In This Issue

Reader question: Quitting?

Written by Lara

Have you ever thought of quitting jumping? Have you quit and come back? Why? How? When?

This month’s reader question was sparked by James LaBarrie’s column last fall, “We’re Creating Quitters.” If you’re reading this, you’re probably not one of the people he’s talking about, who have actually quit — but you’ve probably thought about it at some point, right? When did your moment of doubt come in and what did you do about it? Or, maybe you are one of those people who hung it up at some point; if so, what made you come back?

Selected responses will be printed in the February issue of Blue Skies Mag, out in – you guessed it – February. Leave a comment with your name as you’d like it printed, or email me at lara@blueskiesmag.com with your response. Responses may be edited for space, clarity or style.

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21 Comments

  • I know that as a beginner, every skygod out there was quick to judge my actions, and not in a teaching, helpful way. My memory of that time was not a feeling that the experienced people wanted to help, but more of a haughty, insulting criticism. This is in contrast to the few that I have met since then that really do care that you learn proper technique and safety. Unfortunately, the encouraging, helpful ones are few and far between.

  • I never have considered quitting. Sometimes I dream about the things I could do with the money if I quit the sport, but then I go jump and it reminds me that nothing compares to skydiving. Plus, my friends, my job, and my fun all come from skydiving. At this point I’m pretty invested and I couldn’t be happier about it!

  • I’ve quit due to injury from another sport that had me on the sidelines for 6 years. I came back two years ago and was shocked at the changes. I’ve made about 30 jumps since. (Currency is an issue) 1992 was my first jump and I was hooked. From there I was able to see and do most things our sport has to offer. I’ve managed a DZ, flown 2000 video jumps, almost earned a BASE number. I’ve made more night jumps than most, landed on beaches in foreign countries, I could go on and on. Then broke my shoulder racing motorcycles and 6 years flew by. Two years of rehab and 4 to pay for it. I never lost my passion for skydiving But now that I’m “back” , I’m kinda lost. I’m in a new state that offers a massive DZ. All my friends have long since quit the sport. Mostly due to marriage and children. I jumped off those cliffs as well but am lucky too have a supportive wife who encourages me to skydive. I must say, the thought of heading out buying tickets and waiting for manifest to give the 5min call, isn’t that exciting. I’m torn you see. I love freefall. There is nothing like human flight. However things are so different I can’t seem to find my place in a world I was once the master. My skills are still there. However, I’m old, with age you see things differently. Skydivers today make huge investments into tunnel time and can do amazing things! (With little experience) However most lack situational awareness that freefall demands. With that I find myself not trusting the people I meet. Oh they can fly, but I wonder if they know what’s really going on around them. Mostly it’s still safe, it’s just different and I don’t trust it. So I’m thinking it’s time to move on to other things but I’m torn because, skydiving is my thing.

    • Since I think I feel you and understand your excitement in the involvement, I would really like to see you out there in the DZ. Don’t you think that you can overcome the issues bothering you just by being selective about the place and people you’re jumping with? I think there’s always a place with likeminded jumpers to do it your way. Please remember that you being there would also provide an example of how to do it (with more awareness, which means safer, which means longer) for the others.
      Cheers.

  • I quit for 25 years. Don’t ask me why. Life got in the way. I came back in 2008. I’m part of a terrific group, too, the Skydiver Resurrection Award. We have a Facebook page. Membership requirement is only that you have a 10-year or more layoff. We have more than 250 members now, and every year we raise money for the National Skydiving Museum and Hall of Fame.

  • Sitting on the fence right now. I got exactly 1 jump on my last reserve repack and I am coming due for the next one. I started my second season of jumping with enough jumps for my B, a couple hours of tunnel time over the winter along with 2 days of canopy courses and over the course of the Summer I accomplished damn little except to prove that I am a mediocre skydiver who doesn’t improve even with quality coaching. It sucks that the most memorable moments of the season are seeing a good jumper and great person get get injured badly and ending my season with a jump where I did not get a gear check then after correcting an error in my rig managed to exit and pull on my back. I know I need mentoring, or at least adult supervision, but as an In-between jumper I am not finding the advice and guidance that could help me improve.
    RON

  • I have not been skydiving for long. My start was marked with sputter, stall, and halt. As an AFF student, I landed with the plane three or four times after my category A jump. Fast forward through months of hypnotherapy, an injury while in AFF, 2 months on crutches + 1 month of learning how to walk without a limp, and a death in the family, I was able to finish AFF and start jumping on my own.

