Monday 12 January 2009

Skydiving in Eloy, Arizona

After a great snowboarding trip I only worked a few days and went off on a trip again on the 18th of Dec.

I had a direct flight to Phoenix, AZ and after waiting for quite some time for my taxi to the dropzone in Eloy, I finally arrived there at around 21:00h.
The only thing left open was the Bent Prop, the DZ's bar, and when I walked in, Binxy, a friend from Weston, was the first one to great me. We had a pint and another and then a few more and before I knew it I was climbing the outside wall of the pub?! It was a great way to start the holiday.

The jetleg was stronger than the hangover and I woke up around 8ish the next morning. I checked in with manifest and there was my shiny new rig!
After sorting out everything the jumping began. I did a solo jump to get used to my new canopy, a Saber2 170 in a Vector 3 and a few 2,3 and 4 ways. Then I decided to try to sit-fly. So I talked to Matt Hill, the load organizer of the day and my tunnel coach. He took his time to fully brief me as I have never tried to sit-fly before. I went to the shop, got me a free-fly suit and then we went up. To my surprise I sat almost all the way down. I continued to do more sits to practice before my tunnel coaching started.
The next day, Doug, another friend from Weston, his Dad and Anna, Binxy's girlfreind arrived and we did a few jumps together.
For the next few days were all jumping and tunnel, drinking at the brent prop, sleeping in the bunkhouse, getting up early and repeat!

I started the tunnel on my 3rd day and had only booked an hou, which at first seemed plenty. I soon discovered that I wanted more and then more again, so I ended up with 3h of coached time in the tunnel. It was fantastic and a big thanks goes out to Matt for his patience with me and teaching me so much cool stuff. We started with some back-flying and learned to walk in the tunnel.
Then I went on to learn some transitions from front to back, back to front and back to sit on the net. Finally I was ready to try to fly my first sit.
From there on it practicing more transitions, taking docks, moving around in the tunnel in all directions... I usually had 15-30 min of tunnel time in a day, so there was enough time to get at least 5 jumps in as well. It was quite hard work but it was great fun.

On the 24th I flew over to California to see my host family from when I was an exchange student way back in 1994. I hadn't seen them for about 4 years now and it was great to catch up with everyone. Unfortunately I only stayed a couple days and went back to Eloy on the 26th for more jumping and tunnel.

Now the Christmas Boogie had started, jump tickets were cheaper and the evenings were filled with activities, like a big bond fire night, a talent show with people singing, playing guitar, belly dancing, ... I even learned how to breathe fire and by the end of the night we were all dancing like crazy. This is the reason why we got an insurance for extreme sports, its not the jumping that is dangerous!

The days, again, were filled with lots of jumping, I mostly did sit flying, because I really wanted to get good at it. But I did a few flat jumps with the other guys from Weston. Besides jumping out of the usual planes, the Skyvan and the Otter. I also had a chance to jump out of a Porter, a DC-3

and an old Beech!

One afternoon we booked ourself a balloon jump.

I had never flown in a balloon before and the feeling of floating above the ground silently is fantastic.

We were at about 5000 feet and you watch the others fall straight down and you think: "Dude! Time to pull! Uhm, pull? Ok, honestly, I think its time to pull!" And then I stept onto the side of the basket with my back to the outside and just let myself fall backwards. After a few backloops I checked my altitude and saw that I still had quite a bit of time left, more than I expectde, so I did some few turns, watched the balloon and eventually pulled...

... and landed somewhere in the desert where some of the other were already waiting. What a jump!!!

Soon the boogie was over and it was time to go back home.

My goal for the year was to reach 100 jumps, I am now 3 short of 200,
my sit flight is not bad and I am sure it won't be long before I get back to Eloy. Besides being broke, I am not sure what the plan for this year is gonna be, hopefully take part in the nationals with a free-fly team, learn to fly head down and maybe get up to 400 jumps !?
Lets just see. One thing is for sure, I am a tiny bit addicted!

Monday 15 December 2008

Snowboarding with Urte in Stubaital

My sister, Urte, and I decided to go snowboarding in Austria for my birthday.
So, I flew over to Hamburg on the 5th where, to my surprise, my parents picked me up at the airport. We spent a great evening at my sisters, having a little pre-christmas celebration before Urte and I took off for a long drive to the Austrian Alps.

My sister drove for the first half and I did the last part.
We arrived in [ Stubaitahl] around 9-10ish, found ourselves a little apartment in Gasteig and went snowboarding.

We had fantastic weather for the first few days and there were hardly any people on the slopes. Then it started snowing quite a bit and the winds picked up too.

On my birthday it was so windy that they closed the lifts and we decided to go sled riding instead. But only after a wonderful cake breakfast my sister had prepared.

