The Next Step – Your USPA “A” License

The Next Step: Your “A” License.

Get ready for some tough love.

After graduating AFF and cleared for Solo jumps, if you don’t have a road map to where you are going, you will flounder, or worse quit the sport. It’s important to know key aspects of skydiving as you move forward.

  • Responsibility
  • Education
  • Safety
  • Currency
  • Your Gear
  • Logging your jumps
  • Signoffs & Paperwork
  • Aspire

Understanding these basic concepts will empower you to quickly move towards any goal you have for your career as a skydiver for fun, or profit.


Although we get to do this sport together, in the end, you are alone. By alone, I am talking about your survival. If you get yourself into an emergency situation, it’s all you. YOU have to figure it out and survive. It’s up to you to have your shit together. To be an individual who can carry themselves with some integrity and commitment. It’s your job to make sure you are current, safe, know the rules and abide by them. We are a community made up of individuals. Who you are being, really does matter for your self and the community as a whole.

Our community is huge. You will find many very talented and professional jumpers at your drop zone. Seek them out. Ask questions. There is no excuse for not knowing, understanding or cultivating the ability to apply. In that sense, you are never alone and in fact we are global.

We are a self-regulated sport. We are very lucky to do what we do and how we do it. Our national organization that protects this privilege, not a right, is the United Stated Parachute Association, (USPA.) Get to know the USPA Skydiver Information Manual (SIM.) It’s your reference for just about every question and provides excellence guidance as you progress, guiding you the entire way. Add real coaching and education, and you have a winning combination. Again, it’s your responsibility to ask, to find your answers. It’s not anyone’s responsibility to make sure you are told.

Join USPA Right now!

If you are not a member, join now.

It’s not our job to make sure you get a reserve repack or are current. It’s your job! It’s OK not to be the coolest person. I can tell you from experience, you will get more respect and advancement in this sport simply by being humble enough to ask for help. Ask a question, when in need.

Just last week I was watching two students gear check each other, so I went and gave them the “show me tell me.” One guy was checking, and seriously, admitted he had NO IDEA what he was looking for. SERIOUSLY?! The guy you are checking is counting on you, trusting you. Did I scream at them?  NO. I helped them compassionately, professionally, friendly. WHY? Because it could be my gear, or my friends gear this guy checks. And, they are just people, and part of our growing community. the last thing we want is people too scared to ask and just faking it.  It’s about ALL of us. Learn to properly check your gear and other’s gear and do it EVERY JUMP. Gear checks are cool. Be cool. Do gear checks.

All our safety depends on us as individuals to be safe and IN CONTROL. I can tell you from personal experience by being hit in a mid-air collision by an out of control person. I almost paid for this sport with my life. Wake up. This shit is dangerous. Don’t be Mr or Ms dangerous that puts themselves and others in jeopardy screwing everyone over. In other words, Don’t be THAT GUY.

How? So glad you asked.


Learn to be HUMBLE.

“If you don’t eat a piece of humble pie In this sport, every day, one day you will be forced to eat the whole pie. And that ain’t pretty or fun.” The Harry Parker

  • Learn to ask questions
  • Learn to educate yourself, always
  • Learn to know your limits
  • Learn to pay attention
  • Learn to be CONSCIOUS of what you are doing, always.


It’s your job to self educate using the USPA SIM and to ask the right people for help. You are not cleared to jump with other people until you get your “A” license. It’s imperative you find the right people to get your coaching and instruction from. It might seem like a great idea to fun off and start jumping with other and with just under 10 jumps, there is a lot of danger out there you actually won’t be aware of for a while. Your ultimate job as a student is to hone your survival and safety skills so when you do jump with others you are not a danger to yourself, or to others. Find USPA rated Instructors and Coaches. Rated skydivers were taught to teach. Sometimes, what you don’t know can hurt you.

Check out this video, just so you understand how easy it is to get yourself into trouble. Always seek out people better than you and be very wary of the people you do end up jumping with once you get your “A” license. Learn to be vigilant with your gear checks. Strive to take care of each other and always commit to being conscious and aware. Remember, it’s not just about you. If not for their cypress AAD these two were absolutely DEAD.


It’s YOUR responsibility all the way through your entire career. It’s all you. Just cause the light turns green doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. Pay attention. Study. Ask questions. Learn. Educate yourself. And above all, truly, simply, pay attention. At the end of the dive, it’s just you. You get into any emergency situation; you have to figure it out. Practice emergency procedures. Downsize only when absolutely ready. You have to learn canopy control through experience and self education. This you cannot fake.

Strive to understand and apply canopy control, landing patterns. Make getting your own gear a priority. Learn about your GEAR.  Protect it. Get the repack, ask questions, and learn to preform gear check flawlessly for yourselves and others. Oh, and wear your seat belt! It’s the one behind you not in front of you.

