October Fly-In at Speedfly Soboba

Speedfly Soboba is hosting Fall Speed Flying Boogie October 17-18, 2015. Boogie fee is $40.00 and gets you 2 days of park fees, 2 rides per day up the mountain along with a t-shirt.


Purchase 10 ride tokens or more at the discounted rate of $5.00 each (normally $6.00).
Plenty of space for camping: Pitch a tent or to park your RV!
Hot showers, kitchen facility, bonfire, live music, drinks, BBQ ($10 donation) and of course good times with great people!

This post brought to you by Speedfly Soboba: The Largest Speed Flying School in the World.

Connect, Inspire … Win

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“Who wants to be part of something excellent?”

I was an Arizona Airspeed fan before I knew their storied history or their record in competition.

In June 2005, I hired Craig Girard and Kirk Verner to host a 30-way camp during Skydive Carolina’s anniversary boogie (which would later morph into CarolinaFest). On the final day of the event, while running past a dirt dive to hot fuel a plane, Craig called me out.

Surrounded by 30 jumpers, Craig stood in his signature style that allows you to pick him out of a group from 500 yards away—bodyweight leaning to one side, hand on his hip with his black and teal jumpsuit tied at the arms around his waist with that cool, surfer-like demeanor.

He said, “Dude, when are you going to stop working and have some fun? Go get your rig and jumpsuit and let’s go.”

I could feel the group mentally roll their eyes. I tried to save them from their despair and told him my paltry jump number. I had 150 jumps and had no business being on a dive that I could potentially screw up for everyone who had been jumping for three long days.

It was as if he never heard me, because his response was immediate and without hesitation. “Perrrrfeeccttt. Grab your stuff, you’re in the base with me. Let’s go.”

I’d pay good money for a picture of that 30-way, taking grips on Craig out of the back of a blue and white Fayard Casa, feeling like a rock star. Looking back, it wasn’t the jump that stands out in my mind, but the goodwill gesture that few others would have extended. Whenever I’ve worked with Craig, Kirk, Eliana and other Airspeed members they’ve always been a class act. I was inspired and became a fan of the Airspeed brand—not because of their amazing record, but because of how they treated me.

If skydiving was more prominent in the national spotlight, Airspeed would have sponsorships with the biggest brands in the world—certainly because of their talent, but also because of the intangibles that resonate with people. If a brand can create a connection beyond the product or service it offers, then customer loyalty is born.

Earning loyalty equates to people who will happily tell others of your greatness. There is no type of advertising more powerful.

Examine these iconic brands with huge consumer-base loyalty: Toms, Zappos, Whole Foods, Amazon, Costco, Southwest, Wegmans, REI and Goodwill. These companies all focus on creating a connection with consumers by exceeding expectations via a higher social purpose or delivering amazing customer service.

The companies that can inspire are the ones that win.

As Simon Sinek beautifully put it, these companies understand the ‘why’ of their existence and not just the ‘what’ of their existence. The companies that can inspire are the ones that win.

If five drop zones were in the same marketplace with the same budgets, same aircraft and same price points—all variables being equal—which one would have market share and greater revenues? The answer is the one that inspires and creates a connection with its customers. In the early stages of business, these companies would all be neck and neck because no one would know the difference. With time, a competitive advantage would be gained, because word-of-mouth needs time to spread.

My vision for great marketing is larger in scope than a quick promotion to drive traffic. In addition to advertising, I push for companies to focus on the small details that revolve around every customer point of interaction and making it great. Advertising is important to draw in new customers, but focusing on details designed to exceed customer expectations makes these new customers loyalists who become repeat customers, who happily tell their social networks about why that drop zone is unique. This approach offers long-term sustainability and a well-defined roadmap for a solid marketing plan.

Our industry has a great opportunity to thrive because the product we sell exhilarates and inspires. However, our service (a life-changing skydive) is not enough to build loyalty. Customers already expect to be inspired by making a skydive—that’s why they come to the drop zone in the first place. Exceeding expectations will require more. If our hangars haven’t been cleaned in weeks, jumpsuits not laundered, instructors looking as if they just got of bed, aircraft not washed in weeks, then we won’t make the connection we need to make. Ultimately, the connection lies in the hands of DZ staff and instructors—all of whom must be passionate about what they’re doing. The skydive is just one part of the overall experience.

