Cloud Dancer
Freeflying: Vertical Journey Seminar
2002 World Freefall Convention, Rantoul, IL
August 3, 2002 (Saturday)
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. This material may contain significant errors.

Safety tips: Have a BOC. Do not have a leg strap throw-out. The leg strap is in the wind flow and the pilot chute can pass in front of the arm while you are sit flying. It is our community responsibility to self police ourselves. Give others feedback on being safe. Be sure your closing loop is tight, securely holding your pin. Two seminar attendees have pull-outs. They can be made really tight and secure. The disadvantage is that you can have a floating handle, which can be difficult to find at pull time. Replace the closing loop when it starts to show signs of wear. Because it's so easy to say you'll replace it later and to be caught up rushing for the next load, even Brian Germain sometimes lets his get a little too worn. Remember that doing loops, etc., places more stress on the rig. ZP pilot chutes can more easily escape from the pouch. F-111 has more friction inside the pouch. Two seminar attendees have had premature deployments. The chest and leg straps should be tight. Tighten the chest strap first so that your rig will hug you snugly. You don't want your shoulder straps to spread out to your elbows. Wear a helmet. While novice freeflyers feel wind on the hair and have better awareness without a helmet, wearing a helmet is safer and therefore preferred. During a competition jump in the XGames, all the audible altimeters had died for the entire team. It so happens that they had all replaced their batteries all about the same time awhile back. While concentrating on performing a smooth routine, they went below 2,000 feet and the outside camera flyer threw out from a head-down position.

Cameras are often substituted for memory. Open your mind to what is happening and be aware. Remember the skydive. When flying camera, freeflyers concentrate too much on framing instead of flying their body. Leave the camera on the ground when you can! You don't need four cameras on a 4-way!

Exit order. The key is horizontal separation. Some Formation Skydivers are uncomfortable with the idea of freeflyers passing them in freefall. However, that is not what creates the risk. Lack of horizontal separation does present very serious risk. A good freeflyer has more forward throw from the aircraft because they nail that standup or head-down right on the prop blast. If freeflyers exit first, Formation Skydivers end up descending right on the top of the freeflyers' open canopies. Simply counting to establish horizontal separation between exits is not really effective. LOOK and see them drift back to the 45 degree angle. It is best for freeflyers to exit last. Once open under canopy, do not fly straight to DZ. Initially, face perpendicular to jumprun, away from the line of flight. If one freeflyer exits first, then the Formation Skydivers following them out must wait longer before exiting.

Corking. If the freefly formation is falling at 150 mph and one member goes flat, his fallrate slows. In other words, he "corks" with respect to the other jumpers. If you're about to lose balance, don't fight to keep the position. Instead, do an emergency flip/roll to better maintain your fallrate.

Do 2-ways for your freefly dives. 2-ways burn it in your mind! Big ways are fun but they are not for learning. 2-ways offer the coolest most fun tricks. Fun on a big way dive is in the form of a Zen dive where you see only your mates' jumpsuits move.

If you're flying in close proximity, collisions are not too hard. To avoid a collision when someone is coming at you, accelerate your fallrate. The person "losing it" and coming at you is also slowing in fallrate.

Learn to fly forward and stop with authority. The "red zone" is within 15 feet of the formation center. After 100s of 2-way jumps, you learn to stop promptly without a jerk like a student driver exhibits at a red light.

Try setting your audible to 5,000 feet so you can leave the center without suddenly slowing your fallrate. This allows you to "carve" out. While head-down, you, initially, move away, backing up while remaining vertical and then transition into tracking. A seminar attendee mentioned the idea of waving off before tracking. Brian establishes eye contact with other jumpers at the time of breaking off. Sometimes he plays with legs. Other freeflyers get the message. If you are teaching a novice on a sit flying dive, don't transition to head-down from your sit position in order to track. If they see you make such a transition, they will suddenly decide to try flying head-down for the first time at low altitudes. More than likely, they will flail at low altitudes causing them to risk going low in this distraction.

There is no real need for a person to learn belly flying before freeflying. However, it is good. Try a little freestyle too. If you can make a tight exit, then it doesn't take a long time for you to close on a 170 mph base, while you are traveling at 200 mph. Be sure to fully arrive before taking grip.

Freeflying is a state of mind. It's not about a body position. Freeflying is trying something completely bizarre. Perfect body position is being there.

