Congratulations, you got your "A" license! Whether it took you weeks or a couple years, getting that "A" stamp pushed into your forehead is oddly one of the most accomplished feelings. You feel fully embraced by the sport you have become obsessed with!
But the next day can be a bit of a shocker. The classroom that used to be your "protective shell" is no longer your space. You are moved out into the big hangar. The instructors you came to love and respect now moved on to other students and although you are now licensed, you also feel like you're left on your own.
It feels like getting kicked out of the nest before you really know how to fly, and in a sense, that is exactly what is happening. At that stage, you can jump solo and in small groups, but you probably don't feel like you have a really profound knowledge of the sport.
Here are our tips to help you continue the path to becoming a skydiving god you were born to be.
Never stop learning!
The student program is the basic information and skills needed to begin your true skydiving progression. Make a plan for yourself, set goals and keep evaluating your progression.
What kind of goals should you set? Start small.
It can be exciting to see freefly stunts, wingsuiters, and expert canopy maneuvers. These are great long-term goals, but don’t rush your progression! Many of the accidents in our sport happen because of a rush to get into “cooler” disciplines. Don’t get caught up in this. There is no discipline that is better than another. Don’t let anyone push you into something you don’t feel like your ready for or that you are not interested in. Everything about skydiving is cool. You got your skydiving license; you are already cool! Start with small goals.
Stick with belly work for a while.
Do as many 2-ways and 3-ways as you can with jumpers of various skill levels. Make a plan before you jump, execute that plan and debrief the jump afterward. Freefly is an exciting discipline, but belly can be a whole lot of fun and is an important base for all other freefall skills.
Focus on basic canopy skills.
After getting your license it can feel like you should be able to land beautifully and with perfect accuracy. The reality is much different. USPA’s SIM acknowledges that the A license canopy instruction is not enough to create safe and proficient canopy flyers. You are going to have a lot of embarrassing landings, and that’s okay. But make sure you are talking about them, learning what you can do better and deliberately working on safer canopy skills. Take a beginners canopy course! It will make you a more confident, safer, and better canopy pilot and is a required step to get your B license. A total win-win.
Be a part of the community!
Your skydiving career extends far beyond your time in the air. Most drop zones have a very special community. Hanging out after a long day of jumping is about more than experiencing the night time shenanigans, although they are a blast. It is about creating a network of jumpers to learn from, jump with and debrief new moments with.
Now that you're part of this new fun community, don't be afraid to ask more experienced jumpers all of your questions! Asking the same question to different skydivers is a great way to understand different styles and goals of skydiving. Collective knowledge is large part of how our sport progresses, and knowing how and where to get all the answers will make you a safer and better jumper.
Don’t take unnecessary risks!
As a student, you are instructed on what conditions you are allowed to jump in and which ones you are not. As a licensed jumper, in many situations the decision will be up to you. Don’t push yourself beyond your limits. There is a saying in skydiving: “It is better to be on the ground wishing you were in the sky, than in the sky wishing you were on the ground.” Know the wind speed and direction, areas of potential turbulence, cloud clearances, and other factors involved. If any of them are close to the edge of your comfort zone, stay on the ground. Watch the loads land and talk to people jumping about the conditions in the sky to help you make your decision.
And lastly, push yourself through the doubt.
Right after the A License stage is when many skydivers quit. Losing that guiding hand of your instructor and being all on your own is a bit of a stressful step. Make an effort to join the community; make new friends, jump with new people now that you can. Just keep jumping, keep current and push yourself through this brief phase of uncertainty. You will find that this sport has so much to offer beyond just the freefall sensation: new friends, new places to jump at, new styles and disciplines to discover, new personal challenges to take on. It will change your life more than you expect, like it did for all of us. So definitely don't give up now!
Welcome to the sport, and we will see you in the sky!