Posted: 28 Aug 2014 06:25 AM PDT BY PERFORMANCE DESIGN
Photo by Raymond Adams
It’s a topic that nearly all skydivers face at some point in their
skydiving careers: downsizing. And it’s a discussion that the
Performance Designs staff has had with numerous skydivers of all
experience levels over the years. Now, with the majority of incidents in
skydiving occurring under fully opened (and fully functional) canopies,
it’s that much more important to talk about when it is and is not
appropriate to downsize.
PD takes this topic seriously. So if you’re thinking about downsizing,
here are five questions you should ask yourself first:
1. Do I really
need to downsize?
When someone who is thinking of downsizing approaches the PD staff, the
first thing the staff member asks them is, “Why do you want to
downsize?” You’d be surprised at how many people don’t know how to
answer this question.
Consider the reasons you might give: Is it because other people tell you
that you’re ready to downsize? Are you in a hurry to downsize so you can
eventually learn to swoop? And let’s be honest here … do you want to
look “cool” under a smaller, faster canopy?
Now ask yourself: Are my reasons appropriate?
In a video on
channel, Jason Moledzki—PD Factory Team member and
founder of Flight-1—puts it well:
“You can generally move to a different type of parachute and find
something that’s going to be more advanced, more fun, faster, and even
more exciting to fly without necessarily having to downsize to a smaller
parachute. Downsizing is really trendy … People think they want to do
[it], but it’s not necessarily what they should do.” -
Jason Moledzki on
Whatever your reason may be, remember that getting hurt as a result of
downsizing before you’re ready is a costly but avoidable mistake.
2. Do I
understand which performance factors will change with a new canopy?
There are many considerations to factor in when deciding whether to
downsize, including what canopy you’re currently jumping, how many jumps
you have, how often you jump and what your goals are … the list goes on.
You’ll also need to consider the type of wing you’ll be moving to: Is it
elliptical? Is it cross-braced? Is it a 7-cell or 9-cell design? Do you
understand the difference in performance based on all of these factors?
Then think about the size of the new canopy. Bear in mind that you’ll
experience higher performance under any wing that is smaller than
what you’ve jumped until now, no matter what size it is. Smaller
canopies are more responsive to input, magnifying the effects of small
errors that may go unnoticed on larger canopies.
3. Do I have
enough experience under my current canopy?
PD Factory Team member and Flight-1 founder Shannon Pilcher, one of the
most experienced canopy pilots out there, had this to say in his video
on PD’s YouTube channel:
“People often make the mistake of downsizing to improve performance
instead of raising or training their skill level. Whatever parachute you
have, people who are watching you on the ground should see you land and
think, ‘Man, that guy is a bad-ass canopy pilot.’ If you can’t fly your
canopy in various situations that you can be confronted with, then you
have no business really downsizing or changing models to something
sportier or faster.” -
Experience takes time. It is not gained over a handful of jumps
or even hundreds but over months, years and even decades of education
and practice. It is from experience that skydivers learn how to fly
their canopies in any conditions.
Three hundred jumps equates to approximately 10 hours of canopy flight.
Pete Allum, a Flight-1 instructor and veteran of more than 30,000 jumps,
uses a great analogy in his
Two Ways to Die.”
“When we learn to drive, we are nervous and make mistakes, but after
only a short while, more than 10 hours, we learn the basics, our
awareness and abilities slowly increase (and driving is a very normal
everyday activity). However, if someone asked us to drive a Formula-1
car at top speed in traffic after only 10 hours of driving experience,
we might ask them if they were insane.”
Maxine Tate, chief operating officer for Flight-1 and the PD Factory
Team, says, “There’s a huge difference between spending those 10 hours
just coming down after a jump and actually dedicating time to learning
all available control inputs. It’s important to get to know your canopy
and how to use all emergency tools.”
4. Can I
comfortably land my current canopy in conditions that are less than
Landing is easy when you know the landing area like the back of your
hand, the winds are light and variable, there are no traffic issues and
all goes according to plan. But what happens when conditions are less
than ideal? How about when it all goes horribly, the spot’s bad and the
only direction you can land is downwind, someone cuts you off or
someone’s kid or dog runs out in front of you when you’re landing? Don’t
assume that just because you know your landing area well, that you’ll be
safe under a smaller canopy. The reality is you can’t control the
actions of other jumpers and people.
Which brings us to our last point.
5. Have I asked
advice from credible instructors and sources?
Asking the right people the right questions goes a long way. Don’t take
for granted that the people offering you advice on downsizing actually
know what they’re talking about. Consider the people you’re talking to.
Are they reputable canopy coaches? Instructors? Do they have good track
records for safety? Seek out appropriate sources and advice, and
listen to them.
Not sure where to look? Here are some great starting points: