You may have asked yourself this before - do I really need to take a canopy course? No matter where you are in your skydiving progression, it's likely the answer is yes! It’s one of the fundamental keys to our sport, you never EVER stop learning. Without question, the biggest aspect of safety and currency in modern skydiving is becoming and remaining a proficient canopy pilot. Your approach to learning these skills is just as important as the skills themselves.
As modern parachutes have become more efficient and continue to perform at higher and higher levels, the knowledge and training required to pilot them have become dramatically more important. A modern canopy pilot isn’t just burying toggles and punching out a flare for landing, they are truly piloting a wing that requires skills well above those needed just a short few decades ago.
Enter the canopy course. From the very beginning, your instructors work hard with you to ensure you know how to enter and fly a traffic pattern, spot other traffic, and become proficient with your flare and landing. Once you’re released from student status the training side of things then becomes your responsibility, and jumpers can sometimes be left to figure things out on their own. This is where the importance of a good canopy course cannot be understated.
From learning to transition off your student canopies, to slowly navigating your way through all the different aspects of canopy flight in a 3-D world, to the nuances of harness turns as you work your way toward higher performance nylon, it’s the canopy course that you’ll want to turn to for guidance. You’re having trouble under your parachute in certain conditions - canopy course. You’ve just bought a new parachute - canopy course. Long break - canopy course. Downsizing - canopy course.
Say you’ve decided that swooping is what you’re all about. Back in the day that pretty much meant finding the jumper that looked the coolest on landing and either borrowing their gear or buying what they had and giving it a shot. Luckily that just isn’t the case anymore. If you’re bound and determined to try your hand at swooping, and possibly even competitive swooping, why wouldn’t you train with the best in the world? That’s right, they are more than ready to help train you, and they’ll be the first to welcome you into the competitive side of the sport when it’s time.
“But I don’t want to swoop, so what’s the need?” As with anything, there is always room to not only improve on our existing skills but to gain new ones, and there are few places where those improvements count more than under canopy. Not only do canopy courses help to keep you sharp in the saddle, but they also help keep everyone else safe as well. Your skill level directly affects your ability to pay attention to everything going on around you, and the more in tune you are with your canopy, the more bandwidth you have to pay attention to your surroundings.
Whether it’s to get recurrent, begin your swooping journey, downsize, or simply learn to proactively fly your canopy, a course is absolutely the way to go. Never forget that tried and true rule in skydiving, you never stop learning!