But wait! For safety's sake we need to slow down and take some time to familiarize ourselves with the convention facilities. In particular, those of you who have never been to the World Freefall Convention at least need to take a look at a map of the airport and convention site so you know where to find the best places to park, camp, and land your parachute safely.
There aren't many rules at the convention, but the ones we have are important, because they affect the safety and enjoyment of the convention by you and everyone else who attends. We skydivers are generally some of the most safety conscious people around, but the excitement and fast pace of a large skydiving event have the potential for making us forget or ignore the usual good judgment we use back at the home DZ. One of the most important safety rules that we ask you to follow is to not push yourself and exceed your skill or capabilities. This applies in several areas:
Most people who come to the convention seem to be interested mainly in freefall formation skydiving. If you are one of these jumpers the best bet is to start off with a group no larger than you usually jump with, and keep it simple until you are comfortable jumping with people you don't know and with figuring out where you are going to land. Even some experienced jumpers who have been to several conventions in the past try to first find a small group of jumpers and "warm up", while at the same time refamiliar- izing themselves with the convention at a relaxed pace. If you usually jump with small groups it wouldn't hurt to break off a little high on some of the first few loads so you can get some practice tracking a good distance from others in case you want to get on larger loads. Just be sure to use that time tracking, and don't open higher than recommended.
Once you have made a few jumps you may get the urge to try bigger formations, and a good way to start is by checking with the load organizers that are available at the convention. The organizers are there to help you get on a skydive quickly, and to plan safe and successful skydives for jumpers at all experience levels. If you have any questions about safety or what type of skydive might be appropriate for someone with your skydiving experience while at the convention, just ask one of the load organizers. They will be happy to help you even if you are not jumping on one of their loads, or if you already have a group with whom to skydive.
Canopies are the most likely piece of gear that you will have the opportunity to test jump and there will be a wide range of types and sizes available, some of them very high performance types. Be conservative, and take the manufacturer's advice on what canopy to try first. Most importantly, land in an open area that is away from other jumpers. A quick toggle turn required by suddenly finding another canopy in your path could be disastrous in an unfamiliar high-performance canopy.
The harness/container systems provided by the manufacturers to test jump or to use when trying out a canopy are always very nice pieces of gear, and some of them even allow you the option of where to put the pilot chute. Still, they are not the same as jumping your own gear. Make sure the rig fits well and that the leg straps are tight and securely in place. Practicing your pull before the skydive is a good idea.