Cloud Dancer
Freeflying Seminar
World Freefall Convention at Quincy August 10 1998
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.

Gear and Safety

Be sure the main flap always stays closed. A flap that is open can allow the bridle to "pay" out and pull the pin. Check into available options for closing flaps. The closing loop shouldn't be loose. (Skydivers sometimes purposefully have them looser for easier packing.) Use a B.O.C. throw out system. If you see someone with a leg strap throw out going out to the plane to try freeflying or sit flying, you should stop them. Period. No exceptions. You are only doing them a favor by stopping them. ZP pilot chutes last longer but they are more slippery and thus can slip out of the pouch. Tie your leg straps together so they won't slip up to your knee particularly if you are in a reclined position.

Wear your goggles tighter than you would for belly flying. Use an audible altimeter. Your mental clock doesn't always work in freeflying because you'll occasionally run into that jump that has a particularly fast fallrate. Use a Cypress--the possibility of a freefall collision is higher in freeflying.

While using a winged sit suit, pull both arms in to deploy. Try flat flying in the winged sit suit during the first time that you try it. Track with the backs of your hands towards the ground.

Sit Flying

It's foot flying. Feet are the steering wheel. If the feet are positioned forward the you go forward. If the feet are position backward, then you go backwards. Tipping the calves to right, turns you toward the right and side slides you to the right. For a faster turn, position one calf forward and the other backward.

Many beginners run into the problem of tipping backwards while in their sit position. Position the hands behind the torso to deal with having your legs forward of the torso. If you do tip back, take a moment and explore that position. It is a useful position and technique for slow fall. Move the feet to the right and you will turn to the right. To get upright, put the heels together and tuck them to your seat. Once you are sitting, the pressure is on the bottom of the feet. There is no pressure on the front nor back of the legs. It'll take a 1,000 jumps to learn falling down the tube.

Before learning head-down flight, you need to learn the headup chair position. You don't want to "cork." Popping up as a result of accidentally slowing your fallrate is a hazard to yourself and those above you. To learn head-down flight safely you have to have a home base position that you can snap to so that you don't cork when you blow your head-down position. Practice returning to your sit position via a loop, cartwheel, etc. Nail your headup stance immediately. Consider going straight to a standup from a transition. Start working on your cartwheel axis. Retract one side of your body to start the cartwheel. Command your feet to stop headup again. Learn the cartwheel transition before you learn the head-down position because this is how you will get into the head-down position. In 2-way sit fly, cartwheel actions tend to descend a few feet. In order to finish on level with your partner, grab air as you finish your cartwheel.

Footwear. Bare feet is easier. Great big tevas are hard to keep under you.

Baggy Clothes. When starting out in the sit position, a baggy top is helpful. Be sure that the shirt doesn't come up over your emergency handles.

Controlling fallrate in the sit. In a sit suit, use the arms. Press down to slow down. With a freefly suit, you'll have to use the legs more. Do what feels right.

Start out using a winged suit first and then switch to a baggy freefly suit. The baggy freefly suit is more of a neutralized suit. You'll need to use your body differently to regain the forward and backward range of movement you had with the sit suit. With the arms behind as you are proceeding to move forward, you'll find that you can raise them only so far. For a more drastic forward motion, you may find yourself raising your arms backwards over your head. While doing this, Adrian grabs his wrist with the other hand.

The definition of freefly is to fly in new ways. While moving forward and backwards you have to keep from floating. People with pre-existing rotator cuff injuries have trouble with using the winged sit suits. Brian knows of no serious shoulder injuries actually resulting from freeflying.

Totem Pole. One freeflyer stands on the shoulders of the other freeflyer. Doing a Totem with 3 people is more difficult. Particularly if the 3rd person must fall at his maximum fallrate. In this situation, any forward motion he initiates will also cause him to float.

Web gloves can give you an added edge for filming sky surfing.

Best angle of approach is to dock on the knees or shoulders. Avoid a "helicopter" style approach. In Totems, there is the risk that somebody's stuff could come out.

