Wingsuit Progression Series
A series covering WS skydiving, from your FFC through Exits, Skydiving with Others & Safety, by Matt Gerdes & Taya Weiss...
How many jumps, what type, how long in the sport?
15,000 jumps, skydiving since 1986
What equipment do you jump, and why?
Aerodyne Icon Aerodyne Pilot 132 Aerodyne Smart Reserve 120 I like how comfortable the Icon fits me. I am quite tall and the XL NextGen is as comfortable as it gets. The Pilot is for my job the most reliable and fun, all-round canopy.
Nationality, and where you live?
I am a USA Citizen. Born in the Netherlands. I live in Zephyrhills, Florida
Skydiving achievements, claims to fame
Contributing to improving the Instructional rating system.
What do you do for a living?
I own and operate SkydiveRatings, a full-time Instructional rating school. I teach our rating courses at our locations in Zephyrhills and Sebastian and I travel to other countries to conduct Instructional rating courses
How long has Skydive Ratings been going and how many people have you trained`?
Tandem Examiner since 1993 AFF Evaluator since 1997
Started SkydiveRatings – full-time ratings school in 2003.
We did not keep accurate records in the beginning of our existence but according to the records we have certified skydivers with over 3,000 ratings
What approach do you take at Skydive Ratings when evaluating instructors?
I like to compare it to 4-way coaching. Our goal is to be supportive, encourage team-building and facilitate to whatever our course candidates need to be successful. Our goal is that learning takes place with an emphasis on holistic learning with a wider focus.
How long is does a course take for AFF Instructor? How much is ground school and how much aerial work?
The AFF course is a 6-day course, split as follows:
Do people move on to evaluation after a set amount of jumps/ground school or when they are ready? How much practice is generally required?
The course has 2 mandatory practice jumps. In reality AFF candidates make more practice jumps to learn the AFF air skills. Progression is at an individual pace. People have different backgrounds and skill levels. Our job is to bring our AFF candidates up to the standards that USPA has set before we start the evaluation process.
Being a good belly flyer is a must.
The number of practice jumps depends on skill and currency. Being a good belly flyer is a must.
My friend, who is an excellent skydiver, said your course was “brilliant but the hardest thing I’ve ever done”. What makes it so difficult? Do you give your potential instructors anything harder to deal with on the course than they will see in real life?
We train the AFF candidates for entry level AFF. The real learning starts after they leave the course. Real life can and will be harder at some point. Sooner or later every AFF Instructor will need the skills they learned during the rating course.
The real learning starts after they leave the course
Candidates may experience it as difficult because these 6 days are very intense. New techniques, new challenges, super-focused on the goal of passing this course and being tested as an experienced skydiver is an intense experience for most people.
What is the hardest AFF jump you’ve had with a student?
Mmm, I don’t know, they are all challenging in their own way
And the hardest or most memorable, with a trainee instructor?
Most memorable are former AFF students who became world-renowned skydivers that attended my rating courses.
What are the most common problems you see with your trainees?
Lack of belly flying skills and unprepared candidates
Do many people fail?
Some candidates don’t make it the first time around but with proper preparing, training and coaching they can be successful the next time
My pet peeve that I wholeheartedly believe in is:
“Everyone will be successful with the right motivation”. If it is not today, it will be tomorrow, next week or next year. Motivation is key!
How do you see people grow through the course?
People gain more confidence as they go through our practice modules. My program is built on positive progression in smaller steps. Candidates gain what I call “Instructor awareness” They grow with their team and become more aware skydivers/Instructors
Why do you do what you do, what do you get out of it?
I love it – I live it.
I like to see progression. This sport is awesome!
What advice do you have for people who want to become an instructor? And if they want to do your course?
Contact us ahead of time and find out what you have to do to prepare for the rating course.
Also find a mentor-Instructor at your DZ. Shadow that person, get familiar with the USPA books, IRM and SIM and work on good belly fly skills
Whom do you admire?
Jonathan Martins: skydiver, yachtsman and philosopher
What’s the biggest problem we have in the sport right now? And what can we do about it?
Do we have a problem?
DZO’s and managers pushing numbers.
Tell us a quirky fact about yourself, that people don’t know
I don’t like to eat with my hands. Can’t do it.
Describe yourself in 5 words or less
Straight-forward, committed, dry humor
What’s your pet hate? Inside and outside the sport
What’s one thing you own that you should throw out but probably never will ?
Anything you would like to add?
Train them until you trust them, then trust them