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Big-way Bites 8 – How to STAY ON a BIG-WAY

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You followed the steps and you have the invite, what next?  You’re on the big load. Woo hoo!

One of the most BADASS skydive in recent history – the 128-way JEWEL
Photo by Andrey Veselov

Here are 12 things that will help you to stay on the load once skydiving starts…

First: Read the paperwork

Return any paperwork or deposits for the event promptly and with all information included. Don’t make the organizer chase you down for payment. Once you are at the event, introduce yourself by first and last name to the organizer(s) when convenient and don’t be offended when they forget your name. Remind them if they call you by another name. 

Second: Assess your slot

Assess the slot you’ve been assigned and decide if it’s the slot that best reflects your current talents and ability. If you should be moved, let your plane captain know AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.  He or she will pass that information on to the organizer as necessary. 

The transition of the 1st total break Sequential World Record, 130-way
Skydive Perris, 2019, photo by Andrey Veselov

Third: Don’t be late

Don’t be late. Ever. Not once. It really irritates organizers to try and track down people for dirtdives or debriefs. Have a “buddy system” and get in the habit of letting at least one person know where you are no matter WHERE it is or for how long.  Have access to a watch for events so you can make calls.

Don’t be late. Ever. Not once”

Fourth: Bring fall rate tools

Bring all your suits and/or weights to an event.  If you need more lead, or more suit, handle it. Don’t go to the organizer and ask questions that other people on the load can answer. Be ready to loan stuff to others on the dive if need be. Wear an audible altimeter and set it to the correct altitudes for break off and deployment. If break off is keyed from the center, then trust the center.  Don’t pull low.

Be invisible – try not to cause this!
Photo by Gary Wainwright

Fifth: Be invisible

Be invisible. Organizers aren’t looking for the person with the funniest jokes in the dirtdive, or the fastest swoop to the formation. They want to see the completed formation, or successful sequential if applicable. If, during a video debrief, the organizer asks “who is this?”, answer with your complete name. Hearing  “that’s me” is frustrating when you are dealing with multiple people. Relax, it’s often not a bad thing, just the organizer wanting to familiarize him or herself with the people on the screen. If you are asked to explain a specific action, keep it simple. “I made a judgement error” goes a long way over a lengthy explanation which boils down to the same answer.

Sixth: Don’t argue

Don’t argue. This makes you visible. If you are right, and the organizer is wrong then get your facts straight and present them to your organizer or plane captain without emotion. Video and or witnesses backing up your point of view are a good thing. Mistakes happen. People wear similar suits and or rigs. Don’t take responsibility for an error that isn’t yours, but don’t take it personally if a mistake does happen.

Don’t get lost, prepare your markers well, for low light conditions
Photo: Sequential Games, Skydive Perris, by Gary Wainwright

Seventh: Don’t get lost

Don’t get lost.  It’s a one point (maybe 2-3 at best) skydive. Know (at a minimum) 3-5 major keys on different people in the formation. Include the base, and several waves. At least one should be opposite you in the formation so that if either you or the formation is off heading, you can recognize that easily.  Know who exits the plane in front of you and who docks both in front and behind you, so if you are late (or early — they are equal offenses) you know who’s way to stay out of. The ability to dirt dive the entire skydive in your head, from both your point of view and the camera point of view has, in my experience, been very helpful for visualizing where one’s slot is.

Eighth: Don’t be a snitch

Don’t come up to the organizer (or plane captain) ‘volunteering’ information about other participants unless it is critical to the outcome of the dive or safety of the participants. Even so, do this only if you are sure that no one else on the dive knows this information.  Time is precious.

Ninth: Self-care

Take care of yourself. Drink water during the day, and (at least part of the time) during the night. Sleep. Eat a lot of healthy snacks rather than large meals that will slow you down. Don’t make your health the organizer’s or plane captain’s problem.

Tenth: Be safety aware

Track like your life depends on it. It does. Clear your air, deploy your canopy. Hands on risers during deployment, keep an eye out for other traffic 100% of the time. Don’t hook turn or make any radical canopy maneuvers on big ways. After landing collapse your canopy quickly and turn to face on coming traffic while picking up your canopy and moving to the side. The jump is not safely over until you are in the packing area. This isn’t an article on safety, but these are the basics that should be followed on 100% of your skydives.

Track like your life depends on it. It does”

Without good tracking skills you have no place on this kind of jump
Photo by Gary Wainwright

Eleventh: Use the talent

Utilize the talent on the load. The chances are that there is someone, either near you in the formation or on the airplane who knows the answers to the questions you are afraid to ask in a large group. Ask them. People LOVE being asked questions. If you are asked a question and don’t know the answer find someone who does. Take advantage of the amazing amount of talent to be found on any large formation skydiving load and learn from others.

Twelve: Don’t hurt Kate

Don’t hurt Kate 🙂

Summary

Enjoy your journey exploring large formation skydiving! It’s a wonderful and very social aspect of the sport. The feeling of sharing success with 100, 200, or 300 people together is quite special, and I recommend it to everyone. I look forward to sharing some air with you in the future.

Happy Kate, photo by Dennis Sattler

Big-way Bites Series

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Next article – Big-way Bites 9Safety in a BIG way!


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Meet: Kate Cooper-Jensen

Kate Cooper-Jensen started skydiving in 1978 and quickly became a prominent figure in the sport. Kate founded P3 Skydiving, together with Tony Domenico, the first big-way skydiving school, and has helped countless people achieve their big-way and record dreams.
Kate has been a participant and many times an organiser in over 30 World and National Records.

Organizer of numerous women's world records including 118-way (1999), 132-way (2002), 151-way (2005), 181-way (2009). Sequential women's world and open world record 117-way (2014), Sequential women's European and World Records 2-and 3-point 46-way, (2016); 2- and 3-point 56-way, 2016 and 3 x 60-way (2018).

Raised 1.9 million for breast cancer charities. Recipient of the USPA gold medal for meritorious achievement (2015). Inducted into Skydiving Hall of Fame (2019).

Kate is sponsored by Skydive Perris, Aerodyne, Cookie Helmets, L&B altimeters, Vertical jumpsuits and Vigil.

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