I got a great Japanese Shun vegetable knife, which is made from a very impressive folded steel. My mom made me a beautiful coffee cup which my dad made a sugar holder for, so I can enjoy some Feuerzangenbowle (by myself!). There were yummy sweets, the obligatory boxer shorts and not to forget a Spanish girlfriend! She was quite puzzling and completely head and legless.

So, after the breakfast we drove into the mountains, parked at a tiny little parking spot by the side of the rode and walked up the mountain for about an hour and arrived at a beautiful little hut called Brandstattalm. There we rented a couple sleds and went down an about 4km long ride. It was great fun so we decided we go up again. We stopped for a little picnic and my sister pulled out a couple nifty glasses and some sparkling wine.

Once we got to the Hut we decided to stop for a drink and some Kaiserschmarrn.
It was homemade and delicious. Then we went down again, this time racing each other. Once at the bottom we went up parts of the last bit again a couple times and of course racing each other turned into a little pile up with both of us getting a bit bruised :)

For the rest of our time there it was snowing and snowing and snowing.
We always had fresh soft snow under our boards and even though the visibility was not that great it was a lot of fun.
On the way back to Hamburg, we stopped in Frankfurt to see my good friend Alexandra Winkler. Unfortunately we had way to little time to properly catch up.

Urte and I had to get up quite early on Monday so that I could catch my flight back to London. Ontop of that the BA staff was giving me a very hard time about checking in my snowboard. It ended with me having to put all my clothes that I stuffed into the snowboard bag into a separate box and check it in along with my gear, no extra cost but an extra box to check in ?!?! At first they did not even want to let me check in my board at all. Someone explain that logic!

Saturday 1 November 2008

FS Coaching at Bodyflight, Bedford

Jonathan Ashe organised some FS coaching.
So, on the 25th of October, after a few jumps, we started with dirtdiving some formations which we would later try to repeat in the tunnel.
Then we drove to Bodyflight, a wind tunnel in Bedford. After signing up and some more dirtdivng the fun began.

We started with a couple 1-on-1 sessions, practicing the basics and chacing each other in the tunnel. Then we went on to some 2-on-2 sessions, mainly practicing turns and docks and forward/backward and side sliding. We then went on to do some 4-way formations, 2 students and 2 coaches. We finished the evening with doing some 4-way formations with just students and the coach just watching.

It was a fantastic experience and a big thanks goes out to everyone involved in organizing it.

Friday 10 October 2008

A whole lotta skydiving

I've been pretty much jumping every available weekend, weather permitting.
It's been fantastic and I have learned a lot.
Most of my jumps were 2-ways with Debbie Sanderson. We had a good mix of
plain flat flying, improving our skills, and a bit of mucking about.
We did start jumping with others, too, and did some 3-ways and 4-ways.
And I even did a 11-way tracking dive at the end of one evening with the sun setting at the horizon.

The following video has a few jumps: First is Andy Moss and I. We ended up doing our spin a bit early, but it was good fun! I am the one in black with black gloves and blue container with pink writing on it. The next one was a 4-Way wit Debbie, Tracy and Andy. Our exit was a total disaster and I think very well captured ;). Jump 93 was a 3-Way with Debbie and Andy. We did a bet with Richard Head of the Phobia team that we could do the formation and it all went pretty much as planned and we won a beer !!!
Being confident we went on to do another 3-Way. We were all supposed to be linked together in a compressed accordion (the 2 outside ones are facing torwards the feet of the inside one). Then one of the outside people will go up and over the other 2 with a 180 turn and then dock again, then the next person... As you can see, we did not even get to the compressed accordion.

Last weekend was the scrambles. It is a little competition where they make 4 pots with each one having the names of people from different ability levels.
Then teams are drawn with one skydiver from each pot.
The teams then get a set of 4 formations for each round they have to dive.
There are no practice dives, only dirt diving on the ground using creepers in the hanger. The first 35 seconds, once the team is out of the door, count. The team has to get as many points by repeatedly building the formations in the order given.

Our team consisted of Martin ???, Richard Head and Gier ???.
We got 12 points and ranked pretty much top of the list with one other team!

Unfortunately the weather turned bad and the scrambles had to be called off.
Instead of jumping we ended up doing indoor competitions on the creepers, same rules same teams except now you had to push yourself around instead of flying.

In the evening was a party with Oktoberfest theme.
I missed a bit of it because I wanted to be there for Cate's 30th birthday dinner. So I went to London, had a lovely dinner with Cate and friends and then went back to Weston.

Unfortunately the next day was even worse than the Sat. It did not stop raining and it was very windy. So, the 2nd day of the scrambles was called off.

This coming weekend looks a bit more promising, so I am hoping to get a few more jumps in before the season ends.

