I’ve never really known what I wanted to do with my life. After I left school at 18 I traveled and worked around Australia for a year, it was an amazing experience, but I didn’t exactly ‘find myself’ as many others claim to have done.
My Dad bought me a tandem skydive as an 18th birthday present which I did in Australia. I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous before in my entire life, but as soon as we left the plane all that worry was gone, I was flying, and it was awesome.
At Freshers’ Fayre on my first day of university, all the sports clubs and societies were out in force recruiting new members. I knew I had to join the skydiving club and with a little help from the student loans company, I signed up for my AFF course.
I managed to complete my first 3 levels by December, which was chilly to say the least! During the first 3 months of 2013, even when the weather was good enough to jump, the grass runways at Netheravon were too waterlogged to use.
I stayed earth-bound until Easter, when I went on tour with the British Collegiate Parachute Association to Skydive Spain near Seville. I got my license on the last day of tour and even managed my first qualified jump with a friend from university. That trip really opened my eyes to the community spirit found in the skydiving world, and I made many life-long friends.
My progression over the next few years was quite slow, but last year I decided to really push myself and put everything I could into skydiving. At the start of my final year of University an advert came up on the Skydive Hibaldstow Facebook page for the Earn and Learn scheme, it seemed too good to be true: get paid to work in skydiving whilst also being trained up as a multi-rated instructor.
I’d first come up to Hib in July of that year for BCPA nationals and fell in love with the place, awesome facilities, great staff and plenty of altitude. I applied straight away and was asked to come up for a trial weekend at the start of the 2016 season.
Since I’ve started I’ve learned so much. Not just in the sky but so much about the running of a DZ. It’s really amazing to see the amount of time and effort that goes into running a skydiving operation, especially one as big as this. I can now start and fuel all the aircraft we operate, I help support the jump program in any way I can to keep it running smoothly throughout the day, I’m a canopy handling coach and working towards my FS coach rating.
I recently received my radio license so I can start working on DZ control and talk-down student skydivers. I’m going on my CSBI course at the end of October and I’ve done around 70 jumps here since I started here, a lot of which have been tandem follow-outs to get my skills up to camera pool level. The footage is definitely improving since my first accidental rodeo jump with Baldrick but it still has a way to go yet to meet the high standards that Hibaldstow require.
As with anything else in skydiving the beauty is that even while you’re learning something new or if the jump doesn’t go exactly to plan you still have an awesome time doing it.
I’ve never had a job before where I’ve worked a 14 hour shift and been happy to come in the next day, and then come in on my days off to jump, and spend most of my evenings here having a beer or 2 with the rest of the team. It is hard work, but also extremely rewarding and enjoyable.
In the past 18 months, I’ve done 233 jumps (320 in total), which I thought was a lot, but seeing how fast people progress here my goal is to have 1000 by the end of 2017, and possibly even my AFFI. I know it’ll take an awful lot of work and commitment to make it happen but I couldn’t be more up for putting the time in.
It’s been a while since I last checked in and a lot has been going on! Last time I was getting ready to go on my CSBI course in November. I was pretty nervous in the run up to it but when the first morning came I was actually fairly relaxed. I think the fact that it was held here helped me to chill out a bit but also meeting everyone on the course put me at ease, other candidates and examiners included. I really enjoyed the course and passed well, with a 6 month recommendation period.
The next 6 months were spent teaching and working with real students under the supervision of Rob (CI) and other senior instructors. I really enjoyed this time finally getting to use my skills and knowledge to help newcomers to the sport take their first steps into the world of skydiving and progress through the category system. Once I booked onto the CSI course at Skydive Strathallan in May it all became a bit more ‘real’. There was still a lot of prep to do and I spent the 2-3 weeks before the course in the classroom.
The weekend before the course came and it was glorious sunshine, I filled my car up with everything I would need, left a busy DZ and headed off for Strathallan. Once I arrived in Scotland I became a lot more relaxed, it was my first time there but everyone was very friendly and welcoming. We started with kit & docs on the Monday morning and it was good to see a lot of friends I had made back on my CSBI course again. As there were only 6 on the course we stayed in 1 syndicate. Low cloud and rain meant that after some breakfast, the course welcome and the written test (96.5%!), we cracked on with the teaching practices. I was up 5th out of the 6 of us so had a little while to wait. Watching the other candidates it was clear they had come well prepared, but I was quietly confident I would do well too. My first lesson went well and after that we finished for the day.
On Tuesday we smashed through all the rest of the lessons, my 2nd went even better than the first and I was feeling good. Around 5pm the cloud started to clear and the wind started to drop, Strath CI Kieran went up in the 206 to check the wind, he was happy so we got on with the dispatching. I have done a couple of SL jumps before but jumping at Strathallan was a new experience in many ways; first time jumping a 206, a right-hand door, with a chest-mounted alti and the views were spectacular.
