Canopy Coaching

The struggle is real. 

One of the most common challenges to new skydivers is mastering landing a parachute. The reality is, it’s not an easy thing to do well. It takes lots and lots of practice and continuing education through canopy coaching. If you’re a student or new jumper and you feel the struggle, you’re not alone and there’s help out there.

I’m gonna let you in on a secret. In 2010, when I started skydiving, I couldn’t stand up my landings or land accurately to save my life. I feet-knees-faceplanted every single landing, all over the airport. I landed on the road, in the corn fields, on the runway, on the apron in front of the hangar. I almost landed on the plane once when it pulled into the loading area. I was absolutely horrific as a student canopy pilot.

On my 11th jump, I flared too high, let the toggles up and dove my canopy straight into the ground and almost broke my back. At 13 jumps, I was still on radio. Looking back, I am shocked no one gave me the “bowling speech”. (This is where we tell someone they should consider taking up bowling because skydiving is not for them).

I eventually managed to land on the airport without radio assistance and got my license. However, I was still pounding in and landing super far from the hangar because I didn’t trust my accuracy. I was tired of getting banged up and walking back from the farthest point on the dz. It felt hopeless and I thought seriously about quitting. If any of this feels familiar to you, don’t give up hope.


Jessica Edgington, from Flight-1, came to SDMW in 2011 to host a Canopy Course and I signed up. She 100% changed my life. She never made me feel stupid for what I didn’t know. She explained things in a way that made sense to me. She videoed my landings and gave detailed feedback on how to improve. She was full of knowledge, information and tips that I had never heard anywhere else. I didn’t stop with one course. I went to Florida over the winter to get 3 more days of coaching with her. We did air-to-air relative work with radios so we could communicate under canopy. She flew next to me so I could make inputs and see my canopy’s responses relative to something else. I followed her fight patterns for landing and she communicated exactly what she was doing and why. It all clicked. My landing problems were suddenly a thing of the past. 

Get professional canopy coaching. Don’t just ask the best beer-line swooper on the dz to coach you. There are professional coaches out there with proven methods for helping a huge number of students for many, many years. Alter Ego hosts some of the best courses out there at SDMW every summer. Don’t waste any more time and sign up for some courses! Don’t make the mistake of taking just one course and considering the job done. Try to take a course every year or every time you get a new canopy. The learning never stops and there are always ways you can continue to improve and grow. Remember, even if you’re standing up your landings, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a proficient canopy pilot. There’s so much more to learn.  

Austin George flying a parachute

Get the Right Wing

Choosing the right canopy is important. It’s especially tricky if you are a small/light person. After student-status, jumpers often try to downsize until they get to a 1:1 wing-loading. This works ok for some, but if you are a lighter person you could end up on a parachute that you aren’t ready for. Any parachute sized 150 square feet or smaller is considered a high-performance canopy. Bigger wings are much more forgiving and things happen at a more manageable speed. All parachutes have different flight characteristics, flare techniques and performance. Adding the variable of wingloading and wind conditions, there is a TON to learn and consider. Your wing choice can have a huge impact on your progress. If you’re not sure what wing to get, sign up for a canopy coaching course and discuss it with your coach or talk to your S&TA. 

Good Parachute Landing

Get Video

Having a video to look at is invaluable. Often, we feel like we’re doing one thing, when in fact, we are doing another. Video never lies. You can see the pattern you flew, what height you initiated your flare, flare technique, body position in the harness, whether or not you finished your flare, if you held your flare long enough and if you were flaring evenly. Ask someone to video you and review the video with an S&TA or instructor. This is another benefit of getting canopy coaching, you get to review all your landings with video. 

Filming a parachute landing

Log your Landings

When it comes to accuracy and stand-up landings, it can be really helpful to track your trends. Start paying closer attention to what height you’re initiating your flare, and what altitudes you’re starting your downwind, base and final. Pay attention to what landmarks you are over when you start your downwind, base and final. Note where you land in reference to a target. You can only start making adjustments to your pattern if you’re tracking the specifics of it. Are you coming up short? Going long? Where did you set up and how would you need to adjust that to land closer to target? Don’t forget to note the wind conditions too. If you log your landings you can look back on a day with similar winds and remind yourself how to set up for a successful landing. 

landing a parachute over water

Get a Flysight

Flysights are resource that provide highly accurate data. You can track your entire canopy flight from opening to touchdown. You’ll see exactly where and what altitude you started your pattern, turned base and final and when you initiated your flare and stopped. It basically electronically logs your landings, making it easy to analyze and make adjustments. It’s also nice to have this kind of detailed information to provide to a coach when you get one. We have flysights available in the gear store!


Bad landings can shake your confidence. So don’t let yourself get suckered into doing things above your skill/comfort level. If you’re just off student status, it’s smart to keep holding yourself to student wind-limits for a while. The A License stamp holds no magic. It doesn’t suddenly make you an expert skydiver. It’s simply a license to continue learning. Know when to land off or land farther away. If you’re dz has lots of great outs like SDMW, don’t be afraid to land off. If you’re not sure you’re going to make it back or won’t be able to set up a proper pattern for the landing direction, it’s ok to land elsewhere. Sure, people might tease you for landing off, but who cares as long as you land safely. Until your accuracy improves, set up a pattern that has you landing farther away from the hangar or other obstacles. It’s better to take the long walk in than never walk again. If you’re not particularly graceful or coordinated, consider a seated landing. Having a good baseball style slide-in can be super helpful on no-wind days or while you’re sorting out your landing problems. Being conservative will help keep you safe while you are skill-building. 

Skydiver flying a reserve parachute


If you’re a newer jumper, you are probably on a larger parachute. Large parachutes take a lot more muscle to flare. You might find yourself having trouble fully-flaring your canopy. When I started jumping, I was one of the least athletic humans in the world. I immediately started with some triceps workouts- these are the primary muscles used for flaring. Try doing some dips and tri-push-down exercises. Being physically fit and more muscular also better protects your bones from injury. If you need another reason to quit smoking; this bad habit affects bone health and makes you more susceptible to fractures and osteoporosis. It also increases your recovery time as it slows healing. So does alcohol for that matter. Taking care of your physical wellbeing can increase your skydiving shelf life. 


If you’re having trouble with canopy flight, you’re not the only one. Let’s not forget, what we’re doing is pretty extreme and you’ve never done anything like it before. Remember how long it took you to learn to ride a bike or drive a car? Don’t give up and try some of the above suggestions. Most importantly, sign up for some canopy coaching. You’re investing in your future and it’s the cheapest insurance you can buy against having an injury. Good luck and blue skies!

Skydivers throwing parachutes in the air


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