Cloud Dancer
Freeflying Seminar by Vertical Journey
World Freefall Convention at Quincy August 10, 1999
Speaker: Brian Germain
Seminar Notes by Tamara Koyn


The following material does not necessarily represent my opinions and represents my best effort to capture the material actually presented in the seminar. I do not guarantee that it is error free.

Be sure that you checkout the freefly tent with Brian Germain, Mike Swanson, and Structure Fire freefly team members. The Flyboyz are at the Air Zone Tent by TnT Systems. Paying $65 per instructional jump will save you a lot of money in the long run.

There is no definition for freeflying. Open your mind to new ideas. You can freefly on your belly! Broaden your horizons.

Freefly Safety

First, let's discuss safety. Do not use a leg strap throw-out pilot chute. The relative wind is faster. There is a chance that even a BOC can come out. The BOC pouch must not be worn out. Watch your pouch. Replace it when it's worn. The pilot chute must not be ZP nor too small. A pull out is fine. Some argue that it is safer. The main pin should be seated fully. Be sure the loop is tight. You should not be able to move the main pin. Don't let your freeflying friend board the aircraft with a lose closing loop. It is bad for him and it could be bad for you if you are over him when his deployment bag comes out. You're doing him a favor if you pull his pin out and make him reclose his container with the closing loop properly tightened. Keep your flaps closed. Check for any open flaps during your video debreif. The reserve flap should stay closed. During the pin check, be sure the reserve pin also has a full seat. Set your Cypres. They have died in the middle of the day. Altimeters may be worn on the hand, chest strap, the mud flap, or whatever works. Chest mount altimeters do not read correctly when flying on the back. Wear two audible altimeters, in case the battery in one quits. Use a hard helmet. The helmet is more optional if you are doing a 2-way with someone that you know and are flying within your and your partner's skill level. Wear your goggles tight. Receive a pin check on the ground. However, this is not sufficient. Afterwards, you sit in the loading area and shuffle around in the airplane. Receive a gear check prior to exiting the aircraft. Knowing that your rig is in good order, frees your mind so you can fly your body. Brian would like to see 90 year old freeflyers!

Exit order: People like to exit first so that they can supervise and control the spot. Head-down and headup freeflyers retain the forward speed of the aircraft longer. The RW group exiting after you can end up straight above you or even on the opposite side of you. If you must go first, accept a bad spot and ask the group after you to allow greater than 15 seconds before they exit after you. Anyone wearing grippers on their jumpsuit should be ideally exiting before you. This also lets you be free to open higher so you can do your after opening rituals, such as stowing the slider, turning off camera, etc.

Freeflyers fall faster. 140 mph is the slowest. Beginning head-down fliers fall really fast. The Pro Track shows that it takes 6 seconds on the belly to slow down, 12 seconds in Colorado where Brian jumps. So break off at a minimum of 4,500 feet. Breaking off early prevents choatic reactions that can cause collisions. Converting your fast fallrate into a track too quickly can result in a collision. The fast fallrates involved in freeflying introduces the risk of corking. Corking is when you accidentally and radically slow your fallrate relative to other freeflyers. You must be able to recover your position without corking. You need to be jumping with a coach if you are not able to do this. Small is fast. If you lose it, suck up into a cannon ball. The cannon ball is your panic position. You can leave the arms out while in a cannon ball position.

Sit Flying

Sit Flying is the beginning. It's where it all starts. Learn to walk before you run. It's a good idea to learn belly flying before sit flying. The chair is the basic position. It feels like your foot flying, like bare foot water skiing. Your feet are the leading edge of the aircraft and determine where you are going to go. Look at your feet. Try different feet positions during solo freefall drills. Try all kinds of stuff. It doesn't have to be useful. Try one foot forward or one foot backward. Whoa! There is a circle under your feet. If you keep them within the circle, they will stay down below you. If they go outside of the circle, your feet will go over your head. Forcing your feet into a certain position causes you to go somewhere. It's better to retract them close to you and stick them back down beneath you again to recover. Freeflyers' goal is typically to fly together. The torso is a huge surface area so you must control its angle. Stick your hand out the car window with the fingers into the breeze. If you understand how the wind moves your hand while angling it, you understand freeflying. You can control fallrate from the upper body. Raise the arms to increase the fallrate. Lower the arms to reduce your fallrate. You also use the arms to control the pitch of the torso. Move the hands behind to bring the torso to an upright position from a position leaning back. Move the hands forward to bring the torso to an upright position from a position leaning forward. A common mistake is leaning back and getting into a spin. Freefly students end up on their side slightly. This gets the spin cranking even more. Then, they ball up. Due to conserving angular momentum, they spin even faster. You may have to arch. When your body is big, you spin slower. This is solo time. Use solo time to sort out your body position. Flying students don't learn to fly an airplane with other flying students! Get a coach and video.

What is the minimum jump number to start freeflying? You can start sooner if you get coaching. Some students are ready for freeflying at level 3. It's a good idea to start with belly flying first. Don't quit flat flying. If you quit flat flying too soon then you limit your freeflying ability.

Exits. Remember the hill. Mount the hill. It's like an invisible table top. The spine needs to be parallel to the windflow so the chair is tilted. The chins must be also parallel to the windflow. If they are forward, then you move forward. Avoid train exits, they do not require any skill. "Freeflying" the exit does require skill. For the no contact exit, you need to fly your body.

Reach forward and downward with the feet to go forward. The arms move back. If you put something outside the circle, do it on the other side of the circle with another limb. For more forward movement, push the hips forward. Flip the backs of the hands to the wind with the arms overhead if you need. This is the afterburners. It's fast. You need to stop. Put your feet behind to stop. Spread the knees to catch air on the chest as well. It's counterintiative to pull the feet back and lean the chest and arms forward. Using a wide stance allows you to use the flying power available from your torso's large surface area.

