Cloud Dancer
1993 World Freefall Convention
RW Seminars

I can't deal with a seminar without my pen and paper, so here are my notes from the Jerry Bird 3-night seminar. The guest speaker the first two nights was Craig Buxton and TK Donle on the third night. The cost was $25 for all three nights.


The following writing does not necessarily represent my opinions. Rather, it represents my best effort to capture information that I have acquired at the seminars. I also do not guarantee that it is error free.

Night One: Competitive 4-way Sequential by Craig Buxton

Always think in terms of the fundamentals and take responsibility for the results of the dive.

The clock for 4-way comp. dives is 35 seconds and the clock starts when the first person is leaving the aircraft.

A Random formation is one relative work formation from which a complete break is made to go to the next thing.

Blocks involves a relative work formation and then making a transition (usually flying 2-way pieces) to the next relative work formation.

A competition dive involves a 6 point sequence that repeats over and over again.

It is the team's responsibility to show complete breaks between formations. If the video man is above and one team member's hand is above another team member's arms, this can look like a complete grip to a judge. The Golden Knights bend their arms at the elbows to show the video man clear complete breaks.

As a team you should set goals and discuss everyone's responsibilities. Do not defend yourself. Rather, communicate your ideas and analysis on what happened and how it can be improved on the next dive. Always be your best. Always be ready. (For example, avoid the situation where you are not in your slot because you thought the others wouldn't be ready.) Ask yourself, "Can I work harder?" Always be positive.

It is a good idea to have a coach that is outside of the team. He acts as a facilitator--takes phone calls, sees that the team eats/drinks properly, sees that the team is keeping up with the jump schedule (not spending too much time on creepers and so on), etc.

Goal setting is part of team building. By setting goals a team has a standard to measure their progress against. Without goals progress is harder to observe and the team is not focused on the same need. Goals help a team to avoid repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

In dealing with mistakes... Identify the behavior. Strive to dirt dive the correct way to perform the task. Work with the correct technique so that it will be a habit to execute it correctly in freefall. Try to build new healthy good habits. If you find yourself performing a bad habit in freefall quickly dismiss it and go on with your dive. Be a good dirt diver--this effects your thought pattern. Dirt dive in real time. Minimize conscious thinking in the air and trust your body to fly the habits you instill into yourself during the dirt diving.

Think about flying your slot, not grips. Trust your teammates to do their own flying. In other words, do not fly over to them and drag them into the formation.

There are certain fundamental ways you can move your mass in freefall. First, is your level control. Monitor your levels. Secondly, is your ability to move forward or backslide. Thirdly, is your ability to fly sideways. These are the fundamental directions of movement in freefall. You have to learn to control these to be good. Drill these separately. Practice the skills individually and then put them all together. Diagonal movements will come naturally. And then you can start to work on turns in place and making turns as you move your mass to a new slot.

"Center" is hard to find if everybody is moving around so it is important that you show a good break and then a nice clean move to the next point.

The most fundamental question is: how do you sit still in freefall? The "Box Position." If you want to stay still do not make any movements. Avoid any tendency to over control and trust your box position. A good box position deflects air symmetrically to the sides and to the front and back. A good box position has a good arch. Assume the box position and hold it consistently.

The upper body catches more air than the lower body so you should have more material on the legs of your jumpsuit. Different body shapes fly differently so carefully examine the "balance" of your jumpsuit. You should be flying on your chest, not with your chest head high. For girls who fall too slow--Having more material on the legs may actually be helpful as they want have to stick out their legs so much in order to prevent from flying chest high with the arms in the box position. After correcting the balance of the jumpsuit then girls should determine how much weights they need. And the weights should be worn high on the shoulders.

Learn total discipline of the box position. A skydiver who uses the box will not have to change his body position to take grips and will fly smoother. If your arms are held back with the hands in line with the shoulders instead of the ears, then you have to change body position to take grips and you will have to aerodynamically correct for changing into the new body position for taking grips. Many points is not fast moves but a serious of small movements. Maintain eye contact with the center point of the formation. Prevent funnels by forcefully holding your box position when for example the person next to you starts to shift under you. They won't funnel you if you stiff arm the grip and not allow them to shift to a position under you.

In conclusion...
Learn it on the ground and do it in the air.
Learn the steps first and then put all the steps together.

Night Two: Competitive 4-way Sequential by Craig Buxton cont.

This seminar opened with the story by Jack Jefferies on the first issue of "Eye Contact" the video skydiving magazine.

