Tales from the Bonfire

Tales from the Bonfire - Training for Para-Rescue

by Doug Garr | D-2791 | New York, New York

On February 6, 1972, I took off in a Skyvan from Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport and headed about 40 minutes north to Forest Lake. It was jump number 439 and different from all the rest. I was a young editor on assignment for Popular Science magazine to write a story about making a training jump with the Minnesota Para-Rescue Team. This was a unique group of volunteer emergency medical technicians, all of whom were active skydivers. more »

Tales from the Bonfire - Days Like This

by Joe Jennings | D-13033 | Palos Verdes, California

5:30 a.m.
We were in Malaysia, in an A-Star helicopter at 6,000 feet during our third day of filming a skydiving sequence for an Indian movie called “Don.” In the sequence, stunt doubles wearing hidden parachutes—Omar Alhegelan as the good guy and Greg Gasson as the bad guy–fight over a single parachute system. The good guy wins, of course, and drifts to earth holding onto the parachute’s leg straps with one hand. more »

Going Low

by Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld | D-8424 and the Author of “Above All Else”

Skydiving is a sport like any other, and there are plenty of mistakes to make when playing the game. Baseball players strike out. Football players fumble. Big-way formation skydivers go low. When someone goes low, the jump is usually over. Of all the mistakes a jumper can make, going low is the one that is most talked about, laughed about (or cried over) and feared by large-formation skydivers. more »

A Mental Gear Check

by Brad Weinberg | B-41640 | DeLand, Florida

It was a beautiful day with clear skies past the ocean out to the horizon. The sound of my parachute swooping down and then gliding along the ground was incredibly exciting. I clearly remember the jump: flaring 350 feet above the ground, diving down on my double fronts, the riser pressure on my hands as I turned, rounding out and then immediately hitting the ground. Next, the sounds of helicopter blades against the air as I was put on a life flight to the hospital. more »

Tales from the Bonfire - Ivan’s Birthday Present

by John Dobleman | D-7790 | Oakley, California

While visiting my friend, Ivan Balarin, D-3442, one evening this year, he showed me a poem that had been written for him for his birthday while he was in the hospital recovering from a broken leg. more »

Tales from the Bonfire - Just Flick It

by Ray Barker | D-13174 | Ellijay, Georgia

In September of 1990, I was going through the training required to transition from using a ripcord to a pilot chute for deployment. I wasn’t familiar with how to stow the pilot chute into the pouch, so one of the up-jumpers packed it for me. I remember being a little nervous about the whole thing, so the owner of the DZ kept telling me not to worry and just flick the pilot chute out. more »

Tales from the Bonfire - Those Human Feelings

by Dan Gingold | B-39878 | Brooklyn, New York

I met Bryan in Florida on my very first day skydiving. Bryan had driven down from New York City to practice wingsuiting. His girlfriend, Katherine, came with him to go through the AFF program and was in my first-jump course. All through ground school and training that day, my nervousness rose. I rode to altitude quaking. When I landed, I felt such an incredible elation. Afterward, drinking a beer with Katherine and Bryan, I tried to describe what I had felt. I remember Bryan, with a huge smile on his face, listening knowingly. more »

Tales from the Bonfire - An All-Time Low

by Doug Moore | C-41678 | San Diego, California

A few months ago, I signed up for a beginner’s angle-flying and tracking camp conducted by a very experienced team. I made certain that no freeflying experience was required, paid my money and spent months waiting excitedly for my first experience getting fast and steep. I thought I was ready. Boy, was I wrong! more »

Tales from the Bonfire - When a Good Jump Goes Bad


by T.J. McGinley | D-19689 | Longmont, Colorado

January 18, 1998, was one of those perfectly beautiful, cool, clear and calm days that are unique to Colorado in winter. I decided to make a simple 4-way jump with three friends—Allen, Mike and Brett—just to warm up. This was my 477th jump. more »

Tales from the Bonfire - A Stellar Landing


by Pierre Tomasini | A-72726 | Tempe, Arizona

It was the summer of 1985 in La Tour de Crieu, France. I had somewhere between 50 and 100 jumps and found myself in a long spot under my Para-Commander. When I was about a half mile away and pretty low, I gave up making it back to the DZ. I had just passed a road and was trying to decide on a landing area upwind when I saw a neat, square field that looked very safe. The landing pattern was pretty simple: Just make a turn at a reasonable height to face the wind for landing. more »