Wingsuit Progression Series
A series covering WS skydiving, from your FFC through Exits, Skydiving with Others & Safety, by Matt Gerdes & Taya Weiss...
Everything is Relative
At the beginning, as you surely remember, jumping out of a plane was scary. The entire routine, from pulling on your lucky underpants through to getting a signature for those meticulously composed early logbook entries was a process involving many stressful elements, filling your brain with questions such as “Did I pack my shit correctly?” and “What were those emergency procedures again?”
Sure, you could attach a little mirror to your personage and pretend it's the 90s again - but I ask you to count each time you still forget to turn your camera off under canopy (be honest!
As you progress, the things that formerly made you feel the pressure start to settle and become more natural, but your focus in now required for whatever is next - new skills, bigger jumps, more complex plans. If you have embraced one of the greatest lessons that skydiving has to offer - that there is always more to learn - then this process does not end. There is never an absence of something to consciously consider and apply your mental energy to.
Even the simplest tasks can become stressful when you pile them on top of each other, so everything you can do to streamline your workload for a skydive frees up space in your brain to fill up with the important things like learning new skills, building your awareness or simply relaxing and having fun. Technology helps - to the point where the crucial stuff has become mandatory, like the altimeter on your wrist that shows you how far away the ground is, the audible that will beepy-beepy-beep in your ear to remind you - and the Cypres unit that saves your ass if you are still not sure.
Importantly, it facilitates the transition to the booze drinking area
Wether you are the platform or the subject, and regardless of how super-tiny awesomely wonderful they are now - cameras are distracting. I am not here to hit you over the head with a can of worms about how much experience people should have before jumping with one, but it is not allowed at the beginning for a reason. I started flying with a camera the very second someone in a position to do so would let me have one, and I think I personally worked through the positives and negatives. I began using an indicator light while flying the video slot for competitive freefly and the efficiencies I discovered there have carried their value into everything else. I generally have a lot to process when jumping - from tending to a student or leading a group to remembering all the details of a routine. Anything I can apply that allows me to remove as much personal faff as possible is valuable as it allows me to focus properly on my responsibilities.
The ability to start your camera recording precisely before exit and immediately after deployment pays dividends when back on the ground. Not capturing a couple of minutes of the inside of the plane and an entire canopy ride (because I forgot to turn it off – again!) makes the debrief process more efficient. Knowing what my camera is doing without having to take it off my head means that the first thing everyone sees on the big screen is not my enormous sweaty face (It also means I minimise my moving around in the plane - always good). Just recording what you actually need also saves battery life and can mean the difference between having to plug in towards the end of the day - right when it is the biggest pain in the ass, all the plug sockets are being used and the last person you loaned your cable to has wandered off with it. Importantly, it facilitates the transition to the booze drinking area - succinct files that are ready to go right from the camera helps one avoid being hunched over a laptop fucking around with files while everyone else is finished. Tight procedure like this makes everything a little bit better.
All The Small Things
Sure, you could attach a little mirror to your personage and pretend it is the 90s again - but I ask you to count each time you still forget to turn your camera off under canopy (be honest). A little light in your peripheral vision removes the need for counting the beeps your GoPro makes (how often are you not sure?) or attempting to operate a tiny mirror under canopy (which is definitely not the safest thing ever). The unit also lets you know when things are amiss that you very well might not notice otherwise. It will flash yellow if your battery is low and if your card is either full or absent - allowing you to deal with the problem in time for the next jump and not when you are already at ten thousand feet with no dice. Assessed singularly, each of these things could be argued as small enough to be dismissed - yet when you stack them on top of each other and apply them to every day of jumping the value is clear.
The unit also lets you know when things are amiss that you very well might not notice otherwise
I have been using a Turned On unit for a while now and it is great. I am pleased with it every time not faffing with my helmet means I can look over and communicate with my student one more time. I am pleased with it every time I can stop recording after deployment and then start again to capture my swoop without ever having to stop concentrating on what I am doing, where I am going and who is in the air around me. I am pleased with all the small things that add up to a solid investment.