Ben White’s Tunnel Night

Help Ben White by Joel Strickland | blueskiesmag.com

The way we communicate now has information flowing by at incredible speed—and often barely registering. So much unrelenting waffle tumbles past it can be easy to forget the technological tools we have at our disposal are a great privilege of the modern world and can serve to aid us—a small community often spread far and wide—in powerful ways. Now and then, something will grow from the mundane to the beautiful—if there is a good enough reason.

Over recent years there have been some notable examples of the skydiving community at large coming to the aid of a broken friend. In the summer of 2012, a guy called Dan Hunt exited from the Jungfrau high above the Lauterbrunnen valley in Switzerland. After mistakenly zooming off over the wrong bit of terrain he spent several days huddled in the fabric of his speed wing as the money was rounded up to pay for the heli time to go and find him. A short while later everyone that donated received a handwritten message of thanks on a picture of the weather-beaten but relieved-looking fucker climbing out of the craft that ultimately came to his rescue.

Help Ben White by Joel Strickland | blueskiesmag.com

“A short while later everyone that donated received a handwritten message of thanks on a picture of the weatherbeaten but relieved-looking fucker climbing out of the craft that ultimately came to his rescue.”

In 2013, another small miscalculation saw Ben Cornick swoop into the side of the DZ van at the end of a routine camera jump on the island of Fiji. Pretty soon skydivers had ponied up the urgent cash needed to get him onto a plane and into an Auckland operating theatre for the surgery he needed to keep his leg.

Last year while training at Hibaldstow Ben White hit the ground too hard and now his legs don’t work anymore.

Help Ben White by Joel Strickland | blueskiesmag.com

Ben White and Jen Saville


The short version of this part of the story is that Ben needs some cash—the kind of cash nobody expects to need or has a frame of reference for, to deal with a likely endless list of unfathomably expensive domestic pain-in-the-ass things such as getting doorways widened and steps dealt with and myriad other stuff about the place that you would never even register as potentially prohibitive until your body no longer does all of the things it did when you moved in. A graceful post from Jen Saville, Ben’s girlfriend, about their situation had many concerned parties scheming and plotting out ways to help, then Paul Mayer from Bodyflight—who had already been sponsoring Ben’s team, Revolution Freestyle, to help them achieve their goals—stepped in to offer his facility for an entire night and hopefully help make a dent in the pile of money in question. I sat in front of my computer and watched it happen. In a very short time things went from plans to planned, from what, to when, to done. People began donating items to sell, an idea corralled into the form of a raffle by Roy Castleman and Emma Foy, then expanded into a supplementary auction at the point they were in danger of becoming buried under the amount of prizes there were to organise.

The night itself was divided up between a scrambles competition for the belly types and some (very) loosely organised freefly groups. It seemed proper that nobody should really give a shit about the competition, nor much else other than having fun, with a greater purpose being the reason everybody assembled. Ben flew using a positional contraption of straps and such that some handy fellow had constructed and looked pretty graceful doing so, even if he had to wheel himself into position on a creeper and then be launched into the tube a little bit like those nature programmes where some activists transport a dolphin back to the sea. As Friday became Saturday everything resembling a plan had been fully abandoned and things largely devolved into humans pancaking each other into the tunnel walls, with just a gentle reminder from Paul of the single rule—to keep it to eight or fewer in there at any one time, which was almost adhered to. The raffle and auction offered a kaleidoscope of items, from small to spectacular, and the usual (t-shirt anyone?) to the unpredictable (we want to hear you play those ukuleles). Core Skydiving’s Mike McNulty is an odd a duck as any of us, but the surprise of the evening is how good an auctioneer he makes.

If looking at the pictures of Ben’s x-rays make you feel fragile, they should.

Help Ben White by Joel Strickland | blueskiesmag.com

“If looking at the pictures of Ben’s x-rays make you feel fragile, they should.”

