Watch THIS!

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“Watch This” could be the most dangerous phrase in our vocabulary…

“Watch this”, cried Pat, at 200 feet under canopy right above the spectators’ area.

Image by Dennis Sattler

With this, he buried a toggle… and impacted the ground at about the same time his canopy did.

The spectators really could’ve been spared the invitation to watch this gory incident. I didn’t want to watch it either. This story was a long time ago but I can see it as if it were yesterday.

Fortunately, despite breaking almost every bone in his body Pat recovered. The moral of the story is, whatever activity you’re doing you should be doing it for yourself – not for the perceived glory of the reaction of onlookers. Had Pat been landing in a less conspicuous place his landing would have been equally inconspicuous.

Some of you may remember skydiver George Pilkington. He was flying his model aircraft one day, bought it nicely in at slow speed and, instead of landing on the grass runway like everyone else, he reached out and caught it with his hand. ‘Show off!’ said the person next to him. George explained, I’m not showing off because, even if there was no-one else here, I would still catch my aircraft in exactly the same way –  so I’m doing it for myself, I’m not showing off.

Compare this to a high-performance landing. Would you land your canopy in exactly the same way on a Monday afternoon with zero audience, as the way you land at the weekend when the dropzone’s full of people watching? If nothing would change, then you’re swooping for yourself, crack on. If, however, you would take a safer option if there were no onlookers, perhaps this would also be the best approach at the weekend.

Paul Dorward gives a good example of focussing in the wrong place in his article, ‘Canopy Piloting – 8 Principles’ when he describes seeing one of his heroes paralyse himself on a landing, after pronouncing the words, ‘If you thought I could swoop, wait till you see this!’. Dedric Hourde points out in Danger Zone that one of the high risk factors that puts people in the Danger Zone, is having family, friends or peer pressure at the dropzone.

Wrong Motivation

The thing is, that wanting to impress other people is the wrong motivation, especially when attempting a potentially life-threatening activity. If you find yourself thinking, ‘wait till they see this’ or ‘that will really show them’, that’s a good time to take a look and evaluate exactly why you are doing this particular thing. It’s only a good idea if you are doing it for yourself, for the feelings that you get, the learning experience, or progression towards your goals. Not to impress other people… because that will most likely end in tears… and it won’t be theirs.

If jumping with a tandem, it’s all about the passenger, not you
Image by Juan Mayer


There are many other examples:

If you’re jumping with a tandem, perhaps with one of your friends, and your thoughts are about how impressed they will be at your supercool skydiving ability, that’s totally the wrong approach. This is all about them not you. It’s their first jump experience and your approach should revolve around making it the best and safest experience for them.

Diving to the formation in a big-way – if you’re trying to beat some someone else to dock, you’re not giving your all to the big-way. You’re likely to jeopardise the dive by overboogieing purely from your selfish desire to show off or prove you are better than someone else. Big formations happen by everyone working as a team, not individuals trying to show they are the coolest kid on the load. The better skydiver is the one who thinks about the big picture.

If you’re buying a new parachute (or wingsuit) and your choice is dictated by what other people think is cool, or what the latest model is, then bear in mind you may end up with something that you don’t like. It’s better to do your own research by jumping different types/sizes and deciding what works for you, your flying and your preferences. This could prevent you at best making an expensive mistake or at worst causing yourself bodily harm.

If you’re a BASE jumper, and you can’t wait to put that video up of you opening that new exit point, or flying that amazing proximity line, question your reasons for making the jump. If you weren’t going to post the video on social, would you still make the jump?  If not, that’s dangerous motivation.

Don’t Play with Fire – unless you know exactly what you’re doing
Photo by D Squared: Keri Bell, of the Highlight Pro skydiving Team, flying through fire as a carefully planned photo stunt


We see many cool skydiving and BASE stunts performed by professionals on social media.  These are the opposite of what I’m talking about. They are carefully planned, with a thorough risk assessment, thinking through what could go wrong, and making a plan for each possible negative outcome.  Yes, the idea is ‘Watch This’ .. but it’s not showing off, it’s a meticulously arranged publicity stunt by the best in the business. It’s only when our egos start to overtake our capabilities that our safety is compromised.


If we aspire to go far and stay unhurt in this sport, it’s wise to keep our ego in check. Anyway, who do you think would be impressed by you advancing faster than your ability can keep up? You will impress people far more if you take your time, make your own choices, follow your own path, and enjoy the journey, without trying to impress other people. That’s what all the truly amazing people in our sport have done.

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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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