Looking for a good weekend thrill? Well, if you haven’t done it already, I highly recommend giving skydiving a chance. It is something that we’ve become so accustomed to seeing on TV that we don’t give it a second glance when it is on the screen, but there is absolutely no substitute for it in real life.
First, you will need to find a skydiving school with a good reputation. This is a fairly easy thing to do. Most places with a lot of “incidents” don’t stay in business very long, so finding a good reputable place shouldn’t be that hard.
Next, you will need to check your pocket book. Skydiving is one of the more expensive sports to learn. The average price range is between $180-$250 per jump.
What I didn’t realize is that there isn’t just one form of skydiving. There are three methods of training: tandem, static line, and Accelerated Free Fall (AFF). All of these methods have their benefits and drawbacks, but we will touch more on those a little later.
Health and Safety.
First, you must consider health and safety. Know the risks involved before you get involved. Skydiving is not chess; you will not be sitting on an uncomfortable concrete bench moving your pieces around a game board.
You are going to step out of an airplane and, in freefall, will reach speeds of up to 250 feet per second… that is 110 miles per hour!! If you have a bad ticker, unregulated high blood pressure, or any number of other health problems, speak to an instructor and discuss your options in detail.
Also keep in mind, even the best of the best in this sport sometimes hit the ground a little harder than they intend to. So, bad knees may also be a consideration.
One guy that I was supposed to jump with had a bad knee. He asked the instructor if he thought it would be ok to jump. I thought the instructor had the perfect answer with, “What would your doctor say?” He didn’t jump. The thrill of skydiving lasts only a few minutes, the stories live on forever, but is not worth living with an injury for the rest of your life.
DO NOT be afraid or embarrassed to discuss these things with your instructor before making that first jump. It is always preferable to hit the ground safely then to plant yourself in it. Truthfully though, with the proper preparations and instruction you would be more likely to develop cataracts from reading this article then suffer a serious injury from skydiving.
Listen to your instructors, know your equipment, and never assume you know how to do something just because you saw it in a movie.
Which Training Method To Use?
As I researched information, I discovered that there are three approved methods of training to become a licensed skydiver, the Tandem jump, the Static jump, and the Accelerated Freefall (AFF).
This is by far the most popular means of skydiving. The tandem jump is the easiest and quickest method to get into the air. With ground training typically lasting about 30 minutes, you will then jump out of an airplane while strapped to the chest of a professional Tandem Instructor.
After three or four of these jumps and completion of the approved First Jump Course (ground school), a student may then move on to the next level.
Tandem jumping, however, does provide an opportunity for the adventurous spirit who may not quite meet the physical or proficiency requirements for the static line or accelerated free fall jumps. By relying on tandem instructor's skills, it may still be possible to experience the extreme thrill of skydiving.
Static line skydiving was developed by the military as a safety measure for paratroopers. It is used for instant and reliable deployment of parachutes at a relatively low altitude, about 2000 – 3000 feet.
Basically what happens is a specially designed cord is attached to the plane and to your parachute. As you step away from the plane, the cord immediately deploys your parachute for you. No fuss – no muss.
A cousin of mine did this form of skydiving and although you never reach full freefall for more than a second or two, he said that it was amazing.
After about two of these jumps the student begins demonstrating mock-pulls of a dummy ripcord. After about three of these jumps the student is then ready for their first free fall.
Accelerated Free Fall
This is the way to go for the adrenalin junky out there. Why? You get to free fall from jump one!! Of course this method is a little more expensive due to the fact that you will have two instructors jumping with you, and, although you will be in free fall, the instructors will maintain hands-on contact at all times during free fall.
After a few jumps like this, you will begin doing it on your own with a single instructor giving more advice and training. This method will get you your Class A license a little faster.
It costs a few extra bucks but most places will offer some type of video or at least photos of your jump. Spend the money!!
After your day is over it is nonstop laughs with you and your friends about the looks on your face, how far your nose will push back into your head and the still photos of your cheeks flapping in the wind.
The facility that I jumped at had an extra guy jump with you, who had a camera strapped to his helmet. Which was great because you got a shot of all of your entire exit and freefall. Some places your tandem instructor will have a GoPro strapped to their wrist and shoot the video from there.
I’ve heard some places offer the video for free. The facility that I went to charged an extra $100. Regardless, like I said, it costs a little extra but it is well worth having your first jump documented.
After you have completed 4 to 5 hours of ground school training and have made 25 jumps, you are qualified for a license and can keep going all the way to your D license, requiring 500 jumps.
But once you have your license, are you really done? The answer to that question is “No”. As with any skill, you never learn everything. There is always going to be that next skill level to work towards. New equipment and techniques are being developed every day.
Each state varies according to the laws and regulations as far as how many classes you may have to take before your are certified. But regardless, its an awesome journey. So the only thing left to do now is to get started! Have fun and good jumping!