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Getting Started with Freestyle Skydiving


"Taking the Freestyle Plunge"

The Standup
The Tee
The Back Loop
The Freestyle Jumpsuit
with Video
Next Steps


Got the urge for something new? Feeling daring? Freestyle caught your imagination?

Maybe your friends are now boasting about how long they can hold a standup or how many back loops they can do. Maybe you're looking to add more variety to your skydives. Maybe you've seen some advanced freestyle and it looks like exactly where you want to head with your skydiving.

Or perhaps you realize freestyle is a great starting point for freeflying, sit-flying, and other three-dimensional skydiving activities. Whatever your reasons, something has sparked your motivation to try freestyle, and now you want to know how to get started.

Whatever direction you might ultimately go with it, here are some freestyle basics that will help you with lots of alternative flying styles, as well as getting you started with freestyle. So give these a try.


Freestyle Warm-ups

The first step is to retrain your belly-down instincts to allow you full range of movement of your arms and legs, and to become comfortable in positions other than belly-to-earth.

So, exit the plane on your back and hold it until you reach terminal velocity. Then, stretch out your arms and legs, and move them around. Try the backstroke, the side stroke, your own stroke. Try half-rolls and half-loops stopping on your back and then on your front. Loosen up and stretch out those arms and legs -- you're not flailing, you're doing freestyle! (Feel silly? Don't worry, no one is watching!)

Once you can let yourself fly in different orientations and move your limbs around freely in the air, you're ready for some of the basic freestyle moves.


Freestyle Moves -- The Standup

The Standup is a fundamental position for a lot of freestyle moves, as well as freeflying and sit-flying. Flying with your torso vertical requires keeping everything tight and in line, and using your arms and upper body for balance.

Starting from belly-to-earth, give a light push in front of you with your arms while you tuck your legs a bit to get them under you. In one move, bring your knees forward and push your feet down into the wind, as if to "stomp" down on the wind. As your legs reach the vertical point, straighten your entire body and stretch your arms out wide to the side. Use your arms as if you were hanging from them (you really are!), and keep your chest upright so you're not leaning onto the wind. Focus your eyes on the horizon in front of you to help keep everything lined up. If you get that feeling like you're falling straight down into a tube, you're doing it right!

You can try variations with your legs in different positions.


Freestyle Moves -- The Tee

The Tee is a great way to learn balance and body awareness. If you have the flexibility to lift one leg to a 90° angle in front of you, you can learn the Tee.
From belly-to-earth, bring one knee down until it is directly under your hip, in the "stag" position, leaving your foot beside your other knee. Stay there until you are comfortably balanced. If you are turning, examine the angle of your hips to the wind. Your hips and torso need to be completely flat to avoid turning. Also concentrate on keeping your chest pushed down to avoid backsliding.
Once you're comfortable in the stag, straighten the bent leg directly downward, keeping it tight to resist the pressure from the wind. If there's any sideways or forwards/backwards pressure on it, then it's not straight down. If you're flipping over sideways, then you're moving your leg outward and straightening it before it's pointed straight down. If it makes you spin, then your leg is out to the side or angled across underneath you. Remember that your hips have to remain flat. If nothing at all happens and you're holding it steady and on heading, then you're doing it right!


Freestyle Moves -- The Back Loop

Layout back loops are the starting point for many types of loop moves in freestyle. They'll teach you timing and heading control, and how to start and stop looping moves.
Starting from belly-to-earth (or a Tee, if you've mastered that), bring both legs forwards and downwards as if to go into a Standup, and straighten them together so they point downwards just forwards of vertical. Simultaneously, stretch out your arms to grab air and lift your torso. As you straighten your legs, also straighten your body at the waist and hold your arms out to the sides and slightly forwards.
Hold that position as the air catches your legs and starts to flip you over backwards. Keep your body straight as you rotate, and keep your arms out sideways. Hold the layout position through several rotations, and then stop in a belly-to-earth position or a Tee by moving your arms down towards your hips as you approach horizontal. You can stop in a Standup by letting your legs go around to the vertical point, and then reaching back with your arms to catch air and stop your momentum.
If you can't keep the loops going and you flatten out after just one rotation, make sure you're keeping your body straight as your legs rotate upwards. Also, move your arms upwards more, over your head, after your legs have gone over the top past vertical, and as your legs come downwards, keep pushing with your arms by bringing them downward in front of you.


The Freestyle Jumpsuit

Now that you've tried some freestyle moves, if you're jumping a regular RW jumpsuit, you're probably finding it's not optimal for freestyle. You might find that you can't quite get that standup to balance because you don't have quite enough control with your arms. Maybe the legs ride up or catch air under the cuff, or they create drag and flutter when you don't want them to. Or worse yet, the booties are making your legs act like they've got a mind of their own! You're ready to consider a more suitable jumpsuit
Freestyle jumpsuits typically have tight-fitting legs to reduce the drag on the legs, and loose-fitting sleeves to add drag to the arms so they can exert more control. Spandex tights and a sweatshirt can be used for starters. Basically, in freestyle, the legs show the poses and provide visual interest to most of the moves while the arms exert the control to execute the moves. Specially designed winglets on both sides of the sleeves can add to the control that you have with your arms. If you do a lot of head-down flying, you can add more fabric to the legs to help you balance and use your legs more for control. Several jumpsuit manufacturers now offer jumpsuits that give you a wide range of options for different kinds of flying. It's definitely worthwhile getting a jumpsuit designed for the kind of flying you want to do.


How to Work With Video

With some basics under your belt, it's time to get some video feedback to see how you're really doing.
A freestyle performance is a two-person event since good coordination with a camera flyer is crucial to creating a high quality finished product on video. Capturing a freestyle performance on video is your responsibility too. As a freestylist, you can do things to make the camera flyer's job much easier (or much harder!) and you can have a dramatic effect on the quality of the final video.
Start learning to make use of video by holding simple poses and watch your camera flyer while in the air. Observe what body position he/she uses to stay with you. If your camera flyer is in an aggressive forward-motion position but is not closing the distance towards you, then you're the one who's backsliding! After the jump, on the video, watch for relative motion between the two of you while performing your moves. If the distance between you suddenly changed, or you suddenly moved toward one side of the screen, then YOU created that motion during your rapid changes in body position! The camera flyer can partially compensate, but you actually have the greatest effect on this kind of relative motion.

Complete coordination between you and the camera flyer is evident when it looks like you are remaining stationary and performing the moves about the center point of the frame. Once you can achieve this deliberately, then it's much easier to attempt alternative camera angles and interactive moves with the camera flyer for special effects


Next Steps

Now you're ready to venture off in your own freestyle direction! You can either work to invent your own moves, or you can learn more freestyle moves which are explained in the book "The Aerial Freestyle Guidebook," and the other products about freestyle described in this web site. The possibilities are up to your imagination!


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© 1999 Dale Stuart