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Winter Recap

Well it sure has been a while, how about a quick update?

Rewind back to November – our University of Minnesota Skydiving Club has been vying for a way to get to the USPA 2010 Collegiate Nationals in Eloy, AZ. After writing a massive essay, we received word that we had been given a 2,000 dollar grant for the tournament. Needless to say we were excited about the idea of spending a week in skydiving paradise. Most of our crew had only jumped from Cessna’s and the occasional Pac-750. Skydive AZ has multiple skyvans, a fleet of otters, a DC3, a cool biplane, AND two hot air balloons. Did I mention the wind tunnel? Yeah they have one of those too.

The trip was a huge success, we made a ton of jumps, spent some time in the tunnel, and even enjoyed a Mr. Bill/Accuracy jump. However, the best part by far was the people we met along the way. This was my first ‘real’ taste of the skydiving community on a national scale (this taste involved Jack Daniels, GoFast!, and other substances for which the statute of limitations has not yet expired) – and all I can say is that I am proud to call myself a friend amongst you all.

When we finally get around to editing down the footage, I’ll post some clips of our amazing adventure.

Recent boogies include the small, but excited Alpha Boogie at Osceola airport. This boogie is a reunion/memorial for the St. Croix Valley Skydivers, some of whom tragically died in a plane crash in February of 1991. One of the coolest parts of the boogie was being able to meet some of the U of M Skydiving Club Alumni, ranging from the 1970’s – 1990’s. Stories of downplane CRW formations pulled down past 150 were swapped over beers for most of the night. Jeff Hove was on hand to show some photographs of Collegiate Nationals, airport shenanigans, and very detailed logbooks from years past. He recalled being thought as “crazy” for jumping “…those radical new square parachutes.”

Funny, the way it is.

After Eloy I was eager to hop in a tunnel again, and the U of M Skydiving club was going to do just that. We headed out to SkyVenture Colorado for some serious tunnel time before the season began, and let me tell you – it was awesome. After an hour in the tunnel I was starting to turn solid points in the Mantis position. I’m excited to see where my newfound skills take me in the sky.

Next weekend is our bi-annual University of Minnesota Skydiving Club Tandem Event at Skydive Twin Cities in Baldwin, WI ( Hopefully several of those starting the AFF progression will stick with it and eventually join our club, as over half our membership graduates this year. :-/

But I’m excited to make a skydive with Goldy Gopher, as well as put some more jumps on. Hopefully I’ll be able to get onto that Stilleto by the end of the summer, I’m not sure how much longer my sabre will last!

Blue skies


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Quick update

Hey guys! Quick update while I have time between classes –

This weekend is quickly approaching, and I’m extremely excited about it. Basically the University of Minnesota Skydiving Club is headed out to Skydive Twin Cities in Baldwin, Wisconsin for a day like no other. We’ve succesfully signed up over 80 tandem first-jumpers from the U of M! We weren’t expecting this many people at all, but I’m super pumped.

This club has also afforded me the opportunity to meet some awesome new people. Kaleb Lommen, our club president, introduced me to a bunch of his friends (and coworkers) from Skydive Twin Cities – many of whom have thousands of jumps and hold high ratings within the USPA. Hopefully I’ll be able to probe their minds a bit and find some pieces of skydiving wisdom, as well as improve my overall skydiving career.

So I know it’s the end of the season for most of us. Anyone jumping during the winter? Making any trips to the tunnel or maybe a BASE expedition? I’d love to hear about it!

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Sometimes… I pack parachutes in my living room.

