Maybe you have 2,000 skydives and you can’t get excited about doing another 4-way today – you want to do something different. Maybe you have 100 skydives and the idea of further refining your belly-flying just to “crank points” leaves you less than thrilled. Maybe you got to the DZ before your buddies, and you want to do something by yourself on the first load. Or, maybe you’ve heard what a great time others have had at one of my Fun Flying Seminars, and you want to have some fun too! These are all good reasons to join the party and do some Fun Flying!
So, what on earth is Fun Flying…? Fun Flying is easier to describe in terms of what it is NOT than what it IS. It’s almost anything you can imagine that’s NOT highly structured, NOT competitive, and NOT primarily on your belly for the purpose of turning points. It includes noncompetitive aspects of freestyle, free flying, sit flying, knee flying, and it can be performed solo or with a partner or a small group. Performance is not the criteria for success – having fun is the goal, and letting yourself experiment and be spontaneous without seeking perfection is part of the formula for having fun. It may be as simple as trying a new body position by yourself, or it may be a coordinated 4-way double rodeo. If you come down smiling, then you’ve been fun flying!
So, if it’s that vague, you may wonder, how do you figure out where to start? In this article, I’ll give you specific suggestions for some new things you can try with your skydives to maximize your fun factor. These are simply ideas to get you started, and you’ll soon see that the fun flying horizon is unlimited, and it’s just waiting for you to explore on your own.
Rodeo dives involve two jumpers – a “pony” and a “monkey” (or a “horse” and a “cowboy”). As you can imagine, the monkey rides on the back of the pony, with his legs around the waist or hips of the pony, for the basic rodeo position.
In the standard rodeo position, the pony is belly-to-earth, with the monkey sitting on the pony’s back holding onto the pony’s shoulders, or sitting up with arms out to help with the balance.
You can launch the rodeo from the airplane, with the monkey getting onto the back of the pony just before or immediately after leaving the airplane. Or the monkey can “mount” during flight by flying up to the side of the pony, reaching over and taking hold of both shoulders of the pony, then popping up slightly while swinging one leg over into a sitting position on, or just below, the rig of the pony.
Once mounted, the monkey should keep his legs tucked up underneath the pony to keep them from catching air and tilting both of you sideways. The pony, meanwhile, keeps a wide base for stability, with arms and legs spread out when the monkey is mounted. Ride ‘em cowboy!
From the standard rodeo position, the pony can push his legs down into a standup (or even a kneeling) position, straightening the torso to the vertical position. The monkey keeps his legs locked around the pony, and leans back slightly to help the pony get vertical. The monkey will end up in a sitting or reclined position, and will find it easy to let go and use his arms to balance on the air. Yahooo!
With some simple coordination, your monkey/pony pair can do front loops and back loops together. Both of you should be able to do front and back tuck loops by yourselves before trying them together in a rodeo. In both directions, the monkey keeps his legs locked around the pony, and keeps holding onto the shoulder grips or shoulder harness of the pony all the way around the loop. The monkey should keep his chest close to the pony’s back once the loops are initiated so you can loop together more smoothly. For back loops, the pony gives a signal for the monkey to push up and lean back, helping to pull the pony’s shoulders upwards, while the pony tucks his legs under and pushes with his arms to go over backwards in a semi-tuck position. To stop the loop, the pony spreads his legs back out when coming around to the horizontal position and the monkey returns to the original position with his chest close to the pony’s shoulders.
For front loops, the pony gives a signal for the monkey to lean forward and tuck his head down into the wind, while the pony bends his torso downward into the wind, pushing against the wind with his legs, then bringing his knees in after the loop is started to get his legs past the wind on the downward side and return to a horizontal position. After the loops start, the monkey hangs on for the ride! To stop the loop, the pony stretches his arms out in front of him and grabs air as his torso comes downward towards the horizontal point, and keeps his legs bent to minimize the air force on them.
This move looks amazing on video! In this sequence, the monkey and the pony start in the basic rodeo position, and then exchange positions by having one loop around the legs of the other while maintaining physical contact and finishing in a rodeo with reversed positions, still on the same heading.
For a backward rolodex, the monkey gives the pony the signal (by kicking lightly with his legs), and then arches backward between the legs of the pony to execute a 3/4 back loop, finishing in a horizontal position to become the new pony. The former pony meanwhile pushes up slightly from the horizontal to a vertical position, keeping his legs apart while the former monkey is backlooping between them. As soon as the new monkey can see the new pony rotating up from below him, toward horizontal, the new monkey closes his legs around the new pony into the new rodeo position.
