A little breeze can be a good thing for skydivers as they sail through the clouds making their way back to the ground.
But a strong, gusty wind hinders that ability, and that was the case Thursday morning. It left skydivers at the 33rd Annual Dollar Daze Couch Freak Boogie at the Fort Dodge Regional Airport grounded- at least until late in the day when a few divers got into the air.
"Wind isn't a problem if it remains steady," said Travis Lester, a skydiver from Tampa, Fla. "We could go out even up to 10, maybe 15 miles per hour and we'd still be good. But when it gets up to 20 or 30 and gusty, it's not so good. On days like today, it's better to stay on the ground."
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Conditions were too windy most of Thursday for making jumps at the Dollar Daze Couch Freak Boogie skydiving festival at Fort Dodge Regional Airport, but not too windy for flying kites. From left, Travis Lester, of Tampa, Fla., Chris Derham, of Peoria, Ill., and Justine Sutton, of Cedar Rapids, try to keep a pair from tangling. A few divers did get in the air late in the day.
Even though he was grounded, Lester and a few fellow skydivers did get the chance to play with a parachute - in the form of a kite.
Their "Ram Air" kite, which looks like a parachute used by skydivers, is smaller than an actual parachute and is controlled by two handles and four strings.
"It might be just a little windy for the kite today," said Lester. "Like a chute, you've got keep control of the kite. It might pull you off the ground in a wind like this."
Chris Derham, of Peoria, Ill., knew exactly how he'd spend the windy day.
"Flying kites and working," said Derham.
Derham works at the registration tent throughout the weekend, helping skydivers register. But when the wind lets up, he plans to get in some jump time.
"If the wind dies down we'll get the planes flying," Derham said. "I'll probably go up about 30 times. I also shoot the tandem videos."
John Connor, Dan Langstraat and JJ Schuster have made an annual Labor Day weekend trip to Fort Dodge from Kansas for the past 20 years. They got creative with their no-fly day by placing a couch and a stuffed banana large enough to sit on in a trailer attached to a four-wheeler and rode around the campgrounds.
"We're just seeing the sights," said Langstraat.
Schuster said the downtime is a good way to see newcomers.
"The windy days are when experienced divers sit around and watch the inexperienced divers get experience."
Schuster said the group would also be honing their cooking abilities.
"We'll test our culinary skills," he said. "We've got a brisket smoking and we're getting ready to fry up some potatoes."
Even when they don't get to jump, Lester said the Couch Freak Boogie is still one of the best skydiving events he attends.
"I enjoy the community feel of it," Lester said. "You get to see people here you might not see anywhere else. When the weather is good there are constant planes so you never have to wait. As soon as you're on the ground you can go right back up again. You don't get that everywhere you go."
"This is definitely one of the best events around," he said. "You see a lot of old friends here. I've been skydiving for more than 10 years and in 10 years this is the one event I won't miss."