Wear a GREAT helmet, not a good one, a GREAT one. It’s your head! Wear shoes when learning. You are skydiving! Do you really want to blast into the earth, god knows where, with cheap shoes after your first cutaway?

You are learning and you can count on making mistakes. You will land downwind and almost die. You will be cut off and hit the ground in a turn, count on it, prepare for it, keep a big canopy over your head, and dress for success.


Sky Buddha’s Three laws for Longevity
  • Be Aggressive
  • Be Mindful
  • Be Aware

this goes for every aspect of the sport. Be aggressive in your learning, in being humble, in being aware, in safety. If you are not aggressive, you will never get to where you want to go, whether a goal or the formation.

BUT, if you are going to be aggressive, you had better

You can hurt yourself. You can hurt others. Mindfulness balances aggressiveness. An example; be aggressive diving to the formation. Be mindful enough to aim next to the formation, not directly at it. You might over shoot and hurt yourself and others. You can apply this to 100’s of examples. Be aggressive enough to get to the DZ early and mindful enough to stay off first load.

AND, the one thing you must always be in this sport and in life in general is;

Become aware. Strive to be conscious in all you do. From dealing with your peeps at the DZ to airplane operations, to weather, to your own limits, to your surroundings, of all the people in the sky with you, and of your altitude, Strive to become aware.

You will notice as you grow into a skydiver, your mind and brain will expand and handle more and more information. Use that. Get to know it. Learn to know and estimate where everyone is in the sky. Where you are over the Drop Zone, which way the plane was heading, and everything else in your experience.

We have a lot of gadgets for altitude, but nothing is better than simply being aware of your altitude. You will lose it. You will scare yourself, it’s inevitable. Strive for consciousness in all you do.


Meditate, exercise, become an athlete. By that I mean be a little serious in your approach to the sport, where you want to go, who you look up to and follow, and how you treat yourself and others. You will find we are a global sport with most actually being more global-centric than nationalistic. We break all boundaries; we see the world without limits and as possibility. Live fully into the experience. Your life and the lives of others might actually depend on it.


It’s your job to stay current. Always. When going for your “A”, your “B”, your “C”, your “D”, and beyond, you will notice that just a couple of weeks without jumping will make a BIG difference in your confidence. Feeling a little nervous? Been awhile? Might as well not tell anyone and just go huck your body out of an airplane and hope for the best on your four way with only 30 jumps. Right?


Ask for a refresher from an instructor, please, for the sake of yourself and all those around you. The life you save might not just be your own. Currency is everything. Knowing the weather, winds, landing pattern, airplane operations, exits, freefall, canopy control, outs at the airport, everything is essential and a big part of your currency.

If you don’t know, ask. If you ask an asshole, then ask someone else. We are all here for each other. And the world is full of assholes. It’s OK, there is a nice person right around the corner to help you, who wants to help you.

Pro Tip:

Stay OFF first load! When in doubt, just stay off first load.

When feeling really un-current, ask a coach or instructor to go over your emergency procedure. Take it seriously. Start bottom to top, just like on student status. Check the winds, watch the first couple of loads to see the jump run direction, the spot and where people are opening. Watch the landing pattern all the landings. You will be amazed at how many mishaps happen simply by being un-current and on first load.

Your Gear:

The best thing you can do for your self is repetition, when it comes to gear. Using the same gear over and over will help you with your canopy control, gear checks, gear operation, and confidence. Period.

The best thing you can do is get your own gear. Borrowing gear can lead to problems if you are not paying attention such as, an AAD, or an RSL, worn components, or other aspects of operation that will change from switching and borrowing rigs. If you have to rent, always treat the rig like it’s the first time you jumped it. You never know what just happened to that rig. It might not seem like much and an unplanned emergency situation and not fully understanding the function of the actual rig you are jumping can bite you hard.

Learn to inspect your gear. There is tons of info on the web, from the manufactures, on youtube, from people at the DZ you trust, your rigger, etc. Learn to constantly inspect and maintain your gear.

PRO Tip:

Protect your gear. Protect the gear you are borrowing or renting. It’s super expensive. Treat it like gold. Keep it packed. It’s safer packed. Be very intentional how and where you store your gear, transport your gear and use your gear. Always get your reserve repacks. That way you have a rigger looking over your shoulder. Oh, and as always, ask questions striving to learn something new. Ask your rigger to let you pull all your handles so you know what it feels like.

Logging Your Jumps:

Always log your jumps. You will need them as proof of your experience. Especially when you go for licenses, requirements, ratings, and when you travel. Show up with an “A” license to another Drop Zone? Better have your logbook. Make sure they are ALL signed by a USPA licensed skydiver. It’s a great way to meet jumpers or the pros or mentors or people you admire.