They are a very precise reminder of exactly how squishy ones corporeal being actually is, of irreparable damage so easily done to the human form. I am drawn into memories by that feeling of vulnerability—of the near misses, of the mishaps and minor injuries, of the times that some tiny unknowable factor was the difference between one path through life and another. Accidents don’t happen as much as people on the outside think they do, but they certainly happen sometimes—and can be very effecting whether they big or small, near to you or far away. From a small lapse in concentration leading to a badly sprained ankle that the best part of a year later still likes to punish and remind you of your foolishness with a quick stab of pain here and there, to the triple fatality of three of the best proximity pilots in the world that makes the big wingsuit you just bought loom out of the corner of the room like a vengeful spirit. There are the things that are all too knowable, the ones that make you all shivery to this day when you think about them—a hair’s breadth near miss between two deploying canopies at the end of newbie freefly carnage jump that earned you an angry bruise on your inner thigh from the hackey handle on the other guy’s pilot chute. An overcooked aerial that leaves you fetal and nauseous when you watch the video, quickly deleting it lest anyone—including your own self—ever again see how close you were to going in that time. Then there are the near misses that nobody ever saw. The slippery patch on an exit point that you were inches away from but never even knew about. A near miss on break-off that everybody missed.

When I think about what has happened to Ben it is so very easy to imagine myself in his place, such are the parallels. Training for an artistic category at the world championships —upgrading your ambition and downsizing your gear, the time and the effort and all the money it is costing made right in your head by the pride you feel wearing the flag and representing old Blighty at the fancy level. This similarity of circumstances is what has me in front of the keyboard, unsure whether sharing words about it has any value to anyone else.

No matter what kind of extreme activity jumbles your weasels—when something serious happens within reach we are faced with some level of cognitive dissonance about the inherently risky business that we chase, remember—just for fun. If you have been doing this for a while you will likely have played this game many times. If someone gets broken, or even forever gone, what would they want you to do? Should you get out now or carry on as if nothing has happened? Should you dial it back or go hard? If something happened to you what would you want? We can arrive at the other side perhaps not knowing which way up we are. If you walk away are you dishonouring the spirit of what we do and the decisions we make on the way in, when evaluating the risk of our intent?

It is quite possibly the wrong thing to say that I owe Ben a debt of thanks, and yet maybe I do precisely that. My position relative to this situation has made me resolve to be better at what I do, to be wiser, smarter and safer than I have been in the past—and most importantly—where I can, to help others do the same. With my actions I will honour the luxury of my life and pay service to a situation that I have witnessed and do not have to endure myself.

Help Ben White by Joel Strickland | blueskiesmag.com

Ben’s legs don’t work anymore, but yours probably do. Be sure to have them carry you somewhere awesome.

If you would like to donate you can do so at youcaring.com/helpbenwhite.

Many people have shown their support for Ben and Jen in recent weeks and months. Here are a few that should not pass by unthanked:

  • Paul Mayer has always gone the extra distance for those attending his events, but this time not only did he open up his tunnel facility for a whole night, but donated a lot of stuff for the auction and the profits from the bar.
  • Roy Castleman and Emma Foy who organised the raffle – which based on the amount of stuff could not have been anything less than perplexingly complicated.
  • HRH Fazza, HE Nasser, Alan Gayton and the staff of Skydive Dubai for throwing in a selection of prizes that were—true to form—marvellous.
  • The bar staff at Bodyflight for staying very, very late.

Joel Strickland

Guest Contributor

Joel Strickland is a full-time freefly coach and freelance journalist. As a member of Varial Freefly, Joel represents Vertical as a sponsored athlete and is based in the UK.

Get Current: Wingsuit Performance Flying

Travis Mickle and Spike Harry
Jake 'Feather' Morse, photo by Matt Veno

Jake ‘Feather’ Morse, photo by Matt Veno

Jake “Feather” Morse is a Phoenix Fly wingsuit operating out of Minnesota.  He has been skydiving for 5 years and has 800 jumps, 350 of those wearing a prom dress.  Despite being relatively new, he’s already making an impact on the scene by having “the perfect build for wingsuiting” by being as skinny as he is tall and showing up at US Performance Cup competitions to throw down some competitive scores.

 

Wingsuit Performance Flying

With our new discipline now recognized by the FAI and USPA, an official intro to Wingsuit Performance Flying is in order. Have you been looking for something to do when no other wingsuiters show up? Did you recently finish your first flight and still get psyched about your extended freefall time, the added horizontal speed, and the amazing distance you just covered? Wingsuit performance flying just might be a discipline for you.