Fly your body completely to the slot before taking grips. It is very rare that the other person is motionless. Strive to stop between each move and formation.

The crab exit is great for beginners. It gives you a chance to calm down, get used to the visual and to start breathing.

Students must learn stability on their own.

Hand docks in sit flying--Learn to not need your arms while flying in the sit.

Be open. Don't limit yourself. Don't say that those moves you saw in the Destination Xtreme Tour are too difficult. You may surprise yourself and find that you may be able to do a few of them.

Head-down Flight

Ask yourself "Am I breathing?" You'll have to get adjusted to the visual.

(Using a shoe, Brian illustrates wind deflection for forward and backward motion.) If the wind is on your back, you'll travel forward. If the relative wind is on your chest, you travel backwards. You're almost like a "Dolphin." You're a fighter jet. Reach an arm forward. It can be done and controlled by your chest angle. Watch your shoulder position. Don't pull them back. Play with angling the torso while head-down. Be sure that you experience both extremes.

There are 2 basic Head-down positions. Straddle the legs. Brian pushes the ankles out with his hips slightly turned in. And there's the Head-down Daffy. Brian prefers the head-down straddle. It's helpful for making drastic forwards and backwards movements. You have both legs. In the Head-down Daffy, you have one leg. The Daffy is useful in tight proximity. Both legs are presented in clean air. Be sure to practice the head-down Daffy with either leg forward.

With your partner, take turns practicing head-down flight while the other remains headup. If your sit flying partner is falling too slow for you, just point down to the ground to signal him to accelerate his fallrate. If you find that you've gone low, go back to your sit position and slow your fallrate. Remember that your sitting partner is probably going to accelerate his fallrate to get down to you. So be gradual in your flying. Then, try 69 docks. Legs are dominant, they must be your primary source of drag so your arms are free. Get your ankles pushed out into the breeze. Men fly with the toes pointing forward and are using a smaller muscle group. Women have a pelvis structure that allow a more turned out position. When you tuck your arms in, it should feel like you are hanging like a bat.

Type of fabric is important--look for a rigid fabric not a "cotton felt" fabric.

Generally, the torso stays upright if you don't have a long way to go.

When you open, fly perpendicular to jumprun. Especially when you're starting head-down you're probably falling fast. Face perpendicular to jumprun while practicing your head-down position. Look at where the sun is for your heading awareness. Here at Quincy, you have parallel jumpruns so the 90 degree thing could get you into another jumprun.

From a tailgate plane, the wind hits the ankles first so you go head-down. Don't hit your head on the ramp. Pop outward toward the tail as you leave.

From a side door. Get your spine parallel to the windflow. You can exit from the rear float position facing the tail with your back initially presented to the relative wind and perform a partial back loop into the head-down position by looking back with the head.

Transitions and Maneuvers

If you're a floaty person, your transitions have to be good. From headup, tuck in one arm and extend the opposite leg out to the side. If you're light, don't extend the leg as it will catch air and float you. If you're heavy, you'll have to extend the leg to catch air in order to not descend too much. Knife edge your torso into the wind. Keep your torso facing your partner or your chosen heading. The one who makes the most transitions in 30 seconds will get a free jet jump. BTW, the camera flyer has to fall down the tube at a constant fallrate and not help the transitioning partner as that would be cheating!

There are over and under transitions as well. From a head-down position, you can travel under your partner to a headup position. Bend at the waist when you are about 1/2 a body length lower than your standing partner. As you go under him, be sure to turn the hands so that the palms stay facing the windflow. Your partner can move into a head-down position as you go underneath. He needs to catch as little air as possible by thinking of dragging the chin down the body. This is the easiest over/under technique to learn.

