Perhaps the title is a little misleading. You’re thinking that we will give you some handy sayings to memorize so that you may spout them out during your next malfunction. Truth is, aside from “Keep calm” perhaps, there is nothing that we can say that will see you through your skydiving career. Our sport has changed so much since I started jumping in 2001 and will continue to evolve with new technologies and new pursuits. Freeflying and wingsuiting were babies back then, and angle flying was unknown. Heck, I used an FXC as an AAD while I was a student. With our sport constantly evolving it means that we will always be skydiving students.
And, skydiving itself is not easy:
Yes, there are a few rare people that are incredibly talented and they make skydiving look easy, but most of us have to spend lots of time honing our skills. I always like to ask students the following question: When was the last time that you were learning a new skill and you were great at it within just a few minutes?
No one has ever told me that they learned something new and were great in just a short amount of time.
So why then do we feel that skydiving should be any different?
I think it has to do with the fact that we count our experience in jump numbers. 100 jumps sounds like you should know something, but if we translate that into freefall time then we see that we only have about 83 minutes worth of experience (assuming 50 seconds of freefall time per jump and a jumper that dislikes hop n pops). Just a bit more than an hour of time practicing freefall skills. It’s remarkable that people are as good as they are at this point, I think.
What about canopy piloting skills? You have more time to fly your parachute around on each jump, but this part of your jump is typically a lone pursuit. Most jumpers are not trying to dock under canopy or work on very specific skills: they are simply trying to get to the ground in a safe manner so that they can pack up and go jump again. It’s difficult to move forward and become better without having a goal in mind, and canopy piloting is particularly prone to being neglected by the skydiving community.
Packing a parachute is another area where I have seen far too many people give up early. Quite a few people assume that packing should become easy after just a few pack jobs. It takes time to figure out what packing techniques work for you specifically (e.g. a tall person will pack differently than a short person) and it simply takes time to become proficient. We always joke that there is no problem that a couple hundred jumps or pack jobs can’t fix…and it’s true.
I dislike the people that go around saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, then skydiving is not for you.” (Why is this quote so incredibly popular?) Most of us don’t succeed the first time or the tenth time when we try something new. We may survive, but we all make mistakes at some point.
As an instructor, it’s easy to fall into the trap that we don’t or can’t make mistakes at our level. With our 1000+ jumps we should be incapable of displaying any deficiencies. It must be our student’s fault or it must be that our altimeter was reading wrong, or any number of other reasons. Instructors do not make mistakes.
But we do…hopefully not with the same frequency as a student. 🙂
It’s having the ability to acknowledge your mistakes, ask for advice, and then follow that advice that shows who is a great skydiver. We all learn from mistakes: you can either learn from your own mistakes or from someone else’s. I encourage everyone to share their mistakes with others, be humbled by them, and let us all learn from them.
So, with that long rambling intro out of the way, I would like to give you 10 quotes that will hopefully inspire you to keep at it. Keep doing what you love, but realize that it will take you time to get better at it. Keep looking to those that are better than you for inspiration and good advice, but know that they have put in a lot of time to get where they currently are. And, we are all trying to get better.
What quote speaks to you the most? Let us know!