 

The Rules:
There are three categories of performance flying, all measured from a vertical gates at 3000 and 2000 meters (9840 to 6560 feet, for those of us living in the imperial system). The clock starts when you first touch the top gate and continues to tick until you reach the bottom. Time, horizontal distance covered, and average horizontal velocity are all measured on separate jumps as separate categories. Events traditionally consist of two jumps in each category, and the top score on each round sets the bar for each competitor who will earn percentage of that bar based on how their score compares. Scores are measured by competition flysights, which all have the same software installed and are not allowed to provide audio feedback. Jump run is usually adjusted so we’re all able to fly straight lines in isolated lanes. All official competition scores are published and recorded here.

 

  • Achieving Maximum Horizontal Speed:
    This category favors heavier competitors. With added mass, they can best utilize and convert their increased fall rate to increased horizontal speed. You’ll want to start by diving as steep as you can at the window and making a smooth transition from that steep dive into an angle best suited for horizontal speed. Lighter pilots have been known to pull their arms in close to their sides, collapsing their arm wing and removing as much drag as possible. To practice, I recommend chasing fast pilots, keeping them below you, and finding the tipping point where you begin slowing down horizontally and speeding up vertically. Ideally you can make it back to that tipping point without a visual cue of other wingsuiters in the air.
  • Achieving Maximum Time:
    This category favors lighter competitors, and is the only category not influenced by winds aloft. Although it seems counter intuitive, you’ll want to begin again by diving at the window and gathering as much airspeed as you can. As you approach, the goal is a smooth flare at the top of the window to transfer all that speed into lift, almost to the point of a stall. When that settles, you’ll want to maintain a position getting enough horizontal airspeed to still be generating lots of lift, but not accelerating vertically.
  • Achieving Maximum Distance:
    This category is a fine balance between the two others, and requires the most tuning. Although the round starts roughly similar to a time round, after the flare into the window each pilot needs to determine how much time they want to trade-off in favor of horizontal speed in order to achieve their maximum distance. Since winds aloft influence this, technique may also change based on wind direction and speed. A pilot with a strong tailwind may decide that they want to trade only a very little amount of time for speed and let the winds aloft push them the rest of the way. With a headwind or crosswind however, they may need to tip themselves further down to drive into the wind to achieve a greater distance.

Finally, practice practice practice. Only with practice will you get consistent scores and know how to really fly each category. A flysight really helps if you want to accurately measure yourself in distance or speed, but because these measurements are subject to winds aloft, the best methods are discovered flying next to others. These skills really help if you find yourself low on a formation, getting out on a really long spot from the dropzone, or even diving last out of an Otter after a large flock. As always, don’t forget to smile and have fun.

BSBD Orly B. King

OrlyBKing

OG-Tail-Rider

On Monday, March 23rd, 2015 skydiving lost a King. Orly B. King passed away comfortably with close friends and family in Murfreesboro, TN. after a four year battle with cancer.

Orly was a living legend in skydiving lore with humble beginnings. He was a pioneer of skydiving, freeflying & canopy flight as well as a world champion, paraglider, pilot, videographer and photographer.

Orly is someone many would call a “Benchmark” human being. Orly King left a legacy of skydiving skill and love behind. He was the type of individual who positively impacted everyone he met. Many will tell you he transformed their lives.

The funeral is planned for this Friday, March 27th, 2015. You can find more info on the Memorial Event Page.

Orly’s battle with cancer was not for the weak or faint of heart. His ability to shine on during some of the most painful procedures solidified him as a true warrior within the community. He shared himself and his battle via Facebook posts all the way till the end.

OrlyBKing“Orly’s recent act of courage far outweighs his more stereotypical daredevil endeavors such as flying through the air and climbing on planes: In the past months he brought us along with him on his journey into the next world. Each Facebook update of his fostered a wave of love, support and inspiration among us. He touched everyone he knew, even those in passing.”
Max Cohn

A Facebook Memorial Page is set up and still growing. The stories of lifetime friendships, inspiration and love fill the page’s feed. If you are looking for inspiration on ways of being in this world, go take a look and read through the posts. You just might change your life. Below are just a few quotes.