Monkey Flip. This works best as a part of an exit sequence. One partner takes a grip on the chest strap of the other partner and launch together into a head-down position. One partner flips to an upright sit position by throwing the hips to make a cartwheel transition. Now, one person is head-down and the other is sitting and the Monkey Flip can be performed. To start this flip with both partners moving in a front loop rotation about one another, the head-down partner will accelerate his fallrate and then bend forward at the waist. The headup person will allow the legs to come out behind himself. Keep the arms bent and hold tight to the other partner. (It's very much like the same idea for making an AFF style exit from the plane in that you want to keep your head close to the student.) As the headup person flips back towards the headup position the legs are allowed to be forward to catch air so as to help stop the front loop rotation. He can also push on the head-down partner's chest strap. This pushes the head-down partner's torso and legs against the relative wind helping to stop this maneuver.

911. Both partners start from a head-down position facing one another. One partner travels underneath making a 1/2 flip to the headup stance and the other partner travels over tope making a 1 1/2 flip. The partner traveling underneath must maintain eye contact and appropriately adjust his fallrate to stay relative.

2 person cartwheel. While head-down, take grips on one another. Be sure you are falling straight down when you start it.

Sky Hook. During a Sky Hook, the head-down partner hooks his ankle with the ankle of his headup partner. The head-down partner assumes a Daffy stance. Contact the knee with the knee of the headup partner. Then, use just the arms to descend just a little bit. Flex the ankles so that the feet will "hook" each other. Keep the torso vertical and look upwards only with the eyes!

Orbit. Be sure to drive toward the center so that you will resist the centrifugal force that tends to cause your orbiting to get wider and bigger.

If you find yourself turning while docked in a 2-way head-down formation, you can stop it from turning by actually crossing one leg over the other kicking it across the body's mid-line. If rotating to your right, it will be the left leg kicking to the right in front of the right leg. If you've used the wrong leg, it will be very obvious!

Skyball. It's illegal, particularly if you drop it. Skyballs are not a good idea as if they get away from you, they can pound through roofs, etc. The pilot is held responsible. It's best if the DZO states no sky balls allowed. To build one, put about 1 1/2 lb of lead shot in a tennis ball. Using the skyball is a true test of whether or not you're falling straight down. It's best to catch the ball clasping both hands together. You can't catch it with one hand. The Atmospheric Dolphin test uses the sky ball and you can get your AD number if you do the test with an appropriate establishment.

Practice the Spock Block to hone your skills. (The Spock Block is a sequence of moves much like an RW block. The head-down partner spocks headup partner then makes a full cartwheel while the headup partner makes a full pirouette. Then, the head-down partner spocks the headup partner followed by a half back eagle transition.


Leave it off until you're good. You should have the basics mastered. The camera involves extra tasks which can be distracting. Mounting the camera on the top of the helmet can cause weather vane effects. It's best to mount it on the side of the helmet. Brian actually uses weight on the opposite side of his helmet to offset the weight of the camera. If you are making many jumps in the day, asymmetrical weight on the head gets tiring in the airplane. Brace your lens. At minimum, use a lot of gaffers tape. During opening, don't look down as this would cause the chin strap to cut into your adams apple. Tape reduces vibration and adds padding to your helmet. Too much padding in the helmet results in more vibration and shake.

Sighting the camera. Line up the point of your laser light pen with the camera view. Put on the helmet. Put a dot on the goggles and remove the laser pointing pen. Ring sights are not good for freeflying. If someone takes you out, the ring sight can put your eye out. You can use a mirror to check to see if your camera is on and slip it away in your jumpsuit pocket.

A Few More Tips

Head-down. Having the seat stick out is a common error. Think of keeping a jump ticket between your cheeks! Torso is the main deflection surface.

Try to go more deep into your relaxation no matter how relaxed you think you are. Notice your breathing.

The jaw piece on your helmet is important to your safety. The windscreen can be broken by just a bump.

You can close your rig such that the main pin is between the flaps. This helps protect it from getting bumped.

Give each other pin checks. Check your gear prior to exit.

Brian Germain's book, Vertical Journey, is available for purchase.

Cloud Dancer
© Copyright 1998. Tamara Koyn. All Rights Reserved.