We hear it pretty often, and some people even choose to opt out of skydiving because of the fear of the potential “stomach-dropping” sensation like you experience while on a roller coaster. So, is skydiving like a roller coaster and do you feel your stomach drop when skydiving? Before you make the sad decision of missing out on one of the greatest experiences of your life, let’s set the record straight once and for all.
You may already know the feeling we’re talking about – the zero-G, weightlessness, guts floating in space, stomach drop sensation that happens during a sudden fall, drop, or when going down a roller coaster. Some people don’t mind it, but others despise the feeling. If this is you, you may be wondering, “Does skydiving feel like going down a roller coaster?” The short answer is NO, you won’t feel your stomach drop when skydiving. This is one of the most popular of the many skydiving myths and rumors!
So, why don’t you feel your stomach drop when skydiving? When you’re on a roller coaster, climbing up, you’ll pause for a moment at the top and then all of a sudden plummet down the tracks. In this moment of transition between stillness and a quick downward acceleration, you will experience zero gravity making you feel weightless for a moment – hence, the “stomach drop” feeling.
In skydiving, you’ll be jumping from an airplane that is already flying forward at a high speed (around 100 mph). When it’s your turn to jump, you’ll only increase your speed from 100 mph to 120 mph. You experience wind resistance, or drag, as you exit the plane, causing you to fall in a gradual curve direction rather than a straight down drop – skydivers call this gradual curve “the hill.” When you “ride the hill,” the drag eliminates the stomach-dropping sensation and makes for a nice progressive fall until you reach your terminal velocity – which we will cover next!
Sidebar … if you’re an experienced skydiver jumping from a hot air balloon, the experience is a little different because you are jumping from an object that is almost completely still. In this case, you would feel that weightless drop similar to a roller coaster – it’s an amazing, unique experience! Hot air balloon jumps are a rare treat and are usually only for licensed skydivers with a United States Parachute Association “B” license or higher.
On top of the awe-inspiring, remarkable feelings of empowerment and accomplishment, skydiving also physically feels amazing! You may be surprised to hear that skydiving doesn’t actually feel like falling at all. Thanks to physics and terminal velocity, the freefall portion of skydiving feels more like you’re being held up by the air – like getting a big hug from the sky. Terminal velocity happens when the air resistance below you matches the gravity force pushing you down. For the human body, that speed is around 120 mph.
Of course, this speed will vary depending on a few factors. One of those factors is body position. Skydivers first learn to jump out of the plane with their belly into the wind or belly to the earth, as it is the most reliable way to fall considering that the parachute is worn on the back. For your first skydive, you will fall in a belly-to-earth body position. Falling in a belly-first position by arching and extending the legs slightly is one of the most stable and comfortable skydiving body positions. But as you progress and start to understand air resistance, you can learn to fly your body in different positions and even change your terminal velocity to fall faster or slower. This is how skydivers can fall in various ways like on their back, in a sit position, and even upside down!
The “scariness” of skydiving and roller coasters are both subjective, so it depends on what it is about each adventure that scares you. While roller coasters are designed to give you a thrill, tandem skydiving is more of a personal, life-changing experience that results in utter joy and accomplishment.
If you are feeling scared, doing some research and learning some statistics will help ease your mind and keep those racing thoughts at bay. If it’s the motion sickness sensation that scares you, we urge you to talk to your instructor beforehand so we can adjust your jump to your needs and comfort. Tandem instructors are highly-trained skydivers who only want you to have the best skydiving experience possible – they know certain tips and tricks to help ease your skydiving butterflies. We get it – it is okay to feel scared of something that you’ve never done before, but we guarantee that skydiving is more fun than it is scary!
There’s only one true way to find out if skydiving feels like a roller coaster or not – book your skydive with Virginia’s premier dropzone, Skydive Orange! Blue skies, friends.
The largest tandem skydiving center near Northern Virginia, Washington D.C. and Maryland.