Diamond Quest Camp Journal

Lake Wales, FL Feb. 26th

Pat  by Pat Lindner

30+ CRWdogs met at the Lake Wales World Skydiving Center 25-28 Feb for Diamond Quest's annual Winter gathering.  Several dogs from the Lightning Mafia came up from central Florida to join us.  Earlier in the week, an advance party of instructors arrived at Lake Wales to teach the beginner CRW seminar.  The handful of FNGs are examined and stamped as raw material of passable grade, and then spend a few days learning and practicing the basics. They march to the tune Rich plays and love him for it.

Friday morning brings blue skies and calm winds.  Jump platform is a Casa.  We make 4 jumps on Friday, 4 on Saturday and 1 on Sunday before the stiff winds rain on our parade.

Most dives were 20+ attempts and though none of the dives fully completed, most of the dives did nearly complete and we were able to give the novices beaucoup opportunities to dock onto the irresistible, high profile target.   On Friday there was a 6-way whirly caused by a jumper creeping in front of the formation and immediately nailing his brakes.  On Saturday we saw two Mike Fedakwraps, both largely caused by sloppy technique.  Fortunately, both wraps resulted in clean cutaways.

On Saturday night, the Lake Wales Staff presented USPA awards, one award going to Mike Fedak for making his 2000th, and several sterling RW awards going to former DQ member Bruce Robertson (DQ 94).

Early Sunday morning our brothers from the Phantom Brigade demo team break starch and jump their static-lined rounds out of the Casa at 800 feet.  It's an incredible show of balls.  After the jump they strut about the hanger.   Even the short stocky ones look lean and mean.

Phantom Brigade

Shannon  by Shannon Speiss

When Bryan, Becky and I arrived at our hotel room at 3 a.m. on Feb. 26th I thought to myself "we're supposed to be at the DZ at what time!".   Bryan keeps reminding Becky and me that in order to be CReW dogs, we have to be at the DZ at daybreak geared up and ready to go.  Never have been in FL or never have seen the ocean (yes, I've lived a sheltered life) I wasn't really in the mood to sleep.  I was pumped-ready to get this vacation started. I was ready to build 25 way diamonds.  At this point I thought I could conquer the world.  Though as excited as I was, when my head hit the pillow I was out.  Before I knew it, it was 7a.m. and time to get the day started.  Being the morning person that I am I was NOT amused!  My thoughts of 25 way diamonds four hours prior were down to 24 way formations with myself on the ground still trying to wake up.

So off we go to the DZ.  Bryan as excited as can be and Becky pretty much in the same boat as me.  We pull into the drive and I started to get the butterflies in my stomach.  There became more and more of them as we unloaded our gear.  I recognized a few faces from Dallas.  I got to go to the DQ camp that was held in Dallas in Jan.  The nine way diamond (that I docked 9th on :)) was not only the largest formation I had ever been in, but it was also the largest formation I had ever seen build.  I was in awe over that - now in FL with almost 30 other people planning on doing 25 way diamonds.  Oh the butterflies were huge at this point.

As we gathered up in a circle and introduced ourselves I felt more at ease.  Reassuring myself that this was not a record attempt and that everyone else was there for the same reason as I was - to have fun.  Having a total of 118 jumps and only 35 of those being CReW, I was definitely the least experienced of the group.  But as laid back and friendly as everyone was, I felt no pressure.  Well, alright, maybe a little - but not much!

So, the first load was organized and I was to dock 14th.  I didn't care how laid back and friendly everyone was, those thoughts were long gone and I was scared!  Bryan (as my coach) reassured me that as long as I stayed in my echelon and followed my man I would be fine.  And as always, he was right.  The jump went well.  It didn't quite build but I got a great look at what an echelon is supposed to look like.  A starburst was called and we all landed back at the DZ(something else that was new to me).  After the first jump I felt good.  The anxiety was there but it was no greater than any other jump I had ever made.

The next jump we were to build a box.  I stayed in my echelon and watched the formation build.  Watching each canopy do as I was to do thinking "that doesn't look so hard!".  It was probably a good thing that my slot didn't build because I had myself convinced that this CReW stuff was a piece of cake.  One approach-one dock-no problem!  Oh, if I would of only known!

debrief The following jump we built up to 14.  Again, I stayed in my echelon and was a happy camper to actually see where I was supposed to be in line with everyone else.  Bryan had always talked about this echelon thing, but with only four people it is hard to get a real idea of what it really looks like.   I had seen the drawings.  I knew where it was supposed to be, but to actually be in it with five or six other people either in front of or behind you was such an amazing thing.  All the things Bryan and Eric had pumped into my head were actually starting to make sense!

