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Perhaps you’ve seen the video of him skydiving without a rig, or maybe you’ve seen him knock out some crazy jumps in episodes of “Nitro Circus.” But certainly you’ve seen him fly so smoothly and poetically in the tunnel that it makes your jaw drop. That flying wizard is Scott Palmer, but most call him “Plamer.”
I’m not gonna lie—the first time I signed up for an iFly Dynamic camp I was beyond terrified. Self-doubt was running hot. I didn’t think I had any business whatsoever being there, but I channeled “What About Bob?” as best I could. There’s Coach Palmer, there’s the tunnel door: Baby step through the tunnel door. Once we stepped through the door and into the tunnel, panic swooshed away. He has a keen sense about his students and brings this calm energy into the tunnel. Suddenly panic subsides and you feel safe, almost Zen. And it’s all because of one simple step. Keep your eyes locked on his.
Missy: OK. Shwew. I’m super nervous. Let’s start with the most original question on the planet, how did you get into the sport of skydiving?
Plamer: Well, I saw it in “Point Break” when I was a kid; for sure I know that’s a cliché but I was like, “I want to do that!” My mom’s favorite thing to tell me was, “Oh you can do that when you’re an adult.” You know, “You can get a tattoo when you’re 18 and you’re an adult, you can do whatever you want but while you’re under this roof you can’t do it.” So I joined the military and that legally allowed me to be emancipated from my family. So I became a legal adult and that’s when I started skydiving at 17.
So you started through the military?
No, through the civilian side. Because I was considered a legal adult, I could sign the waiver. So I went to this local airfield and just started jumping static line. It was a little, dinky 182 drop zone located in a small little town in Idaho. Nampa, Idaho.
From what I understand, you kind of kicked off your skydiving career in Arizona, no?
Right. So, after I’ve been skydiving for about three years and had 500 jumps, I kind of moved around a bit in the U.S. on the West Coast. I was working at a drop zone in Ogden, Utah, and Axel Zohlmann was a videographer and I was a tandem master and a videographer. He and his wife Yoko got the management position in the to-be-built tunnel in Eloy. So he was in charge of the staffing and he pretty much hired us out of Ogden, based on body type and attitude. And I was one of the initial guys hired for Arizona. So that was the first round, high-speed tunnel built at a skydiving facility.
Based on body flight and really learning how to fly. And from working in Eloy as an instructor, and being around so many great coaches, getting to watch them take their great skydiving coaching and trying to adapt it to tunnel flying. I got to watch everybody coach and I’d pick up the things I liked, throw out things I didn’t like or change up things I thought could be modified. Arizona in 2005 was really the big beginning for indoor body flying, truly as a sport.
Who were your mentors? I feel like I’ve heard you speak highly of Ray Kubiak a time or two.
Ray Kubiak and I worked at the drop zone in Ogden together. That’s how we really all knew each other and came to be at Arizona. Ray, myself, Axel, Davey and Tim who lives here in Chicago now, we all came from Utah. We were all the initial hires in Arizona. Ray had had previous wind-tunnel experience. Ray and I are super tight and he’s for sure a mentor. I’m a student of Kubiak without a doubt. But I also definitely look up to Craig Girard. How he coached and how he could communicate so well with his eyes and his personal gestures in the tunnel. I really try to mimic my coaching after Craig, and also Steve Curtis. Just the way he has so many different approaches to coaching. The way he can change his voice for the student, and knowing what the student needs. They were a big influence on my coaching, for sure.
The first time I heard of dynamic was during the iFly Seattle SIS weekend. You and Mickey Nuttall were running a camp there and I remember Ted and Sam watching you so closely in the tunnel. I huddled in close to them and asked, “So … whatchyer watching?” and they responded, “Studying Plamer. He’s like the godfather of dynamic.” (Or something like that. I could be making shit up). Where did this style of flying come from and why do you dig it so much?