For a forward rolodex, the pony now gives the signal and then bends his torso downward into a 3/4 front straddle loop. The former pony spreads his legs as they come over the top and brings them downward around the torso of the former monkey and then anchors his legs around the waist of the new pony while finishing the rotation in the sitting position on the back of the new pony. The former monkey meanwhile simply leans forward into a horizontal position and keeps his legs wide apart so the new monkey can loop up between them. Both monkey and pony should perform their actions gently, since too much momentum will cause you to overshoot the new rodeo position. Give this one a whirl!
Body surfing involves one person – the surfer – standing (or balancing in some other position) entirely on the body (the back or belly) of another person – the platform – who remains in a horizontal position. Despite being mostly in the “burble” of the platform, the surfer can fly and hold interesting poses on top of the platform with a little practice.
If you can hold a standup position by yourself, then you can try it on someone’s back (or belly). The trickiest part of standup surfing is simply getting onto the platform! You have to have your foot (or feet) on the center of the platform’s rig or torso in order to keep from tipping the platform over to the side. One way to mount is to set up on the same heading as the platform, both of you belly-down, about three feet above and just behind the spread legs of the platform, and then give a gentle push forward to plant you foot (feet) on the platform’s rig as you enter his burble. Then just keep your feet glued in place as you use your arms and upper body to fly and balance. The further you fall over, the more support you’ll get from the air, and the easier it will be to return to an upright position, so don’t give up if you start to fall off. Just keep your feet in place and push on the air with your arms to get back up. Surf’s up!
If you have the feel for holding a straddle headstand by yourself in the air, then you can do it on your partner. Mounting is easy, since you can get your grips before pushing up into position. Simply fly up (on your belly) behind your platform, and reach over his legs to get hold of the leg straps or the main harness close to where they attach to the side of the rig. Then plant your head on the center of your platform’s rig while pushing up with your legs into the headstand position. Keep your legs wide apart so they help you balance, and you can also push or pull with your arms to help with the balance.
A ferris wheel is an end-over-end linked 2-way loop with your heads facing towards each other. You can both be facing the same direction, or one of you can be rolled over to face the opposite direction. The easiest one to set up has you both facing the same direction, such that one of you will be traveling forwards around the loops, and the other backwards.
Start by facing each other, belly to earth, and one person takes a tight grip with both hands on the shoulder harness of the other. The other person can keep his hands out to the side to help resist any twisting action. To start the loops, the person who will be the forward traveler tucks his legs and then extends them downward into a standup position while the backward traveler pushes upward towards and head-down position. Once the forward traveler reaches the standup, he keeps his body and legs straight and leans back as if to perform a layout back loop (which he actually will be doing). The backwards traveler loops forward out of the head-down position, and brings his legs down from in front of him into a standup. At that point he straightens his legs and torso, and leans forward as if to perform a front layout loop (which he will actually be doing!).
Once a little momentum gets going, it will be natural to perform the looping action, but it’s important to think of getting your legs down into the standup each time you go around. This will keep you from “stalling” as you come down into the wind, and will keep you stretched out across from your partner. Make sure you hold on tight, since a lot of centrifugal force can develop, as you’ll discover if you let go. Wheeeee!
The double delta involves two people linked as in a 2-way cat, but flying head-down, one directly above the other. If you and your partner can hold a straddle headstand position by yourselves, then you can try the double delta. The person who will be on top (the “tail”) takes grips on the legstraps of the “point,” and gives the signal (starting from belly-down) for the point to bend down into the headstand. The tail also simultaneously pushes over into a headstand, but must do it very gently since there will already be a whipping effect pulling him over as the point starts diving. Once vertical, both of you must actively fly to maintain the head-down position. Cawabunga!
Knee Flying, Sit Flying, Standup Flying, Head-Down Flying
All of these positions – knee flying, sit flying, standup flying, and head-down flying – can be used for fun flying by yourself, or with your friends. The directions for flying in these positions have been covered in detail in other articles in the skydiving literature, so I won’t repeat them here. But if you’ve never tried any of them, then the best way to start is to review an article about the position you want to try, or talk to someone else who has done it already, then go up for a jump by yourself and just try it. When you can balance and remain in control of your heading, then you can try jumping with a friend (who is at least at the same level), and work on staying relative. Your imagination can take it from there, since the ways to have fun are as unlimited as the sky!