The position for sit flying varies from person to person. The knees can be anywhere from shoulder width to being spread very far apart. The lower legs are presented straight down into the relative wind. The arms are positioned to side with the elbows bent. Only the elbows themselves are behind the shoulders. If using a suit with sit wings, the entire arms should be directly even with the shoulder, neither in front nor behind the torso. While wearing a T-shirt, sit flyers tend to fly with the arms positioned behind them. The sit position falls in a range of 140 mph to 180 mph.

You can test your sit position as you are learning. Push your legs down into a standup and then return back into the sit position. If you can smoothly get into a standup, your lower legs were straight into the relative wind.

To move forward, tilt the entire body back. To move backward, tilt the entire body forward. To move sideways, move the feet off to one side. Try carving in a sit by using this side sliding technique.

Orbiting is a problem. Here is how it happens. You come together and keep going around. It happens because you don't stop your forward motion. Instead, you redirect off to the side and continue facing one another. You must stop your forward momentum. Practice the Zen dive. Fly in a sit with the toes touching for the entire dive. You'll discover that you can move your limbs without changing your fallrate. You can relax certain muscles. You become supple and can do unexpected things without spinning.

While head-down, try the E.T. dive. Spend the whole dive just touching only the finger tips of the index finger. When you can master that, try the E.T. Blind dive.

Use discipline. For example, you want to do a backloop to a toe touch. First, do the backloop. Then, establish a Zen stationary no contact 2-way, and then touch the toes. This is disciplined as opposed to doing the backloop and rushing straight to the toe touch.

If you can't fall slow enough in the sit, then lay out onto the back. It's different to control proximity. Experiment.

For flying head-down, have your shoulders natural just like when you are standing. It's better to have the hands visible in your peripheral vision. If the hands are behind you, this pulls your shoulders back and makes tension. If you feel wind on chest, lead with your head to put your body into hole.

Experiment with different body positions. Watch the body position of your partner flying with you. You can see when they must change to accommodate you.

One attendee reported that when attempting to fly head-down, he is on the back, tilted head-low, with the feet up to the sky in his view. This is something like a "Dead Dog" position. This position is probably sliding across the sky. When doing this stuff, face 90 degrees to the direction of jump run.

You can get into the head-down position by exiting from the outside float position. Fall backwards onto your back and establish eye contact with the airplane. Lead with your head to get yourself head-down. You'll feel acceleration, something like a sensation of 0 Gs.

Successfully flying head-down is about good body posture. Once you are head-down with good posture, it's easy.

You can feel your ankles better if you have drag there.

Controlling proximity while head-down. To move forward while head-down, the torso is forward with the relative wind on the back. With the arms swept toward the hips, the palms are facing toward the back. Once you are in the red zone, the upper body is kept parallel to windflow. If in a head-down Daffy, push with one or the other leg to go forward or backward. Use the head-down Daffy position while flying in the red zone.

BTW, Brian found that clearing ears too fast after opening once made him almost pass out. Remember to clear your ears (and any other "clean up" agenda such as stowing the slider, unzipping bootie zips, etc.) before unstowing the toggles of that little hot performing canopy.

When flying head-down at faster fallrates, Brain will present his hand as a knife edge to the wind when taking a grip.

To transition into head-down from sitting, you can make a backloop, frontloop, or cartwheel. When flying with a partner, use a cartwheel transition to maintain eye contact. To start the cartwheel transition, remove one arm, stiffen the other arm against the airflow, move a foot out (same foot as stiffened arm). Slice and knife edge your body into the wind. If you do this with too much energy, then you will overshoot and buffet. Just place yourself. Don't throw yourself. Think of putting your ear on the shoulder. Extend your legs as you are halfway to the head-down position. If you keep your knees in a sit position, you will backup when you get head-down. To transition from head-down, put your hip into it. The side that you take away from the relative wind, sinks.

When performing a Spock dock, do not grab your partner's head. Don't try to "tag" a Spock as you fly by uncontrolled. Do Spock docks only with the finger tips. Setup face to face with your partner and slowly take the grip. Yeap, you have to stop!! Reaching out for a dock messes up your body position. Fly really close, almost nose to nose with your partner.

Only a few people in the freeflying community have performed the Sky Hook. First dock into a 69 formation, then slowly descend such that you are touching the knee of your partner with your knee. And then finally, slide into the Sky Hook position. You can turn this formation.

Freeflying is about the possibilities. Create possibilities.

Exiting the airplane... Visualize Arizona Airspeed's (4-way formation skydiving team) exit. You want to make your body perpendicular to that in order to fly exit transition with your spine parallel to the relative wind. Learn the feeling of the wind. You know what forward motion feels like.