Sorry it’s been so long! My life has gone from crazy to insane in the last few weeks, but here’s where I’m at…
When we left off, I had just purchased my first rig. Since then, my sabre 150 main has arrived and been patched. I’ve made 3 jumps on it, all hop-n-pops, and I’m still a little nervous about pulling at terminal. I’ve read and heard a lot about people being “spanked” by sabre’s, and I’m not too keen on the idea of being knocked around a lot on opening. I suppose I’ll just man up and do it – and I’ll be sure to keep you all posted on how that goes.
As far as canopy control? All I can say is wow. Cutting 70 square feet off of my usual 220 sq ft student rig was a little scary but as soon as I played with the risers, it was all worth it. The Sabre responds very well, and still flies conservatively. It’s nice to have a square canopy with a little more wingloading, rather than a fully elliptical canopy loaded at around .75 – it seems to be more stable and more responsive at the same time. Landings pretty smooth, it has a lot more flare than the 220 I am used to jumping, but I need to apply it a little lower. The ground speed is still just a twinge unsettling for me, but it’s something I’m sure I’ll get used to.
In other news, school has started again. For those of you who don’t know, I’m currently a sophomore struggling through the mechanical engineering program at the University of Minnesota. It’s going to be another tough semester, but there are a few redeeming qualities. For instance, I am now an officer of the University of Minnesota Skydiving Club. We got the opportunity to paint the Washington Ave. Bridge last Friday afternoon as a part of the U’s “Paint the Bridge” project. Every year student groups get the opportunity to paint a section of the bridge that spans the east and west banks of the U. This year, we opted for some fluorescent paint to help make it stand out – and it works. We handed out over 15 invitations for our first tandem weekend, October 16th and 17th at Skydive Twin Cities in Baldwin, WI. This event is open for all, and I would love to see some of you guys there, if you’re in the area. This year is also exciting, because in a few weeks two of my new friends (also student athletes) will have their A-licenses. This means we’ll have 5 or 6 licensed jumpers on campus (4 of which with their own rigs.) Can anyone say Collegiate Nationals 4-way team?

As far as my skydiving goals, I’d like to continue to fly on my belly (ok, I have to. My rig isn’t freefly friendly. But it gives me a good reason to work on my RW.) I’d like to venture into the world of 4-way RW and maybe even some big ways eventually. But most of all, I’d like to jump everywhere. From now on travelling will involve me packing my rig, and making at least a few jumps at any DZ I can come across. I hope one day I can roll into your guys’ DZ and make some fun jumps with you all.

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5 Dumb Things Every Skydiver will do, eventually.

5 dumb things every skydiver will do at least once, in absolutely no order whatsoever.

1. Go up without gear.

It’s gonna happen at some point or another. You’ll be rushing to get on the next load and then next thing you know, no altimeter, no gloves, no helmet or goggles. At this point you have two options. You can either ride the plane back down, and pay for a plane ride, or throw your ass outta the plane. Depending on what you forgot, it may or may not be a big issue. Key thought – take the plane ride option if you forgot your rig entirely, dumbass.

2. Walk over someone’s lines while they are packing.

Apologize profusely, and bring a case of beer next week.

3. Cutaway

Another fact of skydiving life. That’s why every time you go up in the load you should practice pulling your handles. Do it however you were taught, and never forget where your handles are. Remember in an emergency, there are only two things that will save your ass – yourself, and your AAD. Make sure both are in jumping condition BEFORE you go up. Hopefully, you have nice friends and they’ll spot your malfunctioned main for you. If not, it’s time to find some new friends. PS – buy your beer.

4. Make a bad spot.

There are two simple ways to tell if this has happened, first – “If the door is closed, you’re hosed.” Ever look back and see the door of the plane shut when you know jumpers haven’t gotten out yet? Yeah, nice spot Sherlock. Wave off ASAP, and limp back at half brakes.
Ever go out on an RW jump and see that it’s 7000 feet, and everybody is gone? Oops, hope you make it back… No? Oh well, at least you’ll never forget the feeling of corn cobs smashing into your face as you’re landing in a field. Trust me – that shit hurts.

5. Try to stand up a landing that you should just slide/PLF.

You know it’s coming, maybe you’re slightly crosswind on your landing, or maybe your swoop is just a little fast. Odds are you’re wearing your brand-new white jumpsuit too. You don’t want to get it dirty, so you decide to try and run it off. Bad choice. At best you trip and fall, and ride it out on your knees. At worst, you break a few bones. Either way – your new jumpsuit has grass stains, and you still look dumb. Save the trouble. “If you’re not going to stand it up, don’t try to stand it up.” is a quote from an instructor that comes to mind.

This is just a small list to get everyone started, what do you guys think? Any other dumb things that all skydivers will end up doing at least once?

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From Whuffo to Licensed in 12 days

First and foremost, I apologize for not updating this page as often as I wanted to. I had initially planned on updating it after every single jump, but things happened extremely fast. As the title describes – I made 25 jumps in just under 12 days time, while still working 45 hours per week. But I can honestly say it’s been one of the greatest 12 days of my life.