When logging your jumps, make sure to include, Wind Direction, Wind Speed, and Distance to target. You will need this for all your licenses. When you land, no matter how far away from the target you are, count the paces to the target. Keep track of this. Oh, and this assumes you picked a target. If you do not pick a target to land, improving your accuracy is difficult. Logging “IN” is for posers. Learn to pick a target BEFORE you get in the airplane and count your paces to your target. These have to be witnessed.


Read this quick piece on logging jumps

When filling out your license cards, make sure to note the jump that corresponds to the requirement. That makes it much faster for an instructor to look over your material and get you signed off

Only work with USPA rated coaches and instructors. If you don’t, they cannot sign anything. And a rated instructor has gone through a course. We are taught to teach.

Sign Offs & Paperwork

Again, it’s your job to have your own shit together. Whoever is helping you is doing just that, helping you. Help them to help you. All jumps needed signed, logged, and noted on the application.

If you are taking a test, be prepared. Study. Actually study. Read the material. This is why you are having a test. Seriously, I’m not kidding. We want you to know this stuff. Read it over, ask questions. Be prepared.

Remember, this isn’t just an application; it’s a review in some cases. Your “A” license is case in point. There is a lot of ground stuff. Stuff you even went over in AFF, but were so stressed out there is little chance you even remember. That’s what this is for, REVIEW. It’s an opportunity. SEIZE It. Be very focused. Ask questions. Prepare.

If you don’t you will be the loser to proud to ask cause you don’t know cause you didn’t learn, cause you went for the sign off. This is potentially dangerous for you and us all. If you want respect, earn it. Just learn it. Learning in this sport is potentially one of the most fun aspects of the sport, to constantly learning and growing.

When getting your “A” license card signed by a licensed USAP Instructor, actually be interested in fully learning, understanding and applying what you are getting signed off. If you are simply going around, trying to be cool and get the shit signed without actually doing the work, you are Dangerous. Trust me. People do it all the time. It’s not about the sign off. It’s about learning the skill, understanding the processes. It’s up to you to learn, retain, and apply the information.

Yes, some of it costs money. I’m sorry, not everything is for FREE! Money, kindness, trust, it’s an energy, if flows back and forth. Be happy to pay $30 for a coach or instructor to jump with you and give you their undivided attention, skill, expertise and experience. Be happy and grateful to give a little to the coach or instructor willing to give you time out of their jump day to go over your ground stuff. Respect the experience around you. Respect peoples time.

PRO Tips:

Choose your coaches, instructors and confidants wisely.
Read this portion of License Application Checklist

Oh, and buy your beer! Is that too much to ask? Just buy some beer to celebrate your accomplishments. Learn the Skydiving Beer Rules. If you call others out on beer fines, then you shall be called on beer. It’s Just how it works cupcake.


I saved the best for last. Learn to aspire. Seek out those you admire and respect. Set your sights high and go after them with thorough diligence.

Aspire to become a leader, we need leaders. Before you know it, people will be asking you questions. Before you know it, you will have over 100 jumps. Know when to say you don’t know, know when to give advice and when to not. Teachers learn the most.

Aspire to get at least a coach rating. This increases your skill level, knowledge and confidence more than I can say. Remember the ones who helped you. Before you know it, that will be you and there will be a new crop of jumpers who need help, ground reviews, testing, and advancement, just like you. Aspire to be there for others in this sport, always.

Pick a discipline and go for it. 500-1000 jumps, years, they go by quick. Pick something you want to do and hone the skill. You can always change your mind and try something else. Try to do everything and get great at nothing. It’s hard to have a suit for everything.

Aspire to become. To become a leader in your community, an athlete, an organizer, a rigger, instructor, or a host of slots always available on your path as a skydiver. But above all, aspire to simply become and grow for the sake of the whole and you will never get bored, rusty, or old.

STOP - Complete Steps Below BEFORE moving on!

Please take a moment to complete all the tasks BEFORE moving on.

Thank you.


Before you do ANYTHING – Please become a USPA member and put the USPA SIM App on your phone. You will need the USPA Skydivers Information Manual (SiM) for everything you do moving towards your “A” and beyond. So get it now. Please.

Download USPA SIM to Iphone
Join the Skydive Local's Club Jump IN!
Join the USPA now


Your safety is YOUR responsibility. Know your weather BEFORE you come to the DZ. You can configure these for any area. These are pre-configured for Lodi. If you need help. Ask.

Save Weather Forecast to Homescreen
Save Winds to Homescreen
Download my radar app

On to your -A- license card

Let’s go get your “A” lic. The next step understanding your “A” Lic card and how to get the signoffs.

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