Our customers only spend about 26 minutes in the air and the rest of the time on the ground. How do we make them feel when they’re on the ground for the hours that they’re with us?

When making presentations both in and out of the skydiving industry, I always ask my audiences this question: “Who wants to be part of something excellent?” To date, I’ve never had anyone not raise their hand and acknowledge that this isn’t a desire. We all do. But what does being excellent actually mean? It means paying attention to the details, especially when we don’t want to. It’s giving a tandem student who checks-in at the end of the day the same level of enthusiasm as the one who checked in at the beginning of the day. It’s cleaning the bathroom at 2 p.m. when it’s not your responsibility or conversing with students on a weather hold. Oftentimes, it’s the details we take for granted that are the most important.

A well-designed website with strong SEO, a polished brand, a good social-media marketing campaign and creating interesting content are all components to good marketing, but their effectiveness will never reach full strength without the focus on connection. Our objective must be more than just making money. The best drop zones in the world are the ones that focus on the entire customer experience—both before and after the skydive. If we can amaze our customers … the money will take care of itself.

James La Barrie

Monthly Columnist

About the author: As a former drop zone manager for nine years with proven results, James La Barrie is a different kind of marketing professional. As the founder of DropZone.Marketing, he helps his DZ clients increase revenues by implementing techniques in word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM), social media, company culture, branding and world-class web design.

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Rookiefest 2015 – Skydive Chicago

By Katelyn Couch

Skydive Chicago’s Rookiefest was definitely a success this year! Newly licensed jumpers from all over joined together for our friendly 3-way scramble competition. A total of 5 rounds of competition were planned, although due to weather we could only fit in 4 rounds. Each round is a bit more challenging than the one before, giving the jumpers an opportunity to push themselves and learn.

Rookie competitor Melissa Jahnke of Wisconsin Skydiving Center (who came in third place) explained Rookiefest best:

“This event is a brilliant way to introduce newly licensed skydivers into the competitive world of skydiving. I was completely blown away with the generosity of SDC [Skydive Chicago] in providing an accomplished coach, and camera person for two new skydivers. I mean, who are we? The fact that high-profile coaches and camera crew humbly took their time, and taught us skills that they’ve learned over thousands of skydives completely blew my mind. I loved meeting new people, and I found it energizing. The amount of passion everyone exuded was contagious! It was a class act, and I am grateful I was part of it! I highly encourage all new licensed skydivers to participate in Rookiefest! I absolutely loved it!”

Skydive Chicago was happy for the outcome of 50 participants this year. This event has grown not only to be a local event but more of a regional boogie. Thanks to the help of SDC’s teams Rhythm XP and Core, these rookies were stoked to be able to fly and learn from some of the best. We look forward to seeing this event grow each year, until next year, blue skies!

F**k (NSFW)

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fuck fək/ vulgar slang
verb [ trans. ]
1 have sexual intercourse with (someone).
• [ intrans. ] (of two people) have sexual intercourse.
2 ruin or damage (something).

an act of sexual intercourse.
• [with adj. ] a sexual partner.

used alone or as a noun ( the fuck) or a verb in various phrases to express anger, annoyance, contempt, impatience, or surprise, or simply for emphasis.

ORIGIN early 16th cent.: of Germanic origin (compare Swedish dialect focka and Dutch dialect fokkelen); possibly from an Indo-European root meaning [strike,] shared by Latin pugnus ‘fist.’

Without a doubt, my favorite word in any language (not that I speak any others). I’ve been criticized for my consistent use of it for as long as I can remember, yet from the school-yard to the drop zone, I defy you to give me a word anywhere near as eloquent and to the point. Yes, eloquent … It’s also the only word I know of that can be used to make up an entire sentence almost on its own.

“Fuck dude … Did you see that fuckin’ fucker fuck that shit up? That shit was FUCKED!”

Makes complete sense, doesn’t it? Not exactly a sterling use of the English language to be sure, but to pretty much anyone, anywhere, that sentence is quite easy to understand. In my opinion, there’s no other word that can allow you to express yourself more with less and that’s why you’ll find it strategically placed in absolutely every article I’ve written to date. So why, knowing how widely used by all walks, and how accepted and expected its use is in “extreme” lifestyles, does a little four-letter arrangement of symbols cause such a stir? It’s almost like the word fuck is a politician running for office. On each side you’ll find staunch supporters for it, and fervent opponents against it, and it’s difficult to get people to sway one way or the other (publicly). Yet just like the old saying “there’s no atheists in foxholes,” I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t have a good old fashioned “FUCK” in ‘em under times of stress.

