Maja Kuczynska – Bigger than the Sky
Stunning routine by Maja Kuczyńska
“What does your gear say about you?”
Skydiving is like any other part of life, you are judged by how you perform, but mainly by how you look doing it. Thus skydiving brands are no exception to the typecast that exists in the outside world. Status and power are often inferred by the car you drive, the job you hold or the place you live. Not dressing right in the workplace can lead to missed opportunities for promotion, while social fashion faux pas can lead to gossip and ridicule.
The importance of appearance in skydiving is apparent; online forums and social media are littered with threads asking advice about what gear to buy and the importance of looking good. The dropzone that you jump at will be the biggest influence of what sort of gear you think is cool, and visiting another drop zone can be like shopping in another country where you get exposed to their trends and fashion.
Matching suits and rigs provide a clean uniform look on teams that adds an edge of professionalism (until the bar opens).
What does your gear say?
I’ve delved a little deeper than the common place “all the gear and no idea” and broken it down into common types seen around most drop zones.
Whether it’s boogieman jumpsuits or Micron rigs, you will find this jumper is wearing the flavour of the day. Some of these jumpers will be the cool trendsetters and others will be those following the trend, but once everyone has the “in” gear they form a collective group. These jumpers will tend to band together during the day and also once the bar opens, drinking from the same punch bowl. Different forces motivate the creation of the ‘in crowd’ it might be fuelled by a genuine belief in the product, purely aesthetic, or Heavens Gate cult Nike shoe replacement. Whatever the underlying force, the end result is the same.
In normal life this person would be sporting the latest skinny jeans and animal print item of the season in addition to his oh-so-individual angular haircut, that’s right, the world doesn’t get you at all.
These jumpers are young jumpers who are all kitted out. They are most easily spotted when trying to put on their rig before a jump, because they still make it look awkward and slightly retarded. When you are first buying gear it is a slippery slope – do you buy brand new gear or go second hand? These jumpers have taken the plunge and gotten the best of everything (normally matching) and are keeping their fingers crossed that someday their skydiving ability will match the level their gear implies.
In normal life this person would buy a 1000cc motorbike and wobble their way around the track till they learn how to ride.
This jumper has the latest gadgets and talks more about their gear than their flying. Their helmets will have locks and boxes for multiple cameras, they have Neptunes, Optimas, Protracks and Dytters adorning their arms , and plastered outside and inside their helmets. It is not uncommon to see this person changing jumpsuit to adjust to each slight modification in fall rate. The money they have spent on actual jumps parallels what they have spent on their knickknacks, doo-das, gadgets and gear.
In regular life this is the person waiting in line for the midnight release of the iPhone 6.
This group can’t see the forest for the trees, they will go to the extent of buying gear that might not suit their needs, just so it matches their colour scheme. All of their gear will be the same colour, down to their tube stoes, shoes and colour they use to mark their bridle length. For the same reasoning that leads them to buy things based on colour alone, they are also the type of person who is likely to land in a tree, probably distracted day-dreaming about a new pair of coloured risers they just HAD to have.
In the real world this person the one who walks into a pole because they are checking themselves out in the closest reflective surface.
Nothing this jumper wears matches, and they may not even have a jumpsuit or helmet. They normally have holes in their clothes and they look like they have been shopping at kiwi k-mart (the lost property). However once this jumper gets into the air they can outfly anyone in any discipline. They have normally spent every cent they ever earned on jumping, they’re purists who believe the gear makes no difference to their flying. Mikey Carpenter is the epitome of this type of jumper, have you seen his shorts?
In the real world this person would be wearing thongs, shorts and a T-shirt on the street but be better than you in every conceivable way.
Their faces will normally be obscured by a ring-sight and their heads will be covered with an abundance of cameras, still, HD, film etc. They are the ones you see taking a handycam or selfie stick on a solo as it seems these people might not actually believe that they skydive and so are obsessed with getting video evidence. They will be the first after the weekend to edit their footage, upload it onto Facebook accompanied with music and tag all of the participants before most have returned from the dz. Your most frequent conversation with this person will be before exit, “Is it on?”.
In their ‘normal’ life this person would probably be on a government security watch list.
