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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Life Changing

It has been a while, my apologies – Life has made a few drastic turns, leaving my free time extremely limited.

Between juggling new projects at work, moving, and drop zone politics; life has been busy in most other areas as well, to say the least.

I am happy to say that amongst the chaos, there have been many great experiences since I last sat down to write: My jump numbers have increased to 252, I recently received my C-License YAY, I have started filming tandems and this past Saturday, I was able to do a display jump into our biggest air show in South Africa – This was an amazing experience that I had been aiming towards for a number of years. To top it all off, I jumped from a 1944 Piston driven Dakota “Marilyn” with many of my great friends.
Naturally, this jump was promptly followed by BEERS, which was a great way to end off a great day!

In November & December 2011 I was in Tampa, Florida for my sister’s wedding, and I jumped at the opportunity to get some tunnel coaching with Luis Prinetto who was able to break some habits that I had formed with my sitfly and vastly improved my skydiving in general!
On a side note: anyone wanting to improve their skydiving, regardless of skill level or discipline, I strongly recommend Luis – He is an excellent coach!

As I was Florida, I made sure that I visited a few drop zones to see what they are like when compared to our small DZ’s in South Africa, and man was I impressed!
Before my trip last year, many people had told me that I would not be able to even imagine how much better skydiving in the States was than it is here – they were RIGHT.
I made a few jumps at DeLand, Sebastian, Z-Hills and Tampa Bay – I really enjoyed all of them, but I cannot tell you which I prefer as I have not been able to decide.

I have a number of family members in Florida and it was really great being able to spend time with them all. My sister’s wedding was beautiful and she has married a really great guy that I have no doubt will be a great husband for her.
Oddly enough, her husband grew up in South Africa, roughly 30 minutes away from her, and his father knows my dad from business many years ago. It’s amazing how small the world has become.

I got home from my amazing US holiday with an open mind – it was my third trip to the States, but my first as an “adult”. My friends have been trying to work out why I choose to stay in South Africa when I am a US Citizen. The question that is very common for me is “but you have an American Passport, why are you still here?”. Up until this point, my answer was simple and standard: “I love South Africa”. For those of you who are not familiar with this country, it truly is beautiful; we have 12 months of fantastic weather, great beaches, mountains and wonderful natural sights around the country, all within a few hours of where I live.
Unfortunately though, it does have some bad points as well; Crime and a dysfunctional government have many people worried about its long-term future. This aside, I still love the place and will always call it my home.

Anyway (I digress), I have booked myself a one-way ticket to Florida, resigned from my job, and am in the process of getting everything in order for my big move on the 1st of October, 2012.

The decision to move 8422 Miles was not an easy one to make! I have amazing friends, (had) a great job which I enjoyed and allowed me to skydive. Not to mention that it means leaving my parents, sister, brother-in-law and two nephews here, as well as many other people and opportunities.

I have never been one to make a list of PRO’s and CON’s as I’m generally quite spontaneous, this decision however, took a number of weeks to make.
There was one major deciding factor: I want to skydive! Although amazing and filled with great people, our DZ’s here are too small for me to give skydiving a real go. I love working with students and have been coaching and jump-mastering for about a year. I love freeflying and I love flying my canopy, FAST!

So – I have come to the conclusion that in order for me to be able to progress as much as I would like to in the sport, there is only one option: Move to Florida!

I’m unbelievably excited, nervous, sad and outright TERRIFIED – it’s a strange combination of feelings.

I’m  extremely analytical and try to find answers and reasons for every situation, I research and analyze every possible scenario and outcome for every situation in my life (it’s a bit annoying), but with this, I’m just stepping out of my comfort zone, a leap of faith, if you will.

There are LOTS of unanswered questions about this move; will I be able to get a decent job? How long will it take to find a job? Will I be able to get on my feet quickly? Am I going to be imposing on my family by staying with them while I get on my feet? Will I enjoy the States, How long am I going to give it? And of course, which DZ do I make my home!!??
But, I’m going against my better judgement and ignoring the part of myself that wants answers. I’m just going to wing it and see where life takes me.

