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Raft Jump

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Skydiving with a raft can be a whole lot of fun. But we should never take anything for granted, especially any object we decide to take into freefall. 

Author Angelo Declerck in a raft, with friends over Calais
Photo by Yuri Demilde

Angelo Declerck runs through what to bear in mind when jumping with an inflatable…

From Calais to England

Last weekend I had an “Angelo’s school of Bigway”  event going on in Calais. The skydivers made such progression and were so focussed on improving themselves that it we needed to do a ‘finale’ jump to just have fun and enjoy the views! We could see the White Cliffs of Dover every single jump. So, we thought, why not try to row to England in the air ?! 😊

We’ve probably all seen videos and photos of jumps with inflatable things. It’s in our nature to copy something we find cool 😊 At that stage we might not think about all the possible things that could go wrong, because the video from the others looks super easy.

Briefing

After having seen a video and  got a briefing on how to jump and exit with the raft, we started to plan with my group how we would do the jump. We went through multiple scenarios, good practice, break off plan, etc. Even though we did a very thorough briefing, we still had some little issues. Don’t get me wrong, we had a very safe jump. But, it was a learning experience.

The exit can be a challenge!
Photo by Yuri Demilde

Pointers

Here is a summary of things to keep in mind if you ever think about jumping with a raft or any inflatable…

Inflation

Before you board the plane; make sure the boat is not pumped up very hard, you should be able to push it in a lot. While in the plane, make sure you feel the boat constantly and release some air!  The higher you go, the harder the boat becomes due to the lower pressure.

Make a good plan for the exit and drill it
Photo by Yuri Demilde

Exit

The first challenge is the exit. It is not as easy as it looks or as  you might think. It can rotate in any direction if the wind gets the boat and then the humans around it can be thrown away like cannon balls. Make sure you drill the exit a few times, and have a good count.

Fall Rate

The next thing that comes up is the fall rate; inflatables fall very slowly. Even with some big boys hanging onto the boat it still had a very slow fall rate! Some people had to track away because the raft flew too slowly.  If this happens, be aware, stay away from the jump run and don’t pull high in this situation!!

The raft will fall slowly, be aware not to go past it
Photo by Yuri Demilde

Distractions

Another thing is to be aware of distractions. While I was in the boat, I could see people floating up and flying around the boat to film and enjoy the views. But there is a risk is that people become distracted, too focussed on the crazy view and could fly into or onto each other. Maintain peripheral awareness and know where the other skydivers are.

Time to Say Goodbye

The last thing is getting out of the boat. This was a lesson in ‘Expect the Unexpected’. The moment the other jumpers let go and started to track away, I was too late to jump out of the boat. The boat went superfast going “up” and it also started to spin very quickly.  It took me some seconds to get out of this boat in a flat spin. If it would have been a novice jumper in the raft, they might have been panicking with this situation. It’s something most people are not used to dealing with.

Be aware on break-off, you have to get out of the raft
Photo by Yuri Demilde

Summary

Just be aware of these risks that go along with this kind of jump. Keep in mind things are never as easy as they look. Of course, we want to have loads of fun! And that means making sure we all come down safely.

Enjoy! 😊

With the right planning, a raft jump is really awesome fun
Photo by Yuri Demilde
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Meet: Angelo Declerck

Angelo is a Belgian FS and CRW enthusiast, holder of many big-way records.

He flies PD, UPT, Tonfly helmets, L&B and Intrudair.

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