BSBD Eldon ‘Vasquez’ Burrier

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BSBDcrop smOn Sunday September 28th, tandem instructor Eldon Burrier and his student Andrew Munson were killed following an extremely hard landing. Initial reports indicate a main/reserve entanglement, followed by an off landing in a  a residential neighborhood. The jumpers were from Skydive Barnstable – a Cape Cod dropzone located in Marstons Mills, MA.
The incident is under investigation.

Eldon was an experienced skydiver with several thousand jumps and many years in the sport. He was one of the original competitors on the Pro Swooping Tour, back in the infancy of Canopy Piloting as it’s own discipline. Eldon could be counted on to go big or go home on every single competition run – and there was never a dull moment when he was around.
Eldon certainly sported a bit of a wild side, and through his antics BASE jumping, swooping etc, we had truly come to believe he had more lives than the average cat. He also had a huge heart, and a matching big smile to go with it. He will be missed, but live on in our many memories.

We send our sincerest condolences to his wife Monica, as well as their family and friends around the world.

News Reports: The Boston Globe, CBS Boston, capecodonline.com, The Seattle Times 

Coming out of Hibernation

One super-sexy 4-way team.

Yeah, yeah, I know I’ve been MIA since the beginning of September, but cut me some slack. I’ve been hibernating since I got home from Nationals.

September in a nutshell:  OMG it’s almost Nationals!  Fly to Nationals! Compete in Nationals! Have an amazing time! Fly home! Go back to work! Suffer through inevitable post-Nationals letdown/hangover/funk/blues. Realize “oh crap I never wrote anything for Blue Skies about it!” Get a request from dropzone.com to write it up for them. Feel torn between staying loyal to my fair readers here or expanding my horizons so more people can read my ramblings. Get over it, and decide dropzone.com gets the more serious writeup of the Nationals experience, and Blue Skies Mag gets the weird shit. Win win!

So… the weird shit. I dunno, I’m kinda the “early to bed early to rise” type, especially when there’s 7 a.m. calls to be had.  I’m sure there were late-night shenanigans, but I wasn’t part of them (though one of our team shirts did have an interesting visit to a local, uh, “dance” establishment, where it was worn by one of the, uh, performers.  But that’s a story for another day.)

I got to ramble a little (1:30 mark) on Skydive TV, whose host has the remarkable Energizer Bunny enthusiasm required for the job; a level of energetic happiness that I don’t think I could maintain for more than 10 seconds, let alone through two weeks worth of covering the competition!

There was that killer game of four square going on when I arrived on the rainy Friday before 4-way. And you thought it was just a washed-up social networking experiment that fell apart when people realized that maybe there was more to life than being the “Mayor” of the Carl’s Jr. This, on the other hand, was the action-packed live playground version, complete with green rubber balls (yeah, I know, it shoulda been red), and champion skydivers risking injury throwing themselves against concrete to stop the ball from escaping.

Four Square: the new weather hold hotness!

Four Square: the new weather hold hotness!

But yeah, truth be told, other than the usual fickle Midwestern weather, Nationals was exactly what you hope Nationals will be – a smoothly run competition where everyone gets to show off their stuff, have fun, and reconnect with their friends from across the country. No fuss, no muss, no drama… and this year pretty much delivered.

My team pretty much delivered, too. If you’ve been together for a while and training, you go to Nationals pretty much knowing where you are, what your averages have been, and you hope that you perform up to (or even exceed) that level. The likelihood of outperforming is slim; the possibility of under-performing is, I suppose, somewhat higher, since the mental head games that you play with yourself can cause a team that performs well in practice to crumble in the heat of competition.

One super-sexy 4-way team.

One super-sexy 4-way team.

But that wasn’t us – we might have flown a hair more conservatively than we’re capable of, but we also didn’t fly sloppy. We had a few busts, but most of our rounds were squeaky clean. We scored pretty much exactly where we should have expected to, given where we were at the end of our training. Most of all, we had a good time and continued our season-long streak of no team drama. Having seen my share of team meltdowns, that’s not to be under-appreciated!

So there you have it … the Nationals scoop that didn’t fit in that other article.

