Skydive Mag


Beer Line

Words by Alastair Macartney

Most dropzones have them in some form or another. The instructors keep their eyes peeled on them. Some jumpers swoop along them. Every now and again a skydiver crosses them. The only difference is those DZs that enforce them religiously and those that don’t.

I’m talking about beer lines.

Beer Line
Beer Line at Langar Boogie, Skydive Langar — Image by Tony Danbury


For the uninitiated the beer line is an area on the ground that skydivers are not allowed to land on the wrong side of, usually for safety reasons. Should someone touch down on the offending side they are met by jeers of “Beer!”, a firm talking-to from one of the club instructors and delivering a costly case of beer that night.


Beer lines are generally in force to define the landing area and control where skydivers can land. They usually restrict jumpers from encroaching on spectators, buildings and other hazards. They generally provide some room for error before an overshoot on landing leaves you wrapped around someone’s granny sitting outside the clubhouse innocently watching the action.


When someone lands on the wrong side of the beer line, unless they are a complete fool, they know that they are in the wrong. They know they shouldn’t be there. If the line had been a building then they may have hurt themselves but fortunately they have used that margin for error built into the beer line, and are thankful for it. In most cases they won’t do it again – well, not for a good long while. Hopefully they will debrief their mistake and improve their piloting skills as a result.

Unless they are a complete fool, they know that they are in the wrong

Don’t Make It Worse

Some drop zones enforce their beer lines. They insist on seeing the beer, impose groundings or another punishment. This probably means fewer skydivers infringe the beer line. But what do these jumpers then do to ensure they don't cross the line when they have messed up their landing pattern? Do they make a low turn? Do they cut someone up? Do they land in the wrong direction? All to avoid landing in land in the clear area that this margin of safety was created for? Is this sensible?

Please, no alcohol!
Swoop, buying the beer at the World Championships, Croatia, 2004 — Image by Andy Wright


Education not Enforcement

So, should we enforce beer lines and encourage our canopy pilots to do everything they can to avoid crossing them? Or should we educate the jumpers that stray into the abyss? Perhaps we could provide a constructive critique on their approach and train these skydivers to be safer, more consistent pilots.


It’s all about mindset. As a canopy pilot it is your responsibility to land safely in a clear area. That means planning your approach, before you even board the plane, to provide you that room for error to avoid crossing the beer line. You should assess the weather conditions, your ability and the canopy that you fly and set your landing pattern accordingly. You don't have to crowd the landing area with everyone next to the beer line. If having to walk a tad further means you’re in a clear area then is that so bad?

Be big enough to forget your ego and ask them if they can provide any constructive comments

If You Cross The Line

Don't wait for someone to tell you. Replay your approach in your mind. See if you can work out where you went wrong and how you could have adjusted your approach accordingly to have provided a safer and more accurate landing pattern. Did you plan and rehearse (dirt dive) your canopy flight? If not this would clearly help in future. Did someone else see you land? If so then be big enough to forget your ego and ask them if they can provide any constructive comments. Be man enough to buy the beer to indicate you know you made a mistake.

Swoop and Sian know when to buy their beer
Swoop still buying beer, 2016

Are You A Beer Line Infringer?

Yes or no, most people would still benefit from some training. So why not get educated? Ask someone to watch your approach and see if they can provide a critique, one day save your life. Better still, get some professional training from a professional coach. It will make you a better pilot and might just save your life. Try Flight 1.

Use Them, Don’t Abuse Them

Don't force someone into a dangerous situation just to avoid crossing a line. Next time you see someone stray over that line, have another think before you start chanting for your beer – because the time after that, when they make their low turn, cutting up another jumper, going crosswind, unable to pull themselves out of the corner and you hear their bones snap, all to avoid crossing the beer line, then perhaps you may have contributed to the decision-making process that forced them into that situation.

Article updated from original published in the BPA Magazine, Skydive The Mag

Get some professional training from a professional coach – it will make you a better pilot and might just save your life.


Be big enough to forget your ego and ask them if they can provide any constructive comments

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