14 Things You Should Know Before You Go Skydiving For The First Time
As explained by someone who is terrified by heights but survived — and even loved! — his skydiving experience.
1. Is skydiving hard?
No! If you're skydiving for the first time, you're probably doing a tandem dive, which is where you're strapped to another human through a Baby Bjorn-like series of carabiners and knots, and that human throws you out of an airplane. Then he/she free-falls with you for a short while — probably less than a minute, depending on how high you're jumping from — and pulls the parachute, and then lands you both safely on the ground.
Again, you're not skydiving as much as you're being voluntarily thrown out of an airplane by a complete stranger.
2. And people pay money for this?
Yes, quite a bit!
3. Is it physically strenuous, though?
No, not at all. Your skydiving partner is doing 80% of the work, and gravity takes care of the rest. The harness you're in does get a little bit snug — especially for gentlemen, uh, down there — but that's more a matter of discomfort.
4. Who are these people you tandem dive with? Are they certified? Is it safe to skydive with them?
Absolutely. In fact, if you're nervous, ask the skydiving facility where their staff was certified, and maybe ask for diplomas or paperwork to prove that they're not making it up, and maybe even then Google the names of those places just to be super sure. (I did, and mostly learned that skydiving schools do not spend a lot of money on web design.)
The other important thing to remember is that anyone who is taking you up in and throwing you out of an airplane has done this quite a few times, and successfully landed each time, which is a better-than-average predictor of future success.
5. Isn't this all kind of insane, though?
It is! But that's the not the craziest part of skydiving.
The craziest part is that you are going to meet a person with a parachute, and you are going to be introduced to them, and this is one of the most important people you will ever meet in your life. This person's entire job is to throw you out of an airplane and not let you die, which is somehow even harder than it sounds.
And yet, you are going to do the thing that humans always do in these situations, which is that you will forget this very important skydiving person's name immediately.
You would think you would remember that person's name, seeing as this is a life or death type of activity, but no, you will immediately forget it, just like every other name you've ever heard.
There is a reason all skydiving videos involve one person yelling, "That was awesome, dude!" No one remembers anyone else's name.
6. Why is everyone dressed so strangely in their skydiving photos?
When asked, skydiving professionals will probably mention something about "drag" or "lift" or "physics," but most likely, these skydiving suits are part of a well-orchestrated inside joke by the skydiving industry, who just want to see how many people they can make dress like dorks.
You will end up dressing like a dork, too. Sorry.
7. Should my loved ones be concerned about me? Do I need to write a will before I go skydiving?
Probably not, but you should read the skydiving waiver before you sign, if only to see how many different ways there are to describe "death by falling." If anything will convince you not to skydive, it's that waiver.
8. What's the scariest part of skydiving?
Honestly? It's the part where you ride into the sky in a tiny aircraft that may or may not have been inspected since the Clinton administration. By the time you reach your skydiving height, you will actually be excited to leave that airplane for the safety of a parachute.
9. If you get really scared once you're in the plane, can you come down without jumping?
Yes. But once you're up there, you're going to come down one way or another, and most importantly, they've already charged your credit card, so you might as well jump.
10. What's it like when the plane door opens?
The first thing you'll notice is that it's really cold up in the clouds. Then your skydiving partner will yell something to you, but it's kind of loud in an airplane with the door open, so you will yell back, "What??" And that's when your partner jumps out of the airplane, and you go with that person.
11. Is free-fall terrifying?
Yes! You remember those Wile E. Coyote cartoons where he's chasing the Road Runner and then suddenly realizes he's over a cliff, and the fall doesn't actually start until he looks down?
This is nothing like that.
It will be very, very obvious to you that you are falling, and that the Earth is getting very close very quickly, and that if your skydiving partner doesn't pull the parachute soon, you will die.
This is what skydivers describe as the "fun" part.
But then the parachute opens, and you realize you're still alive, and the whole thing actually becomes pretty cool. You'll spend the next couple of days thinking about how insane free-fall was, and then you'll start thinking about whether or not you should do it again.
12. Does it make a difference where you go skydiving?
Actually, yes! One of the underrated parts of skydiving is the few minutes after free-fall. The parachute opens, and you're just soaring through the air looking at whatever's around you. The view is astonishing, so you might as well skydive someplace with a truly great view.
13. How do you land, anyway?
Your skydiving partner does all the hard work. He/she steers you down, and then you lift your feet up. You both kind of go sliding, and then someone comes and unhooks you. The whole thing ends with you taking a million photos with your skydiving partner, all of which involve hand gestures that haven't been popular since 1996, and all of which you will regret later. You will try to tag your partner in your Facebook photos, but you will have long since forgotten his/her name.
14. Should I go skydiving, too?
Hell freaking yes.