From The Mag

Time to Consider a 9-Iron

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Originally printed in issue #91 (July 2017) of Blue Skies Magazine.
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All of us in the sport have seen a few things. The longer you’re in skydiving, the more you’re gonna see jumpers do some seriously questionable shit. You’ll see interesting and crazy stuff from every level of skydiver ‘cause, let’s face it, we all have our “off” days. But in the realm of “what the fuck” moments, I don’t think there can ever be any real comparison to the shit you’ll see during an AFF course (either real or instructor candidate courses)! So, as an AFF instructor and longtime jumper, I’d like to take this opportunity to share some of the more bizarre and funny things I’ve either seen myself, or stories I’ve been told from other instructors. Some of these in my opinion are truly worthy of asking, “Have you ever considered golf?”

Standing on the ground, radio in hand, casually relaying instructions to his student as he watched the student’s main slowing drifting away on the light breeze, he couldn’t figure out why on Earth his guy had cut away, because the main looked just fine to him. “So what was the malfunction you had? What went wrong with the canopy?” the instructor asked. “Well, it was super scary! I tried all the things you taught me in class, but no matter what I did, I couldn’t get the slider thingie to go back up!”

“Why didn’t you flare??”

“Well I was waiting until I was 10 feet off the ground to start my flare like you told me, but I was reading the altimeter and it never read 10!”

-OR-

“’Cause I knew I was gonna land on the road, but right before I landed I looked over where I was supposed to be, and it was lower … ”

During an otherwise uneventful AFF jump, the student opened up to a canopy with about 9 line twists all the way down to the risers, effectively pinning his chin to his chest. During the canopy ride, the instructor on the other end of the radio continuously tried to instruct the student to cut away the main, but the student seemed to be doing nothing to resolve the situation. Finally, at about 800 feet the student chopped. After managing line stretch only a few hundred feet up, the student was left with no choice but to land in the trees, as they were the only option left to him.

“Why didn’t you cut away much sooner? Cutting away that low was super dangerous!”

“Well,” said the student, “my face was pushed down so I couldn’t see if the canopy was square and steerable. I figured I should wait until I could do my checks, but it was taking a long damn time and I didn’t think I should wait anymore. And I wasn’t worried about chopping that low, really. I mean, hey, I’ve been pronounced dead on arrival 3 times now for drug overdoses … ”

After having been told she should be wearing a full-face helmet for her AFF instructor course, the instructor candidate opted to continue with her open face. On an evaluation jump shortly after, she managed to acquire an orbital fracture of her left eye when she decided to use her face to attempt a spin stop. She finished the course at a later date, with a full-face helmet.

During a debrief with a Category-C student, the instructor asked the new jumper how he would handle the prospect of a total main malfunction. Without even a slight hint of sarcasm he blurted out his plan, which surprisingly didn’t involve the use of his reserve.

“Well, if the main just didn’t come out at all, I wouldn’t wanna use the reserve cause those things are too expensive to pack back up! I’d just go ahead and take off my belt, track on over to them power lines over there and loop the belt around ‘em as I fell past. See, that way I could just slide on down and not have to spend the money!”

(As a side note, this jumper later attempted to demonstrate how he’d get down from the power lines by performing a PLF from the top of the hanger. As far as I know, the hanger “BASE” jump was the last he ever made.)

On a rather sporty exit, the student of a single-instructor jump managed to get his hands on, and then accidentally pull, his instructor’s cutaway handle. The instructor figured out what was going on just about the time he watched his cutaway pillow flying from his student’s hands. From what I’m told, he had the good form to finish the jump before dumping his reserve.

A slightly pumped-up AFF-instructor candidate was jumping reserve side (who, for those who don’t know, is the instructor who’s supposed to ride the student’s opening until line stretch takes the student from you). He held on so aggressively through the instructor “student’s” opening that he induced line twists severe enough to force the “student” to cut away.

A static-line student had a jump flow that required him to do his first practice ripcord pull. He left the aircraft with a beautiful ARCH, LOOK, REACH and then promptly cut away his main.

A student ended up with an off-field landing. As students are known to do, this one decided to land in the only small group of trees to be found in a rather large open area which was otherwise perfect for a bad spot landing. Instead of doing what he had been trained to do if he landed in the trees and stay put, he decided on a different course. The canopy had him suspended only a few feet above the ground, itself very securely wrapped through the branches high above. Since the student gear he was on used B-12 clips on the legs, he decided he would just detach them to get down. When his instructors found him shortly after his landing, the canopy and rig could be seen in the tops of the tree he’d hit, while he was lying flat on his back with a bloody face. When he’d detached the B-12s, he didn’t bother thinking about the chest strap still attached and as he dropped his considerable weight from the gear, it shot like a stone from a slingshot, with the chest strap trying to take his head with it …

A student who had managed to take both her instructors for quite a ride out the door came up with a novel way to try and land a canopy after a very eventful freefall. After going out of control pretty much right out the door, the reserve-side instructor broke off and stayed back from the dive while he waited for the main-side instructor to get her under control. The pair was cutting all across the sky, with the student flailing and spinning everywhere, when the main-side instructor decided to dump her out and end the madness. Unfortunately, they had managed to get directly UNDER the reserve instructor, who made pretty firm contact with the student as she went into line stretch past him. The contact with the instructor injured her arm badly enough that she was unable to use it, so, when it came time to flare the canopy she got creative … Instead of putting both toggles in one hand to attempt a balanced and even flare, she opted to put the toggle of her injured arm into her mouth and nod her way to a soft landing. All she actually managed to do was knock out a few of her teeth when she made a nice left turn into the side of a barn …

“I swear, he pulled the pilot chute on time, and held it … When I tried to slap the thing out of his right hand, he grabbed the damn pilot chute with his left!”

No doubt there are thousands of stories just like this—and far crazier to be sure. The truth of the matter is, skydiving just may not be for everyone, and the joke still stands pretty true: “In skydiving, if at first you don’t succeed, take up golf.”

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