SKYDIVER LONGEVITY
7 Tips to Prolong Your Skydiving Career

You might think of skydiving as a young man’s game, but you’d be surprised. The largest demographic of licensed skydiver is 30-39 years old, making up 25% of United States Parachute Association Membership. The 2nd largest demographic, making up 23% of membership is 60+ years of age! As a skydiver our goal should be to continue to skydive well into our golden years! Here are some tips for prolonging your skydiver shelf-life.

#1 BE PROACTIVE ABOUT SAFETY AND REALISTIC ABOUT YOUR LEVEL OF RISK

The first and most obvious thing you can do is avoid getting hurt. Injuries can be a huge setback in your participation and growth in the sport. You might be surprised to find, experienced skydivers holding D-Licenses are the most “at-risk” group in USPA Membership. Complacency plays a huge part in experienced jumpers feeling over-confident in their abilities and creating a lazy or flippant attitude toward safety. Jumpers start to believe that because they’ve done 500 jumps without incident, they’re doing enough to make it another 500 jumps without incident. Learning and skill-building is a life-long endeavor. No matter how skilled you are or how much you know, you can always find room to improve. Though D-License holders make up 32% of membership they are 45% of fatalities.

#2 AVOID A COMPLACENT MINDSET

Complacency manifests itself in both physical and mental ways. What is a complacent mindset?

    • You think maintaining currency at your skill/experience level isn’t necessary or relevant.
    • You think Safety Day is for “newer” jumpers.
    • You think you are “too experienced” to take a canopy course or receive coaching.
    • You think other people get hurt or make mistakes and it won’t happen to you. 
    • When you do make a mistake and get away with it, you brush it off as a fluke.
    • You are no longer open to input or criticism from others.

#3 BE AWARE OF COMPLACENT HABITS

Complacency manifest itself in physical ways. What is evidence you are developing complacent habits?

    • You’re not doing regular gear checks- you think one at the start of the day is enough
    • Someone else catches something wrong with your gear.
    • You find yourself forgetting something routine- helmet, altimeter, turning on your AAD.
    • You don’t know the landing direction until your canopy opens.
    • You don’t know what jumprun is until you exit the plane.
    • You avoid doing maintenance/repairs to your gear until after something breaks.
    • You are late to the plane or not fully geared when it arrives.
    • You downsize or change wing without consulting anyone. 
    • You start the season doing turns on your canopy when you’re uncurrent.

#4 MAKE GOOD DECISIONS WHEN IT COMES TO CANOPY CHOICES

The largest percentage of injuries and death among license holders are canopy related. Make good canopy choices- consider your skill, training and currency when choosing a parachute. 

Continue your canopy education:

    • Attend canopy courses
    • Get professional coaching
    • Get current before you start doing turns again
Canopy over SDMW

#5 MAINTAIN CURRENCY

Being uncurrent plays a role in many injuries and fatalities among skydivers. Many dropzones are seasonal. This means a long winter break without skydiving. If you can, travel somewhere warm and keep skydiving during the winter. Our skills and our knowledge can become rusty after a long period without skydiving. This isn’t “like riding a bike” and the stakes are high. Be sure to attend safety day and complete the necessary recurrency training before you start jumping again. Be conservative with your landings and avoid doing big turns or trying a new turn when you are uncurrent. Consider your canopy choice carefully. If you’ve gained weight during your break, it might be a good idea to upsize until you are demonstrating consistent proficiency again. Avoid downsizing when you are uncurrent. Your first month back is not the best time to try learning a new wing. 

Even at year-round dropzones, many jumpers choose to skydive only occasionally. This can be extremely dangerous. Currency is key in competency. Keep your skills sharp by jumping regularly and doing multiple jumps in one day when possible. This is the best way to make better progress in your abilities and stay safe. If you’re doing fewer than 50 jumps a year, you aren’t jumping enough to stay safely current. Protect yourself and others by jumping as often as you can.

Skydiving Currency

#6 TAKE PREVENTATIVE MEASURES FOR YOUR HEALTH

Skydiving can be hard on your body. An ounce of prevention can be worth a pound of cure when it comes to your mind, ears, neck, shoulders, back, ankles and feet. 

EXERCISE: Do specific exercises to increase strength and flexibility in your neck, shoulders and back. 

Skydiver longevity

FOOTWEAR: Wear proper footwear. Skateboarding shoes are very popular in skydiving but offer very little support. We understand looking cool in skydiving is pretty important so if you have to wear shoes for fashion, consider using inserts or orthotics. Consider wearing ankle braces, especially if you are a swooper or practicing zone accuracy. 

BETTER LANDINGS: Take multiple canopy courses to learn proper landing techniques. If your feet hurt when you land, you’re probably doing something wrong. Getting proper coaching can help you soften the landing impact on your back and feet. Standing up a landing does not mean you are proficient. You can stand up a landing and still have bad technique. You should even have a practiced “slide-in” landing technique in your back pocket for when it’s necessary.

HEARING PROTECTION: If you’re not wearing earplugs when you skydive, chances are you already have permanent damage to your hearing. Hearing is 2nd only to vision as a sensory mechanism to obtain critical information to aid in perceiving the world around you. Prolonged exposure to sounds as loud as an electric drill or lawn mower can cause permanent hearing damage. Imagine what riding next to twin turbine engines for 20 minutes at a time, all day long, can do. 

The solution is so simple, invest in earplugs. If you jump at SDMW, we even stock an earplug dispenser in case you forget yours. Additionally, listen to your body. If your ears hurt because of a cold or sinus infection you should consider sitting out. A ruptured ear drum can put you out for a whole season instead of just a weekend. 

#7 STAY ENGAGED AND AVOID BURNOUT

    • Always continue learning & challenging yourself
    • Get coaching & attend skills camps
    • Join a team
    • Set goals for yourself 
    • If you work in skydiving be sure to keep fun jumping
    • If you work in skydiving be sure to take time off, away from the dropzone

 

Skydive Midwest offers tons of opportunity for coaching, skills camps, events, team sponsorships and other ways of staying engaged at the DZ. Be sure to check our event calendar for more information.

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