“Orly’s kindness, his enthusiasm and encouragement, his respect—these played a key role in keeping me on an intimidating, often overwhelming, path. He said the right things, the right way, at the right time, and he did it because that’s who he was; because he simply, and genuinely, gave a damn.”  Jim Bennet

“Today the World lost a great human being, skydiving lost a pioneer, many around the world lost a true friend & I, amongst others, lost a World Champion Teammate….Orly “B” King was one of the last true gentlemen; kind, giving, caring & above all loving. Words cannot adequately express the love that we all have for Orly…. Somehow they all seem quite inadequate! The inventor of the Brainiac skydiving helmet, the OG rider of the King Air tail, the guru of the sit-fly freestyle filming position; these are but the tip of the iceberg when describing Orly’s skydiving legacy!”  Omar Alhegelan

“Orly was the utmost and most respected “Peaceful Warrior” I believe to walk this Earth. His spirit was a testament to all he held in heart. His heart he wore on his sleeve for us all to see. Living in absolute vulnerability to share his precious gifts of love and light with us all. One very precious gift Orly bestowed on us was the gift of knowledge. However, he would be the first to tell you, “It is up to you to turn the knowledge into wisdom, knowing into action.”  Carrie LoveNinja Fields

Custom Infinity Rig Promotion!

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If you are in the market for a brand new Infinity rig by Velocity Sportswear Equipment AND you are ready to renew your Blue Skies Mag subscription (or you are about to become a Blue Skies Mag subscriber), you are in mad luck! If you subscribe or renew today or through April 30, 2015, you qualify for $100.00 of the base price of a new, custom Infinity container.

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If you *just* signed up for a subscription (or renewed), dry your tears, because VSE has graciously allowed us to extend this offer to anyone that signed up in March, 2015 as well. Sweet. We are happy that you are happy.
Now hurry up and get your subscription (or renewal, early renewals welcome!) squared and get that Infinity order in by April 30th, 2015, and you are set!

Fine print: Offer valid March 25, 2015 – April 30, 2015. Certificate issued once subscription is confirmed, please allow 48 business hours for processing. Certificates are non-transferable. Certificate valid on new custom Infinity orders only. Not valid with any other offers or discounts. No cash value. No resale. Void where prohibited. Blue Skies Magazine is not responsible for errors or omissions. WARNING: Use of this coupon may lead to fun.  To find a dealer, visit VelocityRigs.com/Locate.  

Questions regarding this offer? Contact the good folks at Infinity.
Questions about subscriptions? Email us at Blue Skies Magazine.

 

BSBD Bryan Turner

Bryan Turner

BSBDcrop smExperienced BASE jumper Bryan Turned died following a jump from the Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls, Idaho March 9, 2015. After landing in the river, Bryan was pulled out of the water and airlifted to a nearby hospital. The cause of the incident has not been reported.

Bryan left instructions to his friends in 2013 in the event of his death BASE jumping:

“If I die BASE jumping, please, and I cannot emphasize this enough, do everything you can to help end extreme poverty by 2030 and do your utmost to achieve sustainable development beyond that. Don’t waste time being upset about my dying; be upset about the seven million kids that die every year and don’t even get a chance to live. If you can, please use my death to advance sustainable development.”

Bryan Turner

Bryan Turner

Bryan’s friend Dan Gingold says about Bryan:

“Bryan was an incredibly positive, loving, thoughtful, charismatic individual—the kind of man who dedicated his life to the cause of ending extreme poverty in the world. He was selfless, kind, caring and cheerfully relentless in pursuing his goals.

Bryan’s other passions—besides his love for his family, his friends and his girlfriend Katherine—were skydiving and BASE jumping. Bryan used to talk eloquently about the ‘human feelings’ he felt while hiking to and leaping from a BASE jumping exit point: the sharp fear at his own mortality that alternated with an elation, with an overwhelming joy at simply being a living, breathing person on planet earth. Bryan loved and cherished those human feelings, and sought to use them as a source of fuel for continuing his important work.

All of the many, many people touched in their lives by Bryan are now experiencing a different set of feelings: pain and a powerful sadness at the loss of such brilliant, inspiring man, and a strong resolve to help work towards and accomplish the goals he firmly believed could be achieved.”

To join the fight in ending extreme poverty by 2030 like Bryan asked us to do, visit these sites:

News Reports: KMVT.com, CBC News

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