Dive Dr, I Keep Going Low…

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Dear Dive Doctor,

I keep going low on formations – not even very big ones.. between 8-way and 12-way size. Now I don’t want to go on those type of jumps any more in case I mess it up for everyone. But I love 8-way! Can you help?

Sian Stokes and her NFTO teammate Anna Hicks sending lots of good vibes before exit
Photo by Simon Brentford

Answered by Sian Stokes

a well-known bigway load organizer and member of team NFTO

Dear skydiver,

There are a few points to consider with this question. Firstly, when do you usually go low?

  • Is it on approach or during the skydive?
  • If it’s on approach do you go low and continue to lose altitude or just go past the formation and stay a meter or so below?

If it’s on approach, this would suggest it is a fall rate issue, so use the right tools to make sure you are in the same fall rate range as the rest of the group and also select the correct exit and slot position to make it more comfortable. If you go past the formation this would suggest your approach is too fast and you’re stopping too late. To fix this issue stop a little earlier on your approach to bleed off excess speed and use a stadium approach to fly to your slot. Every metre out you should have roughly half a metre height.

A stadium approach, at a 30 degree angle, safeguards altitude
Photo by Willy Boeykens

If you tend to go low during the skydive it may be fall rate, caused by you being out of range or the formation slowing down as people are picking up grips. It is important for the base to maintain a decent fall rate throughout and this is matched by everyone as they arrive. If you are in the base make sure you have the correct tools to allow this (it might mean wearing weight when you don’t always). This is to allow you to stay comfortable even if there is lift created when people pick your grips up. If on the outside, expect it to feel slower as you approach, set up in a stadium approach and continue to reference through the center of the formation as this will help you preempt any changes in fall rate.

If you go low between points you’re not matching the fall rate of the formation – anticipate that it may slow down
Photo over Skydive Hibaldstow by Martin Skrbel

Make sure you come to a full stop before picking up your grips. Regardless of your slot it is important to Fly Your Slot. The work isn’t over when you arrive and pick up your grips! Put yourself in your comfort zone.

Exit position, put yourself in an exit slot you feel confident flying, that may be floating or early diver (it’s a personal preference, there is no ‘easy slot’). If you have confidence from the moment you exit the aircraft, this will put you in a better mental state from the start. From setting up in the door, to exit, to approach you should identify where the base is and where it will be when you arrive.

Always expect the unexpected. if you or someone else has an unstable exit then your pictures and approach will be different, so have your eyes wide open! Make sure your arrival is something you are proud to be shown on the bar tape! It’s always better to take a fraction longer to stop and take your grip rather than approaching and funneling the whole formation.

Reference through the center of the formation as this will help you preempt any changes in fall rate

If you do go low, this is a great body position to fix it
Photo by Luciano Bacqué during the WWR event at Skydive Perris


Other notes to consider to use the right tools:

  • Weight belts
  • Baggy/tight jumpsuit – different materials can help with fall rate, for example, poly-cotton is slower than nylon.
  • T-shirt/jumper on top to give drag – remember if you are adding any tools such as a t-shirt you need to make sure it cannot lift and cover your handles! Get an instructor to check it out if any doubt.
  • Webbed gloves, not as common nowadays but still a good tool to help approach, but won’t help when in your slot and you have picked up your grips.
  • Booties, they give more power and lift.
Being in a good body position in the center of your fall rate range makes everything easy
Photo over Skydive Hibaldstow by Martin Skrbel

Body Position

The better your body position and more relaxed you are, the easier it is! You should be in the middle of your range so you can always go faster or slower when needed. Be in the right mental state! Half of the difficulty with skydiving is the mental game. Positive thinking and using the time in the plane to visualize the whole skydive is the best tool you have. Spend the time on the ground to see the right pictures to avoid distraction in the air, such as who is in the base, where your slot is, where your approach is.

If you have all of this information, then you can concentrate more so on flying your slot, any small fall rate fixes you may need throughout and then of course the fun and safety of tracking away and canopy flight! Be a lucky skydiver; see more, have fun. You will soon be able to fly any slot on a 6-12 way, this is no different to the slots on a 200 way!

Be in the right mental state! Half of the difficulty with skydiving is the mental game

Follow these tips and you will rock any fall rate 🙂
Photo over Skydive Hibaldstow by Martin Skrbel

Article originally published on the Skydive Hibaldstow blog here

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Meet: Sian Stokes

Sian got into skydiving as a means of conquering her fear of heights.
Full Stop, with player/coach Milko. We won all of the intermediate categories in the UK. Bodyflight 4-way female. Isis 4-way Female. 4Mula. Volition UK 4-way female indoors, Silver Worlds
More than 7,000 jumps later she has won every category in the UK 4-way Nationals, she has two world silver medals (with Volition and NFTO) and a world bronze.
Sian is a full time skydiver, 4-way coach and load organizer for bigway events and an inspiration for all competition lovers out there.

Sian is proudly sponsored by Aerodyne, Cookie, Vigil, LB Altimeters and the Swallow Group of DZs

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