I preach that people step out of their comfort zones and “live a little”, it’s a bit ironic considering how shit scared I am to do the same. Haha.
For the first time, I am taking my own advise because I know it’s for the best.
I will just have to let you all know how it turns out.

Blue Skies and Happy Days!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Balance - What's that!?

S#1t – Life (skydiving) has been keeping me busy lately, REALLY busy!! My apologies to everyone for being so slack with blogging.

As I am now on my skydiving club’s committee, lots of hours at home are spent working on club newsletters and helping redesign the website. When I am not working on committee / club stuff I am researching my new *possible* project (more about that just now).

I am glad to say that my jump numbers have been racking up very nicely – after this past weekend, I am up to 70 :-) . I know I am still in the very early stages, but hey – it’s not bad since I’ve only been jumping since March!

As I mentioned in a previous post – I’m waiting for my CI’s approval to jump my new 150 Hornet, although my wingloading is less than 1:1, my CI just wants to ensure I don’t break myself on a 150 canopy. Personally, I feel very capable of flying my canopy – but he’s the boss! His requirement of me, is to get my B-Licence and he might then agree to let me jump my rig :-) so – like an excited little boy on Christmas Eve (I used to open all my presents and re-wrap them and stick them back under the tree), I am doing everything I can to get my B-Licence. I passed both CAT 2 jumps this past weekend and am hoping to do my CAT 3 by the end of next month at the ABSOLUTE latest – I have a bit of practising to do in the mean time!

Since I found my new jump partner (Maryke), that moved to my DZ when she found a job nearby, not a jump has passed that we aren’t both working on something (both in freefall and under canopy). So this weekend I guess I’ll be exiting slightly later than her so I can practise chasing her down and pinning the base for my CAT 3 jump :-) .

We are planning a Boogie between Christmas and New Year at one of the towns on the coast line that always buzzes with parties over this period. Again – this is driving me to get my B-Licence, there is no way I’m going to sit and watch on the beach while everyone else lands on it!!

Sorry – I digress.

I have also been spending lots of time helping my coach (Michael) with a Power Point presentation on a First Jump Course, which you can imagine, is quite a bit of typing!
Tonight I am off to Michael’s place to drop off the loan 170 rig that I have been jumping as he sold it, and to pick up my new loan rig.

:-) My *possible* new project :-)

I have decided that South Africa needs a Vertical Wind Tunnel, and who better to build / buy one than me!? Well, probably lots of people, but I want to do it!! So I am investing huge amounts of time and effort researching, meeting with engineers and talking on the phone to suppliers in the States and Latvia.

My main concern is whether it will be financially viable to build one in South Africa; our population is tiny in comparison to other parts of the world that have a wind tunnel, furthermore – the percentage of the population that this would appeal to, is smaller still!

I am determined to do this though, even if it goes belly-up, it will be a good learning experience, but at a cost of about 60 Million Rand, a very expensive one!

I have been trying to decide if it would be financially beneficial to have local engineers design one in South Africa, verses purchasing one from overseas.
I have come to the conclusion that yes, it might be Slightly cheaper, but why save a few pennies and not have the years of experience and trial and error, when for a little extra, I would get all the backup support and a state of the art 14 foot wind tunnel capable of flying a 250lb person on his/her head very easily??:-)

My next big step is to secure financial investors, but this still requires a lot of work to put a financial and business plan together for my proposal.

So – as my heading suggests, there is no balance – I find myself arriving late to just about every function that happens over a weekend because I want to squeeze in just one more jump before I have to leave.

On weather hold days, I am at the DZ watching BASE and skydiving videos, packing and re-packing 150 that I can’t jump yet.

