Skydive SAFETY – The CRUX
Dan's Dan's Thought for the Day...
In 2017, I met a young skydiver – an Irishman named Linley Ewing. Unbeknownst to him, he inspired me – his acceptance to put it all on the line in order to realize his dream of becoming a professional skydiver. You meet lots of people who have big dreams, but few are willing to sacrifice comfort to achieve them. Linley lived in his car for a year to put every cent towards making his dream a reality…
What failure in your life set you up for later success?
I had found a job in England as part of my degree. I packed my life into my car, and moved over, ready to spend a year working in industry. I decided to head over two weeks before the job started, to check out some drop zones. This was back in 2014, and it was the first time I visited Skydive Langar. As it would turn out, I absolutely hated the job I was working in. My employers didn’t seem to have anything productive to do, it was common to run errands, and make tea. I ended up quitting the job, and with a month of freedom, I moved into my tent for the end of the UK season, and spent every penny I had on jump tickets. This was when I realised I wanted to work in the sport.
What are you not very good at, but wish you were good at?
Moderation. I find I’m very much an all or nothing kind of guy. If I’m interested in something I completely throw myself into it. If I have money, I spend it. If I buy a pack of muffins, I’ll eat the packet of muffins. When I go out for pint, I’ll drink myself stupid. Basically, if I find something I enjoy, I can’t get enough of it. I always need more! So yeah it would be nice to be able to moderate myself!
What's one of the best investments you’ve ever made?
I’ve been on four tunnel camps now, two in Slovakia, two in Poland. My ability to progress seems to rely on doing lots and doing it regularly. Each camp I’ve been on has brought my flying skills on in leaps and bounds! I’m ready for the next one!
You’ve started running… a lot! What inspired you?
As for the running, I saw an article about a guy who ran 2017 miles in 2017, and I thought “I could do something like that”. I did some maths and realised that was a hell of a lot of running, so I figured, hell I’ll go for 2018 km in 2018. I’ve been enjoying the mental aspect of running, I’ve never been good at sitting doing nothing, my brain tends to get ahead of itself, I’ve found running to be a really good way to focus my thoughts! I’ve also bought myself a road bike and started cycling, and I’ve been having swimming lessons over the past few weeks. I’m loosely throwing around the idea of training for an Ironman!
What advice would you give to a wannabe skydiving instructor, especially in the UK where the weather can be a challenge?
Be prepared to sacrifice a lot of your time. Be prepared to not earn as much as you would like. Be prepared to not jump for days and weeks on end during the winter. If you aren’t going to travel abroad during the offseason, accept that doing a few working jumps a month is pretty normal in the winter!
You're based at Skydive Langar, what do you enjoy most about your job?
So many things… I love that when I wake up in the morning, I’m excited to go to work. We have a great team at Langar, I enjoy the banter we have. I love doing tandems, being a part of my student’s experience, telling all the usual rubbish jokes, I feed off their enthusiasm. When I’m not throwing drogues, I love working with the students, helping people work towards their licence, or that next sticker, and at the end of the day, I love to sneak in that fun jump on the sunset load.
What’s the most challenging aspect?
Sometimes there are hard decisions to make. I’ve taken some ground schools and had students perform poorly throughout the day, so much so, I made the decision to not let them do a solo jump. I want everyone to be able to skydive, and to have the opportunities I’ve had, so it’s not a choice I make lightly, at least a part of me wonders if I could have taught them better, but after several hours of additional training, I still wasn’t confident in their abilities. Safety always takes priority, but it’s still a hard decision to make.
What is the riskiest thing you’ve done to make things happen?
I mentioned that I’m pretty bad at moderating, and that tends to constantly leave me on the edge of financial ruin. I spent every penny I had to get my jump numbers up and get my tandem rating back in 2016, so much so that I ended up living in my car during my first season working. It was worth it!
What’s the best purchase you’ve made under £100 that has positively impacted your life?
I hate being cold. Sadly, skydiving in the UK and being cold go hand in hand. I bought myself a pair of Karrimor thermal socks. They cost me £25 and they have been a real game-changer! Can’t beat a warm pair of socks!
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What’s the most memorable skydive you’ve ever made?
A ten-second delay in early 2014. I wasn’t a particularly good student, I repeated a lot of jumps (52 jumps before I got my A licence). I even had an entanglement due to an unstable pull. I’d done a good ten-second delay, and then the weather turned and I wasn’t able to jump for 6 weeks. When it finally came to the jump, I knew in my head that if I could do the same thing, I’d be able to progress, but I’d messed up a lot of ten-second delays before. I was terrified in the plane, I remember shaking out of fear. I told myself on the way to altitude, “Linley if you fuck this one up, you’re done skydiving.” Thankfully, the jump went well and here we are a few years later!
What’s the most common error you see with skydivers?
“Execution of well-thought-out and rehearsed emergency procedures would have prevented half the 2016 deaths in the Malfunction category” – USPA 2016 Fatality Summary.
This really struck home with me, and from videos I seen of various Safety Days last season, it couldn’t be any more true. The staggering amount of experienced skydivers who don’t know their drills is mind-blowing. People who have been jumping for 30 years have changed equipment, have downsized, and have not stayed up to date with best practices. I’ve made it a focus to emphasize the importance of experienced skydivers practicing their emergency procedures, and I now run regular sessions throughout the season to help fix this.
What discipline of skydiving would you love to learn?
I really want to do more canopy piloting. I jump a PD Spectre 120 which I absolutely love because it’s just so easy. It opens, it gets me back, I can get away with murder on it. It’s such a fun canopy to jump, and I love doing my cheeky front riser 90s to land. I think I swoop it pretty well! I’ve been considering getting something a little bit more aggressive so I can get more out of my swoops, but I’m conscious of just how much harder I’d have to work under canopy! Maybe I’ll get a PD Storm next…
Of all the skydiving destinations you’ve been to, which one would you most like to return?
I visited Skydive Chicago for two months in 2016. What a drop zone. I met some really amazing people there, I was lucky enough to have the chance to jump with some of the best in the sport, SDC Core and SDC Rhythm. I had such an amazing trip out there and I would love to be able to go back, and work there for a season. (Anybody want to help me out with a Green Card?)
If you could make a 4-way jump with anyone in the world (alive or deceased), who would be the other three?
Since I’m just starting to get into VFS, I’d love to get a little bit better first and then go do a sick jump with people like J Russ, Rook and Kai Kai. I really enjoyed their personalities and enthusiasm when I was at Skydive Chicago, and they’re all pretty badass skydivers, so I might even look cool when jumping with them!
Article shortened from the original, published on DropZone.Marketing here.