Foundations of Flight | Fall-Rate Management for FS Part 1—Slow Fall
By Steve Lefkowitz of SDC Rhythm XP
In formation skydiving—as in all other group-flying disciplines—managing fall rate is one of the most important skills. Whether you’re debriefing a 2-way, a 200-way or a 4-way dive at a national championships, fall rate is always a concern. No matter how advanced you get, the ability to control your rate of descent is necessary if you want to fly with others. .
When learning the skill of slow falling, start from your neutral body position, begin to slow fall, stop your slow fall using the opposite inputs (fast fall—covered in “Foundations of Flight—Fall-Rate Management for Formation Skydiving Part 2” in the February issue of Parachutist but available at parachutistonline.com January 1) and then return to neutral. You can break the technique into three sections of the body: head and arms, core, and legs.
Head and Arms:
Extend your arms forward with elbows high and rotated outward. Your arms should stay about shoulder-width apart or a bit wider. Extend your hands forward and high, palms facing the ground. Everything from your shoulders to your fingertips should be on one plane parallel with the earth.
Allow your forehead to tilt down between your elbows. Facing down puts your head more into the wind. However, you want to see the others in your group, so tilt your forehead down while maintaining eye contact with them.
Flatten out your arch by sucking in your gut. Do not stick your butt up. Imagine you got punched in the gut, making you “suck wind.” That’s what it should feel like.
Extend your legs with your hips open and knees rotated outward. Legs should stay about shoulder-width apart or a bit wider. Your heels should push toward each other and your toes should point out with the insides of your feet and inner thighs facing the ground. Everything from your hips to your toes should be on one plane parallel with the earth. A common mistake is to bring the butt up too high and let the knees drop. Instead, keep your legs flat as you extend them. Opening up the hips helps with this.
Often, jumpers try to slow their fall rate by pushing into the wind to raise themselves up. Everywhere else on earth, pushing up off the ground or other objects works to rise up. However, in the sky, pushing into the wind just makes you fall faster. Instead, you want to keep arms (and especially elbows) high and think about letting the wind lift you.
Here are two analogies:
- Think of sticking your hand out the window of a moving car and letting the wind drive your hand back. You don’t push your hand into the wind, you relax and extend your fingers and allow the wind to drive your hand backward. When slow falling, make your whole body like your hand out the window: Relax and extend your arms and legs outward, letting the wind take you rather than trying to push against it.
- Think of resting with your belly downward on a thin sheet of ice. If you don’t want that ice to crack, you spread yourself flat, making sure no single point presses into the ice more than the rest. This is essentially what you want to do in the wind.
However you think about it, step one is elbows and hands high. Once you have that correct, work on the core and legs: Flatten the gut and extend the legs with hips open.