Cloud Dancer
Skysurfing Seminar
2002 World Freefall Convention, Rantoul, IL
August 8, 2002 (Thursday)
Speakers: Keith Snyder and Jason Peters
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.

Keith Snyder of Arizona Skysurf is a world-class skysurfer bringing in the Gold. He founded and operates Arizona Boarding School, the Official Surf Flite Instructional Facility. Keith utilizes instruction methods reserached and developmed by Surf Flite founder, Jerry Loftis and learned the art of instruction early on in the evolution of skysurfing. Keith has conducted seminars at WFFC since 1996.

Jason Peters of Arizona Skysurf is currently focused on skysurfing photography. Jason has participated in all aspects of camera flying, including the World Meet, where Jason partnered with Keith Snyder to place first in Men's skysurfing. Jason is qualified as a pro competitor in swoop competitions.

The skysurfing team Keith Synder and Jason Peters represents the US in world competition.

Camera flying and surfing are both more challenging because you use additional equipment.


The first person to jump with a board was a French person in 1986. 4 years later, Laurent bouquet was skysurfing and Jerry Loftis started skysurfing in the US. Jerry Loftis developed teaching methods.

What can you do to get ready for taking the skysurfing course? In order to get on top of the board, you need to front flip to get on top of it. If you know how to do this front flip to standing without the board, you will be more prepared. You should be proficient in the sit and standing positions. In other words, you need to be able to control your heading. You should also learn some back flying. Learning to fly head-down will help your awareness level in general.

The beginner (short) board introduces you to flying with a platform. You can catch an edge, dig in and steer just like on the ground.

On the short board, learn how to fly in the recovery position. This is a face-down box position with the board tucked to the seat. You can push down with the hands and arms to pitch head higher. The board should not be perfectly vertical nor flat to the relative wind. When the board is vertical, nearly touching the seat, it is dangerous. This is a bad position because the pilot chute can get caught in burble and then get sucked between the legs. If this happens, you will die. Do practice pulls in this basic recovery position. A videographer accustomed to a camera suit with wings pulls by bringing both hands to the sides (i.e., the left hand does not go over the head. Videographers also tuck the legs. Don't carry these habits over to the surf recovery position. BTW, if the pilot chute launches properly into clean air, the bag will not go between the legs.

The deployment position is the most difficult to instruct, since each individual has such a personal style that works for them.

After learning the recovery position, you will learn front flips, back flips, and sit spins. A skysurfer's weakness is when blood starts rushing to the head, resulting in vertigo. Then, you will pass out and, consequently, relax and then your Cypres will save you. If you get into spinning, don't fight the spinning. Relax (allowing the magnitude of the spinning to reduce) and then you can roll over to the stomach into the recovery position. Tension and fighting promotes faster spinning. Next, learn to fly without one hand. Now, you are ready for next size larger board.

Jason reviews video of a skysurfing student making their first board jumps at Rantoul during the 2002 WFFC.

First Jump: Face-down recovery position. Practice pulls. 360 degree turns while face-down. Temporarily extend the legs to see how the board feels. Deliberately put out the pilot chute to deploy.

Second Jump: Frontloop to standup. Get back on the belly and frontloop to a standup. Do it again.

Third Jump: Standup, Frontloop to Standup. Jason finds the fallrate to be around 160 to 170 mph, but with students it instantaneously gets as slow as 120 mph.

Fourth Jump: Sit Spins.

It will take about a 100 skysurf jumps to be able to plan and execute a routine.

You can graduate to an intermediate board in one week. At Skydive Arizona, you can do 100 jumps in a week. This is a lot of jumping, but this is typical when training.

Obtaining sponsorship. You represent your sponsors in a manner that will sell their gear. There are those who really prefer the gear that they are sponsored and there are those who can make a good sales pitch for the sponsored gear that they jump, even though they may like something else better. Keith and Jason are sponsored by Skydive Arizona, Rigging Innovations (VooDoo), and Icarus.

The public likes to see you land with a board on your feet.

Camera Flying

Get a helmet and mount a wood block on the top and get used to jumping with that. This is to get you accustomed to having something on your head so you don't end up banging up your brand new camera inside the airplane and on the edges of the door.

Jason prefers a top mount since that is more streamlined. Side mounts loses cameras and lenses. It is, also, out of balance on the neck.

Ring sight. Be sure that there is nothing extra sticking out to catch lines. Have something in front of the sight. No part of the sight should be farther out to the side than the side of the helmet itself. You could use a dot on the goggles and a laser pointer, but a ring sight is the way to go if you want to consistently center your subject properly.

To get good, fly with no lens attachment. A normal lens requires you to be more steady. You need to be more precise about distance changes. It shows head movement more easily. If you start with a wide angle lens, they will look small on the TV. If you are using a still camera, use comparable lenses on both cameras. A 0.5 mm lens for a video camera corresponds with about a 28 mm lens for a still camera. You don't want to cutoff the subject on the video in order to fill the frame on your still camera.

Camera settings. Use Auto setting while filming inside the airplane. Use Sports mode while filming in freefall. These settings effect the shutter speeds.

Jason gets about 550 minutes from his large battery on his PC9.

For opening, Jason looks up. He has a Crossfire canopy that opens consistently soft. However, it is recommended to look at the horizon especially with more brutal or inconsistent openings. Ride on the risers to prevent line twists. Neither Keith or Jason have any problems with line twists with their Crossfires.

A chin cup can help hold the camera helmet still, but there is still some play because the strap itself is flexible. Jason prefers a full face helmet.

Mount the camera 90 degrees to the front of your face. This is versatile for filming a variety of disciplines from a variety of angles.

Flying the camera is flying about your head. You do what it takes to get the shot. You don't notice what you do with your body.

When the two members of a two way separate, don't look back and forth between each person. Back up so that you can simultaneously show them both in frame.

For take-off, put the camera on or buckle it in. This prevents it from becoming a projectile in the event of an aircraft emergency.

To video 4-way, Jason uses a suit with camera wings. This allows you to fly right on top of the 4-way. When they burble you, you can extend surface area. Jason flies with the wings collapsed until the event of a burble encounter. There are videographers that will take out the 4-way and there are videographers that have taken out the 4-way. You have to find the distance that works. The fallrate slows when they come apart from a formation.

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