We get it. Skydiving seems terrifying to most people. We’ve heard the fears from our family and friends who ask us why we choose to jump out of planes. We’ve heard it in the newscasters who sensationalize skydiving deaths.
It doesn’t help that when you make the brave decision to make your first jump, you have to weed through a pages-long waiver that reminds you that skydiving is a dangerous sport and could cause serious bodily harm or death. You even have to sign a contract absolving the dropzone from responsibility should something go wrong.
Woo, yeah, don’t hyperventilate. We realize that sounds scary.
But we’re here to let you know that’s it’s not really as terrifying as it seems. If you were to hang out at our dropzone on a sunny Virginia afternoon, you’d start to see what we mean.
On any given day at Skydive Orange, you might see hundreds of people go up in planes and then land safely on the ground 20 or so minutes later. Watch this exercise repeated over-and-over day-after-day like we do, and you’d start to relax.
First and foremost, skydiving is scary because of the unknown. You’ve been in a plane before, but you’ve never been in one at an altitude of 13,500 feet with the door open. It seems unnatural. We don’t have wings. Why would a sane person voluntarily throw themselves out of a plane? Skydiving is a death wish, right? Wrong.
As you start to familiarize yourself with the sport and really break down the statistics of skydiving-related injuries and deaths, you start to realize that it’s a regulated sport with top-notch equipment that’s been put through extensive testing.
Far more people are injured and killed each year driving their cars. In fact, skydivers often joke about how getting to the dropzone is the most dangerous part. In 2015, the United States Parachute Association (the regulatory authority of skydiving) recorded 21 fatal skydiving accidents in the U.S. out of roughly 3.5 million jumps. That’s 0.006 deaths per 1,000 jumps. The number has been trending down for decades.
OK, so you’ve familiarized yourself with the statistics and signed the waiver. Don’t celebrate just yet, a new set of fears are about to set in.
Most likely at this point you’ve watched a video about skydiving and met the tandem instructor who you’ll be attached to during the flight. You’re filled with uneasy excitement. You’re ready to go, but your hands start to sweat as you buckle into your harness and board the plane. Don’t worry, that’s normal.
Tandem instructors are among the most experienced skydivers in the sport. Many of them have jumped thousands of times before. They know the equipment, plane and weather conditions inside and out. They’ll be there with you the whole time.
For first-time jumpers, nerves start to set in as the plane takes off (holy crap, you’re actually off the ground), then peak again the moment the plane door opens (holy crap, you’re actually about to voluntarily jump out of a plane!). This is, again, normal. In fact, it’d be kind of strange if you were totally cool with it.
The final terrifying moment is the awkward few seconds you walk strapped to your instructor to the door. You’re staring over the edge. You can see the ground. Your brain kicks into survival mode and screams at you. “You sure you want to do this!??”
“Ready?” your tandem instructor asks.
“NO!” you yell back. But he counts down from three anyway.
A second later you’re out the door and flying stably. You realize you’re ok and that you’re actually having fun. You might even smile.
The last outstanding fears have to do with the parachute. Will it open? Will it hurt? Will we still hit the ground hard? Will I break my arms and legs?
Yes, the parachute will open. It will most likely come out so smoothly and quickly that you won’t even realize what happened until you’re safely underneath it. No, you shouldn’t expect to come in for a hard landing.
Under canopy, the loud clamoring of the whooshing wind is replaced by a serene silence. The tandem instructor will talk to you, let you know that you did great, and teach you a little bit about how the parachute works.
That’s when you’ll be able to take in the incredible view. And oh, what a view. If you’re like many of the first-timers we see, you’ll slide safely into your landing a few minutes later, detach from your tandem instructor and immediately ask to go back up.
Tags: fear of skydiving
The largest tandem skydiving center near Northern Virginia, Washington D.C. and Maryland.