Skydiving is often thought of as a major adrenaline producing sport. And, for good reason. It is.
You exit a plane at anywhere from 10,000-18,000 feet (3,050-5,500 m). You fly through the air at 120-180 mph (193-290 kph). You pull out your pilot chute and hope to heaven it deploys your main canopy. Maybe it doesn’t. You pull the cutaway handle and open the reserve. You glide across the landscape at 50 mph (80 kph) and scan the ground for the dropzone. You hit the landing point within inches of the target.
If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, it doesn’t get any better than that.
But first, you have to go to class. Depending on the type of skydiving you want to do – Tandem, Static Line, AFF (accelerated free fall) – you may spend anywhere from an hour to eight hours listening and watching. But that instruction is vital to showing you how to use a lot of complex gear safely.
You need to learn some basic physics about how the body and parachute work together in the air at high speeds. You need to learn how to track, how to work a drogue and how to use an altimeter. You need to know what the AAD (automatic activation device) is for and when it will activate.
Beyond basic safety, in order to get the most enjoyment out of this high flying sport you’ll want to learn about freeflying techniques. The classic ‘face and belly toward Earth’ position is not the only means of moving through the air. Back flying, headdown and other techniques provide more speed and variety.
To get the most out of the experience, you’ll want to learn about manipulating the toggles, brakes and other controls on the parachute. Flying your canopy rather than just having it fly you is one of the best aspects to modern skydiving. Parachuting isn’t limited to deploying the old round chute, come down, land and roll anymore. Canopy manipulation is close to paragliding these days.
But to get to those more advanced skills you need to learn to deal with the possibility of turbulence, canopy collapse, mid-air collisions and other potential hazards. The risks of skydiving are still relatively low. About 1 jump in 100,000 leads to a fatality every year. But you’ll want to make some efforts to see that you are not that one.
That way, you can get the most out of what is a fairly expensive sport. Jumps run anywhere from $50 to $200 or more and many skydivers enjoy doing multiple jumps in one day. To make the most of that investment, invest a little time in learning the ins and outs of one of the world’s greatest adventures: skydiving.