 

 

BSBD Ramón Rojas

BSBDcrop smChilean BASE jumper Ramón Rojas died Saturday September 20th, 2014 in Grindelwald, Switzerland. Ramón was a part of a 2-way wingsuit BASE jump. Initial reports suggest that he ended up too low and was not able to fly to a clear area or  deploy his canopy in time. The level of difficulty both in regards to exit and flight is reported to have been well within his skill level. He had done the same jump previously with ample clearance.
Proximity flying is an unforgiving sport and even the slightest error can result in death.

Ramón was a highly experienced and well respected BASE jumper. We send our sympathies to his family and friends around the world.  A Facebook Memorial Group has been set up where you can view and share memories of Ramón.

The incident remains under investigation.

News Reports: Mirror.co.uk, Dailymail.co.uk

 

The Final Countdown

Ready to Go

(I’ll pause for a moment while you get that godawful Europe song out of your head.  Gone?  Okay, let’s proceed.).

So I had this whole draft written, all about the experience of being on my first for-reals (with training and coach and all) 4-way team, but I scrapped it because all I really feel like writing is SQUEEE I LEAVE FOR NATIONALS IN JUST OVER A WEEK!

What once seemed so far away when we began to form this team just over a year ago is within sight.  Our final camp is done – we did four awesome days at Skydive Perris with about the best weather we could have hoped for in August. Reasonable temps (high 80s/low 90s) and light to moderate winds for pretty much the whole time (with a little of the afternoon craziness, but nowhere near as bad as it can be there in the summer). I even pushed through the last two days with a lovely little head cold, which drained all of my life force/energy, but at least still allowed me to clear my ears and keep jumping. Apparently I was “patient zero” on my team since all four of my teammates succumbed later in the week. If you had any doubt that skydiving teams are like preschools when it comes to germ propagation, well, think again.

Ready to Go

And now we wait. Will we medal?  Probably not, at least not based on our team averages and the typical winning averages in past years.  Will we hit the average we’d set as a goal at the beginning of the year?  Maybe – I firmly believe that if we skydive as well as we can, it’s within our reach.  We’ve reached it on some training days, so we’ve shown we can do it.

I’ll end this post with my plug for USPA Nationals as one of the best skydiving events of the year in the U.S., every year.  Someone once called it the “boogie for type A personalities” and that kind of fits. More than anything, though, I encourage people who are interested in competition to go as soon as you can swing it.  By this I mean – go as soon as you you’ve met the minimum requirements for competing in your chosen discipline (which vary, but are outlined in the USPA Skydiver’s Competition Manual), go as soon as you can swing it financially/logistically. Don’t wait till you think you’re good enough to win a medal. If you’re interested in competing, or even if you’re just interested in getting better at your chosen discipline (training and competing can be a great way to make forward strides), go! The energy there is amazing, the chance to rub elbows with the best in the sport is unparalleled, and you might just find a random top-level competitor watching your team creep and asking “You guys mind if I offer some advice?” The generosity demonstrated by the big names, giving back to those who are just coming up, is pretty cool and amazing to watch, and not something you’ll find in most sports.

BSBD Donald Bragg, Skydive the Farm

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BSBDcrop smOn Saturday, August 30th, 2014 Donald Bragg died from injuries sustained during a jump at Skydive the Farm in Rockmart, Georgia.

Two jumpers were attempting a Mr. Bill*,  with Donald as the third, doing outside video. To the best of our knowledge, the pair exited and deployed. Jumper B was not able to hold on through deployment and fell away. Donald was situated above the deploying main and the jumpers collided hard. Donald had initiated his own main deployment but not in time to avoid the deploying main or the jumper underneath. As a result of the collision both reserves were deployed, resulting in a double two-out scenario. It is possible that Donald was killed in the collision, but at the very least both jumpers lost consciousness. Donald was located by emergency responders and pronounced dead at the scene. The other jumper involved in the collision was transported to a hospital for treatment for his injuries and is expected to recover well.

The incident is under investigation.

We send our sincerest sympathies to the friends and family of Donald Bragg and everyone at Skydive the Farm.

News Reports: northwestgeorgianews.com,

*A Mr. Bill is when one jumper (Jumper A) holds on to the harness of another (Jumper B), while that one (B) deploys his main. This is typically takes place right out the door, the pair aiming for a sub-terminal opening.  Later on,  jumper A will let go of the harness and fall away from Jumper B, to deploy and land under his own canopy.

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