legs and I quickly overcorrected. Then they told me to bring them back in and I overcorrected. I still don’t have a handle on exactly where they go. They went ahead and gave me the thumbs up for my practice pulls. I permormed them a little jerky but successfully. I finally relaxed for the last 1500 ft. and had great position.

Here’s the important part: I waved and pulled at 5500! I need to work on a bigger wave, but I passed.

The canopy deployed with a simple line twist that I quickly corrected without freaking out. I followed Erik’s instructions guiding me in. Before landing I flared a bit early and then let up a little too much. Erik told me to flare flare flare and I did. I hit the ground a little hard and just fell to my knees with a quick return to my feet.

All in all it was a great jump. I’m ready for L2 this weekend weather permitting.

Jump #3

Well I got up nice and early to drive to the DZ for ground school. I got there an entire 15 minutes before I had to be there. Which, for those that know me well, is kind of a big deal. I’m generally not an award-winning morning person.

Ground school got off to a 30-minute late start with only 3 of us. The other half of the class was, apparently, a group of friends that had overslept. They didn’t make it. Ground school covers a lot of information. I was a little familiar with some of the stuff from reading so much on the Internet over the last two months. I only missed one question on the test. The only reason I missed it is because our instructor skipped that part of the instructing. We finished up at 12:40ish. Continue reading Jump #3