I only had my brief to give on the Wednesday, so I enjoyed a few beers that night with the DZ locals. The brief went well and everything was completed by about 10am. As we packed up our kit and the examiners deliberated the mood was quite tense. They called us upstairs one by one, Amy passed, Liam passed, Paula passed…it was my turn, any confidence I might have had went out the window when I sat down in front of Ian, Matty and Jeff. They started very sternly but after a brief grilling they told me I was now a BPA Category System Instructor. I got my certificate and went back downstairs with a huge smile on my face. After the last few candidates went up it turned out we had all passed – massive congratulations to everyone on the course. I packed up and started the long drive back to Hibaldstow as a proper skydiving instructor. It was a warm welcome when I got back to the DZ and a ‘few’ beers were had to celebrate.
The next goal on my list was to get on the camera pool here at Hibaldstow. I’d followed out my first ever tandem about a year previously and had been slowly building up my skills ever since. I’d already sold a few follow outs and as the weather and tandem bookings improved I managed more and more practice until eventually I was deemed good enough to start doing full paid camera work. I really enjoy meeting all the new people, most of whom are first-time jumpers, and getting to share that experience with them, the little extra bonus on my paycheck at the end of the month isn’t so bad either. Although I am now on the camera pool I’m always working to improve my camera skills and get that perfect shot.
In the next few months my goal is to get to 800 jumps, I’m currently at around 560 so it’s definitely doable with the way we turn things around here. There is the potential for me to do my tandem instructor rating at the end of summer as well, it’ll take a lot of work to get there but I’m more than happy to put the time and effort in.
In the meantime we have the North Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage festival coming up as well as our 25th Birthday Boogie weekend at the end of July, followed by the run up to, and competion weekends of the UK nationals in 4-way, 8-way, Speed and Artistic Freeflying. It’s a big few months for Skydive Hibaldstow and there’s plenty of things in the pipeline to keep me busy as well.
It’s been a busy summer here at Hibaldstow with lots of big events and some awesome progression from staff and fun jumpers alike. The past few months have seen me smashing manifest like a boss on the 3 busiest weekends of the year, doing loads of camera jumps and I even had a weekend off to attend Sausagefest 2017 as a fun jumper.
Starting with our 25th Birthday Party Boogie Weekend Hibaldstow’s Rob Johns and I were put together in the manifest office and all things considered, I think we did pretty well. With almost every skydiving discipline you can imagine descending on the DZ for a big weekend it’s safe to say we had our work cut out for us but we powered through, made the most of the changeable weather and ensured everyone had an awesome weekend.
The next few weeks after saw the drop zone buzzing in the run-up to Nationals. We had lots of teams here training hard for the competition. And with the other members of the earn and learn scheme coming up through the ranks it allowed me some time to focus on my tandem camera work, having done around 100 camera jumps in the past couple of months. I’ve been really enjoying it and steadily getting better.
All this practice built up to me doing a day as the cameraman for AAA team Quasar when their normal cameraman was busy. It was a great experience and I can safely say I’m quite good at letting go of a plane and looking at stuff. The first weekend of Nationals arrived and after the Friday night opening ceremony, including possibly the greatest safety brief ever (Lesley Gale’s words not mine) courtesy of myself and Chris Gonnermann, the dirt diving began and the competitors were ready for a bright and early start Saturday.
The Dream Team arrived in the manifest office, with Shaun Zerebecki as my wingman I was unstoppable. Talking to guests and filling manifests, taking deets and printing sheets, having a ball(s) while making calls, whatever you want to call it we did it and did it well. Despite a mostly very windy Saturday sat on the ground we managed to fly well over 100 lifts and finish the competition in time for a big party Sunday night.
The days were long but it was pretty amazing to be right at the heart of the Hib machine and see the 4-way competitors doing what they came to do. I was also tasked with making day tapes and videos to show at the prizegiving ceremony which all went down well. For the second weekend of Nationals, 8-way, Speed and Artistic Freeflying came to Hibaldstow and brought some decent weather with them. The Dream Team were back in manifest and we were cooking on gas.
By the end of play Saturday everything was completed bar a couple of rounds in speed and senior 8-way. The weather gods blessed us again on Sunday and we finished the competition by around 11, in time for a midday prizegiving and a nice early finish for the competitors.
After the prizegiving we still had enough people wanting to squeeze in another jump or two that our very own load organiser and published author (Shunt is available now on Kindle or paperback from Amazon and by all accounts a great read) Stu Ferguson put together some awesome afternoon jumps for staff and fun jumpers to wind down the weekend, including a formation load which was a first for many of the jumpers involved. September has been a busy month already for me having done plenty of camera jumps including a lot of our own Liam Goddard’s AFF beat-up jumps with Rob and Noel, a little bit of dispatching and a weekend of fun jumping at Sausagefest 2017.
Despite some changeable weather we still managed 5 jumps and made some sweet shapes in the sky. As I write this we are currently hosting the BPA AFFI and TI course. Good luck to Brad on his TI rating, and big congratulations to Danny who has just converted his New Zealand rating (with me on the front of him), and to Liam who bossed his AFFI course. Looking forward I have booked onto my own TI course for next March at Langar. And there is also talk of a winter trip out to Skydive Spain for some of us to hide from the cold. The future is looking good so watch this space!