August 12, 2008. Tuuker and I take the Linda Line boat to Helsinki in order to participate in the first ever all hands meeting of the brand new four-way formation skydiving team, of which I had been persuaded to become the cameraman. The meeting results in a number of decisions: the team will (at least initially) be set up for the term of one year, everybody will commit to a certain minimum expenditure of time and money, we’re going to participate in one Bartic (Baltic/Nordic) national championship, and we’ll aim to achieve the average of 12 points in the competition. As a cameraman, I set out for not losing more than two points per competition. A few beers later, we decide that the team will be called “Whatever”.
September 7, 2008. “Whatever” is already taken on Google Groups. The team gets renamed to “Whadever”.
September 21, 2008. We’re on the road again, heading to Vesivehmaa in Finland, looking forward to completing a few “getting to know each other” skydives. Five jumps later, we’re pleasantly surprised about how well our freefall speeds match and how nicely we fly together. The future is bright.
December 22, 2008. With the choice of Swedish nationals instead of Finnish, the team calendar gets set. There will be a bunch of creeping weekends and two tunnel camps for the lower four, two training camps for everyone including the cameraman, and one competition.
April 17-25, 2009. Training in Empuriabrava. Vaike has brought along a non-teammember who ends up having two duties — to keep Vaike’s nerves in balance and to act as a spare teammember when Tuuker unexpectedly gets so sick that she has to skip ten jumps. We spend two and half days on the ground due to tramontana (a kind of extremely nasty wind blowing from the mountains that can sometimes keep on howling for an entire week but we’re lucky). My left hand gets a serious nerve pain hit, so we borrow a local tandem-videoguy for three jumps. All in all the team ends up making 27 skydives and learning that parmesan cheese is not meant to be administered nasally (thanks for the lesson, Tero!). Turo “accidentally” leaves Martyn Farr’s Darkness Beckons into the team room when his wife and kid arrive, ending up with me having developed a perverse interest in underwater penetration.
May 23-31, 2009. Basic Camp in Gryttjom. The plans to do a bunch of training jumps on the weekend just before the Camp begins get ruined by an epic failure of internal communication. A high-tension team meeting is held, ending up with a conclusion that we stick to the original plan. 80% of the team continue to get along well with each other. Due to the “good old” nerve pain, I have to skip two of our 23 training jumps (my Finnish teammates kindly recommended me to keep wanking with my good hand). Due to the wonderful Swedish weather, we end up doing a creeping contest instead of training jumps on one day. But we also get tons of excellent advice from American and British coaches; we give an Italian coach a complete crash course in Nordic sauna culture; we learn what kind of cans lonely Texans like to shoot; we fascinate the Swedes by singing the song about an ostrich and an earthworm, and horrify them by translating the lyrics into English; we share information about certain uses of the moose that’s not common knowledge outside of Finland; we teach people the ancient Estonian art of drinking vodka with silmud (lampern, Lampetra fluviatilis, or, as some female representatives of the local population put it in the next morning, “yucky fish”).
July 25-31, 2009. Svenska Mästerskapen. The competition has been moved from Gryttjom (a rice field formerly known as airfield) to Gävle. 4-way teams get to jump from PAC 750 XL (a good plane designed by skydivers for skydivers, but totally new to us). Due to the wonderful Swedish weather we only get four training jumps before the competition, but we get to go to movies and learn the horrible truth about textile-eating bears. In the competition we suck, (oops, correction: “our performance is suboptimal”) during the first four rounds, but then we get up to speed and end up sixth out of seven teams in the open category with an average score of 8.4 points per jump. I don’t lose a single point, but I manage to save us from a particularly nasty rejump by getting so close to the team in the cloud that their outer limbs fail to fit into my camera’s viewing angle but the judges can still see all the grips.
July 30, 2009. We hold the last team meeting. Tuuker says she learned more about FS in the past year than in all the preceding ones combined. Tero says he’s not going to continue with that team, as it was not fun enough. Vaike says her vision of the team’s future differs from that of some other team members and that she’s probably not going to do FS4 anymore in the immediately foreseeable future. Turo says that while we made progress, we still fell clearly short of our original objective of 12-point average. I say that without Whadever, I would probably have effectively quit skydiving by now, and thank my teammates for a yearful of motivation. I also recognise that the difference between leisure and competition sport is that you don’t use painkillers to participate in the first of them.
August 1, 2009. I spend the day editing ass movies and putting Whadever’s complete skydiving history onto a. For reasons entirely beyond my conscious knowledge, I write the end date of the team as 30.08 instead of 30.07. But well, a cameraman doesn’t really to be smart — it’s enough if he can keep all the asses on screen.
Well, that was it. Once again, let me extend my sincere gratitude to all my ex-teammates. Jumping for/with a team kept me skydiving, and I certainly had loads of fun.
Kättä perseeseen ja veivataan vastustaja suohon!