Along the way there have been some very notable jumps, here are my favorites:

Jump no. 7

Obviously my first Free Fall jump would make the list. I already wrote about it in “Not Bad, for a Wednesday” but I have to reiterate it here. Freefall is breathtaking. The feeling of just letting go from an airplane is unforgettable, and so is this jump.

Jump no. 9

Two days after my first free fall jump, I started jumping my own packjobs. For someone who can barely fold a shirt, packing a parachute scared the living hell out of me. That first jump – all I could think about was “Will this open?! Will it?!” and totally lost focus on the jump itself. We went out at 6.5, and I was only able to do two 90o turns before I pulled- at 5,000 feet. My coach, Cora, landed next to me laughing, she knew exactly why I did it.

“See? It opened. I told you it would. Now you get to do two more 90o turns plus 180’s and 360’s on the next jump. You’ll have to pull even lower to get them all in on time.”

Jump no. 13 (lucky no. 13!)

This was the second spot I made (a stressful event in and of itself) but this was also my first tracking jump. For those of you who don’t get to routinely fall at terminal velocity, I’ll enlighten you.

Tracking is the art of removing yourself from the arch that was so painfully drilled into your skull during your first jumps in order to move rapidly across the sky. When doing formation skydiving (relative work) it is important that you are clear of the group you exited with when you pull your parachute. Tracking works by placing your hands on either hip, cupped down, while rolling your shoulders down, and pushing your feet together. This allows you to really haul ass away from people, it’s also INSANELY fun. The thing I love about it is the sound. Freefall is loud, but a rather gentle “swish”-ing sound as the air goes by. When you track, you accelerate even faster, which makes a “WOOOSH” sound. Every time I track for more than a few seconds, I feel like Ironman™ breaking the sound barrier.

Jump no. 18

This was my check dive. At 18 I had completed the entire Skydiver’s Information Manual (SIM) manual, and just had fun jumps til I could get my license. I loved this jump because I really feel like I nailed it. For those of you who don’t know, the last 3 or 4 jumps in the SIM are swoop & dock jumps, meaning you have to approach and grab your coach in the air – much trickier than it seems. I always had trouble falling fast enough to keep up with my jumpmaster Paul, so I blew it a couple times.

But no. 18 was different. I jumped with Cora, who’s about the same size as me.  I got to do some backflips off of the step, which were ridiculously fun, and then completed my turns, and then I saw Cora above me. I was able to get back up to her and dock with almost no effort. It felt great to finally get that satisfaction. I was so excited I did another backloop, then tracked and pulled. Awesome.

Jump no. 19

Jump 19 was a fun jump, I had a ton of fun because I got to dive out after Paul. Dive-out exits are awesome. Jump 19 was crazy, because I had also just taken apart and reassembled a 3-ring system with our FAA certified Rigger, Mike. Mike was so concerned that I was putting my side together correctly, that he accidentally put his side on 360o from where it should have been. This caused a line twist about midway up that in effect stopped the end cells on my right side from opening. It was my first true “fast” malfunction. I immediately began spinning, and was about to cutaway when I saw the single twist, and remembered that we had just reassembled that 3-ring system. I twisted at the base of my risers, and that transferred the twist from the lines to the risers, and flew the rig home. Cora was impressed that I didn’t cut it. Teddy wanted me to cut it, because that would be 3 cases of beer I’d have to owe.

Jump no. 20

This jump almost made me poop myself. Paul, Cora and I did a 3-way from 10,000. We planned on exiting in a circle, breaking and turning 360o, then reconnecting and doing it again. Our exit was great, but once we turned, Paul fell under us and I started to side-slide while holding onto Cora. Paul backslid and was starting to come up, but I was side-sliding too fast. He flew directly under me, putting me in his “burble”. I immediately dropped on his back at 8,000 feet into an inadvertent “Rodeo” – it was crazy. Once on the ground, Paul thought it was just the funniest thing.

“I’ve never seen anybody hop off a rodeo so fast, you weren’t quite ready for that, where you?”

Nope. Not at all.

Jump no. 23

This jump went well, Teddy and I exited, but rotated head-down and held it. According to his audible altimeter, we travelled at 190mph as a top speed. The crazy part though, was deploying. This was a chute I had packed, and I had the most insane pilot-chute burble ever. I literally pulled at 4,000 feet and finally came under canopy at 2,800. It wasn’t until I rotated to reach for my cutaway handle that the parachute finally deployed. Crazy.

