Happy Tandem Skydiving Student in Freefall

Tandem Skydiving: What To Expect

Monday, June 26, 2023

A first-time skydiving experience is filled with a full gamut of emotions. Exhilaration, excitement, growth, anxiety, stress. Everything that makes up a life-changing day. And a lot of those emotions come from the fact that it seems impossible to know what to expect skydiving to feel like. 

The tandem skydiving experience is a great way to participate in first-time skydiving without taking on too much responsibility. It’s also the safest way to go skydiving! 

But that doesn’t mean going skydiving won’t still be a little stressful. After all, you’re still jumping out of an airplane. Knowing what happens during a tandem skydive before showing up for your jump can certainly help take some of the anxiety out of the experience. Read on to find out what to expect! 

SKydiving Anxiety | Skydive Orange


Answering the question, “How do you prepare for a tandem skydive?” can be difficult if you’ve never done it before. How in the world are you supposed to know what to expect on your first tandem skydive? 

The simple answer is: let us take care of you. When you first arrive at the dropzone, check in at the front desk and then follow along as we give you the best day of your life. Once we check your reservation and ID, we’ll set you up with a jump time and you’ll be introduced to your instructor

Your instructor will then take you through all of the training you need to safely jump out of an airplane with them, and from there, the sky’s the limit! Literally. 

Still nervous? There are a few simple things that you can do to make your day with us smooth sailing.

  1. Arrive early. You already have enough to stress about. There’s no reason to add worrying about time and rushing around to the list.
  2. Bring your ID. The minimum age requirement for skydiving at a USPA member dropzone is 18 years old. Make sure you bring your valid, government-issued photo ID with you as proof of age and identity.
  3. Eat! We know, we know, anxiety and chowing down on breakfast don’t usually go hand in hand. But being properly nourished before your jump will help you stay calm, feel physically balanced, and perform well on your jump. Eat on the lighter side, avoiding heavy and greasy foods. And bring snacks and water with you! You’ll want to stay comfy and fed throughout your day with us.
  4. Sleep tight! In the same way, being hungry or dehydrated will negatively impact your experience, and so will being too tired. No one’s ever had their best time when they were groggy or sleep deprived. Hint: save the partying for after you’ve successfully jumped out of an airplane!
  5. Come ready to learn. Your instructor will tell you everything you need to know about your skydive. Be ready to listen and practice!

Coming into your jump day prepared for what’s to come will take away some of your stress and ensure the process is as enjoyable as possible!

Wheels Up

The first part of your skydive starts before you launch yourself into the sky. Riding up in the airplane is not only the longest portion of your skydiving experience, but it’s also the part where you can do the most to prepare yourself for what’s to come. Whether it makes you feel nervous or excited, looking out the airplane window and visualizing yourself outside the plane gets you used to the idea of actually being out there. 

Perhaps even more surprising than the view is the amount of room in the airplane. It certainly doesn’t follow the personal space etiquette of being on the ground or the freedom of the wide-open sky. You’ll sit on a bench on either side of the airplane, facing the tail, with your instructor behind you and another jumper in front. You’ll be up close and personal with your instructor and the other jumpers who are riding to altitude with you. What a great way to get to know some pretty cool people! 

The tight space in the plane also means that movement is going to look a bit different than it does on the ground. Be ready to crouch, crawl, and scoot your way around, sometimes connected to another person! Don’t be afraid to laugh at how silly skydiving can be sometimes! 

Taking the Leap

Ahh, freefall. The pièce de résistance of skydiving. The moment you’ve been waiting for. But what does it feel like?? 

A lot of people worry that they will get the stomach-dropping sensation that roller coasters are famous for. After all, it’s the drop that does it, right? It’s more complicated than that. The important ingredient for butterflies in the stomach is missing from skydiving, and it’s unlikely you’ll feel any dropping sensation at all. 

That’s because the dropping feeling relies on your eyes and brain having a point of reference – and when it changes suddenly and drastically, you feel a sensation called ground rush. On a roller coaster, all those supports and cross beams do the trick. But in the sky? It’s just open expanse as far as the eye can see. You perceive what’s below as a map more so than “the ground” and your view doesn’t change suddenly and drastically – you don’t feel ground rush. So it really does just feel like you’re flying or floating. 

