Over the past week or so I’ve been seeing a lot of posts on Facebook bashing “noob” chasers. Some of these posts are dead on, and some are a little too harsh I think. I’ve decided to try to write a post that both the Noob and veteran chaser alike can relate to. The Noob needs to understand the right kind of questions to ask and advice to seek, while the veteran needs to learn to be helpful but not do all of the work. The checklist below I think can be very helpful for people new to the hobby.
NOOB CHECKLIST: Noobs, follow these simple rules of etiquette and I bet you’ll get the kind of advice and answers you’re looking for and less rolling of the eyes from the chaser you’re asking…
Don’t be offended by the word “Noob.” - It’s just a word! It’s not meant in a derogatory fashion. It’s the same thing in sports if you were a rookie on a team. ”Get my towel rook! Nice job today rook!” See, it’s just a word. Hell, compared to some of the guys I chase with here in Colorado, my 6 years makes me STILL a Noob!
Don’t be offended if someone won’t help – Chasers gather information over the span of years and years. We get more information from every new book or article we read. We get it from every chase whether it was a success or not. And now when you ask us questions, you’re trying to get info that wasn’t free to us. So why should it be free to you? You wouldn’t go to Coca Cola asking them for their top secret recipe and not expect to get laughed at or rejected would you? That’s why it’s important to be tactful and word your questions in the right way. See below…
Don’t ask, “where are you targeting?” – Look, it’s not that I won’t tell you where I’m targeting, you just need to be a little bit more tactful than that. Instead, ask something like “Hey, the dryline looks like a good play today, what are you thinking?” Because that at least shows me that you’ve made some sort of attempt to look over the models on your own. The more you show me that you’ve made an attempt to try to ascertain some information regarding the setup, the more willing I will be to share my thoughts. I’m not going to divulge information to someone I don’t think deserves it. When I’m asked “where are you targeting?” my answer will always be “The United States.”
Show you’re serious – In all honesty Noob, there’s a 95% chance we won’t be having this conversation next year. I’ve had countless people track me down via my website or through Facebook and ask me about getting in to storm chasing. About 5% actually stick around. It’s a high turnover hobby because success actually takes some work, learning, and money. Not qualities possessed by the “give me it RIGHT NOW!” culture. So realize that if I let you ride along with me to get you some learning, you goddamn better act like you’re serious and try to absorb like a freakin’ sponge. I’m not a tour guide.
Must be willing to figure some stuff out – Noobs must be willing to figure out some things on their own. I don’t mind nudging you in the right direction, but some of this stuff you’re just going to have figure out on your own. I’ve been asked countless times about loading place files in GRLevel3. I have no problem pointing you to the place file page on the GRLevel site. Don’t follow up with “Okay, so what do I do?” Figure it out! What you may not realize is, by just digging around a few pages on the GRLevel forums, there’s a plethora of tutorials on how to accomplish what you’re trying to do. Then not only do you feel rewarded by doing something on your own for once, you also get to dive into the GRLevel software a little further than you’re used to and you learn something. Win-win!
Dream Big, Start Small – Look, we all know what you are; you’re going to be the next big chaser who sells footage to the Weather Channel and the news. ”Ahh, a kid with a dream. How cute.” is what we think of that. Start small. I can’t count how many times I bumped around eastern Colorado to utter failure before I’d even dream of putting my name on Spotter Network. So before you get hyped to go catch the “Apocalypse” in Oklahoma next week, perhaps try to succeed a few miles down the road first.
There is no such thing as “chaser” equipment – Is there equipment that a lot of chasers use in common? Yes. But there is no ‘official’ storm chaser radar software, or camera, or lens, or anything for that matter! I had someone ask me advice about a camera they were looking to purchase. They didn’t have a specific brand or type in mind and they just asked “Well, what do chasers use?” *Face palm* Actually it was a double *face palm* because the follow up question was, “where can I buy a camera?” Noobs, there is a fantastic piece of technology out there called “the internet.” Use it for god’s sake.
And While We’re On Equipment, More Is Not Better – I cannot count the times I’ve had a new chaser start talking about all of the laptops, laptop stands, streaming camera’s, video camera’s, still camera’s, scanners, ham radio’s, etc that they are going to load up on for their chase ride but then, couldn’t tell me what the NAM is. Noobs, the only equipment you need to start off with is this:
Fail, fail, fail – You have to go out and fail. You have to go out and fail a lot. And trust me, it’s not fun. Don’t call your chaser friend and ask where they are to see if you did it right. Don’t look at Spotter Network to see where everyone else is. Just do your thing. If you’re lucky, you’ll get some minor successes scattered in with your failures. I’ll tell ya this though; those minor successes will seem like you just saved the world. It’s an awesome feeling to get on a storm in the area you forecast, AND you understand why it happened. Sadly, this failure step is what dooms most people from the hobby. When I busted, the first thing I tried to do when I got home was to figure out what I screwed up, or what didn’t happen in the atmosphere to cause the bust. I still do this.
Solo, Ride Along, Solo, Ride Along – Alternate your trips out chasing with going solo and riding along with a more experienced chaser. I learned a ton doing both. I rarely will turn down a Noob from riding along with me, but if I don’t see them also out there on their own occasionally, I’ll assume you’re just using me for a ride. A big time no-no. On dangerous days, always ride with someone who knows what they’re doing so you don’t get yourself killed.
Don’t join chaser groups/functions until you have the basics down – If you ask me questions about chasing, I’m going to assume you have some basic grasp of forecasting. I had someone ask me once about where I was targeting and I replied something along the lines of “well, GFS and NAM are still pretty far apart on tonight’s run. I’m not sure which to believe at this point.” That person followed up with “are those the radar’s you like to use?” Conversation terminated. Look, there was a time when I didn’t know what the models were either, let alone how to read them. There’s no shame in Google-ing “GFS forecast model” and seeing what it spits out. You might be surprised. But until you know some of the lingo and basics, don’t join up with chaser groups on-line or on Facebook. Learn, then join.
Calm The Fuck Down – It’s okay to get excited when you do well. When I saw my first tornado, I damn near shit myself. I was happy beyond anything I’d ever felt. From my shaky video though, you’d never know it. Don’t yell and scream at the tornado. And if you do, mute the audio when you post the video up. Trust me, it’s annoying.
In Conclusion – When I was in audio school down in Florida, the day came when we finally got to learn about one of those enormous mixing boards that you see pictures of in big recording studios. It was overwhelming to say the least. ”How in the hell do you work this thing?” I thought as I looked it over. My professor said something right then that will always stick with me. It’s not really a phrase of zen or anything but it’s good and works in a lot of situations. As we all looked over the board, he said “Don’t bother looking for the ‘phat beats’ button, because it doesn’t exist.” Yep, there is no magic button that just makes the thing work. You actually have to sit down and learn how to use it. Storm chasing is no different. There is no “tornado locator” button on your laptop. It takes a lot of work to learn forecasting and how to chase properly. Keep that in mind when you ask questions. Because essentially what you are doing is asking for a handout. You see, information is important and valuable to chasers. Asking them “how do I read the models?” is like asking Steve Jobs how to build a computer. It took them years and years of hard work to figure it out and now you want it in 10 minutes? I don’t think so. However, if you follow some of these simple rules that I’ve laid out, then you’ll be on your way from “Noob” to “They know some things” status in a heartbeat.