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Skydiving in Social Media

Let’s get real here for a moment…like really, real.

I love skydiving – for obvious reasons.

I love social media – mostly because I work in this space all day and see the benefits, like keeping up on the latest information, staying in touch with friends, getting updates on products and services you enjoy.

I also hate social media. (Don’t worry, I’m not about to say I hate skydiving…not in the slightest. :)) Social media has done things to our society that I fear can’t be undone. Sure, we’re more connected than ever before, but I also believe we’re more lonely than we’ve ever been. Our idea of “community” has been altered. We’re walking down a path that’s slowly putting us out of touch with our humanity (yes, Weeds fans, I did steal that line from the show, but it’s true)!

What’s more is that it’s making us passive aggressive individuals. Instead of talking to people in person or taking someone aside to chat about an issue, we’re publicly calling people out. I’m seeing this more and more with skydiving related topics as well.

In the last week I’ve seen skydivers who have posted about switching from RW to freefly, another who posted about downsizing (which is always a hot topic and everyone has their opinions), and subsequently, I’ve seen “friends” of theirs put them on the spot with things like “you shouldn’t do that, you’ll get hurt,” or “you’re too inexperienced,” or “are you sure about that?”

All this does is put people on the defensive – after all, they were just called out in front of their friends and families in one of the most populated social media communities.

Thing is, I really don’t believe the people who are making these passive attacks see it this way. It’s genuine concern most of the time – which we as skydivers truly love! But if you take a step back and look at how these very public comments come across, the potential outcome probably isn’t what was intended. Think about it, if you were at the DZ, instead of online, would you stand up on the picnic table and yell to the guy who is talking to his instructor about freeflying, “hey, you shouldn’t do that, you’re not proficient on your belly yet, you’ll get hurt, or worse, you’ll hurt someone else!”

Of course not! That would embarrass them, and possibly even make you look like a jerk. Instead, you’d have a personal conversation to express your concern for that person and those with whom they share the sky. That’s just common decency…isn’t it?

As a skydiver, I love having the ability to use social media (such as Facebook and Twitter) to keep up with things that are going on in the industry – updates from USPA, manufacturers like PD and Infinity, getting links to the latest blog posts – and staying updated on my jumping buddies, where they’re headed for the weekend, staying in touch with those I’ve met in my travels, but when I see skydivers who have to get defensive because of someone who didn’t stop to think of the outcomes of a comment they could have sent privately, that starts to make me question how great these tools are after all.

Now don’t get me wrong here, this isn’t an attack on anyone who may have done something similar in the past. I believe everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise, so I truly believe that most of these comments are not meant to publicly humiliate other jumpers, or to try to put someone in their place for the purpose of making them feel bad. That’s just not skydiver nature, as far as I’m concerned. We jump together, we beer together (yes, beer can be a verb), we chill around the bonfire together…hell, we do just about everything but sing Kumbaya together at the end of a great day of skydiving. Well, maybe if we’ve had enough of that beer I was referring to, but that’s an entirely different topic altogether.

Point being, I do honestly believe that everyone has the best of intentions in this sport, and those that don’t are quick to be outed by their own behavior. I blame social media for our ability to post anything and everything online and not think for a second that there’s anything wrong with that. But when it involves someone else, that’s when I think it’s time to take an extra second to review how your words could be perceived.

In the end, we’re all here to help each other out. So to the defenders: stop being so sensitive…they likely didn’t mean anything by it. It’s your decision if you want to freefly or downsize or BASE jump or whatever. Just make sure you’re being smart about it. To the antagonists: you’re probably not how your comments make you seem, you’re likely just concerned, but be sure it’s coming off that way, and not as “you’re an idiot, I’m smarter than you and a better skydiver than you so you better listen to me and so should all your friends who will see this post too.”

But then again, this is just my advice, which, given that this is a social media platform, could very well be taken as “skygod-ish” itself. ¬†Though I promise you, that is not my intent. From one skydiving, social media user to another….

