Swooping, it comes in many forms, abilities, delusions… we’ve listed the 18 levels of swooping below. We go from high to low in our levels of swooping. Starting with those skydivers that glide across the water with seemingly no effort. Think Cornelia, Cedric, Nick, Jeffro. And then head through the levels from your toggle stabbers right down to beginner skydivers. Have a read and see if you can identify yourself.
DISCLAIMER: We’ve made some gross generalisations and embraced all kinds of funny stereotypes below – because there’s fun to be had. So if something hits a little too close to home, you feel the urge to splutter in indignation, or you’re downright offended by the insinuations, we hope you can see the funny side and chuckle at yourself a little. We sure are 😉
Level 18: Soul Swooper
This is the pinnacle of swooping, equivalent to Led Zeppelin and Nirvana, and is rarely ever attained. The Soul Swooper is a complete master of his/her/their inputs, body and wing. The turn becomes an extension of their mind. Many do not even realise they have attained the highest level of swooping prowess as they are beyond the need for evaluation. Even though they’re a certified badass, they don’t promote themselves. The Soul Swooper jumps any wing and makes it hum. The Soul Swooper is on a continuous journey of learning, always wanting to fly their canopy safer, faster and further.
Level 17: Swoop Whore
The Swoop Whore is a Soul Swooper who sold their sports main (and their soul) for a swoop-free life of throwing drogues. Why, we’ll never know, since many of our golden Soul Swoopers prove you can do both. They’ve got mad skillz, but they’ll never haul on rears again.
Level 16: Pro Swooper
A Pro Swooper has the skills to compete or is already competing, whether it’s in the local swoop league or at the World Champs. Some receive motivation from pitting their skills against the gates and trusting their rears. Others have no desire to be judged, and seek only #PureWildFlight over the pond. Pro Swoopers fly the latest technology wing but rely on their own ability to fly faster and further. All Pro Swoopers have mad skillz and can’t help but show it.
Level 15: Camera Flyer
The Camera Flyer (a specialty section deserving of their very own level, prove us wrong) occasionally gets paid to swoop all day, but has to sacrifice money and comfort for hard winters and sh%t pay. Camera Flyers who love to fly their parachutes often blaze across the landing area with swoops that impress all knowledgeable watchers. These special Camera Flyers are really Soul Swoopers and they don’t even know it! They are usually quieter than the Soul Swoopers who only think they are Soul Swoopers but are really Swoop Whores. They are usually nicer too. Camera Flyers use any old canopy; sometimes one with several patches and wafer thin ZP. They usually have mad skillz, but they don’t always get to use them.
Level 14: Swooper
Every person who hauls on fronts and flares in time is NOT a Swooper. This is obvious to those who have attained this level of prowess. If this is not obvious to you, you are not a Swooper. Good Swoopers might participate in the odd comp, but generally love to swoop for swooping’s sake. Being a Swooper is a good thing – from here one can progress to the level of Pro or Soul Swooper.
Level 13: Instructor
Anyone who refers to themselves loudly as an Instructor is a bell-end and should be ignored. Real coaches don’t tell you that they are one. Many Instructors are also Swoopers (even some Soul Swoopers), but be warned: no Instructor who thinks swooping means doing a low toggle turn and stabbing the toggles of an ancient elliptical sports canopy will EVER be categorised as a real Swooper. Rest assured there are some truly epic Instructors out there who share their mad skillz with all their students, many attaining the much coveted levels of Pro Swooper and even Soul Swooper.
Level 12: SkyGod
The SkyGod is a pretty decent canopy pilot, but nothing special. However, they will loudly let everyone in the bar know that they are an awesome Swooper and know their sh%t. The SkyGod flies a brand new high performance canopy and always has the latest toys, but not always the skillz to match.
