top of page

Training for Vertical Bigways - Why You Should be Angle Flying

Updated: Dec 19, 2022

Vertical flyers are only pretending to train seriously if they avoid angle flying as a tool to sharpen their skills.
"Fundamentals are a crutch for the talentless." - Bryan G.

At a head down state record attempt years ago, the co-organizer started his briefing by taking a jab at dynamic flyers attending. At the time, he was one of the most well-known HD bigway flyers. His negative attitude toward the new generation doing anything but vertical flying was common knowledge and already on full-display. Regarding the 100 flyer breakoffs, he aggressively stated, “I don’t want to see any of you flying any of that Charlie Chaplin bullshit at breakoff.” Meaning the straight, narrow legs that was being used mostly by dynamic tunnel and angle flyers at that time. I suppose he preferred we use his superior potassium-fueled banana back tracking position for solidarity. I was confused as to what the problem with an efficient back tracking technique was besides that it looked different from his own body position. Remember, it wasn’t long ago that videos of back trackers looking down through their feet with chin tucked on their chest was considered the norm. Today if we were debriefing someone’s video and we saw that we would rightly ask them, “Why are you not looking where you are flying?” and “How well can you really be tracking with your chin to your chest like that?” We have learned how to fly safer and faster.


Who do we think will demonstrate more efficient floating approaches and breakoffs? The flyer who has spent entire jumps working on back-tracking and barrel roll transitions or the flyer who trains each skill momentarily once a jump? Vertical flyers are only pretending to train seriously if they avoid angle flying as a tool to sharpen their skills.

If we want to build bigger formations, safer and faster - we must let go of the notion that vertical and angle flying are somehow mutually exclusive.
The Horizontal Elite training their transitions at the 2022 Vertical World Record attempts

Our breakoff performance should not be about the open-face vs the full-face helmet crowd. If you like to blast angle flying as just flying in a straight-line, you sound like the sport has passed you up. And if you mock vertical flying but can’t hold your own turning points and flipping pieces - sit down. Vertical flying can be very physically demanding, requires a lot of emotional control and extreme team discipline to execute properly - all things I love. I still love vertical flying but I don’t enjoy being surrounded by people who can’t track when it’s crucial. Flyers drastically crossing lines due to poor transitions is common. Many experienced vertical flyers’ back/belly transition during breakoff better resemble most people’s AFF barrel rolls. It is unacceptable how frequently we see efficient flyers out-tracking the wave behind them that left 1000+ft earlier. Some flyers can cover tremendous distances while others barely seem to move horizontally. The most common problem is flyers cannot control their pitch change and go from vertical to completely flat nearly instantly.

Precise control of speed, pitch changes, on-heading barrel rolls are skills that must be isolated and trained specifically.
Notice the tremendous differences in techniques and headings in the above break off

If you have not spent lots of repetitions progressively and with control going from a steep to flat track than you likely will be significantly out-flown by those who have. It can be easy to mistake the distance you found yourself from others on breakoff as effective tracking. It could be the common mistake that you are blasting up too quickly, moving very little horizontally. For some, they mistake a diving track for efficient forward speed because they feel the increase in speed without enough awareness of where the pressure should be while flattening out. Without a lot of experience flying in tight proximity relative to others how can you be sure your transition isn’t more of a back to belly flop? Precise control of speed, pitch changes and on-heading barrel rolls are skills that must be isolated and trained specifically.


Example: Progressive flattening out and back to belly transition at breakoff. Video by Dave Hyndman.

Years after adopting floating as the predominant way to build large formations quickly, we suffer from countless near incidents and injuries from over-floating. “Fly’ving” or over-floating is one of the most dangerous aspects of vertical big ways. Make no mistake, there is plenty of examples and blame to go around to those inexperienced “Charlie Chaplin bullshit” using tunnel rats who don’t understand the tremendous closing speeds in skydiving, yet. Fortunately, these inexperienced flyers are often easy to identify based on their low jump numbers:high tunnel time and probably flying shelf in the middle of a big way. However, the problem with people over-floating is far from isolated to the over-zealous flyers who are flying like a Ferrari on a highway with no brakes. In truth, it is just as common the strictly-vertical flyers who have little control over their pitch and drive besides in a very flat or totally vertical orientation are the culprits. If you haven’t spent time progressively changing pitch and speed on your back while following others as a reference, you likely have very rudimentary skills at both. This is frequently evident when you see flyers trying to float to a formation with their heels lower than their hips, arched backs or frozen daffy positions trying to close big level differences.

