Is skydiving scary? For many first timers – and even some frequent flyers – yes! And it’s nothing to be ashamed of. To be on high alert in dangerous situations is written into our DNA. It’s natural and healthy to shift into fight-or-flight gear; it’s how the fittest survive.
But how scary is skydiving, really? Is it a rational fear? Or is the novelty what freaks us out? Let’s break down what happens when you make a tandem skydive, who you’re with when you jump, and things you can do to overcome skydive anxiety.
What Happens When You Tandem Skydive?
There are two main parts to your skydiving experience – freefall and canopy flight. Perhaps surprisingly, though, that’s not typically when people are scared. Believe it or not, it’s the anticipation of skydiving, freefall mostly, that gets folks rattled. Don’t go skydiving scared – get in the know!
Arrive at the dropzone at your reservation time, check in, and – if you haven’t already – buy a media package (don’t skip the video; it’s the number one regret from first timers!).
Meet your instructor and spend 15 to 20 minutes one-on-one talking through expectations and next steps. The most important thing to retain: lift your legs on landing!
Your tandem skydiving harness will fit snugly over your clothes. When it’s go-time, it’s this harness that will securely attach you to your instructor.
The Plane Ride
When your load is called, you and your instructor will board Bruce, our awesome jump plane, and take to the skies. Look out the window and take it all in!
When the pilot gives the signal, the door of the plane will open and you and your instructor will shimmy to the exit. After one last gear check, you’ll LEAP into the glorious big blue yonder.
Jumping from 9,000 ft up yields 20 seconds in freefall; 13,500 ft yields 60. If you can swing it, go to 13.5K – you may be afraid of freefall now, but when you’re up there, you won’t want it to end!
At about 5,500 feet, your instructor will deploy the parachute. In videos, it looks sudden and hard, but it isn’t. It is swift, but parachutes are designed to open gradually. It just looks fast because the camera flyer is still in freefall.
Canopy flight is lovely – peaceful and serene. Unless of course you want it wild; just tell your instructor. You’ll be able to talk together at this point.
This is the part you trained for! When your instructor gives the word, lift your legs as high as you can from the hips. This gets your legs out the way so your instructor can navigate the landing.
Done right and this is easy-breezy – you’ll either slide in on your bum or land gently on your feet. Done wrong, and you could have a good blooper for your video, or else a sprain, fracture, or break. In summary: listen to your instructor!
… But I’m Afraid of Heights!
Deep breath in … and exhale. Having acrophobia shouldn’t stop you from skydiving. In fact, a lot of certified skydivers are afraid of heights. Here’s why the panic attack you expect may not come:
No Rollercoaster Feeling
That belly drop that some crave and others cringe over? Yeah: doesn’t happen in freefall. This is because when you’re on a coaster, you go from moving at a slow speed, or even a stop, to moving crazy-fast – you’re momentarily weightless and your tummy isn’t too cool with it. When you skydive, though, you leave a fast-moving plane and go faster; no stomach drop.
You don’t plummet like a rock. Within seconds of leaving the aircraft, you reach terminal velocity. This is when the force of gravity pulling you down is equal to the wind resistance pushing you up. As a result, you don’t feel like you’re falling. You feel like you’re flying or floating!
No Ground Rush
When you’re up high – maybe just up a ladder – you’re aware of how close the ground is. If you fall, you know you’ll meet the ground fast. Yikes. But when you skydive, you’re up REAL HIGH! As much as four klicks up! You can’t see the ground. The world below might as well be a map.
If logic kicks in, though, and you remember you’re flying but wish maybe you weren’t … look at the horizon. It’ll tell your brain the ground is literally miles away!
Who You’re Jumping With
Your tandem instructor may joke with you that this is their first time too, but it most certainly is not! Our tandem instructors must first have at least their C Certificate of Proficiency (CoP) from the Canadian Sport Parachuting Association (CSPA), have a minimum of 500 jumps, and must also comply with guidelines set forth by United Parachute Technologies (UPT).
Have logged at least 50 jumps in the previous 12 months
Are at least 18 years old
Only after acing these criteria can they go after their tandem instructor rating. In short, your instructor has a lot of experience and is credentialed to the max! You are in great hands.
How To Overcome Skydiving Anxiety
First of all, know that there’s a lot of technology layered in with all of that training your instructor has earned. At Parachute Ottawa, the tandem rig your instructor wears includes:
AAD (Automatic Activation Device): Automatically deploys the parachute in the event it isn’t manually deployed on time.
Reserve Parachute: Should the main canopy be unfit to fly, the instructor cuts it away and deploys the reserve.
Skyhook: Instead of manual reserve deployment of the reserve, the Skyhook does it automatically.
Secondly, there’s a fair bit you can doto tame your tension.
Listen: Say it with us: listen to your instructor! Trust in their training and experience.
Ask: Have questions? Ask away! We want you to feel comfortable and confident.
Breathe: Deep breaths on the ride up; shout on exit. You can’t scream without a big breath!
Eat & Drink: Good food in your belly and plenty of water will keep the jitters at bay. No alcohol.
Get Video: There is nothing more empowering than doing things that scare us.
Should I Go Skydiving If I’m Scared?
Should you go skydiving? YES!! If the motivational speaker, George Addair, was right (and we think he was), “Everything you’ve ever wanted is sitting on the other side of fear.” Carpe diem! Book your skydive now!!
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