Idea Starters: When you've learned control and when you can hold a heading, learn to stay still! Fall in the chair on a solo dive and feel the air. Then, repeat with a friend doing the same. After mastering this Zen dive, touch the feet and hold that. The dock sticks if your feet are on top your partner's and you increase fallrate slightly. Try this as an exit.

An audience member comments that he was introduced to sit flying with the horny gorilla to get the feeling of the arms and to get used to the visual.

Large shoes make sit flying more difficult. Find a smaller shoe. Have less drag on the bottom aspect of your body and more drag on top.

The Sit Suit: The dual wing sit suit is best for the first 1-10 jumps. It serves as training wheels. The goal is to move into a baggy freefly suit. You'll have to be able to command the feet. Retract and put them back down in the center. Wings can inflate unevenly. Tracking is not very efficient. Track with the backs of the arms turned towards the earth. You can even demo or borrow sit suits for your training wheel time. You can learn without a sit suit. Brian Germain still uses wings when jumping with floaty people or tandems. With web gloves, you can fly right underneath a tandem. Web gloves are helpful when flying with light weight flyers. Take them off under canopy so you don't lose your grip when using your risers. With skysurfers, get on your belly if necessary. Use a really baggy suit when flying head-down and a winged suit with baggy legs when flying headup.

Head-down Flying

Head-down flying is strange with the sky and ground in the wrong places. This is the hard part in beginning head-down flying. It scares some. The AFF Head-down exit is like trying to hold a cat in the water. You should be cork proof before working on head-down flying.

Hold your finger tips out the car window pointing forward as you did before. This time, the finger tips represent the head and shoulders instead of the feet. The torso, hip, and head are the key elements for the head-down body position. Shaping the relative wind starts with the torso. Move the torso forward and you move forward. Move the torso backward and you move backward. Arching the shoulders causes backward movement so you must break this retreating habit. Your body position should not be stiff. Use grace and fluidity in the shoulders. The head and shoulders really matter. The feeling of falling straight down feels just right.

The legs provide drag. You can't keep on going fast using up only 18 seconds of video tape! There are two popular leg positions, the head-down Frog (straddle) position and the Daffy position. Beginners start head-down flying with the ankles hidden from the windflow. Like this, you fall fast. The knee produces turbulance where your lower leg hides. Push that lower leg out. This is a significant surface area. If you bend knees with your legs turned in, you can really push the lower leg out to the side. Everyone will have different body positions for head-down flying. Brian Germain uses the turned in leg position described above.

Take turns flying head-down with your partner. You need a point in space to learn this position. If you fly head-down for the entire dive, the tendency is to accelerate because you are getting fatigued. The faster the airspeed, the faster the aerodynamic response, more fatigueing, and more difficult. So fill your first head-down dives with transitions.

The arms and legs are your trim. Add torso movements when you really need to. Push the legs forward and you go back. Visualize the wind across your body. Push the legs back and you go forward. The arms have more torque with the hands further out. The "waiter" arm position offers less torque. Sweep the arms back to fall faster.

Fly legs dominant. Hang off the legs. This frees the arms to move about. A good freeflyer's arms move freely unless if they need to fly with their entire body to complete a certain maneuver. Use the legs first to correct a fallrate problem.

The first attempts in practicing the head-down Daffy result in spinning. This is a useful turning technique. To avoid spinning, square your hips. Try a head-down Daffy with all 90 degree angles--both knees bent 90 degrees with one leg forward 90 degrees. The head-down Daffy is great for flying in the slot and making small relative movements. The legs are not in the burble of the arms.

Which head-down position is best to learn first? Fly the torso. The Frog and Daffy have different advantages. Complex moves are not performed in a head-down Daffy.

What is a typcial head-down fallrate? Typical head-down fallrates are 160-180 mph at sea level speed. Sit flyers can fall as fast as 180 mph!

To exit into the head-down position, keep the spine parallel to the windflow. Put your head toward the nose of the airplane. Fly in formation with the plane!

To perform a Flower Exit, everyone in the group rolls the finger tips of the right hand (or the left) into the grip and then exit with no tension. Fly your torso. Some freeflyers will take a grip on the elbow of the partner beside him with the free hand. Prior to exit, establish eye contact with everyone in the group. Sync up and calm down your exit so you can leave without tension. Don't rush out of the plane! Be sure a sufficient amount of time passes. It's better to "Para-Hike" than to blow through someone's main canopy. It's best that everyone on the dive have a sense of falling straight down. However, there are cases where the group moves and the camera flyer must follow.

Use the 45 degree angle rule to determine when it's safe to exit after the group in front of you. Freeflyers stay with the line of flight about 3.5 more seconds than flat flyers. The poorly skilled freeflyers should exit prior to the good freeflyers who tend to nail the exit right away.

Extra Material

What about back flying? Try the Dead Dog position to pop up or because it's fun. Be careful. While tracking, a similar position is called the Meat Plow. Because the arms are up, the position is more stable and falls faster. Apply more arm pressure downward against the relative wind to reduce your fallrate. Back flying is not easy to control.

You can begin relative tracking from a position facing your partner while head-down. This is fun but also requires an awareness of the total sky and jumprun.

The "Vertical Journey" book and video set is available for $50 plus 3.00 US postage (5.00 international postage). The book or the video is separately available for $35 plus 3.00 US postage (5.00 international postage) each. Please make your check payable in US dollars drawn on a US bank to "Vertical Journey, Inc." and send your order to:
Vertical Journey, Inc
2420 Cessna Drive
Erie, CO 80516 USA
Cloud Dancer
© Copyright 1999. Tamara Koyn. All Rights Reserved.