How scary is skydiving? It’s a question best answered with a question: What, exactly, scares you about skydiving?
Oftentimes people are afraid of heights, or of falling, or feeling sick in that stomach-dropping roller coaster-y kind of way. Truth be told, most of the reasons we hear around the fear of skydiving are legit – they’d make anyone feel green around the gills! We’re happy to report, though, that they’re mostly unfounded.
Our sport is super exciting, crazy empowering, and straight-up life-changing. Here, we’ll debunk the five most common fears around skydiving so that you, too, can get your flying fix!
Number one fear: heights.
Called acrophobia from the Greek “acron” meaning peak, summit, or edge, and “phobos” meaning fear, being afraid of heights is as natural as it is important. Humans (actually, all mammals) instinctively fear heights as a means of survival, and the inner freak-out we feel when we’re too close to the edge is our built-in alarm system to back the truck up! So, edging toward the exit door from the plane – yes, that can be scary. But being up high? Nah. Not scary.
When you’re on a ladder, a bridge, or near a window, you are aware of exactly where you’d impact if you fell. When you’re 13,500 feet off the ground, though, you don’t have that information to process. Everything below is a blur and, amazingly, it’s the horizon that grounds you. Just the same way commercial flight is fine for those who fear heights, being two miles up is no sweat.
Related to the fear of heights is the fear of falling.
In a skydiving vs roller coaster battle, coasters win on the gut-wrenching factor every time. You feel your belly drop when you shoot up, down, and round-and-round on a roller coaster because your speed is changing rapidly and, of course, gravity is staying constant.
You don’t experience ground rush with skydiving because wind resistance serves as a great equalizer. “Terminal velocity” is a phenomenon that describes the fastest you will fall during your jump (120 mph) and that once you hit it (just seconds into your jump), the feeling of falling will be replaced by a feeling of floating. (#physicsiscool, y’all)
Worried you won’t be able to breathe while flying 120 mph from two miles up? No need!
The only reason you won’t be able to breathe is if you hold your breath – and holding your breath is a natural response to fear or anxiety. Think about it. Before you quit your job, touch something “icky” or pop the question, you tend to hold your breath for a beat or two.
Sometimes a well-timed reminder to breathe is just what you need ahead of exiting into the big blue. And better yet, scream, yell, let out a big WOOHOOOO – it’ll feel great, and you’ll have to take a nice deep breath before you do it.
It is very unusual for someone to feel sick to the point of throwing up.
Feeling queasy is usually the result of not eating enough, eating too much, not drinking enough water, or drinking alcohol the night before your jump. Bring your best self to the dropzone. Eat as you normally would, drink plenty of water (and bring some with you), and be good to yourself the night before. Don’t overindulge, and try not to let the butterflies in your belly keep you from getting a good night’s rest.
If you’re not feeling well, though, consider rescheduling. The sinus pressure that comes even with a cold can be painful at altitude.
Two things to cover here – the big picture, and the details.
First, the big picture. Skydiving is expensive for good reason. Meticulous maintenance of aircraft and gear, and engagement of the best-of-the-best dropzone team members – from parachute packers and tandem instructors to pilots and camera flyers – is an expensive endeavor. Scanning the internet for the best price is not smart shopping when it comes to skydiving. Established in 1977, Skydive Orange is a USPA-member dropzone that proudly flies Vector Sigma tandem rigs and AFF student equipment. All of our gear is regularly updated and maintained by FAA-certified riggers.
Secondly, skydiving equipment has significantly evolved since it became a civilian sport more than 40 years ago. Originally made possible by military surplus gear, sport skydiving has benefitted from sophisticated technology aimed at making a sport based on calculated risk safer. Do accidents happen? Yes. Often? No. Consider this from the USPA:
The largest tandem skydiving center near Northern Virginia, Washington D.C. and Maryland.