"The Long Haul"
By Brian Germain
There are many areas of this sport
in which we can invest ourselves, so many avenues
in which to excel. By focusing heavily on a single
discipline, we are able to achieve significant notoriety
in a fairly short period of time. By utilizing the
superior training techniques, personal coaching
and wind tunnel rehearsal, modern skydivers are
able to reach significant prowess in just a few
months of participation in the sport. Although the
speedy gratification of our desires is tempting
and rewarding in the short term, there is a larger,
more important goal. We must survive.
I asked Lew Sandborn what he thought
was the biggest problem in the sport today. With
very little hesitation he stated that what concerns
him the most is “new jumpers trying to make
a name for themselves before their skills are ready
for them to have that name”. We want to get
it all in one shot, and instantly achieve all of
our goals. In a pursuit as complex as skydiving,
it is impossible to get all the necessary information
in a short period of time. We have to keep learning,
and hope that our knowledge bucket fills up before
our luck bucket runs out.
It is difficult to see the big picture
of our lives from where we are at any given moment.
We forget that the medals we strive so hard to achieve
will not mean much when we are older. They will
just represent more stuff to box up when we retire
to Florida. In the end, the things that matter most
pertain to the choices that we wish we could take
back. Twisting an ankle today might seem like a
small issue, but in fifty years from now, it will
be something that effects whether or not we can
ever jump again.
Picture yourself forty or fifty years
from now. Are you still skydiving? Do you have pain
in your joints from a bad landing? The quality of
your life in the future is dependant on the choices
you make today. If that wise old geezer that you
will someday be could somehow communicate to you
in the present-day, it might sound something like:
“Stop trashing my body!”
We are insecure when we are young.
We are so uncertain of who we are that we feel a
need to prove ourselves at every opportunity. We
think that who we are is based on our most recent
performance. We go to great lengths to show the
world what we can do, and often pay a hefty price
for our impulsiveness. Short-sighted goals neglect
to take into account anything that does not achieve
that goal. If looking cool and wearing the right
gear is your highest priority, you may find yourself
joining the dead skydivers club before too long.
I hate sounding like an old fart.
People assume that being safety oriented means that
you have to be boring. Not true at all. We can have
fun; we just need to keep the throttle below 100%
thrust if we are to control where we are going.
The long-term survivors in this sport all seem to
have this perspective; whether or not they talk
about it. We sit around in trailers at boogies,
shaking our heads at the ridiculous behavior that
repeats itself over and over. We watch people eat
it in the same ways that they did last year, and
twenty years before that. It’s like the message
did not get out or something. The message is: “Pace
yourself, this is a long journey”.
On every jump there is a way for
your life to end. No matter how many jumps there
are in your logbook, the Reaper is watching for
the moment that you stop paying attention. He is
looking for the one thing for which you are not
prepared. This fact does not require your fear,
it requires your attention. If you are to be there
at the Skydivers Over Sixty Swoop Competition, you
must let go of your grip on trying to prove yourself,
and stay focused on the stuff that really matters.
The real identity of a skydiver is not in how many
medals they win or how stylishly they swoop. It
is in how long they jump and how safely. There simply
are no Skygods under the age of sixty. If you want
to prove yourself, stay alive.
Brian Germain is the author of
The Parachute and its Pilot, a canopy flight educational
text as well as Vertical Journey, an illustrated
freefly instructional book. Brian is also the President
of Big Air Sportz parachute manufacturing company,
and teaches canopy flight courses all over the world.
To learn more about Brian, or to order a book, go