Contrary to what movies and television like to tell you about wild-eyed lunatics leaping recklessly out of aeroplanes, skydiving has a lot of rules. British Skydiving is not alone in the number of hoops you have to jump through and formalities you need to take care of to be allowed to get qualified, but when you combine this with the often challenging weather on this rainy little island – it makes fair conditions in the early season very important for dropzones to get their student training program off to the best possible start.
This is how it looks on a bright and calm Saturday morning at Hinton Skydiving Centre in the rolling green countryside of middle England. Hinton can be sometimes overlooked by experienced skydivers, in favour of slightly bigger and faster aircraft at locations approximately the same distance away from the big cities of London, Birmingham, and Bristol. Hinton has a strong student program though, and their PAC XL does the job just fine.
Britain is very much at the paperwork and permission end of the skydiving admin scale, and while this can often feel like the whole setup is designed to exclude willing participation through sheer ornery stubbornness, the systems in place can and do produce safe and competent skydivers who head out into the world acting responsibly. Without advocating one approach or another, which way around would you rather have things? To have a loose and uninhibited start to your skydiving career that you look back on from a position of experience and wonder how you survived, or a sometimes frustrating battle with tons of bureaucracy in the early stages that might ultimately contribute to your longevity in the sport and overall foundational skills? Positives in both can be argued, but from the perspective of an institution trying to grow in both numbers and successes, there is only a single choice.
The growing collaboration of the UK-based industry reps adds a lot to what we can offer on a dropzone. Big boogies are obviously a priority, but this needs to be balanced out with visits to other locations away from the big obvious roadshow ports of call. Our arrangement is not exclusive, it is more like a convenient lineup of top-shelf brands including both Cypres and Vertical, but also Larsen and Brusgaard, Performance Designs, Cookie Helmets, and United Parachute Technologies. Wherever we go we can offer a top to bottom service from the best brands in skydiving. A particular hit at this demo weekend was the arrival of the new G35 helmets from our friends at Cookie, with people clamouring to try them on before the van door was even fully open. The roadshow is the place where you can get the newest and best things first – all backed up with advice straight from the companies themselves.
Travel is now returning to something like what we knew towards the end of the last decade. This is the time of year that the calendar starts exploding with dates and possibilities, as skydivers of all experience levels get ready for the Summer ahead. The world is still problematic, and Europe is suffering in some new ways, but there is still excitement and optimism in the atmosphere at dropzones like Hinton for a return to the possibilities that skydiving represents to us all. Here we go 2022!