Level Up! More AFF Adventures…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once again, it’s been several months since my last blog entry, but things have been absolutely mad with the Bristol University Skydiving Club- myself included! So, what has 2016 thrown at me so far?

Despite a little bit of good weather in January that got me to my Level 4 (on the 16th of January) and a bit of tunnel on the 20th of January, the season of jumping that we looked forward to immediately after the winter break didn’t seem to last too long (though others would disagree….I wasn’t able to make it to BCPA Tunnel, which I’m sure many a club member can highly rate!)- and I wasn’t able to jump for a couple of months, just owing to poor timings of my practicals among other pieces of work that I have been involved with. Level 4 in itself had been an amazing experience- being able to pull off solo turns took what I learned in the tunnel and applied it into the sky. I was now with only one instructor- and keeping my focus on staying stable was now my biggest focus.

Level 4

10 minutes of tunnel was a good chance to try a new FS suit that I bought second-hand following my Level 4, and despite requiring one or two modifications that I identified (such as the replacement of the forearm polycotton with spandex), I was able to continue working away on the next focusses of Level 5 in the tunnel, such as 360 turns, altitude awareness, and general movement such as going backwards and forwards; developing on from my last session in late November.

After a weekend prior refreshing on the DZ,  I did Level 5 on the 4th of March after a long break away from jumping, arriving to the DZ at around 10am…with the consideration that there was light snow around the time we arrived! Once the cloud and wind had died down by the afternoon, I was up to 15,000 feet, with Samad of Bath, Ollie of Southampton and Elliott of UWE- all fellow AFF students and giving us a diverse set of universities that we were putting up onto one lift (who I should mention, have all qualified/are about to!). My first attempt at Level 5 wasn’t too great- I sadly didn’t arch hard enough, and was too unstable on exit, with no command given for doing 360 turns when left on my own due the lack of stabillity…so this jump was written off, and another attempt, on the last lift.

Despite being a little bit dazed and confused, I went straight back up on the last lift of the day, and gave it my all, taking my instructor’s advice to heart and arching harder (helped a little by a weight belt that kept me in a better position relative to the instructor. Going for my 360s, I managed to do two, deploying at 6,000ft as per usual. I was ecstatic, passing the Level after a debrief and being cleared for Level 6….a jump that I had been looking forward to for a long, long time.

 

I returned on Sunday morning (6th) after skipping a particularly windy Saturday, and again, the conditions looked poor at first, with an overcast sky and initially thick clouds. This all changed, as right at the end of the day, the weather amazingly chose to get better, and the overcast sky that we had began with had risen to a height and a level that we could jump through, being thin and patchy enough to let us go through safely for students. Subsequently, I was gearing up for Level 6 and going to 15,000ft again…

Level 6

Diving out on my own, performing a backloop (which ended up being two frontloops instead), as well as tracking and deploying at 6,000ft was a blur, but one that felt cohesive and felt cool to try for the first time. The jump felt amazing; I felt as if it was my most confident one so far, and the feeling of tracking in itself feels awesome, like almost being a superhero, being able to cover horizontal distance for a few seconds! With a sunset landing, a group of other friends on consoles and levels, I felt as if my confidence had shot up; this was what I was looking forward to for so long!

 

Level 7 followed quickly on Friday the 11th of March, and it seemed that myself alongside the rest of the students were making the best of the great conditions we’d been given for the end of the day, with the clouds clearing in time and giving us a strong window to go jumping in. My Level 7 jump in itself felt like the smoothest so far; a rear dive exit (that felt relatively stable, compared to a couple of comparatively shaky exits), followed  by backloops, turns, then my own tracking, adding a slight turn into the movements. Shaking hands with the instructor at around 8,000 feet after doing all the expected work, I couldn’t help but grin!

It didn’t stop there, either. Console 1 followed immediately after my Level 7, being offered another lift up to 15,000 feet as second-to-last lift of the day, and I took it readily, following a number of students from different universities all up on the ride. Jumping out alone with a dive towards the tail was a little worrying at first, but then just purely incredible; I could finally take in the length of the south Devonian coastline, and the sheer sight of what the world looks like from 15,000 feet up…while keeping an eye on my altimeter, of course! Sunset lifts never fail to disappoint- and being alone, with no pressure to perform felt amazing….and a buzz that remained all the way on the train journey back to Bristol!

Sunday the 13th of March was another pretty remarkable day, being the first time I was ever able to do three lifts in one gloriously sunny day, with not a single cloud in the sky above the DZ. Whilst being unable to do Saturday due to work in Bristol (and wanting to ease off jumping for a day), I returned in the evening and arrived to the usual hive of people around the DZ. Doing two consoles first, practising my Level 8 moves first before going onto some backlooping, turning and finally enjoying the sight put before me instead of being focussed on the assessment of a level. I also used my own altimeter for the first time in this jump, as well as a club helmet. Still, following a landing on my third console so far (2nd of the day) and returning to the manifest area after a short bus ride, I was quickly given a rig and offered a spot on the sunset lift of the day, barely finding minutes to get involved in the turnaround from landing to going back up! I was going up for my Level 8 to get it out of the way, and instead of going to 15,000 feet as usual, I would be leaving at 6,500. It was far lower, and while it was not an alien sight to me from my experiences on RAPS, it still felt strange indeed. I collected my thoughts for the last of the important levels that I had to do, and when the door opened, I went on the word go, diving out towards the rear.

I did a clean hop and pop, deploying three seconds after exiting the plane…and to my suprise, I was able to nail it! Despite the pressure being placed on me to perform, I still loved this jump for what was involved; I got to see the canopies above on a high hop-and-pop, as well as a wonderful red sunset after landing. Despite my landing being off-PLA, I learned my lesson promptly about wind throughout spiral turns, and landed safely.

It has been one hell of a journey, and over the last month alone, I have gone from jumping with one instructor and doing badly on 360 degree turns to finally jumping out alone and finishing the main set of levels that I have been working on, and getting to a stage where I can now begin to start exploring other exits, such as unstable and float positions, as well as toy around with some more tracking. While I have missed BCPA Indoors, I’m still keeping pace with 35 jumps total under my belt, and I know that there are plenty of Bristol club members who are either mere jumps away from qualifying as I write this, or have already qualified! From here, I have my consoles to finish off, and from there it seems that *the sky is the limit!

*Yes, this is an unashamed pun

Konrad Wysocki

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