Nothing annoys me more than when one of my favorite daily check-ins goes all schizo on me. You know, like when a media/gossip Web site runs around screaming "you're a douchebag! you're a douchebag!" like an attention-starved child, or when a venerable sports mag gives me bikinis instead of balls (wait, that came out really, really wrong -- let's try "swim trunks instead of slam dunks").

Today, then, I'm going to take a look at a publication that can't possibly mislead me: Parachutist. It is written by, for and about people who jump out of planes. I cannot envision a day when Parachutist would ever cover anything but parachutes, parachuters, parachuting or, as they say in Versailles, le parachuterie. Parachute Fashion Week? Skydiving in swimwear? Perish the thought.

As far as fan-only titles go, Parachutist does just dandy. Unlike other enthusiast publications (especially those which, like Parachutist, are published by a booster organization), the mag keeps its fanboy tendencies in check. Rather than the usual our-activity-is-the-bestest-ever-and-anybody-who-doesn't-like-it-is-an-inert-couch-donkey screeds, Parachutist views its central pastime with a discerning eye.

The February issue has a decidedly populist feel to it, reprinting two pages' worth of correspondence sent in response to an earlier editorial about a descent (get it? whoo!) in skydiving's popularity. It offers incident reports (mostly on rough landings), a chronicle of member achievements (hint: most involve hurling oneself out of planes) and a list of organization-accredited schools. The "Capital Commentary" editor's note concerns itself with safety, noting that only 21 people died during jumps in 2006. Separately, I'd love it if one my ever-vigilant readers could dig up similar stats for frenzied New Yorkers jumping out of decelerating cabs.

Elsewhere, Parachutist surveys the challenges associated with converting so-called tandem students (the skydiving equivalent of a plus-one, basically) into full-timers and provides a veritable smorgasbord of "Getting to Know Your Rig" tips. Advice is presented as straightforwardly as humanly possible; the writing, though thoroughly competent, doesn't bother much with color or anecdote. The essay written by the son of some dude who has completed 850 or so jumps could use a little of that verve, actually.

In fact, if the mag lacks anything, it's a personality. Devoting a single page per issue to a "funny" columnist could liven up the proceedings somewhat; there have to be some wacky stories out there about pranks involving rip cords and Krazy Glue, right? Parachutist might also consider allotting more space for its photographs. In the February issue, only one -- a gorgeous descending-at-sunset shot -- is afforded more than a corner of a page. Still, the DIY feel of the design serves the mag well.

I have no desire ever to jump out of a plane -- or, for that matter, out of anything more steeply pitched than my desk chair. But for the more adventurously inclined, Parachutist works as both a primer and a sober source of information. It's as professional an organization-backed publication as I've seen in some time.

Published by: United States Parachute Association
Frequency: Monthly
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