Competing In: Canopy Piloting

Last updated 26 Mar 2024

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Do you have a passion for canopy piloting? We caught up with canopy pilot, Adrian Seemann, to find out how it all began for him, and to get some top tips and inspiration for aspiring canopy pilots.

Quick intro, who are you and what is your job?

My name is Adrian Seemann, I am a full-time skydive instructor, currently at Skydive Ramblers, and I have around 5,500 jumps.

Speed at Italian Nationals 2023 by Mordace

How long have you been skydiving for?

I started jumping in November 2015, so it’s been 8.5 years.

When did you find the love for canopy piloting?

A few months after I started jumping, with around 150 jumps, I participated in a canopy course with Jules McConnel and this was the point when I started to really enjoy the canopy part instead of just seeing it as a post freefall elevator to the ground. Seeing what different inputs did and discovering how much of an effect it had when we changed or tweaked techniques was, and still is, very fascinating to me.

What did your canopy piloting progression look like? What canopy do you currently fly?

That canopy course with Jules was the start of my canopy piloting progression I would say, as it was also when I first started working towards high performance landings. From then on, I tried to participate in as many canopy courses as I possibly could, which was a lot more tricky back then because there just weren’t many courses around (this makes me sound so old haha, I know it wasn’t actually that long ago!). Besides participating in as many courses as possible, I was also lucky to have some experienced canopy pilots at my drop zone (the Chief Instructor and another experienced instructor), so I tried to get as many of my landings filmed as possible and then debriefed by them.

I did my first competition in 2018, competing in the "Intermediate" category at the Australian Canopy Piloting Nationals. This was a really good experience and I learnt so much. It was great to see how good the community was and how much everyone was helping each other and giving each other advice. This makes the nationals the best place to come if you want to learn and progress, in my opinion.

Accuracy at Pink Open 2022 by Bina Maja

The year after, I competed in the Australian Nationals in the "Open" category for the first time. I got the opportunity to participate in my first world meet later that year at the World Cup in South Africa. That was an incredibly encouraging experience, it was so good to see all the best pilots in the world doing their thing. At this level, I found it similar to nationals in that everyone was super helpful and happy to give you advice and help you to progress. Since then I have been competing regularly at different competitions around the world. I still try to get coaching whenever it’s possible when I’m overseas and I also get coaching online from a friend of mine.

Currently I fly a PD Valkyrie 75 for terminal jumps, and a PD Peregrine 64 or PD Peregrine 71 for competition, depending on the event.

When did you first represent Australia in Canopy Piloting?

That was 2019 in South Africa at the World Cup. Since then I have represented Australia in 2022 and 2023 in Arizona, USA, at the World Championships and the World Cup.

Team Australia at 2023 World Cup

What has been your best memory so far?

I find it hard to point out a specific memory to be honest. I do have to say my first world meet in South Africa was definitely very special. That said, to me one of the best things is that it is an ongoing thing, and the people you meet and get to know really do make it so good. It is a fairly small community after all, so you see a lot of the same people at most competitions. I really enjoy seeing my friends from all around the world at competitions and being able to catch up with them. 

What lessons have you learnt along the way?

There have definitely been many lessons. I’d say the two that stand out the most are how hard it is to change habits, and the risks of canopy piloting.

I feel like most canopy pilots, and probably most skydivers, can relate to how hard it is to change something once it has become a habit. With canopy piloting, when we are training we only get so many repetitions because we can only do so many jumps in a day. Once we have built a habit of doing one thing it takes a lot of repetitions to change that habit, which is super tricky and can be frustrating. So one of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt is definitely that you should try to get good advice early and build good habits early, rather than trying to get rid of bad habits later when you’re on a smaller parachute and have done the same thing hundreds or thousands of times.

Distance Training at Pink Open 2023 by Bina Maja

As for the risks of canopy piloting, we all know in theory that high performance landings are risky, but I feel like when you do them all the time sometimes it can be easy to almost forget how much risk is involved. Being at competitions regularly, you see crashes and incidents which result in injuries or worse on a regular basis, so this is always a reminder of how dangerous what we are doing is. It makes you re-evaluate what you are doing and I think it is important to do that regularly to ensure your personal risk/reward ratio is still good. I think it is important to always be aware of the risks and try to progress accordingly without rushing.

What are your goals moving forwards?

I just want to keep getting better and keep progressing to become the best canopy pilot I can be, with the ultimate goal being to become a world champion at some point.

Accuracy Landing at Skydive Arizona by Bina Maja

What are your words of advice for aspiring canopy pilots?

Be patient and get coaching! All of the good canopy pilots in the world have thousands and thousands of jumps. You need experience to get good at this and there are no shortcuts. Enjoy the process, build good habits and don’t be in a rush.

And finally, what do you enjoy most about canopy piloting?

I love how making tiny adjustments and changes have an impact on your performance. It is so hard to change something during a high performance landing or implement something new, because you’re going fast and there are a lot of things to consider at all times...but when you do manage to do what you were trying to achieve and it works out and you see that tiny improvement in performance, it is just so rewarding. Plus dragging your foot through water is certainly one of the best feelings ever! :)

Distance at Pink Open 2023 by Bina Maja

If you would like to find a local canopy coach, check out the APF Coach Register here, or get in touch with your local drop zone's DZSO for a recommendation.

Thanks to Adrian Seemann for contributing to this article. 

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[Photo Sources: Bina Maja, Mordace, Adrian Seemann]