Wednesday 24 September 2008

Barge Trip

Kate and I had planned to go on little 3-day barge trip for a while.
Unfortunately our breakup changed the plans a bit.
I did end up going with a few of my colleagues and friends.

We got to Lee Valley Boats Center early
Friday afternoon and checked out our boat, Emily. A 68ft long canal boat!!!
It would have fitted 10 people but we were only 6, Duncan, Roger, Jarkko, Tina, Kym and I. So, there was going to be plenty of space just in case we would not get along ;).

Before leaving though, we had to quickly buy some food and booze!
This was when the first rain poured down on us... nothing like a british summer weekend!

After a few driving lessons we took off north to the first lock and on to the next...
We had to do all the lock handling ourselves, which turned out to be quite some fun and by the end we had a good "team setup".

The weather started clearing up and it started getting darker.
We made it all the way to Ware, where we decided to have dinner at a little pub.
The food was great and the weather got worse, it started pouring down like crazy.
Back on the boat we ended up drinking more wine and beer and played some card games til late that night.

The next morning started out with a bit of sun and we made our way up to Hertford. We planned to visit a castle there, but it turned out to be a bit different than we expected. It wasn't really anything to visit.
But, we got some more shopping done (because we drank all the booze already)
and made our way back down the river.
That night we cooked ourselves and just ate, drank and talked till late.

On Sunday we went up further north towards Harlow.
We had plenty of sunshine and the river was much narrower and also prettier.
Plenty of locks and nice scenery.

It was a very peaceful ride on the boat, with no more than 5mph. But it sometimes can be too peaceful. So, we ended up doing silly things like
cartwheels on the roof,

or climbing up and down bridges while the boat passes underneath it ;)

We got back to Broxbourne oround 17:00h on Sunday.
It was a very relaxing weekend and everyone seemed to have enjoyed it.

Wednesday 3 September 2008

Two Eventful Months

I did more wakeboarding, almost twice a week since I got it.
Unfortunately the bindings broke due to a material fault, but I got
them replaced for some better ones.
I am learning a few tricks like jumping kickers with 180 turns,
doing spins, ... but it is all going quite slowly.
It is a lot of fun though and a good balance for my rather inactive job.

End of July Kate and I went to Edinburgh for a long weekend to see a Tom Waits concert.
It was fantastic and one of the few live concerts I truly enjoyed.

The rest of the weekends, weather permitting it, I went skydiving.
I have joined the Skydive Weston club, a much
bigger drop zone than London Parachute School.
In the last 2 months I did more jumps there than the entire year before.

The dropzone is open from Fr. afternoon until Sun. night. Going back to
London on Sat. and return early Sun. morning seems pretty silly, so I bought a tent,
a mattress and a sleeping bag. It is not as comfortable as a VW mini bus,
which I really really want, but oh so much cheaper. Which means more money
left to spend on jump tickets.

Besides doing quite a number of solo jumps, I started jumping 2-ways,
which are much more fun and I learned loads about flying in formation.

Two weeks ago I passed all my tests for the B-license with my 50th jump :).
And last weekend I passed my Formation Skydiving 1 test, which means
I am now allowed to jump with others, or better: I am considered safe to jump with :).

As you can see in the video below I still have lots to learn.
Honestly, I did the same jump before this one and it all went much smoother!
I just blame it on exam phobia! ;)

I now have 64 jumps with a total of over 50min freefall. With having my B license and FS1
I need to set myself some new goals for this year.
So, I am aiming to get up to at least 100 jumps and have my own parachute rig before the end of the year.

Unfortunately the last 2 months were not just all fun.
Cate and I broke up :(
It's been a great 3 years with her and she was the sweetest and most loving girlfriend I have ever been with.
But it just did not work out, we somehow just don't match.

Monday 14 July 2008

Picking up a new Hobby

I went to my sister's 30th birthday a couple weeks ago.
Besides having a great party we decided to go wakeboarding.
It was to be my 3rd time. Marvin, Urte's boyfriend lent me his kiteboard
and off we went.

I did have some starting difficulties ...

... but soon made it around the lake without much difficulty.

I can also jump in from the side.

And even did a run together with Urte.

My posture on the board clearly needs some work :)

Since that weekend I have been to the Princes Club in London.
And after trying it out on the weekend I decided to get a membership and my own kit.
If I go after work I could be on the water within 45min, and getting home takes about 1:15h,
so I am planning to go twice a week and if the weather is not good for skydiving then on the weekend too.

It is great fun and I am slowly getting better at it.
I can now do tiny heel-side front-side 180s (e.g. left forward turn 180 counter clockwise to face right forward) either with as a tiny jump or just sliding on the water.
I am working on my heel-side back-side turns (e.g left forward turn 180 clockwise to face right forward) but only managed to do it twice :(