There is something that changed my live in the last 8 months. Skydiving. It is now 8 months ago that I did my first static line jump and did my first landing with a parachute. It’s colourful!
Since then I did not only improve my exits out of the plane and improved my landings. I went from a 285 square foot canopy to a 185. But I grew into this family. The ground Rush family. It feels so good to be part of this family. A family where everyone helps each other. Craig, the one who is always there and everywhere. He has a big heart and gives everyone a chance. He build up this family and keeps it together. Craig supports me full on. He offered me a couple times a job in his company but accepts it that I stay loyal to my boss who brought me first the chance to stay in this awesome place. He works on a good cooperation between the sandboarding and skydiving company.
Matthias is not always there, he operates often in the background. He is often not at the dropzone and the next time you see him, he is the pilot, then one of the tandem masters or the one who is doing the manifest. He was there on the day of my first jump. And supported me.
Cois, the one who did the jump course with me. Not giving up by getting all that knowledge into my head.
Little David. The one gets the most s*** from everyone at the dropzone. Just because he is doing his job. Being responsible for the security of a skydiving dropzone is not an easy job. Organising a bunch of crazy, over excited students, who know everything better by themselfs. He always has advice for you, makes space on the loads between the tandems and makes sure that all of us are safe in the air and on the ground. If David comes to me and gives me a compliment it means a lot to me.
Betsy, Dries and Mias, three of the tandem masters in this company. The ones who are working while we are having fun in the air. The ones who have to deal with these students who move all the time in the plane, who bump doors on exits and scare their tandem passengers by exiting the plane in unstable positions. With all that they still joke around and keep reminding us that we shouldn’t forget to smile because this sport is fun.
Bruns, one of our camera men. He is the quiet one. Amazing free flyer. He is the reason why all the students start flying on their back before they can flat fly. I loved his flat flying at the competition. Incredible unique.
Never forget our pilots. Peter and Nico. They are ones who bring us to altitude. Or should I say they are reason why we have a parachute on our back. We jump out because we don’t trust them? I’ll leave that one open. However thanks for keeping the plane stable while these crazy students move around like a bunch of hyperactive kids and bump the door on exit.
And then Bones. Working as a camera man for GRA, packing all our reserve parachutes and being jump master for most of the students. Being my Jumpmaster on 90% of my jumps. Dispatching me on my very first freefall jump. Doing ISPs with me until I got my A-licence. And now I was chosen to jump with him in the competition.
Naomi. The one who has to deal with a bunch of skydivers partying at her Lodge. Sometimes she is hiding behind the counter, but even when she is busy she has a bit of time for chatting.
And then there are all the other fun jumpers. Fun jumpers they call us. Because we jump for fun. And in the last year we grew together to one family. Learn together, jump together, help each other, teach each other and make David’s life as difficult as possible.
And today was our day. To show what we learned so far. Championships in skydiving. Flat flying. They put us is 2-way teams together. One junior jumper (under 150 jumps) with one senior jumper (over 1000 jumps). And two intermediate jumpers together (between 150 and 500 jumps). They obviously tried to put two together who have the same fall rate. Three of us still had to wear a weight belt to be able to fall with the partner. Including me. 5 kilos more around my belly.
Before the comps could start we got a safety briefing at the plane. At the Angel. The plane Matthias organised for the competition. The plane he got a rating on to be able to fly us. Beautiful plane. A turbine. With the door on the other side, which makes it interesting. All of us are used to a right door exit. And turbine means a stronger prop wash. That will probably throw some of us unstable in the air. But we will see. Motivation and excitement is on the highest level.
Everyone gets a chance to practice the exit out of this plane with his jump partner.
While we are waiting for the weather to clear we take a group photo with the plane and sponsors.
And practice our moves. Bones is the youngest senior jumper with 1500 jumps. Some of the other seniors have over 10 000 jumps, or are AFF instructor and definitely more experience. But our advantage is that we did quiet a few jumps together. So he knows what I can in the air. What might be a disadvantage? But Bones believes in me. He is convinced that we can get the points. Even though we are a underdog. We are on the load with the runaway favourite. Organic Pirates. Yes every team had to get a team name, a song and a logo. Bianca and Grégoire are both intermediate jumpers and have done quiet a few jumps together. But now the pressure is on them. Well there is as well quiet a bit of pressure on me, because I don’t wanna disappoint Bones. Everybody is under at least a bit of pressure. It is a competition!
We are on the first load. Two solo jumpers are as well on the load. Taking a bit too long on exit. Then the other team. Bones and me are the last ones leaving the plane.
Maybe I didn’t believe in myself. Maybe I was never convinced that I can do this exit stable. Or I just can’t handle pressure. But the exit was everything else than good. No presentation into the prop wash. That’s why Bones and me looked more like a couple dancing the waltz than a 2-way team on a skydiving competition.
Eventually we got stable. But we lost a lot of seconds. And everybody has only 30 seconds. 30 seconds and every move after that will not count.
My docks are as well not the best ones I ever did. My legs were all over the show. My body position was everything else than perfect. The only thing I did quiet well on this jump were the 360 degree turns. Faster than Bones. I was basically waiting for him to finish his turn.
