“It’s Too Hot to Fun Jump!”


Yeah, those words actually came out of my mouth on Saturday afternoon.

I’d just finished up a 6-jump NCSL competition with my team, and some folks were trying to rally a group to do a bigger belly way to cap off the day and take advantage of the critical mass of belly flyers on the dropzone. Instead, I pulled off my jumpsuit, pulled out a red cup, and filled it with an ice-cold beer, even with several hours of jumpable daylight left!

thermometer-11029029As I come up on my 10-year anniversary in the sport, I wonder when that happened? When did my desire to jump jump jump all the time get dampened by a number on the thermometer?  To be fair, that thermometer read 102F (39C for my international readers), which is a fairly brutal temp for rolling into an all-black jumpsuit and being happy about it!

The longer I’m around, the more picky I am about jumping in weather extremes. It helps of course that I’m spoiled by California weather.

For team training? Bring on the heat (and it’s always heat for a team that trains in Davis and Perris). For competition? Yes please, just fire up the plane and get me there! For fun jumps, though, the bar is higher. I’ve been known to pile on the layers for an early morning jump at the Skydive Arizona Holiday Boogie, if only because being up and ready to go that early increases the likelihood that the Airspeed organizers will outnumber willing jumpers.

All of this weekend’s whining aside, I do find that the deeper I get into team training (109 jumps together so far), I do want and need to stay connected to fun jumping lest I become one of those humorless team types who won’t do any jump that isn’t in the dive pool. Fortunately, one of my favorite sources of fun jump / social time balance is just around the corner – the 47th annual Lost Prairie Boogie (my 10th).  There will be lots of great skydiving, pretty much none of it serious!

Doing 4-way With the Voices in My Head

At least the top of that Block 19 looks pretty!  Photo by Jason Imamura.

Being in my early 40s and being on a sports team is actually kind of weird when I think about it. Not that 40-somethings shouldn’t be on teams, it’s just been such a long damn time since I’ve been on this type of team (like, since my preteen years long!). Of course, I’m on teams at work, but for the most part that’s in my sweet spot of skills where I feel pretty confident. Sports? Not such a sweet spot (see my inaugural post on averageness).  Sure, there was that softball team I was a part of for a few years in my late 20s, but let’s be honest, that was a one game a week commitment that was more about hanging out at the bar for beers after the game was over, and they put me at catcher because I throw like a girl.

But this, this is a different animal altogether (though it still involves beer at the end of the day). Fifth Wheel is the first “serious” 4-way team I’ve been on, what with paid coaching, and goals, and commitments, and season-long training. I’ve done 4-way at USPA Nationals before, but it was always on casual teams with varying degrees of last-minute throwtogetherness to them; this year is 4-way for reals. Which means that unlike those previous teams, this team comes with Expectations, with a capital E!

And with Expectations comes pressure, almost all of it self-induced because I’m one of those type-A-harder-on-myself-than-I-am-on-anyone-else kind of people. It comes with the constant need to balance that voice inside my head that says “You’re the weak link, you’re going to hold this team back” with the voice that says “Your teammates asked you to be on the team with them and we’re all working hard to improve and will have good days and bad days.” And yes, those voices inside my head are constantly talking to each other to the point where I really want them both to STFU so I can quietly visualize the perfect turn on Block 19 so that maybe, just maybe, one of these days I’ll come around from that turn with something other than “FUCK how’d the other piece get so far away?” screaming in my head.

At least the top of that Block 19 looks pretty! Fifth Wheel 4-way team at Skydance Skydiving. Photo by Jason Imamura.

Being on a team is a constant battle for me between recognizing what I did well, taking accountability for the things that I need to work on as an individual, and blaming myself for everything that goes wrong. Yesterday we participated in our first competition (without our coach there), and it made me realize just how very much I appreciate having our coach, the most excellent Josh Hall, around. When he’s not there, I do my best to self-analyze, but I realize that I’m just not very good at it (which is why we hired a badass world-class coach, after all, because he’s a hell of a lot better at it!).

Having that trained, objective, honest eye that’ll say “Here’s what you need to change to make this work better” helps to quiet the voices in my head. It also helps to keep me honest because I realized yesterday that without Josh around to nag me in the mockup I get hella lazy on exit presentation, which showed up in our less-than-stellar exit performance yesterday. Granted we were trying several exits we hadn’t tried before, without the benefit of our coach to tell us precisely how to execute them, so I suppose some of that is to be expected.

