Coping with Competition
Using competition butterflies to make your performance better, not worse...
Unfortunately, a feeling of safety is not the same thing as actual safety
Nobody expects to get hurt. This is because the mindset required to get us out of the door involves a certain level of confidence in our competence. Nevertheless, many people do get injured as a result of participating in our beloved sport, and a high percentage of these accidents were predictable.
Click here to complete the Canopy Risk Quotient questionnaire to find your level of risk
This concept, introduced by the USPA in Parachutist magazine, has been made into an App by Belgian skydiver Pierre Stévens, so all the skydivers worldwide can compute their Canopy Risk Quotient. It is not perfect, and a low risk score does not guarantee your safety just as high risk score does not mean that you are going to get hurt. The purpose of this risk analysis is to let you know when you are not playing it as safe as you thought, so you can be more careful. If we know we are in danger, we can take steps toward creating a higher level of safety.
The results, which will be emailed to you, give an idea of your risk category:
You appreciate your canopy’s capabilities and have been getting training from a coach and practicing on a target or course regularly. You’re staying current and enjoying your canopy’s performance, maybe making lots of different types of landings and approaches. You’re good with accuracy on that canopy and practice with a target on almost every jump.
If you’re keeping your canopy skills and equipment in the comfortable range, that allows you to explore new avenues in freefall, like larger freefall groups or DZs at higher elevations. Being in the comfortable zone might reduce the risk of exploring more aggressive canopy maneuvers, if that’s the direction you want to take.
If you’re on the high end of the score for this group, you might be jumping fairly conservative gear but without a lot of training on it. As long as you don’t get into a difficult situation, you might be OK, but you can never count on that. Be especially careful when you travel, and you should probably put off that decision to downsize for a while until you can get with a coach and make some more jumps.
You might earn a high average-risk score if you’re very experienced and well trained on a small wing but not too current or not too current at a certain DZ or with your current canopy. Be careful until you regain your edge with more experience and training. If you find yourself uncurrent a lot, you might want to upsize a little.
This is a bad place. The combination of attributes that add up to high risk were derived from profiles of jumpers involved in the many scores of canopy-related accidents reported to USPA. This isn’t about a bunch of old people telling you not to do something fun. It’s for you to see for yourself how you compare to the people in those reports.
You may have gotten to this point with the best intentions, but you should assess how to reduce your actual current risk. You can start by getting training, upsizing or both. Also, after a bad spot, you should not be one of the jumpers who tries to stretch it out to the last couple hundred feet to make it back to the DZ. Pick a safe alternative early.
Jumpers who want to learn performance landings and get ready for swoop competitions should not move into the high-risk category by getting smaller canopies to train with. To reduce your risk before trying high-speed landing maneuvers, start jumping more, make only high hop-and-pops, and consider downsizing only after your score fits you into a lower risk profile. Before going big on landing, train with a coach. Always keep your risk low when learning performance moves.
No matter how you got this score, you and the jumpers around you are in trouble. You’re jumping a canopy that’s too advanced for your experience and currency, and you haven’t been trained well enough to fly it safely. You probably should not continue to jump your current equipment, and you definitely should not visit other drop zones. Overly aggressive canopy pilots new on the DZ have become one of a DZ manager’s biggest headaches.
At home, your friends should insist that you land by yourself, away from them. You really should put your current canopy away for a while, upsize to something safer and work with a coach until he feels you have the skills to handle your current gear. And please don’t try anything fancy on landing.
If you feel that you got this score unfairly because you bought gear that some people told you would be fine if you jumped it conservatively or were careful until you got used to it, then those people have simply not gotten the message. Advice a lot of people in the sport used to consider a little aggressive but reasonable turned out to be dangerous. Sometimes, it takes a while for people to get the word. Not only does the scary profile describe those in the accident reports, but the accidents themselves have severe consequences for the jumpers and others around them. Frankly, the rest of the jumpers in the sport are sick of it.
If you discover that your Quotient is “High Risk” or “Scary”, you don’t need to quit skydiving. Expanded training can improve your safety, as can currency and adrenaline management to maintain clarity of thought and situational awareness.
Although it may be the right choice to upsize, many would perceive such a change as a failure. This stems from the false premise that the goal is to jump the fastest parachute that we can, to prove our bravery and skill. The real goal of the wise skydiver, if we are to boil it down, is to remain uninjured. The decisions that lead to sustainable safety often require us to take conservative steps away from speed and complexity.
The bottom line is, if you awaken to the fact that you are taking a larger risk than you previously thought, set your ego aside and take every step you can think of to reduce your danger level before it’s too late. If you slow down, learn more and explore your parachute in every possible way, you will find yourself benefiting from wise foresight rather than painful hindsight.
Click to complete the Canopy Risk Quotient questionnaire Your results will be emailed directly to you.