The Sunset Load

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It can so easily be the best – or the worst – jump of the day

Image from Ethernal Boogie 2023, by Gustavo Cabana

Sunset jumps can be some of the most beautiful skydives we get to experience. The lighting is beautiful, there’s something special about being on the last load of the day, and it feels good to close out the day with a sunset skydive.

The thing about the sunset jump, though, is that if anything goes wrong, things can escalate quickly as the light of day begins to run out.

Considerations

A few things to consider:

The sunset load is not the time of day to have a cutaway. At the very least, if you cutaway safely, it’s going to be more difficult to find your main and freebag at most dropzones.

What to do to help your chances of not having a cutaway?

  • Check your gear
  • Don’t trash pack for the sunset load – or maybe even ever?!
  • Breakoff cleanly into open air space
  • Fly your body all the way through your deployment
  • Maintain a good body position through deployment

Sunset jump is not the time to land off. When we’re running short on daylight, ideally we’re on the dropzone and accounted for.

Do you have the energy for that jump? If you’ve been going hard all day and have noticed the loss of energy or mental sharpness due to the long hours of the day, a quick check to see if you’re really fit for that last skydive might not be a bad idea. Those who know when to pull off a jump are the unsung heroes of the sport.

A good spot is extra important on the sunset load
Image from Ethernal Boogie 2023, by Gustavo Cabana

Tips

A few tips for sunset jumps:

  • If you’re not used to leading jumps, maybe go straight down on the sunset jump.
  • Wingsuiters, take extra care in that flight planning
  • Make any off-landing decisions early and keep your eyes open for things that might be hard to see in sunset lighting such as telephone wires, uneven grounds/ditches and fences
  • Check the winds. A lot of times the winds change at the end of the day. So, while you may have been flying your pattern and landing in the same direction all day, please remember that often the winds change around this time of day and check the arrow as soon as you open, to adjust your pattern if necessary. Alternatively, maybe the winds are in the same direction but they have died down or picked up. Again, checking the winds as soon as you’re open is going to help you set up for success.
  • Leave your sunglasses. You’re probably not going to need those on the sunset jump. Better to keep them on the ground than to have to try to find some place to store them for the jump or wear them and lose visibility during the jump and under canopy.

Summary

I’ve been on dropzones when the sunset load lands and the celebratory high-fives on the landing area are a beautiful thing. I’ve also been on a dropzone when someone lands off and there’s a serious search in low light looking for the jumper. Make sure your decision to skydive is one you make consciously and that you fly the best you’ve flown all day, all the way to touchdown, to be sure you’re on the landing area for those sunset high-fives.

Image by Viktor Borsuk
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Meet: Alethia Austin

Alethia is a passionate full time international angle and freefly coach. As the creator of LSD Bigway Camps and LSD Angle Camps, she's been running skills camps in skydiving for over 8 years around the world. Some of her coaching and LSD camps have taken her to Botswana, Egypt, Central America, North America, Europe and more. Alethia brings her years of yoga teaching, love of good health and healthy living into the way she coaches angle flying and vertical flying. Alethia was a regional captain for the Women's Vertical World Record and has two world records. Her sponsors include UPT, Tonfly, PD, Cypres and LB Altimeters.

You can find her on Instagram at Instagram.com/alethiaja

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