Return to the Sky

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Many of us are experiencing the same – a long lay-off from jumping, a distinct lack of currency, combined with a massive desire to get back in the sky

Remember the feeling of being under canopy?
Photo over Skydive Algarve, by co-author Simon Brentford

Hopefully our skydiving knowledge will carry us through that first handful of jumps back to a position of relative safety.

Returning in style

For most, this lay-off has been unusually long due to Covid. So here’s ten skydiving tips to make your transition back the best one possible:

1. Practice with your gear

A few days before you return to the DZ, take your rig out of the storage cupboard, try it on with all your skydiving gear, including any mask, if you will be wearing one. Do a couple of minutes of practice pulls with the main toggle and some emergency drills. Pop your helmet on for this and simulate going for the handles whilst looking at them and looking up. How good was your muscle memory? Are they in the same place? Check your gear thoroughly – do you need audible batteries, a new visor, documents?  

2. Visualise

Visualise yourself arriving at the drop zone, manifesting, putting on your gear, climbing to altitude, and a whole jump, including flight pattern and the landing. Include emotions – feeling excited and happy when arriving, being calm in the aircraft, the elation on landing. Put yourself in the mental state you want to be at each stage. When you eventually arrive at the DZ and plan your jump, visualise again, this should be easier because you flexed your visualisation muscles.

3. Keep it simple

When you’re planning your first skydive back, choose to make it an easy one. That’s to say, not at the limit of weather conditions you might normally be able to jump in; but well within your comfort zone. Next, don’t choose to go on a 10-way because there’s a slot available. Maybe pick something a bit less hectic, like a 2-way or 4-way with trusted friends and a slightly higher break-off and deployment.

Your first skydive back should be well within your comfort zone

Stay calm and confident on the climb to altitude
Photo by Simon Brentford

4. In the aircraft 

When you’re in the aircraft climbing to altitude, you may experience a surge in adrenaline. That’s your lack of currency speaking right there. Do some simple breathing exercises (5 long breaths in through the nose and gently out through the mouth). That should help clam and focus you. You can also say to yourself “I’m doing an easy jump, the conditions are great and it’s well within my capability”. Take a look out of the window if feasible and remind yourself what Pull Altitude looks like, and what Break-off Altitude looks like.

5. Get a great exit

Start your freefall as you mean to, by remembering all the basics of a great exit. It’s so easy to let your mind go blank as you endure the exit, rather than take control over it. Present your relevant flying surfaces to the relative wind so you don’t go unstable. Be confident, remember the basics and enjoy your skydive!

6. Alti checks

Do a few extra altimeter checks in freefall and under canopy as your awareness will probably be not as finely tuned as it was before.

7. Ignore any cameras

If you’re with someone jumping a camera, don’t take the role of trying to get that cool shot to post on social media, showing everyone you’re back in the game. All that does is distract you from the salient job of getting your skills refreshed. Being in freefall again is rad enough!

Be confident, remember the basics and enjoy your skydive!

Keep your body symmetrical on deployment
Photo: Author Simon Brentford, by Martin Skrbel

8. Pull time

When it comes to deployment, your body symmetry is important. No throwing your pilot chute during a track or a turn. You make like to plan to open a little higher than usual; if so, communicate your exact intentions to the DZ and others on the load.

9. Under canopy

Most importantly, many people on your load will mostly likely being doing their first jumps back in 2021 too. Spatial awareness between canopies and flying a predictable pattern are super important.

10. Landing

Do some practice flares of your canopy when you have the horizontal and vertical space around you to do it safely (not below 1,500ft!). Remember how far you can pull your toggles down before you feel your canopy really slows down. Look at the position of your hands at the side of your body. Was it where you remember it was back in 2020? When it comes to actually landing, don’t rush your flare and make sure you use all of your canopy’s flare ability (i.e. from full drive, not half brakes). Lastly, turn and face the jumpers who are landing, there may be other people heading for you. Watch out for them.

Spatial awareness between canopies and flying a predictable pattern are super important

Watch out for the people landing after you
Photo at Skydive Hibaldstow by Rob Lloyd

Experience Level

Many of you reading this may think “I’ve got over 500 skydives, this isn’t really relevant to me”. 

I’d say, Wrong. I’ve got over 4,600 skydives and when I return back to the sky, it will be with people I trust, doing some easy jumps and my eyes will be extra wide open once I’ve opened my parachute.

Final tip

When you are planning your jump, make sure it gives you the following three Cs:

  • Calmness
  • Confidence
  • Capability
It won’t take many jumps to get current again, then sign up for some events 🙂
Photo by Roy Wimmer-Jaglom during a ToraTora event at Skydive Algarve

Article by Simon Brentford, originally published here on the Skydive Hib Blog, adapted by Lesley Gale

Read about Simon in this NFTO interview

Meet: Simon Brentford

Cameraman for team NFTO since 2015
5200 Skydives, 1000+ BASE jumps, FS & WS coach
UK National Champion 4-way 2004 (as point with Wizards), 2018, 2019, 2021 (as camera)
UK National Champion 8-way 2019 & 2021 (as camera)
UK National Champion Speed skydiving 3 times
4-way at World Cup, Saarlouis, Germany 2011
Speed Skydiving at Mondial, Dubai 2012 (came 6th)
4-way Female at World Air Games, Dubai 2015 (came 5th)
4-way Female at World Championships 2016, Chicago, USA (took Bronze)
4-way Female at World Championships 2018, Gold Coast, Oz (took Silver)
4-way Female at World Cup 2019, Eloy, USA (took Silver)

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