Unconventional skydives: beach jumps!

Over Memorial Day weekend, i went with a group of friends to a skydiving party (‘boogie’) at the Emerald Coast Skydiving Center, which is near the Gulf Coast. The fun of this particular boogie is the ability to skydive over the Gulf and land on the beach, right in front of the Flora-Bama Bar (which is on the coastal border between Florida and Alabama). My friend Terry did some nice videos of our jumps, and I post one of them below the fold!

In this particular jump I’m not doing anything exciting: I’m part of the three-person ‘base’ which leaves the plane linked and forms the target for the other jumpers.  In particular, I’m the person who launches from inside the plane and has a black rig with lime-green stripes.  I chose this video because it gives the nicest beach view!

You’ll notice that most of the jumpers are missing the colorful jumpsuits that we normally wear (with the exception of Bill, in purple).  One of the joys of beach jumps is making a relaxing skydive in shorts and a t-shirt.  Considering how hot it is on the ground, and that there’s a 40-minute drive back to the DZ (drop-zone) from the beach, wearing less clothing is almost necessary.

There is a downside, however.  Skydivers wear jumpsuits because they provide a greater ability to control one’s movement – both horizontally and vertically.  Every skydiver falls a little differently in the air, due to weight, distribution of weight, body size and natural body position.  This means that skydivers in general fall with different terminal velocities.  For instance, generally heavy people fall faster.  (Bill, who is typically a very fast faller, is wearing a suit so that he can stay with us.)  This difference in fall rates can make formation flying difficult, but one easy way to compensate this is to wear jumpsuits with greater or lesser amounts of drag.  New, lighter skydivers typically wear tight-fitting suits, while experienced, denser jumpers (such as myself) wear a baggier suit.  Without jumpsuits, skydivers have to attempt to correct for significant fall rate differences by adjusting their body position, and this can be hard to get used to.

Horizontal flight is also reduced without a jumpsuit.  Most jumpsuits have ‘booties’ on the feet which allow one to get faster horizontal motion.  Also, the fabric of the jumpsuit allows the jumper to ‘grip’ the air with most of their body for greater control.  When in shorts and t-shirt, horizontal motion is much slower to start and to stop.

All these considerations result in a skydive of highly reduced expectations.  In the video above, we (almost) completed two formations during the duration of the jump, where we might normally have expected to easily complete four or more with jumpsuits.  Also, because we move slower horizontally, we have to end the skydive much earlier (6000 feet vs. the normal 4500 feet) to give people adequate time to get separation between themselves for parachute deployment.

In the end, it’s worth it to earn the cheers of the crowd of people who are hanging out at the bar already at 10 am!

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1 Response to Unconventional skydives: beach jumps!

  1. Pingback: Another short hiatus! | Skulls in the Stars

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