A user-friendly but comprehensive malfunctions summary, on one page...
Once you begin to learn formation skydiving, it is worth spending some time on your basic flying position before embarking on bigger and better things. A good position is the foundation to all other FS skills. Tunnel sessions are handy to work on this. Whether skydiving or tunnel, get video as this will give you the feedback you need.
Spine straight, left and right sides both equal.
Your neutral position should take minimal effort to maintain. Snipers are taught a body position that lets their rifle point naturally at the target. If you are flying ‘down the tube’ (straight down) and working hard to stay there, chances are when you deviate from this to move, you’ll find it harder than if you were relaxed to start with!
Arching increases fall rate, stability and gives you a natural centre-point to make turns more in-place. This arch always comes from the hips, near your centre of gravity.
A raised head gives the best vision and the information you need for decision-making.
This is one of the most common errors. Flying with your knees as wide as this will make it difficult or impossible to maintain an arch from the hips. This is due to the way your thigh bone swivels in your hips. Knees too wide invariably leads to your backside being too high. This will cup air and make turning in place hard. Keep knees roughly shoulder-width apart and make sure your hips are your lowest point.
Keep your spine straight during a turn. This makes your turn in-place. If you see yourself on video – watch to see the lines between your elbows and knees parallel to your spine stay the same. Turn technique should involve arm and leg input, but no twisting. If your 360s are more like graceful arcs, try this out next time you get a chance. Trying too hard to maintain eye contact will lead people to look round the corner, also inducing a twist, so keep your head forward and lock that spine out!
Relaxing your muscles and going with the air rather than fighting it will instantly improve your technique
When coaching people, I try and get them to fly quietly, with no unnecessary movement. Again, this is more of an attitude than a conscious muscle effort. Being still and calm in your flying will enable you to concentrate on what grips you are taking, eye contact, block technique, etc; rather than fighting against the air just to stay in place. This calm flying style is also infectious; teammates and fellow skydivers will pick up on your vibe and hopefully take it into their own flying, leading to better skydives.
This is where the elbows are back and the hands are close to the head, described poetically as ‘chicken wings’! Dropping the elbows to a position down and forward of your head will enable you take grips more easily. It will also make you arch with your hips, not your chest and, by altering your forearms, flying like this will enable you to control your fall rate better. Slow up by putting your forearms horizontal, speed up by raising your wrists like a drawbridge. Try it!
Being tense isn’t so much a bad position, more a difficult place to start from. Relaxing your muscles and going with the air rather than fighting it will instantly improve your flying technique. Feel the air flow around you and try and maintain the position you are in without having to put major effort in.
Got booties? Good. What are they for? Turning your lower leg into a more effective flying control is as good an answer as any. Like a sail on a yacht, the material needs to be taut to be most effective. The best way to make this happen is to point your toes. Failing to point your toes means your lower legs are less effective. It’s also an indication that your knees may be slightly down, inducing a slight backward movement. Prevent this by keeping your arch on, pointing your toes and flying strong.
It's not intended to turn out identical skydivers all flying like robots. Your individual style is an essential part of your jumping. Just by incorporating a few basic guidelines into your body position, you should see some improvements in your skydives and you’ll progress faster and enjoy the whole thing much more!
Originally published in Skydive The Mag