She was about the most proper woman I’d ever met. She showed up to the drop zone in khaki slacks, ironed meticulously with a crease that could cut paper, a crisp clean white shirt buttoned all the way up, a knit light blue sweater and a pair of very sensible shoes. The only jewelry she wore was a thin gold chain outside her blouse with a small gold cross hanging from it. She spoke very quietly, almost bordering on a whisper, avoided eye contact whenever possible, and was quite obviously very uncomfortable on camera. Getting the pre-jump interview done was painful to say the least, and I did my best to keep it short and sweet. I expected the jump to go pretty much on par with the interview, and settled in to the camera seat in the 206 for a quick nap.

The hook-up before the jump went pretty much as expected, with her turning bright red knowing she was being filmed while some “man” did things behind her that she not only didn’t understand, but obviously considered quite suspect. This all made the aircraft interview even worse than the ground one was. “Ready to jump??” I said with fake enthusiasm. The only response I got was a curt nod …

I climbed out on the strut of the 206 and got myself ready for the exit. I watched as she obediently did as her instructor told and placed her foot on the step next to his. I watch as she firmly grips her harness in anticipation of the impending disaster her eyes said she expected, then, I shifted my attention to the instructor’s shoulders to cue on the rollout. “Ready, set, go!” As they left the plane I, just like the instructor, was much more focused on the exit than on the condition or antics of the student, so as the pair turned toward me after the drogue had been tossed, I got the shock of my life! This prim, proper and all together forgettable ghost of a woman had turned into a complete raging animal!

“FUCK FUCK FUCK!!! Fucking fuuuuuuucck! THIS SHIT IS FUCKING AWESOME!! Fuck yeah! HOLY FUCKING SHIT!!!” It just kept coming and coming … Over the years I’ve gotten pretty damn good at lip reading, just as every camera flyer I know has, but you didn’t need to be able to read lips to see what she was saying. Her lips, coupled with the two very prominent middle fingers being shoved vigorously toward my camera made it very clear. It went on for the entire freefall!

“FUUUUUUUUKKKkkkkkk” was the word quite obviously on her lips as the canopy opened and I fell away, quite simply too shocked even to laugh. I must have had a pretty strange look on my face as I stood on the ground waiting for her arrival, ‘cause Danny Koon took one look at me and said “Damn Dean … What happened, man? Crazy jump or what?” All I could come up with was “Danny boy, I’m not really sure what I just saw but … I gotta see this fucking video!”

Then she came in for a landing. She wasn’t screaming profanities at me anymore, nor was she flipping me off. There was no doubt that she was still pretty excited, and had a big smile on her face as she and her instructor came to a sliding stop in front of me in the landing area.

“So take off your goggles and tell me what exactly you thought of that!?!”

Her instructor helped her pull the goggles from her face, and I swear it was like watching a scene from a movie. As the elastic cleared her faced, she blinked once or twice in embarrassment, not at her antics on the skydive, but quite obviously at the camera in her face, forced herself to glance once or twice at me, change her posture back into the proper little lady she had been only 30 minutes before and said, “That was quite a nice experience. Thank you very much.” And walked the fuck away.

It’s this story and so many more I’m sure you’ve read that make people feigning disgust over the use of a so-called “bad word” that has me using them more than ever. I, like a lot of people I know, don’t think there’s a damn thing wrong with the occasional good ‘ol fashioned “FUCK,” and I applaud its proper use whenever the mood strikes! I don’t believe for an instant that there is any such thing as a bad word, knowing from personal experience that I can make “ma’am” or “sir” sound just as nasty as “asshole.” So the next time someone starts giving you a hard time for dropping the occasional “F Bomb,” just smile widely and say, “Sorry about that … SIR!”

The Fuckin' Pilot

Monthly Columnist

About the author: The Fuckin’ Pilot has more than 8,500 hours of flight time; 5,000 of those have been piloting jump ships for skydiving.

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