Look, I still have all the times I looked like an absolute jackass on the DZ permanently imprinted on my brain, so believe me when I say, you don’t have to be the perfect skydiver right away. In fact, because a lot of what separates a new skydiver from a veteran is the realization of how much we don’t know, fucking up is a completely acceptable (and sometimes necessary) part of learning. However, that doesn’t mean we have to repeat the same old mistakes as everyone else. Some mistakes don’t require expensive coaching, thousands of jumps, or exceptional skill to avoid. They are just poor, egotistically or financially driven decisions that wind up making everyone hesitant to jump with you. So if your A-license ink is still fresh on your forehead and you’re having trouble making friends on the dropzone, stop and check first if you’re showing one of these eight surefire warning signs of a kook.
Maybe you’re a big shot executive, or a former high-school football star, or you can bicep-curl your bodyweight. But you jump alone a lot, because everybody just keeps trying to hold you back. If only people could understand how good you are, right? Wrong. Gravity doesn’t give a shit about your life outside of skydiving. It’s good to come at the sport with a certain level of self-confidence and excitement, but don’t forget that the people telling you to take it slow probably know things that you don’t. Skydiving has an eclectic gang of personalities, and you have to be willing to take knowledge where you can get it. That twenty-two-year-old, tent-camping hippie might actually know what they’re talking about! Or not—but that’s a whole different conversation. The point is, if you write off everyone’s advice because you think it only applies to the lowest common denominator, you’re going to find it hard to make friends. Lots of people have been good at skydiving before you. You’re not as special as you think you are.
2. Wearing your jumpsuit to the bar.
So you’ve had a long day of maxing out the send-o-meter, and it’s time for that icy reward. Nothing screams kook more than indulging in the evening’s festivities with your jumpsuit tied around your waist. Bonus points if it’s a student jumpsuit. Double bonus points if it’s checkered and baggy, and most definitely from the nineties. This one isn’t actually limited to the bar. Any prolonged public appearance in a jumpsuit (gas station, pool party, wedding) is a giant kook-colored beacon for all the world to see. Everyone already knows you’re a skydiver, because you’re going to tell them about it, and your Instagram account is lit. A jumpsuit is a tool, not a fashion statement. If it’s the end of the day, put it away.
3. Being a gear clone.
This one is a bit subjective, but I think most people out there can agree when they see someone being a trendy sendster. Acknowledging the caveat that there isn’t a super diverse pool of quality skydiving gear to choose from, blind loyalty to the popular brands in skydiving isn’t cool. Being informed is cool. Why are you wearing a Buff as a neck scarf? Why did you order a skin-tight suit to learn static head-down? Why do you ask for gear advice and then reject it when it’s not what you want to hear? By all means, get the cool-guy gear. Just make sure you know why you’re getting it, or else you’re wasting your money, and acting like a kook. #sponsored
4. Jumping unreasonably shitty gear.
“Your first rig should be a used rig,” doesn’t translate to “buy a complete piece of shit to save money for jump tickets.” This applies to all skydiving gear. With the paradigm shift of freefall skydiving moving toward higher speeds and vulnerable orientations, old, cheap gear should be terrifying. PVC deployment handles, Velcro riser covers, weak pin covers, and canopies that slam or spin you on 10% or more of your openings are all unacceptable decisions. Not problems, mind you, but decisions. If you’re too lazy to do research on proper gear, and cheap enough to bet your life on old technology, you’re definitely in this category.
5. Canopy selfies below 200 jumps.
Jumping with your phone has its advantages, particularly if you find yourself covered in cow-shit, miles from your intended landing area. You know what it’s not for? Taking pictures of yourself after you deploy. Just because it’s not a GoPro, doesn’t mean it’s free of all the same dangers as any other camera. Here’s a couple considerations: canopy traffic is more likely to kill you than anything else in skydiving; you haven’t completed a controllability check until you’ve un-stowed your brakes; your likelihood of an off landing increases with each second you fail to pay attention to the task at hand. I could keep going, but whatever. Just pad your tinder profile with something else.
6. Getting coached in a tinted visor.
It’s not Point Break; nobody can hear a word you’re saying in freefall. Visual communication is the most reliable form of communication in skydiving. Making that lifeline a one-way conversation is your choice, but I can promise you it’s less pleasant and productive for everyone involved if learning is the objective. Good instructors need to read their students’ facial expressions to gauge comprehension, exhaustion, frustration, or excitement. Not to mention, if you’re flying in the tunnel (where there is no sunlight to hurt your delicate eyes), then there is no reason to wear a tinted visor. Other than to hide your embarrassing facial expressions. Embrace the embarrassment. It’s fun, and you’ll learn more.
7. Coaching/hitting on/pursuing every cute girl with fewer jumps than you.
Actually, make that every cute girl, regardless of their experience level. We all know skydiving is lacking in female participation. This is tragic, because girls can do so much to boost morale and cut through egos on the dropzone. Plus, who doesn’t love a badass lady? But did you ever consider that maybe we’re scaring them all off? For all the crap girls get take about not having to pack for themselves, consider that offset by the added labor of trying to sift through a constant stream of bad advice for the few good gems that might actually keep them alive. Are you annoyed that girls get invited on jumps that they weren’t ready for? So are they. Skydiving romance seems to be an inevitable part of the sport (and can actually be awesome), but that doesn’t mean that you need to pounce all over it every chance you get. Show women in the sport the same respect you’d show the biggest, sweatiest, most flatulent guy on the airport. Patronization never got anyone laid. And ladies, this paragraph isn’t an excuse for anything on this list either. Always strive to be as informed as possible, because equality means you’re as responsible for your actions as anyone else.
8. Trying too hard not to be a kook.
Notice how almost everything on this list can be averted by being humble and informed? Not being a kook doesn’t mean you have to do everything somebody else’s way. This sport is beautiful in that you can be as weird as you want to be and still have a place in the family. So go ahead, be the red-headed step-child (looking at you, Tom Baker). Some of the most enjoyed aspects of skydiving wouldn’t even be recognized if it hadn’t been for a few weirdos pursuing whatever put a smile on their face. Just make sure to draw the line at things that could endanger other jumpers, or yourself. Everything will work out fine if you remember to always follow the number one rule: don’t be a mean, selfish cunt.
Author’s note: This article is purely for entertainment. It is not the author’s intent to offend any specific individual or group. Skydiving is inherently dangerous, and no content in this article should be considered advice. Always consult a knowledgeable coach or instructor for information regarding safety or training within skydiving.
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