Jump no. 24

Under this one, in my logbook I wrote “PERFECT” in big, capital letters. Cora and I went from altitude, on the way up we changed our dive plan 3 times (She said it made me a real skydiver.) We started with grips, I then released and went sidebody. Cora held her heading, I side-slid around and got the other side, then back to front dock. We did this twice. I was so incredibly jacked. This was the first jump I did that I really feel like I nailed RW on the first try.

Jump no. 25

Graduation! This jump wasn’t all to spectacular, same plan as 24 only I would have to fall faster because it was with Teddy, who is bigger than Cora. I was only able to get around him once, but then I tracked for 15 seconds at full speed. Landing felt great, I had put the feet on target for the 8th time that day.

What are some of your most memorable jumps? Most insane? Best improvisation? Holler at me in the comments.

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Not Bad for a Wednesday

“Not bad for a Wednesday?” Ryan yelled over the noise of the small Cessna 206.

“Hell no!” I answered back.

It was almost sunset, and I’d been jumping since three. My training seems to be coming along nicely, I just need to work on targeting my landings better.  But here I was about to get my first real freefall jump.

He flashed the climb-out/get-out signal. Next thing I knew I was hanging on the strut of that little plane, looking back at a big grin and a thumbs up.

“Fuck it.” I remember thinking, then I let go.


There’s no amount of ground training that can prepare you for what it’s like to fall from the sky at 150mph. There’s no video you can watch, or video game simulation to play. A wind tunnel gets close, but only for the physical aspect. You don’t have the falling sensation, or any sense of altitude awareness in a wind tunnel – but I’m sure it’s good practice.

I started on Wednesday still on the static line, doing some practice ripcord pulls. After I made 3 good ones, they gave me a hop n’ pop. After that, I got taken to 5,500ft AGL, and got a 10 second freefall. Not bad Ryan, not bad for a Wednesday.

For those of you not lucky enough to experience this part of life yet, I won’t even make an attempt to describe it. There’s just nothing to compare it to. You’re falling, but you don’t stop falling for a minute or sometimes more. It’s just you – and nothing else, and I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything. (PS. I owe beer)

So far my skydiving journey has been incredible. The folks over at the Minnesota Skydivers Club are absolutely amazing, and phenomenal instructors to boot. I’ve only been at this a week, but I can tell I’ll be doing this for the rest of my unnatural life.

Once on the ground my first question was, “What do you tell people? How do you explain why you do this?”

The general consensus was that you just don’t. Ryan told me that at first he wanted to tell everybody everything about skydiving – but then he realized that people just don’t understand. Afterwards, he says “You just want to talk skydiving with other skydivers, because they get it.”

Adler told me that he just doesn’t bother telling anyone. If they ask, he says “Well, I like it.”

What do you guys tell your friends or family? How do you explain why we love plummeting towards the earth at terminal?

Looks like it’s time to head out to the DZ again, then a nice 10 hour shift at the bar. Awesome.

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The bug has bitten

“How do you describe your first jump?” I was asked.

“A perfect blend of sheer terror combined with complete peace.” Was the only response I could find that fit what had just occurred.

I was fortunate enough that the winds had subsided last Friday, and I was able to make the first static line jump of my progression. And like I said, it was the perfect blend of both terror and beauty. For those of you unaccustomed to the wonderful world of skydiving, it’s hard to put into words exactly what a canopy ride is like. At first, it’s completely blissful – the loud sounds of freefall wind and aircraft engine have long since faded out, and all you can hear is your parachute gently fluttering in the air, as it floats down towards the earth.  I laughed, giggled as you may say, as I discovered how easily I could point myself where I wanted to go. I could see everything; a three mile wide lake was like a puddle from here. Cars were toys that seemed to move so slow on roads stretched so thin. Then the roads got bigger, the lakes wider, and I realized I was quickly coming back to the world I only recently left. Then it was terrifying.

“What’s my heading? Where should I start my landing pattern? Which way is the wind coming from again, north-northwest? Where’s that? Wait the runway points which direction?”

Then I realized that Corra, my jumpmaster, was still with me via radio, and talked me down the entire rest of the journey. Like I said, pure bliss, and completely terrifying – and I can’t wait to do it again.