And, of course, it’s super windy. You’ll be cruising toward the earth at about 120 mph. Which means you’ll feel the wind whipping by you at that same speed. Some people find it hard to breathe with that much wind in their face, so there are a couple of things you can do to keep your lungs pumping air. 

Make sure that you’re looking out toward the horizon. Not only does this accentuate the proper freefall position, but it also allows the air to pass over your face instead of into it, making it easier to breathe. And if you’re really stuck, just let out a good scream. Once your lungs are empty, they’ll naturally trigger a refill response and you’ll be breathing like normal in no time!

This all lasts about 60 seconds, and then it’s onto the next phase of your greatest adventure. 

Pro Tip: That 60 seconds goes by in the blink of an eye. Get a video so you can relive it as many times as you want! 

Skydive Orange tandem skydiver holding hand of videographer

Some Peace and Quiet

After plummeting toward the earth at a screaming 120 miles per hour, the parachute ride feels like a walk in the park. Gliding above the beautiful landscape 5,000 feet in the air is a view that only birds and a limited number of people ever get to see. 

At this point, you’ll be flying vertically under the open parachute with your instructor behind you. They’ll have control over steering and any safety measures, and you can just hang out (literally!) and enjoy the ride. 

The first thing you’ll notice is how much quieter the ride under canopy is compared to the windy noise of freefall. It’s so quiet that you can actually talk to your instructor once the parachute opens. This is the part where you get to ask questions, talk about the jump, or even just enjoy the ride in silence. It’s okay to want to take it all in! 

But the ride doesn’t have to be a calm float back to earth. If that’s your thing, great! But if you find yourself already missing the excitement of freefall, there are ways to make the canopy ride its own kind of exciting. 

Let your instructor know you want to have fun with the parachute, and they’ll take you on a diving, spiraling joyride to rival the freefall experience! 

Back to Earth

When it’s time to come in to land, the most important part is following instructions and being in sync with your instructor. You will get very clear directions on what to do with your body, and you will most likely have already practiced them up high when the parachute opened. 

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be a little bit of stress when you see the ground coming up to meet you. It’s going to look and feel like you’re moving way too fast to land before your instructor initiates the landing flare. Don’t worry, you will slow down considerably! 

On top of slowing down, you won’t have to worry about running it out anyway. It turns out that it’s awfully hard to run as an awkward, four-legged creature attached at the shoulders. So you and your instructor will slide in together on your butts with your feet out in front of you. 

And once you’ve touched down, it’s time to celebrate! Kiss the ground, thank the sky gods, hug your friends and family – whatever you feel moved to do! Jumping out of an airplane is a transformative experience, and now’s the time to throw yourself a party for overcoming your fears and making it happen! 

But wait, there’s more! Are you ready to do it again? If you loved skydiving as much as we do, your first jump won’t be your last. Your next step would be to sign up for our AFF program and get your own license! 

Of course, none of this can happen until you take a leap of faith! Now that you know what to expect for your first time skydiving, it doesn’t seem so scary anymore, does it? Blue skies.


About Whitney Payne

Co-Operations Manager at Skydive Orange - Working with Skydive Orange for 10+ years - Previously positions held: Office manager, manifest, guest services, social media manager, she does it all! “If you told be 10 years ago I’d be co-managing a skydiving facility and loving every minute of it, I would have laughed in your face. I am not an adrenaline junkie, not spontaneous and definitely not a thrill-seeker but I love these people. Skydivers are truly a different breed of people and I am forever thankful for them accepting me into their community. Watching people visit Skydive Orange to face fears, celebrate milestones or just jump out of a perfectly good airplane has been truly life changing for me and helped be become the person I am today.” – Whitney Payne

Kurt Rosell Skydive Orange AFF Student

Kurt Rosell – Alexandria, VA

Alexandria, VA

Skydive Orange was a fantastic place to get comfortable and learn all the skills necessary to skydive.

The largest tandem skydiving center near Northern Virginia, Washington D.C. and Maryland.

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