Swooping By Numbers
By Jeff Provenzano
We caught up with professional skydiver and Red Bull athlete Jeff Provenzano to ask him how he strives to stay safe and humble to ensure world-class performance on every one of his swoops. Check out this exclusive write-up from him on what advanced canopy pilots can do to progress their skills.
First things first: currency! Staying current and active is one of the most important ways to practice safe skydiving.
When you practice the same jump over and over—in the same landing zone—you become more aware of the details. This allows you to make adjustments and then improve from one jump to the next. When you are current, everything stays fresh in your body and in your mind. Of course, there are always variables. External conditions—like winds—can change. Internally, your mindset or focus can change too. But the rest is a constant.
But what about when you change the landing zone? What if you change it every time you jump? This is the case with many of my jumps. I travel the world and go from one place to another, sometimes never landing in the same place twice for weeks (or ever again!). This is amazing training, but how do you train for this if you don’t have the opportunities and access that I have? Maybe you are training for that one demo jump a year. What can you do, and what should you do to help prepare yourself?
While preparing for any swoop, I walk through every scenario in my head: The good ones and—more importantly—the bad ones. I think it’s important to visualize perfect performance, but to understand what I am dealing with and potentially up against, I need to imagine and prepare for the worst.
Know Your Numbers
Beyond the theory of visualization, there is a very simple systematic way I approach this; I call it "swooping by numbers.” I know my exact altitudes and my exact distances. I know how high, and how far back I need to set up to land exactly on my target and over thousands of jumps I have learned how to recreate the same exact turn every single time. I break down my turn into numbers, which allows me to overlay these numbers onto any landing zone anywhere in the world. The tools I use to help me are my Ares digital altimeter and my Optima Audible altimeter and I use Google maps to understand new landing zones. But it doesn’t end there.
Know Your Outs
I can't always plan for a perfect landing, and I need to be fully aware of my “outs.”
My outs begin with lesser degree of turns and usually making an early-on decision to bail on my plan and go for an alternate. Sometimes, this is a real-time decision I must make in the moment, and I need it to be accurate because my life depends on it. I also look for alternate directions.
Sometimes there are little to no “outs;" and when this is the case, I don’t recommend performing a swoop.
Another thing I do is practice changing my sight pictures. If I only ever swoop down the beer line in Arizona, then I will never know what it’s like to see something else below me.
On the flipside, swooping down that same beer line also gives me the reps I need to figure out all my numbers and distances. It’s where I perform and perfect my landings, but most importantly, it’s where I make all my mistakes. Learning from my mistakes is the most valuable for me. I rarely learn from the landings that go exactly how I want.
Understand Your Limits
It’s important to understand that just because you read about my process, this doesn’t mean you are ready to go jump into the Super Bowl! Now that you have an example and a high-level insight on what I do to prepare for my landings all over the world, you can start to build your own process as you put in the work to build and progress your canopy skills. Most importantly, seek canopy coaching and guidance from qualified canopy coaches and never forget: Currency is king!
The earth is my landing zone, and I am always on "Swoopfari."