The 2018 skydiving season is fast approaching, we’re all fantasising about those long summer days and wearing one layer under our jumpsuits.

Do you have any plans for your 2018 jumping? Have you thought about a 4-way team? No?

Maybe you’re unsure what's next because you only got your FS1 recently, or you did rookie last season but your team has canned it. When we chat to newer skydivers about 4-way, we tend to hear the same reasons for not getting involved, so, before you decide, discover a bit about it from our experienced jumpers.

I’m not experienced enough
All you need is FS1. You don’t need to be any good to start training and competing with a team, that’s why there’s four categories of competition (rookie, A, AA, AAA). It’s about growing together. Regularly jumping with the same group of people, having a common goal, and focusing on a skillset really benefits your skydiving. Those who join teams notice a sudden acceleration in their skydiving progression.

Sam Widdowson’s Story - British FS 4-way AA Silver 2017, Langar FS coach
“I got my FS1 in 2016, and shortly after I was added to a Facebook Messenger thread by a Langar skydiver bringing together recent FS1s to form scratch teams for the upcoming competition UKSL Langar. We built a team that we named with an anagram of the members’ initials - Pajama Pumas, and entered the UKSL with no training. We were terrible, but it was great. We scored 1 point in the last round - to a huge cheer from all the participants. After that experience, we were sold. We did some training and completed the season - at the next UKSL we won a bronze medal!
After Nationals, we lost a couple members and picked up new ones, who we went with to the European Skydiving League comp in Germany - stepping up to compete in A. We took the Euro FS4 A gold, just three months after scoring a single point in rookie. We continued with that line-up into 2017 and took silver at British Nationals in AA. We’re now training AAA for the 2018 season and I’m an FS coach at Langar. My skydiving skills could never have advanced so quickly without my team. PUMAS!!”

But I want to be a badass freeflyer/wingsuiter/swooper
That’s awesome, you should totally go for that - but don’t discount FS too soon. FS is the foundation of your skydiving, a 4-way team is one of the most effective and efficient ways of improving your abilities and there are a lot of transferable skills.
FS1 is a basic safety qualification and you’ve barely scratched the surface of what you can learn about flying with others. A season of 4-way will improve your bodyflight skills, get you visiting new dropzones and meeting lots of new skydivers. It’s not just a great technical experience - it’s also a lot of fun. The 4-way Nationals closing party is legendary.

Sam Doughty’s Story - British VFS Bronze 2017, Freefly Load Organiser
“I started jumping in 2012, got my A licence in April 2013 and by September 2013 I had my FF1 (awarded at Langar Boogie 2). This summer I competed and medalled in the renownedly challenging freefly discipline of VFS. It’s easy to assume I’m a skydiver who started skydiving and put everything straight into FF.
But actually, in 2015, my team and I came second in AA at British Nationals. For me, getting better at skydiving never meant just pursuing FF at the expense of my FS skills. Instead, I found the two complement each other, since it’s all about being able to fly your body.

By far the best way to get better FS skills is by being part of a 4-way team. Bigway is a lot of fun, but nothing can improve your skills like doing a 4-way team. This year in VFS I found all those FS skills came in super useful. The ability to visualise, pre-empt the next point, moving and working in a team are just as important in VFS as FS.”

I can’t afford it
‘Doing a season’ has a bit of a rep as a huge time and money commitment, this is true, if you want to win AAA Nationals and go to World Champs - but for everyone else, you can put in as much or little as you want.
Some teams choose to do minimal sky training and focus their efforts and budgets on the tunnel, where they can split the cost. Some teams use the UKSL comps as training. Some teams skip the UKSL events in favour of concentrated team weekends in prep for Nationals. Some teams spend most their budget in the bar.

Of course, there is an element of getting out what you put in - if you want to play to win, you will need to commit some time and money (but not as much as you might expect in the rookie-AA categories). Winning medals is not a prime reason to compete, improving your flying and bettering yourself is. You can have fun objectives like ‘score a point’, ‘ugliest team shirts’, or ‘last in the bar’. Agreement is key, what matters is you’re in a team with like-minded people.

Emily Aucutt - UKSL 2016 Silver, Langar FS coach & Trainee Instructor
“In 2017 I was fortunate enough to fly tail for Boobasaurus Rex, an all female (yes, including camera) single A team. We were on a budget, our schedules clashed and the weather didn't always play ball, meaning we couldn't train as hard as some of our competitors. We just did what we could, when we could and gave it our best shot.
We never came top and we didn't even medal at Nationals, but it was one of the best seasons I've ever had. We had fun, we learned tons and all of us got better at flying. Our constraints on training meant we couldn't take it too seriously, we were just flying as friends and overall we didn't do too bad. If you’re on a budget my advice is find some friends and have fun, don't take it too seriously!”

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Okay, you’ve convinced me - but I don’t have a team
There’s always skydivers of all levels on the lookout to join a team. Facebook groups are often a good place to find members, sometimes you’ll find people from other dropzones who don’t have a full team where they are.

OR, you can let us help...

Give 4-way a go - 10-11 March at Skydive Langar
Langar-based British skydiving team Chimera are hosting an FS 4-way weekend. This free-to-attend event is about building 4-way teams, like FS dating, you can sign-up and be matched with a team based on your experience and expectations.
The event will involve fun no-commitment jumps with your matched team, coached by Chimera. If you decide to continue as team into the season, there will be help with your planning and opportunity to organise further coaching.
Existing 4-way teams are welcome to attend for the free coaching, and teams looking for additional members are encouraged to sign-up too. If there is poor weather, Chimera have a programme of helpful talks and fun ground activities planned.

Find out more about this and lots of other events at facebook.

Learn more about successful team building - 27 January in Nottingham

Chimera’s Outside Centre Laura Hampton will be giving a seminar titled ‘From Concept to Comp - How to build a successful skydiving team’ for the BPA Expo 2018, held at the East Midland Conference Centre in Nottingham, at 15:00.

Words: Ali Woodhouse

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