Wingsuit student Samantha Manning was born a skydiver. "It's in my blood," she said as she described her feat of essentially doing 200 jumps before she was even born––with her mother Susanne, "Susy," as her vessel.
Samantha was and is, quote, "a dropzone baby," and her parents met at Skydive Miami where she grew up and dives to this day. "They're my family. That's always home because of the people and the atmosphere, it's where I grew up so nothing can beat it. But I do like DeLand a lot, it's nice."
Samantha came to Skydive DeLand to wingsuit train at Skydive University with instructor Scotty Burns. We sat down with her to see what it was like and to get some first-hand advice for aspiring wingsuiters who are ready to train and get signed off to fly solo...
Let's start with this: What are some of the biggest pointers you learned from Scotty?
"Relax, deep breathe, and smile. Get rid of all the tension, which makes your body just fly better. I liked that Scotty reinforced that throughout the course, and he always joked at the right time."
Explain this whole smiling thing...
"I always have a really serious face in freefall - smiling reminds me that I'm doing this because I love it, not just because I want to get it done."
"Just to try it out see what all the fuss is about... because the videos look cool - it's something different. I've tried freeflying, RW, tracking, wingsuiting was the next step for me."
So what's your number one tip for future students as they enter this course?
"Relax and have fun because you have to have 200 jumps by the time you do it, so you have to trust yourself enough by the time you get to pulltime. The more relaxed you are the better you're going to do."
So what else stands out about your training with Scotty?
"His energy level, he's always really excited about what he's doing - he has a passion for it - you feel that and you feed off of it in a way, which is really important for an instructor... to be excited about what you're doing. I liked his whole approach to it, it was really laid back but he was still really on top of everything...the safety aspect, I really liked that too. To me that comes first, and after that everything else can be worked on. He was really good at explaining the things that I can work on so that I can progress - I definitely saw an improvement in my flying and also my confidence."
Tell us about the "big things" to remember as a beginning wingsuiter...
"Clearing the tail of the plane, pulling at the right altitude and landing safely without any low turns or collisions - if you have those down pretty much everything else can be tweaked."
Was it weird adding to your time in the air with a wingsuit?
"When you're just starting out it's not as big of a difference, maybe 30 seconds more. You definitely have that internal clock that's a little bit like 'huh, what's going on?' When I continue to progress and flatten out more - I’ll be up in the air even longer."
What about any added distance?
"By the third jump I knew I could handle it and he [Scotty] would take care of me... you want that from your instructors. With the distance and the amount of distance that you can cover in wingsuiting, you have to really plan out your dive - especially if there are other wingsuiters. You want to make sure that your paths aren’t going to conflict. Communication and preparation are a big part of wingsuiting."
Words of advice for someone looking to take on a wingsuit?
"I definitely recommend you train properly and go with someone who knows what they're doing first because there is so much that can go wrong if you don't know what you're doing––or if you go with someone not as experienced as Scotty."
Any plans to come back to DeLand?
"It's bit of a drive for me but next long weekend I get I'll probably come back and do a couple of wingsuiting jumps, just probably not in the summer!"
"Wingsuits are really hot. It's hot as a regular skydiver, but in the wingsuit it's even more. You have to drink a lot of water."
Big thanks goes out to Samantha for letting us profile her time at Skydive University! We're no Miami, but we hope to see you flying in DeLand again soon. Here she is flying through a rainbow on her second wingsuit jump, this was meant to be!
Interested in Skydive Coaching or Upping Your Coach Ratings?
Do you want to skydive for a living as a skydiving coach, or are you just looking for additional training to hone your own skills? Whether you’re practicing bodyflight, backflight, freefly/sitfly, or wingsuiting, Skydive University can help you on the way to your next rating or license. Call us at 1.800.891.5867, or browse through our Coach Ratings for more information on how you can start progressing as a skydiver.