First place, NCSL AA class.

First place, NCSL AA class.

But oh, the bright spots! There were many. For one thing, we won the AA class! Medals! Money! Fame! Glory! Okay, maybe not the last two, but hey, we’ll take medals and money. We regrouped well from those bad exits, resetting and having clean jumps despite the lost time on the hill.

We saw definite improvement in other blocks, and on some of our jumps, the team flow felt like it was really gelling. We’re about to head into three straight weekends of training, culminating at a 4-day camp down in Perris, so it’ll be really cool to see where we end up after that level of intense training. (And no, we didn’t originally plan to have such an intense stretch, but weather-induced rescheduling found us squeezing in some extra time).

And if all else fails with quieting the voices in my head, I just need to look at the sticker on my helmet that says Skygod Approved. And that, as my Blue Skies Mag loving friends all know, is all the validation you really need.

Rhythm rebuilds – lineup for 2013 complete!

If you follow high level competitive 4-way with any enthusiasm, you probably know that SDC Rhythm XP recently took a bit of a blow when 2 team members (Chris Farina and Thiago Gomez) – the entire rear piece in fact – upped and left for greener pastures in Arizona.  Both joined Arizona Airspeed, Chris as the new point and Thiago as #6 – the alternate.

Rhythm wasn’t too daunted and Steve and JaNettte Lefkowitz set to recruit new team members. They recently announced that Mikhail Markine (previously on team Vibe) will be flying tail and Christy Frikken (of Perris Fury) taking the Inside Center slot. Alex Bittner remains on as the team videographer. Alex commented that the old core members are very excited to see what Christy and Mikhail bring to the team in terms of energy, experience and attitude.
With just a few short months until the 2013 USPA Nationals at Skydive Chicago, the team is planning on an aggressive training schedule starting later this month.

Kurt from NSL did a bit of a writeup on the NSL website as well, and I am sure we will see more thoughts from him in upcoming columns of “Turning Points” in coming editions of Blue Skies Magazine. – but you’ll need to be a subscriber to get to feast your eyes on those goods!

4-way fun in Florida…

Thanks to our awesome next-door-neighbor, Kurt Gaebel from the NSL, we are kept relatively well up to speed on cool things happening in competitive 4-way, both locally and around the world. We of course subscribe to the NSL newletter (which you can do too, by clicking here) and this morning we had a note from Kurt, reminding us of two events this weekend.

So, if you are in Florida and keen on doing some 4-way over the weekend, you have two options:

Skydive U is organizing a 4-way Scrambles Skills Camp on Saturday, February 12th at Skydive DeLand. $30 registration fee, video optional, player coaches for the day will be Rob Laidlaw, Katie Woods, Robert Chromy and Hal Spence. All experience levels are welcome, contact Skydive U for more information or to pre-register. Facebook event page here.

– or –

Hit up Skydive Sebastian for a “Team 4 a Day” with SDC Rhythm XP. This program is designed for jumpers new to 4-way or anyone who wants to improve on their RW skills. Groups are matched based on similar skill level, allowing jumpers to learn and improve. I have done some jumps with both JaNette and Steve from Rhythm, and those two are both outstanding coaches. Facebook Event page here.

So, get your grippies on and go have some fun this weekend!

Turning Points with Kurt Gaebel

Now that the dust has settled a bit around the new Airspeed lineup, the team has got their matching jumpsuits and are planning their first training camp of 2011 in January. It will be very exciting to follow the new team and watch how things are going to play out in the next 2 years on the world level.
We are very excited to have Kurt Gaebel from NSL now contributing to a monthly column in Blue Skies Magazine, named “Turning Points”. In that column Kurt will discuss various topics from the competitive 4-way world. The first column will be in the December issue of Blue Skies Mag, due to hit mailboxes late December.
The NSL website has long been the hub of detailed and interesting news for hardcore 4-way geeks (and we use that word in the most flattering sense possible). Visit the NSL page to watch Kurt’s recent interview Tomash Hughes (center outside) and Nick Grillet (alternate) about the what lies ahead. Note the shirt Nick is wearing – ushering in the new look of a future World Champion!

We have no doubts that Airspeed will tackle the upcoming season with full seriousness, and we base that assumption on secret intel we received from one of our agents in Eloy. Thomas has been working on his track and evidently has advanced to FULL Delta position, which should do wonders for solid separation after break-off.

Photo by Nik Daniel