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Which is Safer, Skydiving or SCUBA Diving?

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Skydivers get called “crazy” all of the time because – according to Hollywood – skydiving is one of the riskiest things you can do in life! But does skydiving really deserve the crown for the most dangerous and extreme sport? 

An extreme sport is defined as a sporting event that features high speeds and high risk. Skydiving definitely fits the extreme sports definition: you freefall at 120 mph and the dangers of skydiving are real. But we wouldn’t say skydiving is the most extreme of all extreme sports. So, what is riskier than skydiving? We might have already answered away … but let’s discuss!

Which is Safer, Skydiving or SCUBA Diving?

Skydiving Safety Statistics and Risks

Like any sport in general, skydiving involves inherent risks that are very carefully calculated and avoided as best as possible. That being said, accidents still occur. Let’s look at the statistics. 

The United States Parachute Association (USPA) has been recording statistical skydiving data since 1961, which has enabled significant improvements in skydiving safety over the years. In fact, 2023 saw the fewest skydiving deaths in recorded history of the sport. According to the USPA, there were 3.65 million skydives in 2023, 10 of which ended with a skydiving fatality. This is a fatality rate of 0.27 deaths per 100,000 jumps or about 1 death per 370,000 jumps. 

For tandem skydiving – where an inexperienced student is harnessed to a professional skydiving instructor – the odds are even better. Over the past 10 years, there has been an average of 1 student fatality per 500,000 jumps. 

So, is skydiving safe? While we would never say skydiving is “safe,” we can look at the USPA’s data and use our almost 50 years of first-hand experience to say with confidence that the sport of skydiving is dedicated to making it as safe as possible. As an international community, we continue to be diligent about safety precautions, routine equipment maintenance, high-tech gear innovations, and high-quality training. 

Skydiving accidents can be due to underlying medical issues (10%) but in most cases, skydiving-related deaths are due to simple human error – usually intentional low turns performed by experienced skydivers – and not the result of equipment malfunction. 

Scuba Diving Safety Statistics and Risks

SCUBA diving has a similar safety-focused organization to the USPA called the Dive Alert Network (DAN) which publishes statistics surrounding diving incidents, accidents, and fatalities. According to Diving Medicine for SCUBA Divers and cited by the independent market research platform Gitnux, the diving fatality rate in North America is 16.4 deaths per 100,000 persons, or roughly 1 in 6,100. 

Like licensed skydiving versus tandem skydiving statistics, a guided SCUBA experience is statistically safer than a certified individual diving solo. According to the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), there are 0.87 student fatalities per 100,000 participants, which translates to 1 in 115,000.

As is true of other extreme sports, including skydiving, the level of risk associated with SCUBA diving can be mitigated by an emphasis on safety standards, the use of high-caliber equipment, appropriate training, and an awareness of health limitations and personal boundaries.

Which is Safer, Skydiving or Scuba Diving?

After looking at the data and risks, skydiving is statistically safer than SCUBA diving. And skydiving’s stats are more favorable than several other extreme sports, as well.

Is it the safest of extreme sports? Not sure. We’d have to run the numbers annually and, honestly, even then, we’d be hesitant to say skydiving is safest. And we’d never, ever say that skydiving is completely safe. But we can say that skydiving – and especially tandem skydiving – is definitively not the most extreme of all extreme sports.  

It’s important to note too, that there are inherent risks associated with numerous (all?) activities and sports, but participants continue to do them because the rewards far outweigh the risks.

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Tips for Minimizing Risks in Both

Is skydiving dangerous? Yes. Is SCUBA diving dangerous? Yes. But you can do dangerous things safely – it’s all about minimizing risks. Here are some pearly words that will serve you well when considering trying a high-risk activity.

  1. Choose a Reputable Location: Regardless of the extreme sport you pursue, make sure the group or facility you choose to do it with is legitimate and highly regarded. Read reviews, research their safety standards, and be sure that they are affiliated with a professional organization. For skydiving, that means being a USPA Group Member dropzone – like Skydive Orange – that has pledged to use appropriately rated instructors, equipment, and pilots, and to uphold all Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines.
  2. Proper Training: If you embark on an extreme adventure, like skydiving or SCUBA diving, go all in and get the best educational training possible – it literally will save your life. Even as a tandem student, there are things to be learned and understood in your pre-jump class that are pertinent to the success of your skydive.
  3. Be Mindful of Your Choices: Some extreme choices have extreme consequences that would never occur to the non-participant. Case in point, you can skydive and then SCUBAdive in the same day without issue, but you must wait a prescribed period after SCUBA diving to go skydiving.
  4. Stay Healthy: Leading a healthy lifestyle and understanding the risks of a sport will do you good to make the best judgment call when deciding to partake in any sport, extreme or otherwise. As always, we recommend regular check-ups and getting approval from a medical professional before deciding to participate in any extreme sport.

Ready for an extremely good time? Book your skydiving adventure with Virginia’s premier skydiving center – Skydive Orange. Blue skies and happy dives, y’all!

Jack Harding Skydive Orange AFF Student

Jack Harding – Fredericksburg, VA

Fredericksburg, VA

I can't imagine learning how to skydive at any other drop zone.

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

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