I’m sure somebody has probably quoted me as that or something like that, but no—it’s not a singular thing by any means. I’m definitely not the godfather of dynamic. If we’re going to say that there’s a grandfather and grandmother of dynamic then it’s for sure Fabian Raidel and Juliana Se. So really dynamic started in the beginning of tunnel flying, around 1998-1999 in Orlando, of them just back carving around and belly carving around. This is very much the basis of what dynamic is. So we kind of have to separate [what] some people call dynamic sport, such as the dynamic 4-way competition, and what I call dynamic [which] is just the style, or art form of flying. A constant movement, or constant state of change. And for me, when you define flight, you have airflow moving over one surface faster than the other. So if you’re in a static head-down or static freefly position, you don’t have two different speeds of wind flow across your body. So that’s not really flying to me. That’s where I separate what I do with maybe how other things are. I’m not going to stop and hold still in a position for a specific reason.
So just continuous motion type of thing.
Yeah, continuous motion but there’s also always a flying surface that we have. We’re either on our back or belly as our flying surface, or sometimes our side through side flying.
Let’s talk a bit more about iFly Dynamic. You guys have a ton of camps lined up at iFly locations all across the map this year. Why do you feel camps are important, whether it be tunnel, flight or angle flying camps? I mean, there are camps and then there are boogies.
First and foremost, we at iFly Dynamic are body-flight coaches. We specialize in wind tunnel camps based on a one-to-one low-speed progression. We also compete in 2-way and 4-way dynamic as a team at indoor competitions. You can also find us coaching at “workshops” or “flight-camp” type skydiving events.
As far as boogies versus camps, this is kind of a hard thing to define. After I became a tandem master and tunnel coach and started becoming pretty good, I went around and started organizing at boogies. Then I went over to Europe and I saw they had a little bit different mentality about education and training. They look at it as not so much as a stress-relieving sport, like a lot of Americans might. Such as—maybe around here, jumpers head to the drop zone to just blow off steam and not really care about how they actually perform in the sky. A lot of the mentality in Europe is, “How can I become really good at this?” And they really understand the coaching mentality. Babylon has been running these workshops for 10 or 15 years. When clients sign up, what they actually pay for is group coaching. It’s the idea that we’re going to teach you to be better flyers, not just come out and make one or two jumps because maybe you’re hungover (like you might be at a boogie) but come and actually do 6-10 jumps in a day with your specific group. So that’s what you’re going to get when you sign up for a flight camp versus a boogie.
What kind of experience does someone need before they sign up for an iFly Dynamic camp?
We teach all experience levels. Some people think that they aren’t quite good enough in the tunnel to attend a camp and receive coaching from us, but I think people should change that mentality because we really have something to offer even at the lowest level. Most of my students start here at the lowest level and that’s great, because that’s how I can influence them the most.
How about being proficient on your belly or back?
No proficiency at all is required. I love working with people who have zero tunnel time. What you can expect for your first 15-minute session with me (and it doesn’t matter if you have zero tunnel time or a hundred hours) is belly and back carving, and front and back layouts. That’s all we do, and you can do that at any experience level. Even though the International Bodyflight Association (IBA) chart says you have to be a proficient belly flyer or a proficient back flyer, I don’t believe any of that. I’m going to make you a proficient flyer on all angles right from the get-go. There isn’t some angle or some axis that you don’t have access to. I’m going to turn down the wind speed to which you can fly at that axis or angle no matter what your experience level.
When signing up for an iFly Dynamic tunnel camp, is there a certain hour requirement that you request people be able to commit to if they’ve never flown with iFly Dynamic before?
I personally have a 2-hour minimum if you’ve never flown with me before; Vince and Paul will take a first-time student at an hour minimum. I prefer 2 hours because for the first hour flying with me, we’re really going to learn to look at each other and communicate. I’m going to learn to understand your frustration, and you’re going to learn to understand my asshole-ness. I tell you how it is in the tunnel for sure. It’s not a walk in cupcake land, and it takes time. There are many flyers who aren’t just instructors who have over a hundred hours of tunnel time. And it’s never-ending. You’re never going to get to a point when you’re like, “YES. I’m there!” because once you get there, you can see so much more.
Do you plan on adding more instructors down the line?
Always. I’ll always be looking to increase this community of like-minded flyers. Dynamic is such an easy term to use and broadly defines so many different things but what we’re trying to create, specifically here at iFly Dynamic is a certain understanding of the wind and it’s a low speed approach for sure. And that’s why it takes time.
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