Early on in your skydiving career, the techniques used in both the tunnel and the sky appear to be largely as one and the same. As your skills improve and your awareness grows, the more the two environments reveal their differences. By the time you get fancy at both things, the subtleties of method have become clear to you. You realise the tube and the big blue are different things indeed.
The same sort of logic applies to the clobber available for our sport. If skydiving and her siblings have really put the hooks in you, you will likely have been eying up the items from the sexy and expensive end of the menu, wondering exactly what the differences are between all those different types of suit at a stage when the nuances might escape you. Of course, you want them all the same.
Any instructor worth their meagre wages will happily talk you into a coma about measurements and materials and shapes and styles
Depending on your personal level of interest, the best qualified/most tedious people to talk to about suits are tunnel instructors. Tunnel monkeys often spend many hours each day performing their various tasks in the airflow and quickly become very, very particular about what covers their bodies while doing so. Any instructor worth their meagre wages will happily talk you into a coma about measurements and materials and shapes and styles. This is because the suit you fly in needs to be right for you. In order for you to achieve your greatest potential as a flyer, you must consider several several elements: the style, the materials, the different options and - crucially - the fit. There are few things that can ruin your day faster than waiting patiently for months for a suit to arrive and realise it is the wrong thing. If your fancy new suit doesn’t fit so good and rubs you the wrong way somewhere, you might fast become a very unfriendly human.
To a brand-new tunnel employee, the seasoned instructors – years deep into their flying careers – appear to have magical powers in the tube. As such, their word is the law when it comes to matters of relative wind, and any advice or recommendations they give carry true weight. It was one such recommendation that first put me into a Vertical suit. I have not budged since.
I am a hundred kilos in just my human being outfit, and I pushed hard from the off to be a good flyer. As a result I was trashing lesser suits in short order by working as many extra hours as I could, bouncing off the walls and sliding round the windows - desperate to build my skills.
It can be a confusing and frustrating dance. During my time as an instructor I have had suits arrive from various sources that not only appear to have been constructed for a very differently scaled homo sapiens, but appear to defy human geometry altogether. I have had examples so woefully inappropriate for the task in hand that they made it through less than one rotation, only to be cast into a dusty corner and never thought of again. After our first trial set of Vertical Suits we pushed hard to have Vlady and Sandra’s company adopted as the manufacturer of all our work suits, selling the price increase over the not-quite-good-enough ones we were already using to our paymasters on the fact that Vertical’s examples are built better and last longer. They are and they do.
I was trashing lesser suits in short order by bouncing off the walls and sliding round the windows
I have also either personally experimented or seen others first hand try a lot of different options to protect our fleshy selves from the ouchy parts of the tube and the zooming mass of other flyers. Padding up can be a good idea, and a damn good one right at the beginning - I know of more than a few instructors and flyers that walk the earth with a chipped elbow that they wish they had found the right solution to avoid every time they rest their arm at the wrong angle and wince through a shooty stabby pain as a teeny sliver of loose bone wiggles and wriggles and jiggles inside.
Pads present a couple of problems though. Sets that are too loose, or become so over time, will often shift and slide off the intended spot to the point where they become useless. Sets that are too tight quickly start to feel restrictive and uncomfortable - generating that feeling of your skin not being able to breathe. As far as I can tell, having the padding built into the suit itself has solved this problem. After a lot of requests for this type of thing Vertical Suits have done the necessary research and development and got it right.
Cordura 160 is a fantastic material to be making jumpsuits from, providing more lift than the traditional taslan and allow for suit designs to fit more snugly (even amongst heftier flyers), as is the fashionable way of things, while retaining speed and power. It follows that if your suit fits well, the pads sit in just the right spot. There is a small extra loop of spandex to help the knees - where things tend to be just a wee bit looser - stay in place. A small amount of care is required while putting your legs in, so as to be inside the loop and not either outside of it or caught up to the point where you could potentially rip the stitching (I am pretty clumsy but have not managed to destroy it so far.)
If your suit fits well, the pads sit in just the right spot.
All told, the option to have integrated pads in your Tunnel Pro is a splendid idea. For a while now G-Form have been carving out a robust corner of the market for some worthwhile yet unobtrusive body armour amongst athletes that require slinky suits and aerodynamic shapes. The protection they offer your body is the best I have encountered in a form that will fit under (inside!) your suit allowing full and free range of movement.
While personally these days pads are an optional extra depending on if I am attempting something saucy, I don’t notice them in my suit during the times I would otherwise not bother putting any on.
There is nothing to lose, only something to gain.
Tunnel Pro. Now with +4 bravery.