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|Jumping with the Pros|
RW Skill Camp with Generation FX
Story and photos by Jens Holzhäuser / Germany - HolzhaeJ@whiteoaksemi.com
All hands were warped together in the middle of the huddle. We were trying to make contact with each others gleaming eyes. Slow deep breaths, the hands move up and down: "Hut!" -- "EFFF EXXX!". Now, really, all visitors on the observation deck stared at us. Somebody already had taken pictures, when our colored group left the wind tunnel chamber of Skyventure some minutes earlier.
We just had finished another great wind tunnel session with Doug Park and Dave Timko of Generation FX. *We* were a pretty mixed crowd of RW enthusiasts, or soon-to-be enthusiasts: Richard and Lynn, both recent AFF graduates; Jan with 2000-plus jumps, and heavily involved in RW coaching at our home DZ herself; in between, Tom P., Pete, myself, and Tom A., who is usually stuck in the pilot seat of our jump plane most of the time he comes out.
Jan had planned and announced the trip a few months before. She had promised high quality training with proficient coaches so expectations were high. After all, Generation FX was one of the top 4-way teams in the US, currently located at Skydive DeLand in Florida.
For me, the FX camp began Friday morning at Skydive DeLand, when Doug welcomed me with a friendly smile and handshake in their hangar. Richard had already passed AFF Levels 5 to 7 within two jumps the day before. No wonder, he had accumulated quite a bit of wind tunnel time this winter without bothering to go into the real air. On this day and the next, Niklas Hemlin (former member of the Swedish national team Velox) also joined the coaching crew. That made three coaches for six jumpers that day!
(from left to right) Jens, Lynn, a friend of Tom A.,
Tom A., Dave (FX), Jan, Doug (FX), Tom P. and Pete
Focus for all dives was definitely on quality, not quantity. Extensive dirt diving, creeping and engineering, as well as video debriefing and critique accompanied every jump. Objectives were dive engineering, flying your slot with small but precise movements, and correct position referencing. Both our recent AFF graduates got basic one-on-one RW training. Friday was not too busy at DeLand, so the Skyvan loads basically consisted of our group plus a few other jumpers each time.
On lunch break I was sitting in the DZ restaurant "The Right Spot", when manifest announced over the PA a 20-minute call for the next load. I asked the waitress for the check when, suddenly, the call was raised up to 30 minutes. I relaxed again. Two jumpers came in, and I overheard their conversation: "The skills camp is still on lunch break, we have ten minutes longer for the next load." Well!...", I thought, and had another slurp from the excellent fruit power shake, "...That's what I call being a first-class customer"!
The day had begun with some excellent dives together with Tom A. and Dave. Later, some stronger winds forced our novices to stay on the ground. Doug joined us for some 4-way randoms and blocks. Although everything was very professional, they always found a way to keep the fun level high. It was pure fun to fly with these guys!
Saturday continued in a reassigned group with Niklas, and Sunday topped with a several-point 5-way of the more experienced jumpers from 7,500 feet, when bad weather was coming in.
Friday and Saturday late afternoon, as well Sunday noon because of incoming thunderstorms, we switched locations to the Skyventure Wind tunnel in Orlando, about one hour from DeLand. With its patented technique of sucking the air from the top instead of blowing it from the bottom, it created a very close-to-reality freefall experience. With the whole diameter usable for flying, and partly mirrored walls, it was an awesome tool for one-on-one coaching.
We rotated through several 30- and 60-minute blocks within the whole camp in two-minute slots per person. After an initial solo, the training included proper body position, use of legs and arms for turns, other flying techniques and, last but not least, grip management. My personal favorite was the "follow-the-leader" exercise, where you had to mirror your coach. The whole thing ended up in an exciting chase within the full three dimensions of the inner tunnel tube. That wore you out, I'll tell you!
Lynn and Dave dirt diving
The award for the "Most-Improved" during the camp went to Lynn, with just 16 jumps. On her first attempts in the wind stream she was tumbling and blowing around like a leaf in the wind. With a fierce look on her face, she tried to fight it on her own. Doug soon took the lead and tried patiently to fix her body position and get her to calm down over several sessions. Finally, a big light bulb dawned over her, her body suddenly clicked into the right position, and she took control!
With a wide grin she smoothly followed Doug's fists which he presented for docking while walking around in the tunnel tube. We watched with growing excitement! On her first level and centered 360-degree turn we simply couldn't hold it: We drowned the wind tunnel noise with our cheering! It was like watching a baby taking her first steps and then suddenly seamlessly starting to walk! "That was hard work", Doug later admitted, but his face showed how proud and excited he was for her success. The 'before' and 'after' videos of her skydives proved him right.
Backed up by the great facilities of DeLand, friendly staff, packers, and self manifesting video flyers (one came over Sunday morning to confirm that we would need him since he had manifested himself just to fly for us!). The camp was a full success. Doug, Dave, and Niklas provided high quality, professional training on a very friendly basis. Organization was flexible (bad weather -> wind tunnel). We left with a good feeling about the newly acquired skills, eager to try them at home, and work on the 'assignments' FX gave everyone. Handshakes and hugs for a good bye, "See you soon!" Yes, you will! I'll be back ... SOON!
Page 1 - for more stories see Page 2