Love 4-way but still waiting for that trust fund to kick in? Skydiving is expensive, and 4-way can be even more so. But there are ways you can still enjoy this fantastic hobby on a reasonable budget.
Focus on what you can do
You might not have a platinum style $30k budget to spend on 4-way this season, but you might have some skydiving money allocated. Instead of thinking about what you lack, focus on what you can do. If you can make only 30 team jumps this season, that is 30 more than nothing! And those jumps will be fun and enjoyable, which in the end is the point of all this craziness.
Don’t compare yourself to others
It is hard to feel like you are keeping up when other people seem to have unlimited funds. They spend money on matching equipment and 500-jump seasons. Keeping up with the Joneses is a losing proposition in life and in 4-way. Work to find the joy in what you are doing with your team instead of looking over your shoulder at the other guys.
Focus on slow and steady progress over a more extended period
You can do 500 training jumps in a season or over five years. They shake out just the same. If you can keep the same group together by doing a modest amount over several seasons, it works just as well. It may even result in a better average because you have a higher ratio of competition, more time to study, and a more relaxed team dynamic!
Become an athlete
Get strong, fit, and flexible. Athletic people can train harder when they do train. They tend to have more coordination and better reaction times, and they learn faster.
It might seem obvious, but get serious about your workouts. They are free and improve your skydiving dramatically!
Do the homework
Most of my students don’t spend enough time thinking about 4-way off the dropzone. Become a fantastic visualizer by consistently working on the skill each day. Learn to engineer by playing with paper dolls. Study your notes frequently. Review other teams’ videos as well as your own. Eat, sleep, and breathe 4-way.
You should be visualizing as much as you can. Develop the skill by imagining jumps in detail, from different points of view, and at multiple speeds. Rehearse what you have done before and jumps you have never seen. Set aside time each day to concentrate on this habit, and let your mind wander to jumps in your downtime.
Hooray for the internet. Skyleague.com, YouTube, and OmniSkore.com all have lots of 4-way videos to study and enjoy. There are tons of things you can do to increase your awareness and knowledge for free.
- Visualize a dive first and then compare it to a video.
- Contrast two different teams on the same jump.
- Watch jumps in crazy slow motion.
- Look at different levels of teams and compare them.
- Keep an updated highlight reel from your footage.
- Create a video highlighting different techniques.
- Time dives and blocks!
Most of my coaching is right in the middle of the dropzone. I teach on the creeper pads, the mock-up, the tunnel, and in public debrief rooms. Hang out and watch what I am telling my groups. Follow me around all day (without talking to my students while they are working, of course)! Most teams don’t mind if you sit in on debriefs. All of this is free information.
Be careful of the precious time problem
When time and resources are limited, it is easy to pin more hopes on the few jumps you have. If you funnel an exit, make a mistake, or brain lock, it can feel like the jump was “wasted.” Thinking like that leads to rigid performance expectations and harmful perfectionism.
You are going to mess up, sometimes for a full jump. You must make a bunch of mistakes to improve. It is part of the process. Find the joy in your mistakes; they light the path to getting better!
Worry about being good, not looking good
Matching rigs are fun, but they have never added a single point to my average. Maintain adequate and safe equipment, but don’t invest anything more than that. I had to put duct tape on a jumpsuit at a world meet once. It turned out fine.
The cost of four $500 jumpsuits is over three hours of coached wind-tunnel time with your team. The suit will not increase your score. The tunnel will.
If you want that “team vibe” that comes from matching gear, get cool hats or be creative with plain white tshirts and a sharpie.
Do not be afraid to negotiate everything! Seriously, you can negotiate slot rates, tunnel rates, coaching fees, video fees, and even packing. Just asking how to get the best deal from any of these people will often do the trick.
Consider what the other party probably wants. For example:
- Dropzones often want organizers and instructors to run free events.
- Coaches need work in the middle of the week.
- Brand new videographers will charge less.
- Packers might consider a bulk discount for a whole season.
Become a judge
Taking a judging course will help you understand the rules and see your dives differently. Chris Farina and I took the course when we were on Fury, and it was an invaluable tool for improvement. The course will cost you a little, but after you get some experience, you can make that money back.
It is also another way to stay close to big competitions, even if you can’t afford to do all of them.
Take advantage of free or cheap programs
Many dropzones offer events and programs aimed to help jumpers improve their skillsets. At Perris, we have the organizer program, 4-way curious, Fresh Meet, 40-ish ways, introductions to FS, Meeker Monday, among many, many more discount options. Ask around for some great deals on free skill-building activities!
If your dropzone doesn’t have this type of support, consider aligning a cheap vacation to a more prominent place. Research ahead of time to take advantage of everything you can.
Ask local experts for help and guidance
Coaches, organizers, and instructors are passionate about skydiving! We love to work with and help enthusiastic people. If you ask for help, almost everyone is willing to take some time to point you in the right direction. I talk frequently with up-and-comers about what to work on, where to get the best value, and how to move forward in a long term sense. Just ask!
Choose your activities wisely
If you have limited resources, you will have to make some tough choices. Four-way is insanely fun. So is freeflying, wingsuiting, big ways, hula hoop jumps, and tracking. Skydiving is a big, bountiful playground of cool things we all want to try.
But the reality is this: if you want to maximize your skillset in any of those areas, you will have to focus. That means the choice to do big ways might keep you from freeflying. Wingsuiting will keep you from 4-way. This is true for any limited resource.
Think about shooting video
Another way to get in the air and learn more about 4-way can be video. If you are inclined and can invest in an action camera, you can find a team to film. With a little practice, the team will start paying for your slot. It gets you in the air at a reasonable cost.
As a bonus, you get to hang around for any coaching, prep, and debriefing the team does.
If FS is your jam, consider moving to 8-way over 4-way if the budget is tight. Since the costs are split among eight people, coaching and video fees are half as much. More bang for your buck!
Move to the dropzone
Moving to the DZ isn’t in the cards for most people, but if you can find cheap digs nearby, there are tons of advantages. Skydiving is a “need to be present to win” sport. The best opportunities I offer pop up unexpectedly. Jumpers who are available and nearby are the ones who get to hop in as an alternate, often at a reduced cost, when someone cancels at the last minute.
Give first, ask later for sponsorship
Finally, if you are thinking about asking for sponsorship, get into a “give first” mentality.
I love skydivers! They are brilliant, bold, and confident people. That brash demeanor will get you far in the real world. But put yourself in a DZO’s shoes for a second—they are approached by dozens of people every year who overpromise and underdeliver.
Be different. Dig in and be helpful to the DZ. Want to run events as giveback? Start running events to show you can do it. THEN approach the DZ for help. Stand out by being a hard worker and not begging for free stuff first.
Wanting to get great on a budget in this sport is challenging. But by focusing on what you can do, being smart with your opportunities, and thinking about things in the long term, you can have a delightful and successful journey!
Check out Fury events for great opportunities for every budget.
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