Please, Slow Down

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It’s exciting to come out of lockdown and back to the skies… but let’s take our time

Do some fun 2-ways with a mate before going bigger, just enjoy!
Photo over Skydive Hibaldstow, by Andy Godwin

I see a worrying trend of multiple incidents at the same drop zone, on the same weekend – and the next weekend and the next one.

It’s a phenomenon across the UK, many other countries in Europe and it may be more widely spread.  Most are not life-changing injuries – broken ankle, tib, fib, wrist, dislocation, etc – but there are too many for it to be coincidence.

What is happening here? We are coming out of lockdown, everyone at his or her own speed.  We are not current. We are not skydiving-fit. We are pushing hard to jump because we missed out on so many jumps the last 18 months. We think we can pick up where we left off, and, in my humble opinion, maybe we can’t.

Many excellent resources have been produced about ‘that first jump back after lockdown’.. but there is far more to it than the first weekend’s jumping.  That may lull us into a false sense of security… first jump for 9 months, we weren’t (too) scared, paid attention, landed well, everything was good. Hurrah!

But, what now? … that first weekend, and the next, is only the tip of the iceberg. It will take at least 50 jumps, probably more, before we regain the currency and awareness we enjoyed previously. Most of us did a fraction of our normal jump numbers last year, so perhaps we never regained the currency of 2019. Normally we do tunnel in the winter but for many of us that was not on the menu. The entire skill set on the dropzones in some areas has never been so depleted. A load with one or two uncurrent jumpers is not so bad, but a load full of uncurrent people is a potential liability… especially if people think they are current because they did a few jumps this year already.

Image by Andy Ford

So, what’s the solution? 

Just slow down.

Please.

Skydiving uses muscles in a particular way, and if we’re not jumping often, most likely our bodies will feel it, and be more prone to injury. Many areas are out of practice – our sinuses at the strains of the changes in pressure, our eyes to judge landings, and probably the biggest one, coping with the surges of adrenaline we inevitably experience at many points during the skydive.

Rather than pushing for loads of jumps, take the time to enjoy them
Photo: Outstanding geek from Gavin Brookfield, at Martin Skrbel on camera

I can see in others, and feel in myself, that we are not as capable at pushing out the jump numbers as we were. There is no shame in this. We jump for pure fun. Even if you’re pushing hard to win a medal at a World Meet, it’s still ultimately for joy, there are no millions to be won. So why not just slow down a little bit, do a few less jumps per day, and build up when we’re ready. Better that, than breaking some bones and wiping out the rest of the season. That would be a real pisser of a 2021 to follow the catastrophe of 2020.

Teams, make a realistic plan for your daily jump number
Image over Skydive Hibaldstow by Simon Brentford

Teams seem particularly at risk. Especially now the ‘2020’ World Meet is confirmed, there is a huge feeling that teams have missed out on training and need to ‘catch up’.  Well, most teams are in the same boat, so you don’t have to make up any ground. You have to make sure you can train all the way to the World Meet.  I overheard someone with an injury on the first training weekend of the season saying she could ‘tough it out, don’t change the plan’. Well, this skydiver is one of the toughest cookies I know, I am 100% sure she could jump at a competition with that injury and kick ass. But right now, you’re in it for the long haul till October and why push your body so hard, so quickly?

There is often a feeling on a team that you ‘don’t want to let the others down’. You might feel you’d be letting them down by saying you’re tired and could we stop earlier/take a break/revisit the plan. But you’d let the team down more by keeping jumping until you break yourself. And other team members may feel just the same and be relieved. It’s not a macho contest!

If we were marathon runners let out after lockdown we would not go straight into the full 26 miles. Perhaps teams that previously made 12 jumps a day would be better to start with 8 jumps. It’s not just the skydiving, it’s the creeping, the information, the skydive-fitness… the many fixes of adrenaline.

It’s rarely one thing that leads to an incident, usually it is a few links in a chain. Most probably, with uncurrency but awareness and desire, we will be fine.  But, being aware that post-lockdown-fatigue is a possible factor, we can be alert to our headspace, our level of tiredness, and other influences such as heat. Maybe miss that sunset big-way and give yourself a break.

I asked Kris Cavill, CCI at Skydive Hibaldstow for his thoughts on the trend

Generally everyone is jump un-fit – as instructors we have felt and seen as we started back [after lockdown] that after 3-4 tandems a day we are feeling it, whereas before Covid began we could be doing 8-10 jumps a day without feeling it.

I think everyone is so desperate to get back into routines, teams training for Mondial and wanting to get back to where they were etc, but everyone is thinking they are ready, when really they aren’t. As the day goes on people begin to fade but a lot, instead of admitting that, do push themselves.

Kris Cavill

Final Plea from Lesley

Please, slow the f*ck down. Live to fight another day. I want to jump with you on those days, and many more to come.

Thumbs-up from Roy Little, photo by Hallam Knight

Note: This article is not relevant to many areas of the world – such as the US, where many people have not had a lengthy break due to lockdown. But if you feel it’s relevant to your country, please share.

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Meet: Lesley Gale

Lesley has been in love with skydiving for 35 years. She is a multiple world and national record holder and a coach on 20 successful record events worldwide. She has over 100 competition medals spanning more than 25 years and has been on the British 8-way National team at World events. She started Skydive Mag to spread knowledge, information and passion about our amazing sport.
Lesley is delighted to be sponsored by Performance Designs, Sun Path, Cypres, Cookie, Symbiosis suits and Larsen & Brusgaard

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