So far I’m in love with the Static Line Progression. I may not have gotten to freefall yet, but learning to freefall correctly should come easier, because I’ll already have some canopy flying experience – compared to an AFF program, where I would be free-falling and piloting my parachute on the same jump.

Tomorrow, I get to jump again. If the weather holds out as long as it is supposed to, I’ll be able to begin freefall. After a few solo free-fall jumps, I’ll be able to better compare the two programs. One thing I see that attracts people to AFF is that you do get free-fall right away. I realize that I’m sort of the static line exception – paying for all of my jumps at once allows me to basically jump as much as I can, where someone paying for each jump individually would want the most experience for the money up front. So the way I see it, if you saved the money and are ready to begin your skydiving license, go with the static line program if it’s available. It’s cheaper, and if you’re dedicated you can be freefalling a few days after you start the program. If you’re paying by jump, AFF gets you the biggest bang for your buck, right away.

What do you guys think? AFF or S/L? Either way, don’t just do one jump and quit, get you license! Blue skies.

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Statistically speaking, the airplane ride is the most dangerous part of the skydive (AKA why I decided to get my license)

What a day. In the last twenty-four hours I’ve slammed two 16oz redbulls, wrote some code for a few Facebook pages, toured 5 apartment buildings, almost fell to tears when I saw how much tuition has gone up and – oh yeah, signed up for a crash course in skydiving. And it’s only Thursday.

My name is AJ Stuyvenberg. I decided after my freshman year at the University of Minnesota that I’d rather stay in town for the summer and try to find work, than to go back to my small hometown and live with my family. I got a job at a bar, and a print shop, and haven’t looked back yet.

Which brings me to my skydiving tale. I’ve been looking skywards since I was a little kid, throwing army men with parachutes, even putting on a Superman cape, running down the hallway and diving head-first onto my couch asking my dad “Am I getting higher daddy? Am I flying?”

Naturally the day I turned 18, my friends and I took a break from a weekend of camping and drinking to hurl ourselves out of a plane 13,500 feet in the air. Needless to say, I was hooked.

Here’s the video – Warning, it’s uncensored:


Like everybody who was smart enough to make the decision to skydive, I felt the unceasing desire to gaze skyward and wish for that feeling back. It’s impossible to describe to anybody who hasn’t jumped before, but I literally could think and speak about nothing but skydiving for days.

The only problem was that I was heading off to college, and carrying 13,000 dollars in debt with me. That really didn’t bother me, as I immediately began donating plasma and saving a little bit each month, all winter. I knew what I wanted, and I was going to do it. Now the time has finally come. It’s official, I’ve registered for my first class in the Static Line Progression tomorrow, and will be writing about it the whole way.

Currently, I’m planning on finishing the progression in 4-5 weeks. I plan on jumping every Wednesday and Friday, and hoping to jump 2 or 3 times per week. We’ll see whether or not that happens, but since I’ve saved enough to pay everything up front, the only factors involved in progression will be time and weather.

I’ve decided to write a blog about skydiving for many reasons. Part of my internship at the print shop I work at is to plan, design, code and implement their facebook and twitter page. Whilst doing such, I stumbled upon many interesting, and funny blogs written by regular people. I have found that the more I work with these social media outlets, the more I love them. So moving onto a blog was natural.

Secondly, I’ve found that an increasing number of DZ’s are moving to an AFF-only method of instructing students. I think the Static Line method of instruction is quickly falling out of favor because it takes longer to achieve freefall, and DZ’s charge less for it. Adam pointed out that nobody on staff at Skydive Addiction progressed using the S/L method, and thought I may have an interesting perspective. Hopefully I do!

I’m incredibly excited to begin tomorrow. I received a call from the DZ with both good news, and bad news. The good news is that nobody else will be at the course, so I’ll be there getting one on one attention from a jumpmaster. The bad news, is that the winds might be a little high for me to jump tomorrow, so it might have to wait til next Wednesday. I’ll be sure to post as much video, pictures, and blogs about them as I have time for.

I invite you all, jumpmasters, skydivers, students and enthusiasts a like leave a comment. I love hearing from new people, and I really want to see what you guys think. Did you start your skydiving addiction through AFF or S/L? Which do you think is better? Why?

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A quick welcome to…

The newest addition to the family!

When I spoke to AJ, he seemed very very very enthusiastic about his future addiction….
He’s starting his skydive lessons tomorrow.

So this is both a good luck, and a welcome to the family!

Blue Skies!