Do you want more points?
It’s the number 1 skill for a formation skydiver
Formation Skydiving has always been my passion since I did my AFF Course in DeLand in 1996. Back then, I used to watch VHS tapes of French and USA FS top teams repeatedly, trying to catch any little secret from those incredible flyers and some of those scenes will always stay in my mind, as I guess in the mind of a whole generation of formation skydivers. If I close my eyes, I still see Eric Fradet head-switching in slow motion with Thunderstruck as a soundtrack or Dan BC perfectly executing exits and blocks in the Arizona Airspeed instructional videos.
All that was so fascinating for me so I decided to practice and study whatever was available to learn those incredible flying skills and to have that perfect body position – representing for me the pure essence of human flight. So, after a couple of years and some hundreds of jumps I decided to attend the Skydive University Coach Course in Perris run by Rob Laidlaw (now you can find SU in Deland, Florida). That course put me in touch with the great job Craig Buxton and Danny Page did in formalizing the Skill Analysis Module of Skydive University – a work I consider invaluable since [quoting their words], ”having a basic understanding of bio-mechanics and fundamental physics helps make sequential skydiving techniques easier to teach, perform, coach and debrief”. In those pages, I found for the first time the topic I will talk about in this article, defined by the authors as the #1 Skill for a Formation Skydiver, ie, the Static Condition.
It was something that sounded pretty commonplace to me at that time but it can be misleading if you consider being static only to have a good neutral body position or just falling in place.
Definition of Static
(General Physics) – of a weight, force, or pressure – acting but causing no movement – of or relating to bodies at rest or forces in equilibrium.
Formation skydiving and body position through the years
In those years (the end of the nineties) many champions and competitors contributed to develop and share new flying skills, including ‘advanced body positions‘. Every formation skydiver in those times challenged himself trying to have a perfect ‘mantis‘ position as today probably many are trying to fly a ‘state of the art wind-tunnel position’. I was one of them – and still am – but, from my personal point of view, all new information is good if it helps you to build that number 1 skill of Static Condition. This includes for sure a sound ‘neutral box (+advanced)’ body position – “that allows to fly neutral and stable, being ready for every next move in the formation skydiving playing field” – but there is far more to it than that.
Moreover for some flyers it is not easy to just copy some of those ‘perfect positions’– it could be the flexibility of their body, their shape, or their muscle structure. I have seen many skydivers over the years focusing too much on a ‘perfect’ position, being trapped in the ‘performance vs stability’ dilemma, adding more tension to their flight and losing the focus on the ‘static’ target. When I started to fly in NFTA windtunnel camps I realized how that static condition is so important and sometimes misunderstood or underestimated. Hence this article, which I hope will be a good contribution for new students approaching formation skydiving.
Is ‘being static’ just falling in place?
No! Sometimes people watching videos from top teams say: “it seems so easy, they look like they are almost staying still” or “they look so steady, they are fast but it looks like they are hardly moving”.
Being static means having a sound ‘neutral box (advanced)’ body position but it also means to have the ability to respond immediately when a force tries to move your center of mass away, such as a teammate pushing you or having momentum from a block. Do remember that, ‘in formation skydiving your point of awareness should be your center of mass moving on the playing field’ (Skill Analysis Module). Don’t be confused by the position of the head, of the body or the fancy moves of arms and legs in a specific frame. To keep our centers of mass (‘bellies’, to make it really simple) falling in place or on the shortest paths planned in the dirtdive is one of the best premises for a successful formation sequential skydive.
To have a good neutral position you ‘just’ need to have a relaxed arch through your upper body and torso using your breath, a good symmetry and your chin up. To develop a good static flight could demand more and more as you progress in formation skydiving. A good static condition demands the knowledge of all movements in the axis of flying, the ability to respond when a force is making you unstable or moving your center of mass away from your plan and being ready to anticipate the next moves.
Video, NFTA 2014 Camp – Ghost competition
It’s a lot of work being static
How many times you hear 4-way flyers saying; “this is a boring jump for me, I just have to stay still!” Well, being static can be really busy and full of ‘invisible’ actions. What makes a static condition?
- a sound and comfortable “neutral (advanced) box” body position
- awareness and control of the breathing
- awareness of center of mass in the playing field, which includes fall rate
- responsive flying skills on every axis
- anticipation of next personal move and the formation, including memorization
- awareness and execution of grip management plan, including keys
- a wide view of what is going on around including eye contact and checking of cross references.
These are all items that can help in building a solid static position or condition, for you and your teammates.
Here follows a video example from a NFTA windtunnel camp with a “static jump” for most of the slots… but you can see it’s not at all boring!
4-way random dive at NFTA.eu camp
In the second part of this article Max will give you 3 exercises you can work on to improve your static skills.