5 Things to Ask Before Downsizing

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It’s a topic that nearly all skydivers face at some point in their skydiving careers: downsizing 

Are you really ready for downsizing?
Photo by Roy Wimmer Jaglom

It is also a discussion that the Performance Designs staff has had with numerous skydivers of all experience levels over the years. Now, with the majority of incidents in skydiving occurring under fully opened (and fully functional) canopies, it’s that much more important to talk about when it is and is not appropriate to downsize.

PD takes this topic seriously. So if you’re thinking about downsizing, here are five questions you should ask yourself first:

1. Do I really need to downsize?

When someone who is thinking of downsizing approaches the PD staff, the first thing the staff member asks them is, “Why do you want to downsize?” You’d be surprised at how many people don’t know how to answer this question.

Consider the reasons you might give: Is it because other people tell you that you’re ready to downsize? Are you in a hurry to downsize so you can eventually learn to swoop? And let’s be honest here… do you want to look “cool” under a smaller, faster canopy?

Now ask yourself: Are my reasons appropriate?

In a video on PD’s YouTube channel, Jason MoledzkiPD Factory Team member and founder of Flight-1—puts it well:

You can generally move to a different type of parachute and find something that’s going to be more advanced, more fun, faster, and even more exciting to fly without necessarily having to downsize to a smaller parachute. Downsizing is really trendy… People think they want to do [it], but it’s not necessarily what they should do

Jason Moledzki

Whatever your reason may be, remember that getting hurt as a result of downsizing before you’re ready is a costly but avoidable mistake.

Video Jason Moledzki on Downsizing

2. Do I understand which performance factors will change with a new canopy?

There are many considerations to factor in when deciding whether to downsize, including what canopy you’re currently jumping, how many jumps you have, how often you jump and what your goals are… the list goes on.

You’ll also need to consider the type of wing you’ll be moving to: Is it elliptical? Is it cross-braced? Is it a 7-cell or 9-cell design? Do you understand the difference in performance based on all of these factors?

Then think about the size of the new canopy.  Bear in mind that you’ll experience higher performance under any wing that is smaller than what you’ve jumped until now, no matter what size it is. Smaller canopies are more responsive to input, magnifying the effects of small errors that may go unnoticed on larger canopies.

The “relationship” you have with your canopy can be a vital one. Give it time!
Photo by Elliot Byrd

3. Do I have enough experience under my current canopy?

PD Factory Team member and Flight-1 founder Shannon Pilcher, one of the most experienced canopy pilots out there, had this to say:

People often make the mistake of downsizing to improve performance instead of raising or training their skill level. Whatever parachute you have, people who are watching you on the ground should see you land and think, ‘Man, that guy is a bad-ass canopy pilot.’ If you can’t fly your canopy in various situations that you can be confronted with, then you have no business really downsizing or changing models to something sportier or faster

Shannon Pilcher

Video – Shannon Pilcher on Downsizing

Experience takes time. It is not gained over a handful of jumps or even hundreds but over months, years and even decades of education and practice. It is from experience that skydivers learn how to fly their canopies in any conditions.

Three hundred jumps equates to approximately 10 hours of canopy flight. Pete Allum, a Flight-1 instructor and veteran of more than 30,000 jumps, uses a great analogy in his SkydiveMag.com article “The Two Ways to Die.”

When we learn to drive, we are nervous and make mistakes, but after only a short while, more than 10 hours, we learn the basics, our awareness and abilities slowly increase (and driving is a very normal everyday activity). However, if someone asked us to drive a Formula-1 car at top speed in traffic after only 10 hours of driving experience, we might ask them if they were insane

Pete Allum

Maxine Tate, Flight-1 instructor, says:

There’s a huge difference between spending those 10 hours just coming down after a jump and actually dedicating time to learning all available control inputs. It’s important to get to know your canopy and how to use all emergency tools

Maxine Tate
Consider what happens if you have an out-landing, can you deal with any situation?
Photo shows Pete Allum by Roy Wimmer Jaglom

4. Can I comfortably land my current canopy in conditions that are less than ideal?

Landing is easy when you know the landing area like the back of your hand, the winds are light and variable, there are no traffic issues and all goes according to plan. But what happens when conditions are less than ideal? How about when it all goes horribly, the spot’s bad and the only direction you can land is downwind, someone cuts you off or someone’s kid or dog runs out in front of you when you’re landing? Don’t assume that just because you know your landing area well, that you’ll be safe under a smaller canopy. The reality is you can’t control the actions of other jumpers and people.

Which brings us to our last point.

Image by Will Penny

5. Have I asked advice from credible instructors and sources?

Asking the right people the right questions goes a long way. Don’t take for granted that the people offering you advice on downsizing actually know what they’re talking about. Consider the people you’re talking to. Are they reputable canopy coaches? Instructors? Do they have good track records for safety? Seek out appropriate sources and advice, and listen to them.

Not sure where to look?  Here are some great starting points:

The article “Wing Loading and its Effect” and wing loading charts for PD products at performancedesigns.com.

“The Two Ways to DIE” by Pete Allum“Loss of Altitude” by Maxine Tate and Considered Upsizing?” by Dan Brodsky-Chenfield.

Prefer videos?  Visit PD’s YouTube channel and watch “Jason Moledzki on Downsizing” and “Shannon Pilcher on downsizing”, videos also presented above.

Photo by Elliot Byrd

Downsizing Article written by Melissa Garcia and Ella Ran for the Performance Designs Blog

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Meet: Performance Designs

OUR DREAM OF FLIGHT
We are dreamers, creators, testers, and producers.  Driven by a true love for skydiving and an insatiable curiosity for possibility in parachute design, we’ve delivered revolutionary canopies and unrivaled customer service for over 30 years.  Our sport will never stop evolving. Neither will we.

OUR HISTORY
Combine one man, one skydive, and boundless ambition and you end up with one of the most successful companies in the skydiving industry to date. Founded in 1982, Performance Designs is the realization of Bill Coe’s dream to deliver improved performance of ram-air parachutes to the sport of skydiving. Bill’s passion ignited following his first jump at the age of 18 in 1976 and burned fiercely. He relocated to chase year-round jumping, but was dissatisfied with the canopies he encountered. First modifying, then building new designs from the ground up (all self-funded), he set out to revolutionize the sport and did so with the release of an early version of the PD 9-cell from his shop in DeLand, FL. Bill’s friend and also ardent skydiver, John LeBlanc, matched Bill’s passion and drive for modernized designs and joined PD as VP. With their combined efforts, the company thrived, yielding cutting-edge developments such as Microline, cross-bracing, and zero porosity fabric, all of which endure as standards in today’s parachute industry. Today Performance Designs calls DeLand, FL home, where Bill and John continue to lead and inspire their team to create progressive designs, and still encourage lunch break skydives.

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