Level 11: Swoop Grom
The Swoop Grom is a slightly less evolved Swooper, but a Swooper whether they realise it or not. They will often deny their Swooperness if openly asked. A Swoop Grom is the guy/girl/person who asks for and listens to advice from Pro Swoopers and Soul Swoopers, then practices it safely. They fly a wing appropriate to their skill level. Swoop Groms have skillz but don’t feel the urge to always show it.
Level 10: Wannabe
Wannabes are not Swoopers. They just think and say they are. They buy one parachute after another looking for the one that will magically turn them into Swoopers. There is a high chance they will talk your ear off in the packing shed about competition mods on their overly small canopies. To the Whuffo or Grom they seem like a fountain of knowledge, but they’re in serious danger of turning into SkyGods and never becoming a REAL Swooper.
Level 9: Pack-abee
The Pack-abee (a.k.a. a packer who fancies themselves a swooper without the skills to back it up) has never swooped a parachute but they’ve gleaned some knowledge on the packing mat and like to ‘advise’ real Swoopers on how to fly. They would be a Swoop Grom if not for the belief that they already know it all. Akin to SkyGods and Wannabees, the Packer likes to hoot the hoot, but can’t swoop the swoop. On occasions there are Packers who listen to real Swoopers’ advice. These Packers break the mould to become Pro Swoopers and Soul Swoopers with mad skillz.
Level 8: Amateur
The Amateur is the well-rounded canopy pilot who can be trusted to fly safely in every situation. This is the group into which most skydivers fall. They can appropriately use all inputs and intermediate flying techniques, and like to help others without being arrogant. Amateurs who are humble and willing to learn can often show skillz beyond their experience level – they can even show real Swooper potential.
Level 7: Teach-Me-To-Swoop
The Teach-Me-To-Swoop is the ‘skydiver’ who asks all the questions only to ignore any sensible answers. They don’t have any real interest in flying safer and only want to fly faster and further to look cool. These folks worry too much about having the smallest canopy regardless of whether it’s suitable for their ability. They simply will never realise what true Swoopers intuitively know – the canopy doesn’t make the Swooper. They’ll never have mad skillz. It’s a little bit like when Matt Munting explained skydiving – if you find yourself in the Danger Zone, get yourself out of it as quickly as you can, safely. Operative word on SAFE. Probably don’t ask someone to teach you to swoop when you’re still wet behind the ears.
Level 6: Weekend Warrior
The Weekend Warrior has the basics of Canopy Piloting down and has settled into a safe and predictable flight pattern on their weekend missions. They’ve mastered survival techniques and can safely demonstrate the appropriate reactions in emergency situations.
Level 5: Pow Wow-Kid
Every skydiver knows one of these. The Pow-Wow-Kid is a low experienced skydiver who knocked out a front riser turn too low and smacked in. Sometimes they are jumping a canopy that’s too small, and other times they are just plain cocky. Some lucky Pow Wow Kids walk away without a scratch and can occasionally even turn out to be great Swoopers because they learnt their lesson early on.
Level 4: 100 Jump Wonder
The 100 Jump Wonder is like the SkyGod, but doesn’t have the jump numbers to back it up. Facepalm. The 100 Jump Wonder inevitably jumps a canopy that is too small for their level and consistently gets deep in the corner only to yank on their toggles. These are the folks who most commonly turn into Pow Wow Kids.
Level 3: Grom
The Grom hasn’t got many jumps, but they want to learn to fly safer. So they’ve done a beginner canopy course and have laid the foundations for more accurate and consistent canopy flight. They are flying a sports canopy with a loading under 1.3, and have nailed basic canopy skillz.
Level 2: Student
The Student is new to the sport but keen to progress. They watch skydiving videos, stalk the top Canopy Pilots on Socials, ask alllll of the questions and sign up to a beginner canopy course. Time to start filling up that experience bucket.
Level 1: Whuffo
The Whuffo is the term for a non-skydiver. If you don’t have a skydiving qualification yet and all this talk of SkyGods, canopies and swooping is beyond you, sign up to do your AFF. Now.
Chur for reading!
NZ Aerosports Team
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