Back in the classroom!

As in many other things, it is the same in our sport. The day you stop learning, you’ll start forgetting. Keep doing that long enough, and you might as well find your rocking chair and start telling students about the good-ole-days when you used to jump!

I had the excellent opportunity to be in Brian Germain’s Canopy Course over this past weekend and not only did I learn so much more, but I think I gained a glimpse into how much further I can go in this area. Not only was I able to expand on the things I now know I know, but the things I now know I don’t know, grew just as much! And as you will also learn in Brian’s course, both of those are surely outweighed by all the things I don’t yet know, I don’t know yet!

The course began promptly at nine Saturday morning and began with some basic topics, what is pitch, yaw, angle of attack, etc.. As our class was composed of several jumpers still on student status, a few more with the ink still wet on their A licenses, and only two experienced jumpers including myself; if I was initially a tad bit concerned I might not gain as much in a classroom with such a wide range, those concerns were quickly relived. If anything, the skill I saw displayed by Brian under canopy and in freefall, and his vast – nay, from my perspective, I’ll just call it his “infinite” knowledge about canopy design and control, aerodynamics, human psychology and it’s relation to skydiving; all may be overshadowed by his ability to teach and convey that information others.

Those basic topics were quickly built upon in the classroom and expanded in the air – we were again some very lucky Michiganders with two days of perfect weather; and by perfect I mean jumpable all day (a bit cooler and less humid would have been nice). With two canopy skill hop-n-pops from 7,000 feet on the first day, and four more jumps on the second day it was an amazing learning experience! The last jump on Sunday (#426) was truly memorable – a two-way tracking dive followed by two-way canopy relative work with a true “celebrity” of our sport; surely a perfect time for my first try at carving some turns in unison with another canopy!

Though I’m proud of the advancement in my canopy skills this weekend, this post wouldn’t be complete without admitting a mistake of season’s past. As Brian drilled several “new” concepts into me – some started sounding familiar; my own local S&TA (of re-re notoriety), had tried explaining the method and importance of lowering my slider before; and our Rigger on staff took his time as well to explain the dangers of uncoordinated turns in turbulence. Though I’ve truely found joy in every second of freefall (well.. except the last few seconds on jump #4), I’ve always viewed the canopy ride as just a safe way to ground so I could start dirt diving the next jump. I think when I stopped enjoying the canopy ride, I stopped learning more about it, and hence, began to forget some of the lessons I had already been generously taught. It’s time to listen up to the experts that already surround me.

Overall lesson learned this weekend: I need the same attitude upon landing as I do when I exit an aircraft. I’ll still PLF when if I ever need too, but until then, I’m gonna smile at the ground, lean into it, and dare it to try and catch me.

Good luck Mother Earth – I’ve had Planetary Avoidance Training now 😉