I no longer party on the nights prior to jumping (unless it’s a Saturday and I’m drinking beer at the DZ with my jumping friends), I can’t even remember what I used to do with my weekends before I started skydiving!

Before, I never liked not being in a relationship, now – I don’t mind being single and have given up on the idea of finding a girl that would be happy with me spending me all my time, money and energy on skydiving! I want a skydiving chick! :-)

Needless to say, I LIVE skydiving! My career goals and ambitions have changed, my personality has changed and just life in general no longer contains even a smidget of my previous life – AND I LOVE IT THIS WAY!!

Balance – WHAT’S THAT!?

Blue Skies and Happy Days!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Slightly Confusing Catch-up Post

Firstly – sorry that it has taken me so long to get around to blogging, between work and the DZ, my time is very limited!!

So – I’m on 54 jumps after this weekend…and hoping to be at 100 by the end of the summer :-)

There have been lots of changes with regards to my skydiving life, and I’m loving every bit of it! I am now in charge of our club newsletter and part of “The party committee”, hence why I have been so quiet on the blogging front!

I have also bought myself a “new to me” rig about two months ago, it is a Vortex II container with a 150 Hornet (SA brand canopy), 150 Pilot and a Vigil AAD. Unfortunately because I’m still a newbie, it is sitting in my cupboard while I jump a loan 170 :-( I have done 10 jumps on it so far and I’m loving the Hornet (Yes – my loan is also a Hornet)!

I was expecting to either have to get to 100 jumps, or my B-Licence before jumping my rig, but after chatting to the CI & SO this weekend, he has given me the go-ahead to jump my new rig (Thanks Steve!!) :-) I just need to do another 10 jumps on this 170 and provided he is happy with my landing pattern, accuracy and landing, I can jump it :-) WOOOOHOOOOO…can’t wait!!

I am SO excited to jump my own rig, it just fits me so perfectly which is rare as I’m quite a small guy (5ft 5in and 154 pounds exit weight). Plus it just looks so cool!! Haha – this is important to us skydivers :-)

I recently started free flying and was planning to do my CAT II & III in Free fly for my B-Licence, however – after chatting to my CI on Sat, he has recommended that I first do my CATs in flat fly so I can get my B-Licence quicker, just to have all the perks of a B-Licence, like being able to jump onto the beach at this year’s year end boogie :-) so that is where most of my airtime will be going from now on!

Choosing between flat flying or free flying has always been a tough decision to make, but having a nice cute new female flat flyer doing two-ways with me definitely did help my decision to do my CATs in flat flying ;-) I know – that shouldn’t be a deciding factor, but my goal is to have a consistent jumper that I can jump with, and she will be moving on to free flying once her flat flying CATs are completed. I'm also glad to have another flat flyer & aspiring Free flyer (Lawrance) who I can just with as well.

So – here’s my short term goal list (in order):

-          Beg, borrow and steal money so I can be on my new rig by the beginning of next month
-          Start my CAT II & III training / tests this weekend (in flat fly)
-          Have my B-Licence by the end of the year
-          Carry on with my Free Flying training
-          Do my 100th jump before summer is over (around the end of March 2011)

Here’s to achieving those goals!!

This weekend we’re holding a Static Line special, as well as having our AGM. This sounds like it is going to be a huge party with lots of new faces around the DZ J As I am part of the party committee, I’m going to steal a saying from our newest female member (Maryke): “We are drinkers with a skydiving problem”.

I have found that skydiving is a way of life, it is not a sport or a hobby that one can do every now and then. Skydiving requires dedication and drive, and LOTS of time and money. No one realizes just how much skydiving actually takes over your life until you do it, it is a HUGE lifestyle change, and it changes your ambitions, your goals and just life in general. Too often I have seen people get through AFF, buy a rig, jump for a month or two and then you never see them again – I have put this down to the fact that they are not happy with the lifestyle change (or at least their partners aren’t).