If you fly with stillness, it's contagious to everyone on the dive with you and they will come into place.

Feel your body. Feel the wind. Experience awareness. Have altitude awareness. When organizing a 20-way dive, Jerry Bird remembers everyone and is able to critique them individually! All of this comes from relaxing and breathing. This requires a low adrenaline level. Adrenaline is inversely proportional to skill.

When freeflying in big way, you want to be offset and not directly behind someone. Also, they could suddenly break-off.

There is a simple way to get into an Inverted Spock, in which the headup freeflyer puts a hand on the head-down freeflyer's head. Exit Both freeflyers exit into the head-down orientation with one freeflyer having a hand grip on the chest strap of the other freeflyer. The freeflyer with the grip on the chest strap flips sideways to a headup stance while maitaining that grip. He then puts the free hand on the head of the head-down freeflyer and releases the chest strap grip to form the Inverted Spock.

A Monkey Flip the two freeflyers, one headup with a chest strap grip and the other head-down, make a frontlooping rotation about each other. To stop the loop rotation, the freeflyer arriving back to the headup position pushes on the chest strap of the head-down freeflyer.

Cross Training. A lot of good freeflyers practice Yoga. Yoga is about posture and strength in awkward body positions.

Get a pillow, sit with the legs crossed and the hands on the knees. Breathe. Just be there.


We are talking about flat tracking as opposed to the Atmonauti style of flying on a 45 degree angle. (Seminar attendees threw out a few other terms to describe Atmonauti skydiving such as "Half Track," "45ing," and "Steep Track.") The leader leaves from the front float position into a back track. The arms are straight out from the shoulders and the hips are pushed forward. The leader is not trying to show off how fast he can go. The idea is for the whole group to track together.

Ask Formation Skydivers to take off their booties for joining freeflyers on a tracking dive. Booties really do work and Formation Skydivers will track more efficiently than freeflyers with them on.

Tracking groups exit the airplane last. At the WFFC, there are parallel jumpruns. If you are on the right hand side jumprun, then your tacking dive should diverge from the jumprun to the aircraft's right.

One typical pattern is to fly in the direction of jumprun for a short while, then track crosswind for a short while and then track back towards the DZ on a ground track parallel to jumprun. With this pattern, the slow tracking jumpers actually have two corners that they can cut off and possibly catch up with the group. Also, this pattern lets you land on target.

If you have two tracking groups on the airplane, there are several options for tracking patterns. For example, both groups can initially track directly away from the aircraft perpendicular to jumprun and then one group can turn towards the DZ (parallel to jumprun) and the other group can turn away from the DZ (parallel to jumprun). Another option is for one group to track off to the left hand side of the aircraft and the other group to track off to the right hand side of the aircraft.

What can you do on tracking dives? You can have a tracking 4-way with the leader on the point, two wingmen, and a tail. The wingmen and tail can trade positions in a circular manner. The left wingman becomes the right wingman. The right wingman becomes the tail. The tail becomes the left wingman. Etc.

The location of the burble of a tracking jumper depends upon the angle and efficiency of tracking. Move away from the burble if you feel it.

Jumping a Bird-man suit while solo is boring. If you are jumping with others, you can do wing overs, etc.

Hybrid Jumps

There are several techniques for organizing hybrid dives.

You can find the biggest guy on the DZ and have him jump with no jumpsuit and to arch hard. He can not slow down easily and is subject to hard uncomfortable openings at the end of the dive.

Another method involves launching a 2-way face-to-wind formation and have a sit flyer hanging with one hand on each chest strap of the 2-way. If the hanging sit-flyer looses his balance, he can tuck up small to recover. The hanging sit flyer often typically flies with the legs spread wide.

Most freeflyers are comfortable flying head-down at 160 mph. Typical hybrid dives fall anywhere from 120 mph to 160 mph. The bad dives fall at 120 mph. Typically, the initial formation of a hybrid dive rocks and then it settles and the fallrate picks up. If it doesn't settle, the fallrate remains on the slow side.

Freeflyers can come in and dock on the base formation for the hybrid dive. At the end of the dive, the flaking freeflyers should break off first. Break off altitude should be around 5,500 or 6,000 feet. The hanging sit flyer can move forward and out from underneath the 2-way formation.

Cloud Dancer
© Copyright 2002. Tamara Koyn. All Rights Reserved.