When you perform a movement in freefall, you have to initiate the movement, coast during the movement, and stop the movement. For example, how do you move 3 feet up? Initiate by cupping air by dropping the knees and elbows, Coast in the box position, and Stop by assuming the fast fall position (harder arch).

200 multiplied by 60 seconds each is not very much practice time so you should practice specific skills on the ground. Now we can practice this cupping action on the ground because if you don't do it symmetrically you will slide and not just move 3 feet up. Lay on the floor in your box position and press your elbows and knees into the floor raising your chest off the floor. You are practicing the muscle memory for the symmetrical cupping of the air.

Use a mirror to check your box position. Assume the box and look into the mirror and verify if you have assumed it correctly. Practice positioning your arms with the elbows straight out from the shoulders with the hands at your ears (not your hands even with your shoulders. Continue this practice until you can assume the box correctly.

To go forward, extend your legs and spill more air off your torso. Failure to spill more air off your torso resists your forward motion and slows your fallrate (the extended legs have added to the total surface area presented to the wind flow).

To perform a side slip, bank your shoulders and shift the calves toward one side. Shoulders banked to the right with the calves shifted toward the left results in a side slip to the right. The wind deflection off bank of your shoulders and the wind deflection off your calves must be in equal amounts. If not, you will turn while attempting your side slip.

To perform a turn in place, use the upper and lower body evenly. Bank the shoulders to the right and shift the calves toward the right for a right turn. Failure to use the upper and lower body evenly results in a turn that is not in place. More use of the chest causes a turn about the lower body and more use of the calves causes a turn about the upper body. Such an unbalanced turn introduces other complex movement that continues with its momentum until you stop it.

An exaggerated head switch can cause unusual banking in the shoulders and effect your flying possibly causing unwanted linear motion.

If the fallrate of the formation is too slow, the jumpers performing movements will go low during the movements. Most body positions for causing linear movement involve decreasing the surface area exposed to the wind and hence they fall faster.

The lower arm (elbow to hands) has little effect on your flying. The torso is a much bigger part of your body and does most of the flying.

You can learn these skills in a drill format. This allows one to combine these skills more easily later. You can analyze skills and trouble shoot them instead of saying "Oh, I just didn't have lunch. I'll do better after lunch."

Beginners back up to perform some RW moves because they feel that they can see more easily and eliminate the fear of working closely and perhaps bumping into one another.

Often in a donut, skydivers extend the free arm in order to get push in towards the center to reduce tension in the formation. If this technique is really needed then the divers have some bad habits contributing to unwanted separation. Use a good box position. It falls straight down.

When transitioning or turning pieces, the balance of forces must be controlled in a similar manner as with turns in place, side slips, etc. Learning to do this requires team members to make practice jumps together.

While watching advanced relative workers, you may notice that the lower legs and lower arms move quite a bit. However, they are holding the box position faithfully. For them the box position includes the entire body except for the forearms and lower legs. While "opening the door," a technique described in Skydive 101 video, move only the lower arm. The advanced RWer will also explore to some degree how far they can deviate from the box position and still stay in control. Advanced relative workers use "cheat formations." A caterpillar that is curved is one example. Each RWer has less distance to move their C.G. to get to the next formation when using cheat formations.

Practice drills on the ground. For example, practice the movements for turning in place for 10 minutes. Take a 5 minute break and do it for 10 more minutes.

Creeping allows for accurate viewing of the RW movements and formations. Practice accurate geometry of movement and formation shapes.

Break the skydive into its parts. If you can't remember the sequence then how can you expect to do them? On the ground learn good habits--make the skill automatic before getting in freefall.

Try this exercise... Lay on a creeper with your eyes shut. Your friend moves it 3 feet to the right and asks you what happened. You are likely to say you moved about 3 feet to the right. Then, he rotates you 90 degrees to the left and asks you what happened. You are likely to say you turned about 90 degrees to the left. Most anyone has this level of awareness. However, most people don't pay attention to these kinesthetic sensations of linear and rotary movement while in freefall.

In another common example... You are an instructor and your RW student docked on a 4-way with you. You find yourself pulling 40 lbs to maintain your box position because the student is backsliding in the slot. In the debrief, get with the student and demonstrate the difference between a tension and a no tension grip. Have the student pull against you as you explain this is how it was in freefall and have the student relax the tension as you explain this is how it is in the ideal formation.

