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Parachute Ottawa Posted by: Parachute Ottawa 1 month ago

Sure, the act of jumping out of an airplane is an incredible experience. But there’s so much more to skydiving fun than just good vibes, blue skies, high fives and gear checks. Skydiving culture is all about upholding traditions, whether that’s funny things to do while skydiving or ways to build meaningful connections between jumpers. 

Want to get the inside scoop on what it’s like to be part of a skydiving family and find out the real answer to the question, “Is skydiving fun?” Check out this list of skydiving traditions for a sneak peek into life at the dropzone.

Secret Handshakes

Experienced skydiver in freefall wearing a blue camera helmet and waving at the camera

If you’ve ever done a tandem skydive and noticed all the experienced skydivers slapping and shaking hands shortly before exit, it’s more than just excited high fives. The “skydiver handshake” is a longstanding tradition that spans across decades and countries. 

The traditional version of the handshake is a hand-slap followed by a fist-bump, but some people add their own flair with extra moves or hand signals. These handshakes set the vibe, calm the nerves, and help to include newer people in that famous skydiver cameradie. 

Beer Fines

As with any exclusive group, skydivers have their own ways of initiating newcomers. And, as expected, skydivers found a way to do it that would benefit everyone. 

Any time a skydiver does something for the first time, that skydiver has to buy a case of beer for the dropzone (this rule thankfully doesn’t apply until you’ve achieved your license or else PFF students would be buying A LOT of beer!). Owed fines are often posted somewhere around the dropzone and can’t be removed until they are paid up. 

And be careful what you say, because there’s always that skydiver who has hyper-senstaive ears specifically honed to hear the word, “first.”

Of course, the fruits of beer fines are strictly for post-jumping, end of the day consumption. No one is required to drink beer either. This tradition comes from the idea that you are giving people something to sip on while you tell your story of what caused your fine. In the end, it’s all about building community!

Mmmm, Pie

Many people don’t realize that skydivers log their jumps to keep track of jump numbers and other significant details. And with this meticulous counting comes periodic celebrations. 

It’s a major achievement to wrack up jump numbers, and certain milestones garner extra attention. Skydiving tradition states that a jumper gets pied in the face when they hit 100 jumps. This 100th skydive tradition ends up being quite the spectacle, with everyone on the dropzone helping in the pieing, with one caveat – you don’t participate in pieing until you have been pied yourself. 

Some dropzones build on this custom by pieing at other significant jump numbers like 500 and 1000, or even every 100 jumps! 

Closing Pin Necklaces

You might notice a lot of skydivers wearing goofy shaped charms around their necks. That little curved piece of metal is actually the pin that holds the parachute inside the container until it’s time to deploy. Wearing it around one’s neck is like a secret code by which skydivers can identify each other. 

Closing pin necklaces are a badge of honor among jumpers and often attached to sentimental meaning. Truly traditional closing pin necklaces are earned or given, not purchased, and have a lot of meaning behind them. 

Boogies

If there’s anything skydivers like more than jumping out of airplanes, it’s hanging out with other people that jump out of airplanes so that they can talk about jumping out of airplanes. And boogies are designed for exactly that. Think music festival, but replace the music with skydiving. 

Experienced skydivers in formation while in freefall over Parachute Ottawa

Boogies are special events held by individual dropzones that include skydiving (duh!), jump organizers and coaches, camping, bonfires, and nightly entertainment. Boogies often have a theme or a discipline focus. Skydivers will travel from all over the world to attend boogies, and some even go “on the boogie circuit,” traveling from one boogie to the next. Talk about living the life! 

Buying Your Rigger a Bottle

Per Canadian Sport Parachuting Association (CSPA) guidelines, reserve parachutes are required to be inspected and repacked every 180 days. This keeps them fresh, well-packed, and regularly-inspected. The relationship between a skydiver and their rigger is one of trust, companionship, and gratitude, as the rigger could quite literally be responsible for saving the skydiver’s life

After a skydiver has a cutaway, they will present their rigger with a bottle of the rigger’s favorite liquor (or something equivalent if the rigger doesn’t drink). It’s just a nice way to say, “hey, thanks for saving my life!” 

Skydivers who’ve worked with the same rigger for a long time may already know what bottle to buy without even asking!

Skydiving Lingo

There are a lot of words skydivers use that might sound like a foreign language to the uninitiated. Here are a few of the most common:

  • Blue Skies – The typical skydiver greeting that wishes for good weather and great jumps.
  • Whuffo – The name for someone who doesn’t skydive.
  • Canopy – Parachute; skydivers don’t say ‘chute’ unless they’re talking about a pilot chute.
  • Rig – What skydivers call the pack they wear on their back that holds their parachute.
  • Chop / Mal – Another word for a cutaway, usually used as a verb.
  • Sucker Hole – A hole in the clouds that creates a false sense of hope that a weather hold will end, making those who believe it a “sucker.”

Bonfires

Skydiving culture wouldn’t be what it is without the tradition of story-swapping and family style gatherings. The end-of-the-day bonfire is a staple of the skydiving community. Skydivers love to regale each other with tales of jumps gone by and even tease one another about harmless goof-ups. 

Jumpers of every age, gender, race, and religion connect during these gatherings through a shared love of skydiving. Old-time jumpers teach lessons to the newbies, and casual skydivers rub elbows with giants of the sport. The bonfire is the great equalizer, and it’s where the heart of skydiving lies. 

Want to catch a glimpse of these awesome traditions in real life? Book your jump and see how many you notice! Blue skies!

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