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Learning the Hard Way

This story was submitted by Kayla to enter to win an L&B ARES II digital altimeter through my Gear Giveaway #2. Submissions accepted until March 31st, 2023.

As a student just beginning AFF, I was constantly taking in new information about a sport I knew very little about. Gear checks, proper exit, hand signals, free fall maneuvers, altitude awareness, canopy checks, emergency procedures, and so much more all running through my mind while also trying to calm the nerves of simply jumping out of a plane.

One jump after another I was flying through AFF and gaining confidence as my instructors slowly backed off giving me more independence in both free fall and under canopy. I finished AFF in only a few days with no incidents or real concerns in my ability to now successfully survive a skydive on my own.

I had done one solo after finishing AFF and took a couple days off due to poor weather and was ready to jump again as soon as the weather cleared. Here it was, Jump 10. I went out for a solo to keep it simple and go back to the basics before crowding my mind with any new maneuvers that would come with a coach jump. I had a blast doing some flips in freefall and was honestly a little disappointed when I checked my altimeter again and it was almost time to pull. Under canopy I realized the winds had changed a bit from when I headed up for my jump, but I continued down into my regular landing pattern. As I was on base I realized I was still too high, but I turned onto final as I had planned anyway in fear of hitting a tree on final if I made my turn any later. Seeing how high I still was I knew I was going to land a little far past my target, but there was enough open space there, so I wasn’t worried. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was clearly within range of hitting turbulence from the tree now on my right. As my canopy began to shake I tried to maintain heading and keep my arms extended up. When it was time to flare I began bringing my arms down and quickly realized my flare was doing practically nothing. I hit the ground faster than ever before and it was anything but graceful. I walked away with only a sprained ankle and a long talk with an instructor reviewing what went wrong. I certainly learned my lesson about tree turbulence along with being okay making last minute adjustments to my landing pattern. With all the new knowledge (and some time healing) I am eager to get back in the sky again!


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