Sorry – I tend to go off on a tangent every now and then and it’s hard to put everything in writing when I have to mash a few months into one article!!

Cheers everyone, here’s to everyone making their personal goals, lots of “Firsts”, down-down’s, cases of beer, laughs and good times! Plus of course awesome time spent in the sky!

Blue skies everyone and happy days!!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Downsizing Results

On Friday I arrived at the DZ to get my 170 Hornet hooked up to my loan rig. I decided to get this done on Friday so I'd be all ready to jump after my canopy briefing on Saturday morning!

I arrived early on Saturday and read a few pages of Skydiving in 8 Days, this book is actually very interesting, although written in 1997, it is a good story of how you can go from "Wuffo"* to qualified in 8 days.

*Wuffo: These are people that stand around the drop zone with no intention of jumping EVER, and ask you what you jump for, IE: "What for?" - Wuffo!. I read somewhere that there are two types of people in this world: Wuffo's and skydivers! So naturally, "Wuffo" is a derogatory term used for people that do not understand our need / want for jumping out of a perfectly good aircraft.

Anyway (I digress), after getting my canopy briefing from Steve (my safety officer), I was ready to go! And wow, I was excited!

The 12 minute ride up to 12,000ft started getting my mind going - "New rig, reserve repacked, new AAD, leg straps slightly too big, rig not 100% free fly friendly...what could go wrong!?" All of these thoughts should have been dismissed, but you can't help but think of the possible dangers...don't worry, it didn't stop me from jumping out :-)

Because I wanted some canopy time to play with the risers and get used to my 170, I had arranged with the jump master that I'd be waving off and opening at 6,000ft for the first few jumps - This gives me a nice amount of time to play around in the sky a bit and get used to my smaller canopy.

As my rig doesn't have a bungee cord between the two leg straps, I couldn't do any free flying. The bungee cord prevents the straps from sliding up your legs when you are in a sit fly position, so without the bungee, it may be possible to "fall out" of your leg straps (Which can never be a good thing)! So - flat flying it was!

Did a few loops, attempted a few barrel rolls (these worked alright) and dumped at 6,000ft.

After playing with some co-ordinated front riser turns, a bit of back riser input and toggle turns, it was time to setup for landing. The wind was blowing quite gently, but in a different direction to normal. On my approach I thought I'd land cross wind, and down hill as the wind seemed to be blowing sideways on the slope. After realizing that with no head wind, I was coming in very fast, I decided to change my approach to land into the wind, and I'm glad I did because I still over shot my target by quite a bit and landed fast.

My smaller canopy definitely flares harder and I even got a little swoop in on my landing :-)

Jump No. 2 went about the same, although I was no longer nervous about jumping the different rig. I played with riser turns, went into a very strong, fast toggle spiral which scared me a bit as it doesn't come out of the spiral as quickly as the 185 canopies do, but it was still fun! Landing was perfect! I landed into the wind and close to my target and only needed to run a few steps (very quick steps, but landed on my feet).

Jump No. 3. The free fall was uneventful, but still as awesome as always! I think I'm getting the hang of the barrel rolls and tracking on my back, although I seem to go into a bit of a head-down when tracking on my back so I roll over onto my front after a second or two. I guess I just need to work on that a bit, but I am still in the very early stages of my skydiving life so I know I have A LOT to learn! Landing, however was accomplished by coming in a bit too fast, flaring a bit too late and swooping ON the ground resulting in a nice big puff of dust trailing behind me and a lot of sand and grass on the legs of my jump suit. Even though I didn't take a tumble, I still didn't land on my feet - more like my ASS. And got a good few laughs from the people that saw me go down with a puff of dust!

I made sure I dusted myself off before going into the hanger and getting laughed at some more :-) But it's all in good faith!

Unfortunately I was only able to do three jumps this weekend as I had a bachelors party to attend.

This weekend I think I will just be doing DVD edits of tandems to earn some extra jump money!

Blue Skies everyone and happy days!