Boogies, skills camps, competitions, OH MY! As event coordinators at drop zones around the country get their calendars populated, you will be privy to all of the dates for all of the amazing events at your disposal. Whether it’s an event at your home DZ or you’re planning to scoot across the country to one of the bigger events, as a n00b there are a few things to think about as you start planning.
Allow me to help you navigate the road that is BOOGIE SEASON 2014.
1. What are your goals?
There are a lot of different events out there, young Jedis. Are you trying to improve your skills in a learning-focused environment? Do you want to jump with the hottest, most popular organizers on the planet? Are you looking for novelty (hula hoops, inflatables/raft, space balls, etc.) jumps? Do you want to party all night? Relax in an exotic locale? Different events cater to different groups of people. Some are newbie-friendly, some are for more advanced flyers.
PRO-TIP: Check out the event descriptions. If you have questions about whether that particular event would be a good one for you, ask the event coordinator or see if any of your skydiving friends have been to that event.
2. How comfortable are you with canopy traffic?
If you normally jump at a Cessna drop zone and have never been on an Otter (the big twin-engine planes carrying up to 23 jumpers), you definitely want to think about that for a minute. At some of the bigger events (CarolinaFest at Skydive Carolina, Summerfest at Skydive Chicago, Chicks Rock at Skydive Elsinore, Sebastian Invasion at Skydive Sebastian, or the Holiday Boogie at Skydive Arizona, for example), there are multiple aircraft in the air at any given time. Each drop zone does it a bit differently, but with multiple otters or skyvans (and other bigger-than-Cessna aircraft) in the rotation, there can be a lot of canopies up there.
PRO-TIP: If you haven’t been in this kind of environment before, take some time on the first day after you’ve gotten the DZ/boogie briefing to watch the landing area, observe canopy patterns, and get a feel for the flow. And if you aren’t comfortable, don’t worry! Some of my best memories from boogies were created on the ground. You can still meet A LOT of awesome people, even if you aren’t comfortable jumping.
3. Boogie fees.
Some boogies are free, some cost $20-100 for registration, some are even higher if the fee includes jump tickets or is a specialized event. Find out what you get for this price. A T-shirt? Food? Drinks? Party pass? Access to amazing organizers? Coaching? Specialty aircraft? Nightly entertainment? Is it a charity event? Don’t stress about boogie fees too much though—believe me, they’re (usually) totally worth it.
PRO-TIP: Boogie fees are necessary to ensure the event is everything you dream it will be; they help cover additional expenses that come with putting on the most epic weekend of your life. If you don’t want the T-shirt, you don’t care about the organizers, you don’t party, you don’t want to eat dinner at the DZ, and you still can’t find value in the fee, you can pretty safely scratch that boogie off your itinerary.
Organizers make the event magical. As a newbie, don’t be afraid to approach an organizer and ask to join their group. If the dive they planned is advanced and they don’t feel comfortable adding you to the group, don’t take it personally. As an organizer, it is their job to make sure the jump is as successful and as safe as possible for all of the participants. If you find yourself constantly getting turned down, find the event coordinator (or someone who looks like they’re running the show) and ask them if there is an organizer specifically for new jumpers.
PRO-TIP: If the event description doesn’t say “all skill levels welcome” or “we’ll have an organizer specifically for newbies,” ask ahead of time to make sure you’re going to have people to jump with. The more you know beforehand, the better off you’ll be.
If you’re at an event and there are vendor tents, go say hi! Introduce yourself, ask them about the gear, and if you’re still in the market for your first rig, ask if you can demo something. If you already have your own gear, and there is a vendor representing the company you’ve chosen to save your life each and every jump, pop by and thank them. If you have questions about what you’re jumping, or you really love your gear, let them know.
PRO-TIP: Make sure you swing by and ask for demos early; they can go quickly. And make sure you return them at the time specified by the vendors (usually at X:00 before sunset). They’ve been working in the tent all day and need to get everything packed up before they leave. It’s a lot easier to do that when all of the gear is back and there is still light so they can see what they’re doing.
BONUS: How current are you?
Not just jump-wise, but gear-wise? If you’re looking to make a trip, consider all of the tips above, and then think about some of the safety stuff. Are you from a low-elevation DZ and the event you’re looking at will be held at a DZ with a higher elevation? If so, your canopy flight will be different. Did you recently (in relation to how often you’re jumping) downsize? Did you spend all winter in a wind tunnel? If so, you have probably progressed significantly. Have you tried your new skills in the sky yet? These questions aren’t meant to scare you away from attending the event you’re targeting, but to make you think.
Go forth, n00bs, and get your boogie on. This here magazine has a solid list of upcoming events (blueskiesmag.com/calendar), and you can always check the websites and Facebook pages of the drop zones you love (or want to love) for more details. Make plans, make friends, get there, ask for a DZ briefing, watch the sky for a few loads, find an organizer and get on the plane!
And one last thing: This column is for you. If you have n00b-ish stuff you’re worried about, struggling with or can’t find answers to, hit me up. If I don’t know the answer, there are a lot of badasses around here who do, and we’ll make it happen for you.
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