    Every time I go to the dz, I wonder why I skydive. I could not be further from a skydiving natural. I have to work my ass off to be barely acceptable when I skydive. Except for altitude awareness, a fairly cool head, and good spatial orienteering, I have nothing going for me in this sport. But I struggle imagining my life without it. Life without skydiving is not worth much to me. Even though I am apprehensive every first skydive of the day, I am hell-bent on getting better at it even if I have to put in tons of jumps to make minimal progress. I will triumph over this ridiculous body of mine, and costs be damned.

  • I quit for 12 years, returning in 2006. Since then, I’ve made about 600 jumps. I quit because I became performance driven instead of fun driven. I was on a 4 way team, and when we didn’t do well, I’d be pissed – and that’s not the way to enjoy your sport. My brother and sister in law jumped with me since the 70’s and when their kids started jumping he’d video them and after watching it for a while, I decided to come back. Yea, it was different, but frankly, when you leave the plane we’re all in the same air. I’m fortunate that I jump as a small (Maytown PA) DZ, and we have an incredible group that accepts anybody and we try to bring out the best in them with an inordinate percentage getting their A license over larger DZ’s. I’m an SRA member too.

  • Throughout my first 100 or so jumps, I would dream at night about skydiving, and sometimes I would wake up in a cold sweat, thinking, “Am I crazy? I must be crazy!” But I persisted and kept jumping. Then, at about 850 jumps, I had a terrible accident that landed me in the hospital for months. All I could think about was jumping and getting back into the sport. And three years later, that’s what I did. I wasn’t sure I could overcome the new – higher – level of fear but several mentors in the sport helped me find my courage – Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld, Rick Thues, and Duane Hall, in particular. I owe them a debt I can never repay.

  • I thought that I had made my last skydive in Wurzburg, Germany on July 4, 1991; as it turned out, I was mistaken. After 20 years, what I really missed was the intoxicating mix of adrenaline and endorphins that free-fall gave me…I even investigated para-gliding as an alternative avocation. I found out that para-gliding was as expensive as skydiving—equipment-wise—and it was impossible to find an operation that would agree to train me through initial certification. And, of course, in para-gliding there is no free-fall…

    One day at work, I was venting my frustration to a couple of co-workers and one of them, Eric Franzen, mentioned that there was a sport parachute operation in Waldron, Missouri which is just a 15-minute drive from where I live in Leavenworth, Kansas. I had never heard of any such operation, so I ventured out to Waldron on an overcast Saturday afternoon in April; I found a very small operation that focused on tandem jumps and demonstration jumps in the greater Kansas City metroplex. Ron Sharp, the guy that runs the DZ was straightforward in telling me that ‘fun’ jumpers weren’t welcome but he said that I could jump there—as long as I didn’t interrupt the revenue-producing operations. Thus enabled, I rejoined the US Parachute Association and ordered a new rig…that’s easy to say but difficult to accomplish because I was baffled by the specifications of the parachutes on the market. It wasn’t as simple as deciding which color pattern you wanted, any more…

    I figured that since I was older (and fatter) than the average cat, I would be a ‘gentleman skydiver’ (by the way, I used to ridicule guys with that term…) and I thought that a nice, big canopy would serve my purpose so I fixated on a 232-square foot Para-Foil. Once the order was placed with North American Aerodynamics, I got a call from Johnny Higgins who tried to talk me out of my choice; while he argued persuasively that the Foil was the wrong canopy for me, I resisted because I didn’t understand how the sport had changed in the previous two decades. My only concession was to change my order to a 264-square foot Para-Foil.

    Ultimately, I decided to voyage to Baldwin, Wisconsin to restart my skydiving career—I didn’t want to wander onto a strange drop zone and solicit strangers to help me regain my right to exit an aircraft in flight. I wanted someone that I knew to be my coach to certify my aptitude as a freefaller…I focused on Baldwin because their website boasted that their staff included Mark Baur—who I knew from Fort Campbell, Kentucky…thirty-something years ago.