5000 feet, wave off and track away. Pull the parachute. Look down. I am in the cloud. Where am I? What the …? Underneath me is the Chinese satellite station. That means I am far away from the dropzone. I will never make it back to the landing area. Means I will not have the chance to compete in accuracy. There is a side competition between the junior and intermediate jumpers in accuracy on landing. The smily face is where you want to aim for. I fly downwind towards the dropzone but no chance. On 500 feet I give up and prepare my parachute for landing. Luckily here in the desert I have all the space in the world to land. I see Martin on his way with the combi to fetch me. Yes that is how far away I am from the actual dropzone. You can imagine how happy I am. I am a bad looser. I know no one likes loosing but I am really disappointed. And convinced we have no more chance in the competition, because the second jump has more complicated moves in it, which I have never done before. But I have to move on. First step: pack my parachute. Since I have my licence I always pack my own parachute. It saves money because I don’t have to pay the packers and I feel confident because I know I packed it.
Meanwhile the competition goes on. Teams go up and down. We are 10 teams in total.
There are a lot of parachutes in the sky. Every team has as well a camera man who is filming the jump so that a jury can judge the points every team made. My team mate Bones is as well a camera man for 2 other teams.
I am watching the other jumpers aiming for the smily. Target fixation brings some of us to crash landings.
Others right into the circle.
After a little brake round two is on. I am totally relaxed. Like I said, I am convinced there is nothing to save anymore. So just go up and have fun. Bones asks me if I wanna do the same exit or the more difficult sidebody exit. „A new one – it can’t be worse than the first one“. Yeah, I am extremely positive at that point.
But apparently I am better in that exit. I stay stable in the air so that Bones can make the first point while we are still on the hill. Dock in CAT position.
And from then one we rock the jump.
Star – CAT – CAT – compress
And again. And again.
Halfway through the jump Bones gives me a smile. The biggest motivation you can give someone. Because I know I am doing better now. And thenjury counts 11 points in the end on this jump.
When my parachute opens I am smiling. Because I am proud of what I just did in 30 seconds. Without knowing how far this jump pushed us forward. But now the second part of a skydive jump. The landing. The set up. Fly the patterns. And focus. You only have this one jump to show how accurate you can land.
Yes my shoe laces are open, but that is my good luck charm. Yes you see the positiveness coming out of my body. And flaaare.
Spot on landing. Tanja, the one who is measuring the distance to the spot tells me I just pushed myself onto the first position in accuracy. Now I am a little bit proud of myself. Yes the second round just started, but the others have to beat now my landing.
Thanks Greg and Bianca to let me go out first out of the plane just to give me one chance for an accurate landing. „You only got one chance and you did it“, thanks Greg!
While the other teams are doing their second round I hang around and enjoy the vibe at the dropzone. It is amazing how many people came to watch this competition.
Lexi, David’s daughter (4), keeps me active. For her I am Anna banana.
Slowly but surely it is time for the next jump on the manifest. A 9-way speedstar. We built two teams. Team gravity and team anti-gravity. Yes that tells you everything about the fall rate of the two teams. And in your team, team anti gravity, 3 of us are wearing a weight belt.
My next challenge. I will have to form the base with Jeanine, the one who has the least jumps of all of the competitors. And I will have to hang outside the plane for a linked exit. I have never done that before. Not even on smaller machines. Now I have to do that on the Angel. Where a major prop wash is going to throw me off balance. But I will have to hold on, so that we can exit on the count.
I told Jeanine doesn’t matter if we are tumbling, just hold onto me, we will get stable. Because there is no way the big way is going to happen if the base separates.
One mile. Everybody is getting ready.
The pilot throttles back. David, the camera man is climbing out. Then me, slowly, and I am holding onto the plane with both hands. Jeanine is doing the count ready – set – go!
And I see her falling over me. They told me just to push her back. But it all happens to quick.
And there we are. Backflying through the sky. Bruns will be proud of us. But David said he will come to us, if we don’t get stable. That is not going to happen, we can do that. How do we get back? Side roll!
I push my right hand up and there we turn. Back to flat flying. Now we are ready for the docks, the base is stable.
The others are coming in slowly but surely. We don’t get to do the 9-way, but we almost close a 7-way. One of the group is flying underneath the base, that is why we have to brake off.
And Bones just never let go of his team partner. Bruns was trying hard to dock in between of him and me, but Bones just did not let go of my hand.
It was a lot of fun. I learned so much on these jumps. But just having all the fun jumpers around was awesome. Such a positive vibe.
And then the price giving. Everybody won something. Craig again did a great job on presenting everyone’s skills and achievements. And somehow I did get to the podium in the end a couple of times.
I won the accuracy competition. I won a jumpsuit for being the best junior in the competition and in the end Bones and I made the 3rd place in the 2-way competition. Congrats to Dawie and Dries on the second place and Mias and Jean for being the GRA Champions 2017.
Thank you for everyone who made this event happen, including all our sponsors!
P. S.: For ones I did not spent a full day behind the camera. I did not take any of these pictures. Thanks to the photographers Nico & Johann!