Acquire the skills to ensure you can perform with this mentality through focused tracking only jumps. Don’t be a spectator in the middle of a race.

The name of the game for big way breakoffs is a shared mindset for what constitutes an effective and safe breakoff for everyone. The goals are simple: Track far away from each other and maintain awareness of others. However, it must be done with a collective discipline because inefficient flying is a safety hazard for all. I want to be as much in control of my own safety as possible and never rely on assumptions of what flyers close to me will do. I never want to leave my fate in the hands of others by assuming they’ll see me, they’ll move away from me or they’ll make the right decision when altitude is running low. Rather than pointing at others to pull when you feel crowded or attempt to tell them to move off your line, you should be attacking open airspace. Do not willingly hand over your safety and trust to anyone else. In the vast majority of situations, tracking efficiently accomplishes all of these goals. Acquire the skills to ensure you can perform with this mentality through focused tracking only jumps. Don’t be a spectator in the middle of a race. Act. Go get that open airspace by flying hard. Leave your teammates in a different zip code every breakoff because you have learned how to really track and have confidence in your technique.


Steve D. turning vertical speed into horizontal power
The bigger hope would be that going forward the participants recognize that tracking jumps should be considered an integral part of their vertical big way training.

While writing this article I happened to be attending the Project 19 Women’s World Record to watch the attempts. To my astonishment (and excited approval), the organizers had set aside one jump on the warm up day for most of the participants to go on a tracking dive. The goal of the jump was to start by flying vertical and working on slowly peeling up flatter and faster. Then, at some point transition onto the belly to finish simulating a head down break off. I was asked to help lead for a couple of groups and found the opportunity to stress to each participant how forward-thinking and radical an idea they were a part of by practicing tracking at a big way event. Of course, one jump at the event would not be enough practice for them to truly improve their skills. However, it did give them (and the organizers) useful information on their actual tracking ability and where in the formation they should be considered. For my group’s dive flow: I launched a head-down round, dropped the grips and passed through the middle of the round, the group 180’d to face me as I passed through (to simulate a pod all turning 180 at the same time), then flattened it out slowly with power. They could do their back to belly transition on their own. My coaching focus was not on teaching each one to transition perfectly or change their tracking body position all on one jump. I asked my students to identify a known weakness they have in either tracking or transitioning and take a moment to feel something new in order to build awareness. Rather than explain a perfect 1/2 barrel roll, I asked them to focus on the primary goals of the transition and the application to the record jumps they will soon attempt. Focus on maintaining their heading and attempt to increase their speed the moment they roll over.


To no one’s surprise, the flyers with significant angle flying experience demonstrated the most power and control throughout every aspect of the practice jump and created the most separation at break off. The jump was especially useful to those in the group with little angle flying experience to give them realistic feedback on their actual tracking ability. The common deficiencies were unable to flatten out slowly, flying flat without stalling and transitioning while maintaining speed. The P19 organizers should be applauded for this open-mindedness and courage to spend a precious practice jump the day before world record attempts to get feedback on this crucial component of bigways. The bigger hope would be that going forward the participants recognize that tracking jumps should be considered an integral part of their vertical big way training.


Props for the innovative thinking by the P19 organizers. Especially Sharon H., seen leading here.

Both disciplines should be able to articulate how each skill set is useful for its own training purposes. If we want to build bigger formations, safer and faster - we must let go of the notion that vertical and angle flying are somehow mutually exclusive. I am hopeful that we will see more vertical flyers venturing out of their comfort zone and spending a larger portion of their training on tracking specific skills. I implore angle flyers to welcome this overlap in disciplines training together.

81 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page