    When I got to Baldwin, and I observed a few Twin Otter loads, I started to understand that I was a stranger in a strange land—canopies were smaller and faster and anything green was a landing area; ‘accuracy’ conceptually was a non-factor. The first person to welcome me to the Twin Cities’ operation was Merriah Eakins; she escorted me into the 21st Century of skydiving and certified that I would not be a threat to myself or others—pending free-fall verification.

    On Saturday morning, Mark asked me how I wanted to get started and I suggested that a low, solo jump would be a good start. Mark, however, disagreed and countered with, “Let’s go to 13,000 and get everything sorted out.” It occurred to me that I would have answered myself with precisely the same words if our roles had been reversed and, as it happened, it was the best solution.

    Suffice it to say that both Johnny and Mark were absolutely right—and, after 7657 days, I returned to the sport.

  • I had sex with my AFF instructor. And then my coach. And then a free flyer. And then I realized EVERYONE knew and was embarrassed to show my face. It took a lot to overcome my reputation but I’m glad I stuck it out.

    • Jen, here are my 5 cents (1 cent per point):

      1. From the point of view of evolutionary biology, you did the right thing. The prefrontal cortex told you that these men would produce a healthy offspring, and your sexual attraction to them went into overdrive. Don’t beat yourself up, it happens to everyone.

      (Did you watch “House, M.D.”? This is a lovely excerpt from a dialogue in one scene:

      Martha Masters: He’s obviously a… very blessed specimen. So from an evolutionary point of view, he’d produce healthy offspring. So my pre-frontal cortex is telling me, I should have sex with him.
      Dr. Chris Taub: Oh, is that all?
      Martha Masters: Yes, my rational brain knows he’s a hillbilly and an idiot.
      Dr. Chris Taub: And yet somehow, your rational brain is losing the argument. Which is interesting. )

      2. You kept it short and clean – no emotional mess involved. Kudos!

      3. If a guy did this same very thing, everyone would be cheering.

      4. You are most definitely not the only one who slept with her AFF instructor et al. There are tons of girls out there who initially felt like skydivers were demi-gods. All that electricity emitted by the people who do things you can’t yet do is hypnotizing. But then you do similar things, and you realize these magical dudes are not much different than you are. They just started doing this thing earlier.

      5. As Rhett Butler said, “With enough courage, one can do without a reputation”.

      Congrats on not letting this small thing keep you away from skydiving!

  • I started back in 72 and became a member of the Misfits 10 man speed star team. We won conference meets and made the 76 and 77 nationals. We also did Z-Hills Easter and the Turkey meets finishing as high as 10 out of the 110 teams entered. The early Freak Brother Conventions and Richmond Boogies set the tone for us as the sport progressed. This was such a great time for me and the sport went through some major changes in gear. The early 80’s saw the birth of tandems and AFF. I enjoyed my time as an instructor and jumpmaster sharing the sport that I loved. I started slowing down after I got married and made my last jump in 91. This was do to the fact I started focusing on my family and job, working to provide for my family. Sky diving was still high on my list as I love the sport and the people.

    Last year I had a change in jobs and moved to North Carolina. Still married but daughter is married and gone so I have more free time on weekends. So last March with help from a friend I went to Raeford talked with Tony Thacker and checked out by Robbie Rushton I started jumping again. Only made just over 70 jumps last year but did go to the Midwest Skydivers Reunion to hook up with some old friends and spent time jumping, looking at old pictures and telling no shit there I was stories.

    Things have changed since 1991 but I still love the sport and the people. The tunnel has changed a lot of what people do and how the do it. As a competitor back in the day we could only practice by actually jumping and today they can practice in the tunnel. Tandem jumps and AFF have made the sport more profitable for DZ’s and this I feel is great as I have seen so many of the drop zones I had jumped at close back in the 70’s. I find the people are still for the most part still like the my older jumper friends so I have no regrets.

  • I quit for 17 years to raise my sons. After my first son was born, I kept jumping . . . until a girlfriend went in. She was a single mom, like me. She was current, safe, and a conservative jumper. I figured if she could go in, so could I. I always thought about jumping during all those years off, and in 2009, with the encouragement of some long-time skydiver friends, I came back. So much had changed . . . and I’m so grateful to the group Skydiver Resurrection Award (SRA). They’re all returnees and many are going through the same problems/issues/changes I am.

What do you think?