AXIS Water Training – More Than Just a Sign-Off

photos by Samantha Schwann

FEATURE20153-21Training for intentional and unintentional water landings is an important part of a skydiver’s learning progression and is required to receive the USPA B license. Unfortunately, most jumpers rarely give it much thought after their instructors sign them off for this skill, and few take the time to carefully consider the dangers involved. Unless you’ve landed in water, you probably can’t truly appreciate how difficult it is. However, whether you are landing in water intentionally or unintentionally or are just training in a controlled environment, the methods of dealing with your equipment will be very similar. So, it’s a good idea to review your water training occasionally—regardless of your experience level—just in case you need to use it. Skydiver’s Information Manual Sections 5-1 and 6-5contain lots of valuable information about water landings and how water training should be conducted. Here are some additional hints, reminders and suggestions gleaned from both practical experience and experimentation in a swimming pool:


  • Jumping in a new location.
  • Exiting over solid cloud cover.
  • Strong winds.
  • Bad spot.
  • Cutaway (since you’ll be open at a lower altitude than intended).
  • Emergency exit from aircraft.


  • Impaired depth perception.
  • Hard impact due to cutting away before water entry.
  • Improper flare height.
  • Underwater hazards.
  • Drowning due to fatigue.
  • Hypothermia.
  • Heavy or cumbersome gear (e.g., weight belt, wingsuit, cameras).
  • Lack of a flotation device.


  • Poor Visibility.
  • Temperature.
  • Currents.
  • Distance to safety (can include land, boats, buoys, etc.).


  • Perform canopy controllability check.
  • Disengage reserve static line and undo chest strap below your decision altitude but before touching down.
  • Fly predictably and avoid erratic turns.
  • Remain in your harness until landing.
  • Engage flotation device before touchdown.
  • Open visor if you are jumping a full-face helmet.
  • Land in half brakes (protect your throat and torso by keeping your forearms close).
  • Land into the wind if possible.
  • Perform a parachute landing fall with feet and knees together.
  • Fill your lungs with air before entering water.


  • Let go of your toggles and bring your hands to your ribcage.
  • Shrug off your rig using a breast-stroke motion.
  • Swim down, then away to help you free yourself from the leg straps and clear the suspension lines.
  • Keep movement to a minimum to avoid entanglement with the gear.
  • If stuck under your canopy, punch up to create an air pocket (like a tent), then follow a seam to the edge of the canopy.
  • Get out of the water ASAP.


  • Lakes: Hazards (boats, docks, pylons, etc.) are most likely to be situated directly next to the bank. Land several meters away from the bank.
  • Rivers: Aim for the deepest part (usually the center) and against the current, if possible. This facilitates escaping your equipment.
  • Ocean: Avoid the area where the waves break. Land in deeper and less turbulent water.


  • Land together if you are in a group.
  • Stay near your equipment, especially if your canopy is brightly colored, to make it easier for a rescue crew to find you.
  • If you’re jumping at a location such as a beach or lake, where the possibility of landing in the water is stronger than usual, jump with your cellphone secured in a zippered plastic bag.
  • If you are jumping near the water, wear a flotation device (required for those jumping round mains or reserves and for students within one mile of water, but it’s a good idea for anyone).
  • Cut away your canopy only once you have entered the water and as a last resort. (Keep in mind that you cannot cut away your reserve.)
  • When retrieving a canopy from the water, grab the warning label and pull the canopy out of the water tail-first so the water will drain out of the nose of the canopy.

Water training can be a fun and educational experience, so don’t just think of it as something you need to get out of the way to get your B license; enjoy the learning process. And don’t forget to review your procedures occasionally: You’ll be a completely different jumper at different stages in your career, and you may also be using additional equipment like a wingsuit or camera helmet that you’ll need to contend with.


About the Author
FEATURE20153-20Brianne Thompson, D-30035, and Niklas Daniel, D-28906, own and run AXIS Flight School, which offers coaching in a variety of disciplines to licensed skydivers of any skill level. AXIS is headquartered at Skydive Arizona in Eloy and can be reached via email at

Destination: AZ – Indoor skydive at AXIS Flight School

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Original post by Ana Reynolds, 12 News 12:06 p.m. MST February 26, 2015


Mark Curtis tries skydiving, kind of. “AXIS Flight school is a skydiving school that offers dedicated skydivers the ability to expand their skills and knowledge. They offer one-on-one coaching along with a training facility for experienced jumpers. AXIS is in Eloy, Arizona, which is between Phoenix and Tucson, and also is an area that allows over 340 flying days a year due to the clear desert weather. Niklas Daniel and Brianne Thompson created AXIS after they both fell in love with skydiving and each other. They decided to open the school so that people who have a skydiving license can enhance their skills. The school was created to teach people how to jump with others, do tricks and a variety of other things. Daniel has loved skydiving ever since he first tried it at the age of 20. After that he knew he wanted to make a career out of it. “Skydiving in general has allowed me to carve out a niche for myself and I get to basically be my own boss,” Daniel said. “I get to meet a lot of interesting people from all walks of life and all over the world.”

One of the people he met was 12 News anchor Mark Curtis. Curtis and the rest of the Destination AZ crew ventured down to Eloy to experience what skydiving was like, without having to jump out of a plane. So Curtis entered the wind tunnel. A wind tunnel is a way to go indoor skydiving. Wind tunnels create a 150 mph vertical air column that a person can safely “float” on. This simulates what skydiving is actually like, minus jumping out of an airplane and deploying a parachute. Curtis got into a wind tunnel after a little direction from Daniel and Thompson and began indoor skydiving. “He was very open-minded. He was a good listener,” Daniel said.

He also added that Curtis picked up the indoor skydiving skills pretty quickly and was able to immediately apply those skills when he got in the wind tunnel. Curtis said he was in the tunnel altogether for about an hour but would take turns with other people and would only be in the tunnel for a few minutes at a time. Wind tunnel sessions are available at AXIS Flight School and can last for 15 minutes up to an hour. Be sure to watch Destination: AZ on at 7 p.m. on Feb. 27 to learn more about the beautiful places you can visit in Arizona.”

USPA Parachutist Cover February 2015

I would like to congratulate Samantha Schwann on her first USPA Parachutist cover! Looking forward to future publications from this talented photographer.


OEW Skydive Radio Interview January 2015

I would like to thank Dave at Skydive Radio for having AXIS Flight School on his show to discuss the Operation Enduring Warrior Project! Skydive Radio is the world’s leading internet radio show dedicated to the sport of skydiving.  Weekly episodes include commentary, feature interviews with industry insiders, listener-contributed photos, and e-mails from an audience that spans the globe.Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 9.39.01 PM

Show #210, January 28th, 2015 – with Operation Enduring Warriors

Click here, and fast forward to 51:00 Minutes.