Belly flying is fun, the easiest discipline to learn and the foundation for everything

Why Belly Fly?

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Learning Belly Flying is important for every other aspect of the sport

Becoming competent in belly flying means you can always join a load
Image by Willy Boeykens from the Thai Sky Festival

When most people get their A license, they’re simply let into the skydiving world. But without goals, direction, and proper progression, the novelty of skydiving can wear off. A draining bank account without any sense of progression is an easy ticket for people to leave the sport.

The big problem with progression is, people don’t do enough belly flying. Some people think it can be boring, it’s too basic, it isn’t cool or only for old people. Thinking like this doesn’t recognise the immense value of belly in building freefall and survival skills. These are easier to learn and excel at the lower speeds of belly flying than on a freefly or angle jump.

When You don’t Learn Belly

The truth is, you can’t call yourself a skydiver and suck at belly. It forms the building blocks of all bodyflight orientations. Belly flying is as basic as walking. Have you ever seen a snowboarder who can’t walk properly?!

The strongest trees have the deepest roots. Skipping the basics and rushing into more advanced forms of flying leads to shallow understanding and limited success. You may have fun temporarily, but will soon hit a ceiling due to a lack of foundation. As a result, you lack the skills to take part in more technical and creative jumps in the future.

It’s embarrassing to be a freeflyer or wingsuiter with 800 jumps who can’t make it to the sunset round. People may not say anything, but they’ll certainly notice. If you must re-learn belly at that point, how would you feel? How would this failure affect your potential to be invited in cool freefly loads?

The basic skills of belly are building blocks for awesome freefly jumps to come
Image by Gustavo Cabana

How Belly Can Help You

When you build an unshakable belly foundation, you sow the seeds for future freefall success. You also build up survival skills such as safe approaches, breakoff, tracking and canopy flight without overloading yourself. You build confidence in your flying. You know that you can visit any DZ and do belly – you always have something to fall back on.

Belly is the simplest orientation in freefall. It can teach you every concept you need:

  • Stable exit
  • Angle of approach
  • Matching levels
  • Maintaining proximity
  • Docking with no momentum
  • Grip management
  • LSD 
  • Flying solidly
  • Burble skills
  • Altitude awareness
  • Freefall spatial awareness

Once you internalise these skills, you simply apply them to new flying orientations. You don’t need to relearn them because you already know what to do. On the other hand, learning such concepts for the first time in any other orientation is far more difficult – nearly impossible without tunnel time. 

Fun belly jump over Skydive Algarve
Image by Dan Maden

Once you reach a certain level of belly flying, three things happen:

  1. You have the mental space to observe yourself as you fly
  2. You build a baseline to explore higher levels of creativity
  3. You draw connections to other freefall disciplines when you learn them

Every elite skydiver you see on social media has strong foundations in belly – like Benoit Lemay, Laurence Fugen, Ewan Cowie, Curt and Jeannie Bartholomew, Chris Geiler and Scotty Bob, to name a few badasses. 

This is not to say you need to compete in 4-way but at least become competent. Just because people don’t post belly videos on social media doesn’t mean it’s not important. Build the confidence to fly belly any day. Then you’ll find it easier and more fun to learn angle and freefly… and, in turn, these skills will translate back to improve your belly skills.

Becoming a decent 4-way jumper is a fun way to progress
Image by Jim Stevenson

What do the coaches think?

A freefly leader and a belly coach share their thoughts on the subject…

Alethia Austin

Freeflyers who lose, or never fully develop, the ability to fly strongly on their belly are missing an important foundation of body flying. The belly is a surface we use not only in belly flying, but in angle flying, dynamic flying, head up flying and head down flying. I also believe that belly flyers who don’t explore the other disciplines – at the very least angle flying – miss out on something that could potentially help their dives to formation, and assure them the best chance at a clean and safe breakoff. Belly flying translates to freeflying. Equally, freefly and angle translate to belly flying. Dissolving the lines between those disciplines only makes you a stronger overall flyer. 

Alethia Austin, Freefly Coach and Movement Leader
Scott Latinis

If you’re not comfortable at slower belly speeds, you will be totally unprepared for the faster speeds of movement and/or vertical. When shit goes wrong, it goes wrong very quickly.

And, let’s not forget, when it comes time to save our life, we always come back to belly! 😏

Scott Latinis, Belly Coach

Become the Best Version of Yourself 

Belly gives you the most attainable goals and the greatest rewards in the beginning. By focusing on the basics, you achieve a sense of clarity that can only lead to exponential growth. You’ll find it more rewarding, because you’ll progress faster, and enjoy that feeling of betterment. 

Article by Jacob Choy

A Belly Event for Freeflyers

A belly event aimed at freeflyers, at Skydive Spaceland Houston
Image by Jesse ‘Tex’ Leos

Freefly coach and movement leader Alethia Austin gives an example of a recent event crossing the lines between belly and FF…

I created a bigway belly event geared towards angle flyers and freeflyers to give us the chance to see where we are at in our traditional big-way belly flying skills. My hope was that it would help highlight the importance of belly skills to any jumpers who were on the path of dynamic flying. As well as show our local belly friends that having a strong sense of flying angles and freefly really does translate to FS skills. Most of the participants had been on bigway camps so the information wasn’t brand new, but of course stadium for belly is different from stadium head down. 

What was eye-opening for the participants was how much fun it was to build formations and see how belly flyers brief and debrief. And, for the coaches, we started very conservatively in the first two jumps. Then we realized we could actually build multiple points and turn pieces. So, for the coaches I think it was also eye-opening that the belly skills were there. 

The event was such a success, I’m now building a full plane day with freeflyers and belly flyers coming together to create big-way multi point skydives. Stay tuned!

The freeflyers surprised the belly coaches with their ability
Image byJesse Tex Leos
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Meet: Jacob Choy

Jacob is an AFF Instructor currently based in the US. 

Having trained many years in classical music, Jacob immediately saw similarities when he picked up skydiving. He quickly fell in love with the physical and mental challenges skydiving provides, which led him to explore the process of learning canopy piloting and bodyflight. 
Additionally, Jacob runs a weekly program to continue the learning of A & B license jumpers. By encouraging belly flying in a fun and educational way, he hopes to improve retention in the sport by building confidence through attainable goals. 

Jacob is proud to jump a UPT Vector, PD's Sabre 2 135 main canopy and PDR 143 reserve, Tonfly 2X helmet and Vigil AAD.

Jacob has also lived in Scotland, China, England, and Singapore. He loves traveling, trying new things, and connecting with people from different cultures. You never know when he accidentally books a flight somewhere!

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