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Release Me!

by <a href='' class='captionLink'>Zach Lewis</a>
by Zach Lewis

Thought you guys might like this one. This was from my first jump on Friday, and after my second attempt to clear it, I pretty well accepted the fact that I was going to have to chop this canopy. Lucky for me it didn’t turn out that way. The video shows the drama…


After opening and taking care of my camera gear (wings, stills, etc) I went to release my brakes. I immediately knew something was wrong because the left side felt like a bungee when I released. And then of course it violently started to turn. I was able to stop the turn by quickly getting to my right rear riser.

The brake line was stuck on half brake setting and would not release. Just pulling on the toggle as you normally would didn’t work. There wasn’t a knot, it was just the normal cateye was pulled at a really sharp angle on the toggle, keeping it from releasing. Just pulling on it pulled the toggle down further (note how much the canopy turns in the up view each time I pull on it), it was pulling the brake line further and pulling on the tail more.

Toggle failed to release - what now?…

I couldn’t use my other hand to help get it because my right hand was keeping me out of a violent spin on the rear riser. At this point, I pretty much knew I was going for a reserve ride and was thinking about anticipating the violent spin when I went for my cutaway pillow…


I checked my altitude (3K) and decided I had a few more seconds to mess with it. I used my thumb and finger to see if I could fix the angle a bit. A few unsuccessful pulls… then finally it released. YEAH!!!

by <a href='' class='captionLink'>Zach Lewis</a>
by Zach Lewis


I’ve never had this problem before, and I'm not sure what the cause is (other than the randomness of the universe).

Things people have asked

Could I have landed it?

In theory, yes. I could have basically landed it in half brakes. There would be a risk of losing control of the canopy, a risk of it releasing at a bad time, and a risk of a hard PLF landing from half brakes. I was ready to ditch those risks and just go for my badass #‎PDOptimum reserve.

Could I have stopped the turn by going to brakes on the other side instead of rears?

Yes, that likely also would have stopped the turn.

Could I have re-stowed the other brake?

Maybe? It would not have been easy because one hand was being used 100% to stop the spin, and I'm not sure what the advantage would be.

Things to think about

This demonstrates why you should be quick about getting your canopy flying. Don’t wait to release your brakes for the sake of your arms. Finding this out at 2,000 or 1,500 feet would not have been cool.

Some tips others have given

  • Use your mouth to hold the opposite toggle to stop the turn and free up a hand
  • Use harness input to stop the turn and free both hands (not sure if this will work at my wing loading, but will I test this weekend)

And finally

A note about the unstowed brake line… while it did not contribute to this issue, it is a BAD idea to not stow your excess brake line. I stow mine, but once in a while it comes free.