My 39th CReW jump would have to be my glory CReW jump to this day.  We were trying a 25 way diamond.  We had our 16 way and the 5th row wings (Bryan and Chris Gay) were right on time.  I was to dock 24th but I noticed that Chris's lock-up was a little out, so being the CReW puppy that I am I swooped his slot and locked up Chris.  Now I will admit it wasn't a very pretty dock but I was there.  I think we built 22 on that jump.  To be honest I really didn't care how many built after me because I locked up the fifth row wing, who just happened to be Chris Gay!

After that jump I was ecstatic.  After I came down from my high I realized that I could never use the excuse again that "my slot never opened".  Being under a 150, I expect that most of my CReW life will be towards the bottom of the formation.  And I learned in FL that the bottom of the formation can be a free-for-all.  If someone is out and something is opened then swoop it!  So my high went away and it was back to reality, that I did exactly what I should of done and if it happened again then I would be expected there.  We wrapped up Friday by discussing the jumps we made and the ones we were to make on Saturday.  By the time we finished dinner, it was late and we had another big day ahead of us.

Saturday morning we had acquired a few more jumpers.  Our first jump was probably our best. We attempted a 25 way with four stingers.  We built 25.   Things pretty much went downhill from there.  The next jump a diamond was attempted again and again altitude ran out.  At around 2k Ken made a not so pretty dock on Joe and wrapped him.  Ken cut away and had a nice short reserve ride.  Everything was recovered and nobody was injured so all was good.

The next jump we were down a jumper because Ken had to repack his reserve.  Early in this jump Joe got spit off the formation and hit Bryan dead center. Joe went into a death spiral so he cut away.

Jim's canopy

After Joe had a good canopy overhead, I decided to follow the cut away.  Becky noticed what I was doing, and being a strong believer in the buddy system, she stuck with me.  The canopy drifted off into town.  Having only 125 jumps and being very aware of my landing abilities I opted to land in a cow pasture that was next door to a cemetery.  Becky and I decided that walking towards the cemetery would be a shorter, smarter, walk than if we had headed towards the DZ.  So we were off.  Then they started shooting at us!  Yes it is true-gun shots!   The thing was that we swooped a funeral and they didn't really appreciate it.  (It must of been a whuffo!) So we were target practice for the 21 gun salute.  Having survived the blank gun shots, we were on our toes and ready to get out of there.  We then came upon what looked to be a dried-up creek.  Still a little muddy, but no big deal.  Becky mentioned the thought of it being a bog but that went in one ear and out the other.  I volunteered to go first.  I thought if I had enough momentum behind me, that if in chance it was a bog, I wouldn't sink too much.  So with my running start I was off. My first step I knew I had made the wrong decision.  But with five more feet to go and all the great momentum behind me I couldn't turn back.  I managed to get across with the smelly, black, sludge only to my ankles.  Now I was home free.  I was a little dirty, but nothing a little soap and water couldn't take care of.   Becky on the other hand was still on the wrong side of this bog.  She decided to walk down it a ways to see if there was a better crossing point.  Three cows had the same thought as I did-that it was a shallow muddy creek bed and passing over it would be no problem- they weren't as lucky!  Being downwind of this bog and those three unlucky cows I was about to hurl.  Finally Becky found a place that she believed to be safe.  A tree was draped over the bog so she was going to try to hold on to this tree branch and scoot across the bog virtually weightless.  That worked great until her hand slipped off and she was up to her thigh in black sludge.  Being the friend that I am, I was trying very hard not to laugh.  I went for her canopy and sank to my knee. Somewhere she found a patch of grass that actually had roots and she pulled herself out.  We gathered up our gear and looked back past the bog towards the DZ thinking "ya know, that walk doesn't look so bad!".  After being shot at, the decaying cows, the snakes and alligators that I am sure were in the bog with us, we were lucky to be alive!  When we arrived back at the DZ we didn't have an extra canopy, but we had a great story!

Six of us went up after that and goofed around.  It was a lot of fun but I think anything I had ever learned I forgot on that jump.  We had time to get in one more.  A beautiful sunset load. We tried 28 and built 18.  My slot didn't come close to building but I had a great time!

Sunday morning we got in one jump.  I was to dock 23rd and was on approach when the starburst was called.  It was a good jump to end things.   The winds were above 20 and everyone decided to go home.  It was a great weekend for me.  I made ten jumps and left feeling a great satisfaction that CReW may not be for everyone but it could definitely be for me!  I didn't get a chance to thank everyone for all the advise and for giving me a chance.   Encouraging me not to give up, that it just takes time and practice.  So THANKS!

Until next time...Blue Skies

CCS 1199