Presentation is key
By Sequoia Schmidt
I have found that tunnel time (indoor skydive center) is the best way to train my body.
This morning starts out with two minutes in the wind tunnel. My natural reaction when exiting into high winds is still to move my hips backwards rather than push them forward for my arch. Tunnel time helps support this maneuver. It’s not simply my hips that I need to work on today; in order to pass level three of the Accelerated Free Fall program I must demonstrate two 90 degree turns to my instructors.
The roar of air pushing through the fans of the tunnel commences as I step into the human-created wind. My form is improving. There is more stability in my movement compared to my previous wind tunnel session.
When you have incredibly high winds blowing right at you, your ability to control your thought processes is blown away. Thinking of things like your “leg placement” and the “dollar bill method” in order to achieve the correct postures, is something that you have to remind yourself of continually.
The first minute in the tunnel is purposeful. I need to allow my body to readjust to the feeling of flight. Simultaneously I must adjust my posture so my presentation is correct. The second minute however, my concentration shifts to practicing for my next jump, and the unavoidability of turning.
Turning in free fall just takes the slightest of movements. Simply press your elbow or your hand down with the right amount of movement and you will be thrust into a spin. It’s learning to control that spin or balance it out, that becomes challenging.
One thing I have noticed with free fall is that the friction of the wind is much like water, you can control your direction with your movements.
Remember as a child when you would put your hand out of the car window? The music was on and the window down, you could feel the push of the wind as your hand left the safety of the car and entered the resistance of fast moving air currents. As your elbow and hand would align horizontally, you could start to feel your hand stabilizing, but with small movements you could control the direction. The action and principle are just the same with your body in free fall.
“Present yourself to the wind” my instructor tells me. His instruction means that when we exit the plane, I will not simply push off and jump out, but rather present my body to the wind. Maintaining the right posture, the wind and I will work together.
“What are your three main altitudes?” I can barely hear his voice with the noise of the plane engines overpowering his vocal tones, but hear the gist of what he is trying to ask. I hold out my index finger “2,500 feet” … because it is our minimum decision altitude before beginning our emergency procedure.
My second finger comes forward. “5,000: we pull our chute.” My ring finger joins the party. “12,500 because we jump out of the plane!”
“Very good” he shouts back, then waves his hand in front of me indicating my need to relax.
As we reach 12,500 feet my stomach is in knots again. I take a deep long meditative breath and remind myself “just present your body to the wind, this is an incredible experience; don’t rush it, don’t over think it, be one with it.” This feeling of flight is unparalleled to anything I have experienced before. It is the feeling right before the flight that really puts me in the moment.
That moment when your foot is lined up with the door. That moment when you know that its all up to you, your life is in your hands.
I have become so used to knowing that my surroundings are safe, to being subconsciously unaware of safety because it is always there because it is provided for me. This is one of the blessings and curses of this day and age., that I take it for granted. When I am in a moment where that safety is almost completely under my own control, entirely … it’s scary.
My body is presented to the wind. “Dollar bill” I tell myself as I feel the resistance of the wind forming a cloak around me. I complete a practice touch, then check my altitude. I’m at 10,000 feet. I receive a wave off from my instructor indicating I am good to start my turns.
My eyes dart to my left elbow. Pressing my left elbow down, my body starts to turn.
I counter out and check my altitude. I receive the” thumbs up” from my instructor and start to turn again. Careful not not to turn with my body or spine, just my arms, I glide into my 90 degrees.
Confidence and relaxation is flowing through me.
I hang out for a moment before looking up to check my altitude. I see 6,000 ft and moving (a little too) fast my arms wave off my instructors and I pull.
I say “too fast” because from 6,000 ft to 5,5000 ft should be locked on, then at 5,500 – 5000 feet I should wave off. At 5,000 ft I pull. One swift fluid movement.
Smooth is the key to this process. If you move too fast you will freak yourself out.
My chute opens with ease and I performed a solid control check to make sure everything is in order for a safe, clean landing.
My presentation was as instructed and presentation is definitely the key!
See my full flight here.