Real life often gets in the way of skydiving, and jumpers may find themselves away from the sport for 61 days, 30 years or something in between. One of the regular tasks of USPA Coaches and Instructors is to help these jumpers knock off the rust and get back in the air. Every jumper’s situation will be different, so it requires the instructional staff to create a training plan unique to each individual.
Skydiver’s Information Manual Section 5-2 includes USPA recommendations for refresher training based on the jumper’s license level and the time between jumps. Because there are practically infinite combinations of factors, the language is intentionally vague to allow for flexibility. When coming up with a currency plan for the jumper, instructional staff should consider variables such as the length of time since the last jump, the jumper’s experience level and previous jump experience, as well as the jumper’s age and overall physical condition. It’s always best to use a conservative approach in the interest of jumper safety.
It is not unusual for a jumper to get back into the sport after a 20-year layoff, since many people stop jumping to raise a family and decide to get back to it once the kids are grown. The usual issues with older jumpers and long layoffs involve a lack of flexibility in the back and shoulders and learning to fly and land modern parachute designs that handle very differently from older designs. With this in mind, the instructional staff should spend a lot of time having a returning jumper perform stretching exercises and practice deployments to make sure the jumper can actually reach the pilot chute while remaining in a stable body position. It is also extremely common for jumpers who have had long layoffs to flare too hard and too high during the first few landings back. It’s a good idea to have these jumpers watch landings of those flying similarly sized and loaded canopies. This can help a rusty jumper get an idea of the speed and height of the flare that will work best.
Getting current should be a fun and exciting event for both the school staff and the rusty jumper. Proper practice and preparation can help ensure everything goes well and everyone is smiling at the end of the day.
Jim Crouch | D-16979
former USPA Director of Safety and Training
USPA Coach and Tandem Instructor Examiner;
AFF, IAD and Static-Line Instructor; PRO