When to Advance to the Next Suit

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Katie Hansen Head Shot
Author, Katie Hansen

Editor’s Note: information shared is not designed to replace wingsuit coaching but to help with preparing for your first flight and coaching classes. Be sure to train with a wingsuit coach on all techniques. 

Wingsuits are like amplifiers. They add power to every movement that you make, whether controlled or not. This is one of the reasons that learning to fly without a wingsuit is required prior to taking a FFC. It stands to reason then, that mastering basic skills in a smaller wingsuit is logical prior to “upsizing” and adding more surface area and power which is more difficult to manage. Just because you can physically survive the skydive in a bigger suit, does not mean it’s time to be on that suit. Prematurely jumping a suit too big for your skill set ultimately slows your progression.

So when should you upsize? If your goal is to fly a wingsuit well, here are the things you should be able to do in your suit before upsizing.

Master These Skills before Upsizing

Clean, stable exits
  • Streamlined into the wind, chest low
Ability to fly with a neutral body configuration
    • Not arching, wings are not dihedral
    • Utilizing drag while flying in a dihedral configuration is a tool to use in some circumstances, but it is important to have the ability to fly with minimum drag/maximum speed as well

Dihedral and Anhedral Flight from Skydive Mag on Vimeo.

Fly a full range of speed and angle changes
  • Be able to maximize your current suit – shut it down and fly it fast. Adding more wing is not an acceptable crutch to go faster if you cannot fly your suit efficiently
  • Get comfortable flying at both high and low angles of attack while in a neutral body configuration
Approach a formation safely and efficiently, on level
  • Critical for the safety of yourself and others that you are flying with
Fly a slot in a formation and clean breakoffs
  • Flying quietly demonstrates control of small, smooth adjustments
  • Demonstrate knowledge of appropriate levels whether in a delta, a line, or stacking vertically
Show awareness of other flyers
  • Critical for the safety of yourself and others that you are flying with
  • You cannot expect people to adjust for you, be an active participant in the safety of the jump
Stable deployments
  • This only gets more complicated with bigger suits, master your deployments with a smaller suit first
  • An excellent video from Next Level instructing on WS deployments https://vimeo.com/239867145

Final Thoughts

If you want to learn something more specific such as transitions, carving, etc, just apply the same logic as previously discussed. Before you upsize wingsuits, demonstrate competence with skills on a smaller suit. Don’t just survive a  jump on a big suit. When you are actually ready to upsize, you’ll be crushing it instead.

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