Subject: Jumpers Play a Joke on Bill von Novak

Posted on rec.skydiving 12 August 1996 by Bill von Novak

something interesting happened to me wednesday at quincy.

it was . . . well, just read the story below. it made my day.

=================================================================== wednesday morning started slowly. the "novice" sign-up sheet stayed empty for about an hour as people slowly woke up and meandered over to tent 1. then a group of six arrived and all signed up on the novice list. i walked over and grabbed the sheet before anyone else could sign up - seven is kind of big for a novice load. the sheet looked like this:

Cecil                   52          12
Terry                   64          14
Suze                    55          15
Jim                     62          12
Bob                     68          19
Art                     51           8

this didn't look good. i wasn't having much luck with eight-ways even with the 200 jump crowd, and this looked like a disaster waiting to happen. i tried to split them up into two four-ways, but they would have none of that. they had never jumped out of an otter, and had been looking forward to doing a "big" formation for months. so i got them together and spent about 15 minutes on safety stuff and basic RW techniques. someone else came running up halfway through the briefing and wanted to add himself. i almost said no, but he said he had 400 jumps, and i figured he couldn't make it any worse.

i planned the simplest 8-way i could think of, a 4 way base with slot flakes. just for the hell of it i added two other points - outside people in to the center for a 4-way with two zippers, then a big O. we weren't going to even get the first point ("what's floating mean?" one of them asked at one point) but we'd give it a shot, at least. maybe after this dive i could talk them into doing some smaller stuff.

we walked out to the otter tent and got on the perris super otter. during the climb one of the group was talking about how long it took her to get off student status, and how she had finally figured out how to turn left. this was going to be fun, i thought.

exit time. we climbed out and i gave the count. the 4-way base popped off with no problems at all. hmmm, i thought. cool. i turned the 4-way back to line-of-flight and went on the lookout for the other four human missiles i figured would be strafing the formation. suze, the diver, flew into her slot, stopped, and picked up grips. wow. i looked at the other slots - everyone had docked. i looked twice to make sure, then keyed the next point. the flakes flew in to the center, and the former base built the zippers. i keyed the big O and it built in about five seconds. i checked my altimeter - 8000 feet. i thought i was ready for anything on this dive, but i realized that the one thing i was't ready for was a completion. i looked around amazed for a few seconds, then someone on the opposite side of the formation backed out, turned around and pointed behind him. two other people catted on him. this was too wierd to miss out on, so i got on the cat as well. the front guy started to track it, and we spent 2000 feet playing before he cracked it and flung us off.

after i pulled i tried to figure it out. i've known maybe four people who were that good after only 60 jumps, but to get six of them on the same load? maybe they had all done nothing but skydive U since graduating. still . . .

it finally hit me at the debrief. as we circled up, suze had a silly grin on her face.

"OK, suze. how many jumps do you really have?" i asked

"oh, fifty five, like the sheet says." i just looked at her for a second. "ok, 2200." everyone else in the group started cracking up. the average experience level was about 1200 jumps. they were all from hinckley, and had thought this particular scam up on the way to quincy.

"you should have seen the look on your face when you read the signup sheet! and you got this really funny expression when we started building the cat." one of the guys apologized for putting me on, but i thought it was a particularly good hack. they really got me.

--bill von novak X83801


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