Blue skies!

Ashley

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DZ Differences

Over the course of the last year, I’ve been truly blessed to have the opportunity to travel to some amazing dropzones. What I’ve come to find is that each has it’s own unique set of qualities and it’s own unique group of jumpers.

This definitely keeps things interesting.

When it comes to issues like safety, I’ve come to find that each dropzone has their “danger zone” – that one element of the sport where there is constant discussion regarding jumper safety. Seems that every dropzone has their area(s) where they proceed with much caution.

This really came to my attention this weekend when the debate continued regarding canopy downsizing.

As I forgot to mention a couple weeks ago, I decided not to purchase that Sabre 2-120 I had been demoing. Not due to the size, but due to inconsistent and incredibly odd openings. It gave me gear fear, and that’s not how it should be. I really came to realize this after demoing another Sabre2-120 that opened perfectly every time. So needless to say, I’m back on my Sabre 1-150 for the time being – at least until my wallet will allow me to buy new.

The experts at CSC all questioned why I purchased the 150 in the first place, stating that with my weight I should be on a smaller canopy. There goes that mixed message again.

So it got me to thinking about the areas of the sport where safety is a main focus and the differences between dropzones I have visited. Come to find out, almost ALL of them vary widely. These are definitely things that set dropzones apart from one another. Check this out:

  • The folks at one dropzone I have frequented are extremely hesitant when it comes to downsizing. The focus is on the size of the canopy rather than the wingloading. However, most of these people don’t bat an eye when it comes to wingsuiting or camera flying.
  • On the total opposite end of that spectrum, I’ve visited a dropzone that was hesitant to put anyone with less than 500 jumps in a wingsuit, but they highly encourage jumpers to test out canopy size and find what works for them – stressing wingloading rather than fearing size. (Though don’t get me wrong, neither of these dropzones are negligent or ignorant of the safety behind any issue, they just have those areas where they’re more likely to proceed with caution).
  • There’s a local dropzone that’s extremely strict on the rule of not flying a camera before you have 200 jumps, though I’ve been on loads where they don’t hesitate to throw jumpers out through “industrial haze” so thick it’s a guessing game when it comes to locating the LZ.
  • Then there’s the dropzone where jumpers on the flight will have the pilot do two or three go-arounds just to ensure that everyone on the flight will be able to avoid the clouds at a significant distance but they don’t hesitate to throw jumpers out in high, turbulent winds.
  • I’ve also been to a dropzone that in general is very strict. So much so that until you have 500 skydives, you can be grounded for any of the following: not having an AAD, freeflying with another jumper if you both don’t have 500 skydives, trying to jump in winds higher than 15 mph, wingsuiting or camera flying. Though, this very same dropzone has ZERO rules about swooping. Anyone, anywhere, anytime.
  • Then there are the dropzones that have strict swooping rules, these jumpers are often confined to specific areas of the LZ and you will be grounded if you don’t abide by them. Of course, these dropzones have their areas where they turn a blind eye as well.
  • Some dropzones don’t care if you jump barefoot, others won’t even think twice about it.

I’m sure the list goes on, but this is just off the top of my head. It’s amazing how much dropzone policy can differ from one to the next.

And yes, I’m keeping this vague. Who am I to call out dropzones on their policies. I’m no one, that’s who!

For the most part, the majority of dropzones I’ve visited are very safety conscious. Most have pretty strict landing patterns, or at least they encourage safe canopy piloting based on location and conditions. Most are incredibly strict on BSRs, though camera flying has been split about 50/50 when it comes to that 200 jump requirement.

Anyhow, this is just an observation that I found interesting and wanted to share. Though if you’re looking for my opinion, for what it’s worth, I say proceed with caution in every aspect of the sport. Safety should always come first. Know your limits, be aware of those around you and always pay attention.

That is all.

Blue skies!

Ashley