These jumpers have been doing it since before some us were born. You will recognise their ancient rigs that make most of us shudder, they will normally be flat-packing because, according to them , it’s the best way to do it. Their hips have been replaced, maybe because of old age but probably due to the bad landing on their clapped-out F111 canopies. Their philosophy seems to be if it isn’t broke don’t fix it, and broke is a matter of opinion when it comes to their gear. They’ll be great for a story about ‘back in the day’ when they used to jump with their mains packed into garbage bags, but you don’t want to be flying above that gear at any stage.
In the real world these are the people who tout the wonders of owning a car you can fix yourself and seem to enjoy repairing it, whereas everyone else drives cars run by computers that don’t break down.
Team members will get gear that matches to add to the professional look of the team. There are telltale signs of a team’s commitment to longevity, which is seen in their gear. If the only thing teams bother to match are closing loop colours or they have formed a team around pre-existing jumpsuits, then they really aren’t looking to the future. If you are making a gear change based on the team then matching jumpsuits is the lowest level of gear commitment. In contrast, if their jumpsuits, rigs, canopies, altis and hormone fluctuations match then you can bet these guys are seeing a team psychologist and passing the discussion rock when they have team meetings.
In normal life these would be the lycra-wearing cyclists who clog up our roads and high five each other for undertaking what everyone else considers a mode of transport.
These are the rare sponsored jumpers. They are always seen sporting the latest and greatest gear on the market, they change their gear as often as some people change their closing loops. Don’t try and keep in trend with these gear horses or you’ll be dodging phone calls from debt collectors before you know it. They are a great resource to go to when you are thinking of trying something new out because they will be able to give you an honest assessment of the gear without trying to sell you something. Nothing speaks louder than a jumpsuit blowing apart in the space of a weeklong boogie in spite of the manufacturer’s promises, so check with them if you’re unsure.
In normal life these would be the same as any sponsored athletes, except in skydiving all they get is the gear and the women, not the millions.
Work jumpers will be wearing the dz uniform, normally a jumpsuit/pants and a staff shirt. The most prominent feature will be their vacant stares as they offer the tandem passengers the 15th brief for the day, or say “ok we’re at 7 grand halfway up how are you feeling?” These slaves were fun jumpers in a past life who either ran out of money or foolishly thought they’d make rich by working in the trade, little did they know copious amount of ethanol medication was required to live that life. They now spend their days throwing meat bombs and wistful watching of the fun jumpers.
In the real world these are the amusement park attendants who operate the roller-coasters but no longer get to ride them.
These jumpers can be seen wearing black and sometimes are so sneaky you don’t see them at all. They have decided for whatever reason be it uniformity, trying to keep up resale value or because it is slimming that all black gear is the way to go. Occasionally there will be a pinstripe or two of colour but nothing discernable from a distance. Getting all black, rig, jumpsuit , helmet etc can equip someone with the stealth they need to BASE jump at night into a secure fortress; however they are an absolute nightmare in formation skydives when EVERYONE looks the same.
In real life you can see these people wandering the streets of Melbourne because apparently southerners are allergic to any colour outside of the grey spectrum.
Naked skydivers. Well there is not a lot to be said or worn by these jumpers. There is normally one amongst the group who will drop their kit at the first inkling or suggestion of others. Normally they hail from sunnier climes and have spent too much time with Luke Oliver.
In non-skydiving circles these people would be a streaker at a cricket game, or tennis match, or football game, you get the picture.
These are the tandem passengers who mention their death-defying prowess at every available opportunity. They’ll be wearing No Fear t-shirts and while waiting around for their jump they’ll talk loudly about the rad bungee jump they did and mention that they are “a bit of an adrenaline junkie” to anyone who will listen. They will be using “I’m a skydiver” as a pick up line at a bar. These people are to be mocked mercilessly at every chance you get.
Real life, sadly is full of these people, if you’re not sure how cool they are, just ask them.
As for those who are lame enough to bother getting coloured soles on their shoes, well they are too sad to mention.
This is not mere posturing, if you undertake a ‘Where’s Wally’ type quest at your dz with you would find most of these people in some form or another wandering around, sometimes into things.
PS Cookies are SO in right now.
Disclaimer: The author of this piece does not consider skydiving or time spent at the dropzone “real or normal life” – that title is reserved for places that exist in the world where wearing pants is not optional.