The Journey of an A Licence Jumper

It’s good to remember the journey we made in becoming skydivers, so what better way to remind ourselves than to hear the experiences of a recent A Licence skydiver? Andy Guest spoke to Isabel Espinosa

My uncle is a skydiver and, as I have always looked up to him, I wanted to jump as well. I was at Bristol University when I saw on the internet that the university had a skydiving club. It was quite useful to join them because it makes skydiving more affordable, so I chose to do the Accelerated Free Fall course.

Before leaving Bristol for the skydiving ground school, I texted my uncle that I was going to skydive and he replied: “I know you won’t be afraid.” That gave
me a lot of confidence which made it easier when the time came to jump.

The AFF course and having to learn new levels was so much fun and it was very rewarding when you passed a level. I think my confidence grew most on my sixth jump; I found the back somersault less challenging than I expected. The fact that I was no longer flying belly to earth the entire skydive proved to be more fun than any previous jumps, making me feel more comfortable in the sky. I had watched and admired the tunnel rats before I started skydiving and now I knew I wanted to get into freeflying as soon as I can. I also admired my uncle because he has done a lot of HALO jumps. It’s something I would love to do in the future so I can experience what he did – it’s on my wish list.

The other skydivers are really friendly and supportive. They always ask me about my progression and wave goodbye as I exit the plane. I found it very easy to approach other skydivers with questions. It never really feels silly to ask and we are always encouraged to ask.

I am considering attending a canopy handling course because it will make me more competent under canopy. Once I have consistently good landings and  accuracy under the same canopy in different weather conditions, I will consult an Instructor who is familiar with my canopy control as well as the Chief  Instructor about downsizing. Most skydivers have advised me to wait a little bit before buying my own kit because, as I progress, the equipment is going to be constantly changing. I do feel it’s useful to buy the basic items: helmet, goggles, altimeter, jumpsuit and audio alarm.

The most fun I have had recently was on my 31st jump doing an FS coaching jump with Pete Guest, even though it was belly to earth! I have had really good experiences with the BPA progression system so far because I find that it encourages skydivers to progress, yet at a safe rate.

It is my long-term goal to compete in freeflying competitions, although I have to be honest and admit that I don’t quite know how to go about it yet and it’s probably too early to think about that for the moment. I want to get FF coaching and work towards my FF1 as soon as possible, then from there I hope to progress my skills further. However, before that, I have to balance a few things first like getting my FS1 and doing more jumps to get my B Licence. I have already blitzed all the B Licence stuff because I saw no point wasting time; it’s now just jump numbers that are keeping that B Licence out of my hand.

It is definitely worth staying at the DZ on bad weather days because it has enabled me to finish all the B Licence briefs. Also, and as we all know, the weather can be unpredictable and I have been able to jump when it improves unexpectedly thanks to still being on the DZ. There are a lot of things to learn about on the ground e.g. the kit and other skydiving-related things which are often neglected if there is jumping going on. Besides, you only have a chance to jump if you are at the DZ.

I’ve been told by several people that BPA Skydive the Expo and the AGM are supposed to be very educational, so I’d like to attend next time.

On the skydiving side, it’s only natural that there’s always the thought about having to deal with a malfunction. To be honest, it wasn’t much of an excitement  when it did happen to me. It went as we had practised it in AFF so it didn’t put me off in any way. If anything, it encouraged my confidence.

To help make skydiving more affordable – I am a university student, after all – I took my packing test and I now pack to be able to purchase more jump tickets. I am very ambitious, which I suppose is a good thing because it means I am driven to achieve my objectives, but at the same time it can be quite stressful because I put myself under a lot of pressure. Then again, I like a challenge. In time, I would like to become an AFF Instructor because I think it’s a fast and fun way of getting more people into our sport.

People sometimes ask me what skydiving is like and ‘is it scary?’. It’s hard to give an accurate account, so I normally reply: ‘Just do it. It’s fun and not scary at all.’

Photos by Ben Curwen

August 2019 First published in the August 2019 issue of Skydive the Mag.

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