What about brainlocking problems? If you brainlock, don't back up. Continue to fly your slot and take a guess at a new heading. You have 33 percent chance at being right. If they others look at you funny, try another heading. It's simple. Regardless of the name of the next formation, you can be only hands to hands, hands to feet, or hands to a hand and a foot.

Use weight and jumpsuit alterations to get all members of the team to fall at the same rate in the same body position.

Night Three: Equipment by TK Donle

Skydiving is about little details, your knowledge and skill. Work on these things one by one and you will become more proficient. Your longevity in skydiving is important so think safety.

Understand aerodynamics and your equipment. Do you feel comfortable with your equipment? If your answer is "yes" then your mind is free to concentrate on other tasks.

Perform your pin check in a systematic way.

First, your reserve.

Check for proper seating of the pin. The wide part of the pin should not be in contact with the grommet. Check that seal is intact. Check grommet for dents. Newer rigs have stainless steel grommets. Rigs older than 8 years have brass grommets which dent more easily.

Check that routing of the reserve cable can move freely. Pull the cable, if it snaps back when you let go then there are no kinks in the cable.

Next, your main.

Check to see that the bridle goes straight from the main pin to the pilot chute.

Check that all velcro is mated including the velcro inside the main flap. (To properly mate velcro on a rig with a legs strap throwout, position the rig on its left side and begin the mating process at the corner between the diagonal and leg strap. When you lay the rig back on the floor the bridle will buckle in this area. If it does not, this is a good sign that the velcro will become unmated when you don the rig. While packing the pilot chute all extra bridle should be packed inside the pilot chute.)

You can check your main pin in the aircraft by reaching back, opening the main flap and feeling the pin yourself.

The three ring system. Check that the rings are in proper sequence and seated. (While packing you may have seen that the two smaller rigs got pulled backward through the larger ring. If this is left this way, opening shock can break your rings.)

Housing of the cutaway system on the left side should be underneath the reserve riser.

Check engagement of the cutaway handle. It must be next to the chest strap. (Yellow cable that can be seen can be snagged.)

The proper way to don your rig.

Step through one leg strap and put it on your shoulders. Allow the rig to slide off your shoulders about halfway down your arms and step through the other legs strap. Continue to don the rig and stow loose straps. If you don't you could be trying to pull the loose end of your leg strap instead of your handle deploy at pull time. When stowing the leg straps by sure the excess material is deep in the leg pad. If it is not it can cause your leg adopter to not be seated flat. This will cause the adopter to allow the strap to slip through. The leg pads should not be too long or they will cause the same problem.

While you are packing, check the closing loop for wear before placing your pull up cord. Most of the wear will be inside the loop as it is usually damaged or faulty pins that cause this wear.

Be sure that the line stows are tight to prevent line dump. Your pilot chute has 70 to 85 lbs of drag during deployment. 8 to 12 lbs is sufficient for a stow. Tube stows last longer but rubber bands retain the lines better.

If you dirt dive with your gear on. Completely put your gear on. This is the easy time to mate only the velcro of the chest strap instead of putting in through the adopter. If for some reason you find your chest strap not fastened in freefall, hold the right main left web with your left arm on deployment.

Check your handles and hardware prior to exit.

Backslide on deployment. While in this sitting up position opening shock is more in line with the main lift web. A face to wind opening--the force is not in-line with the main lift web and jerks you more and stresses your equipment more. While opening do not look over one shoulder as this places uneven strain on the risers. Spectra lines only adds to this strain problem and it is more important for your shoulders to be level.

Your equipment works best:
If it fits.
If it is maintained.
If you understand it.

If you change something about your equipment see and ask your rigger--someone who is knowledgeable. If you buy a new pilot chute, check the velcro and pin placement. If you change your main canopy, then check its capability with your rig. For a vector the main is too big if you can see the seams on flaps 3 and 4 after the main flap is closed.

Touching F-111 causes it to become more porous. (PD wants its reserve canopies back after 30 pack jobs.)

To wash your rig, spray the metal hardware with silicon to protect it from the water. You should have your rigger wash your rig for you.

In summary, skydiving is a high speed sport. Preplan. Know your emergency procedures. Dirt dive thoroughly, etc. All we do is deflect the air. Skydiving is an eye, body, reaction sport. Each person uses a different body position for tracking. To find the best results, feel the air pressure and observe the results. Make jumps. Read books. Watch videos. Listen to others.

Cloud Dancer
© Copyright 1993. Tamara Koyn. All Rights Reserved.