Another mini milestone in my skydiving journey! My personal experience converting from USPA to APF, and some thoughts on life as a beginner skydiver at Sydney Skydivers.
I arrived at Sydney Skydivers at the end of October with a USPA “A” license, which is the first of four license levels under USPA. Like all Australian dropzones, Sydney Skydivers is governed by the APF, which has a slightly different licensing system with six levels (A to F).
For a visiting USPA (or other) license holder, the process is fairly straightforward- just pay AUD30 for a temporary (one-month) APF license. The DZ safety officer (DZSO) will look at your logbook etc. and assess your experience for the APF equivalent. In my case, I was given the APF “A” license as I only had 43 jumps when I arrived, which is 7 jumps short of the 50-jumps minimum for a B license under both USPA and APF.
Jump types and licensing requirements
My B-Rel and B license experience:
Under the APF you can only jump with others when you have finished your B-Rel course (usually completed just after APF “A” license), or assessed by the DZSO to be of equivalent standard under your respective licensing body, for example if you are a USPA “B” license holder and above, or a USPA “A” license holder with many jumps under your belt (including group jumps).
What is B-Rels? This is something unique to the APF- a series of 8 coached jumps over 6 stages, starting with 2-ways (stages 1-4 / 1 jump per stage) and progressing to 3-ways (stage 5 / 1 jump) and 4-ways (stage 6 / 3 jumps). This is to ensure that beginners have sufficient skills and awareness to jump with others, unlike under the USPA where there is no such restriction after you get your USPA “A” license.
Team B-no-donut (PC: JP)
As I had already done at least ten 2- and 3-way jumps before I arrived, the DZSO recommended me for an “accelerated” B-Rels, so I had only to do three B-Rel jumps before I was given the “OK” to jump with others. This was quite a relief as a B-Rel jump (AUD155 without gear rental) is more expensive than a normal jump (AUD42 single jump ticket without gear rental), and I was on a tight budget! I learned a lot from the B-Rel jumps though, especially on different types of exits and formations that I had not tried before, and also from the video debriefs after each jump.
I finished my B-Rels just in time to meet some fellow beginners so we ended up jumping together for a week or so until I hit Jump #50 and received my APF “B” license. Not many people want to keep jumping with beginners as we can only do basic flat flying, so I consider myself very lucky to have met such fun and motivated jump buddies !
Personal reflections on noob life at Sydney Skydivers:
Perhaps due to the B-Rels, there seems to be a stronger emphasis on jumping with others at Sydney Skydivers. I did not really find that this was the case at the DZ in Thailand where I got my USPA “A” license (see link below to read blog post on getting my “A”), as it was more difficult for sports jumpers to get group slots due to the limited capacity of the small plane there (max. 7 pax). At Sydney Skydivers there is plenty of room on each load for sports jumpers to go on group jumps, and almost no one does solo jumps unless there are practising for something specific.
4-way for JP’s #50- still no f*ckin’ donut!
Tips and coaching are always generously given by the more experienced jumpers and instructors- be it jump planning, packing, downsizing, or next steps in your skydiving journey. This is especially so if you are at the DZ over an extended period. I am truly amazed by the help I received in just two weeks or so- a new closing loop immediately appeared when mine was frayed, rubber bands freely given, my half-done pack job finished for me (by the head packer no less!) so that I could hurry to get on a load, and even my new canopy hooked up. Makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside and I really hope to be able to pay this back to other beginners in future.
I was initially apprehensive about visiting Sydney Skydivers as a solo traveler, but after just a week at the DZ I felt quite at home! I did not stay on-site at the DZ, but having a rental car allowed me to have flexibility in joining some of the after-hours activities such as BBQs and cliff jumping… Just hang around and you might be surprised at how friendly people can get.
Shooting the breeze at the packing shed after shut down
Sunset and Korean BBQ
Cliff jumping- what skydivers do on days off
Logistics for Sydney Skydivers (see my DZ review post for details and photos – link below):
– As mentioned in my basic FAQs post, being able to drive will make your skydiving life a lot easier. DZs are by nature very isolated, and you will eventually have to lug lots of gear around too. Also, having a rental car makes it easier to arrive/leave the DZ at your convenience, and to have more flexibility in food and accommodation options.
– To get to Sydney Skydivers from Singapore, you need to fly into Sydney, then drive yourself 70km south to Picton NSW (very straightforward as 98% of the journey is on the highway). There are many local and international car rental agencies at the airport. Parking at the DZ is free.
– There is on-site bunkhouse accommodation at AUD15pppn (note: no electricity after plane shuts down for the day). You can also camp/sleep in your car at the DZ for free. Nearest proper accommodation is in Picton town (10km drive from the DZ), where you will also find restaurants and other amenities.
– If you do not drive/have a car, you COULD stay in Sydney and take the bus every day from the city office with the tandem customers, but that is 2-3 hours spent on the bus every day.
I’m at Jump #76 as I write this and it looks like I will soon reach my original self-evaluation point of 100 jumps. With two containers and three canopies in my “inventory” it doesn’t look like I’ll be quitting anytime soon!
Date of activity: Nov 2016
Location: Picton, NSW, Australia (70km south of Sydney airport)
Operator: Sydney Skydivers
Rate: AUD30 for one month APF membership + AUD70/36 per jump ticket with/without rental if you buy a pack of ten (otherwise AUD100/42 for single jump tickets)
Booking (for sports jumpers): Just turn up
Accommodation I used: Airbnb in Willow Vale (about 30km from DZ)
See also my journey to “A”:
- Dropzone review: Sydney Skydivers, Picton NSW, Australia
- Learning how to skydive at Thai Sky Adventures, Pattaya
- Getting a solo skydiving license at Thai Sky Adventures, Pattaya