Skydiving is a thrilling sport that requires a dedicated training period before you can make your first move. As thrilling and exciting as it is, it’s not the kind of activity that you can “kind of” get the hang of, hopefully getting better as you go. Skydiving is the kind of sport that you have to get right the first time and every time thereafter. Read on if you’d like to get a brief intro to skydiving.
In the very beginning, the concept of skydiving was not seen as a form of recreation. A hot air balloon was the location of the very first successful jump back in 1797. After that, parachute jumping became the method employed by the military to assist in air rescue. It also grew to be very resourceful in placing groups on the ground during battle, a practice that continues to this day.
When you go skydiving, you’ll most often be jumping from a small airplane, although jumps are sometimes done from helicopters as well. The aircraft usually departs from an area referred to as a “drop zone,” which is usually a small, local airbase. Prior to getting onto the plane, another jumper or the instructor will check your straps to make sure everything looks good. You’ll be carrying your chute inside of a backpack called a “container.”
The plane will fly up to a height of about 13,000 feet. At that level, you’ll jump from the plane and enter a period of about 60 seconds of freefall where you'll be falling at a rate of about 120mph. After the freefall, at about 2500 feet, you’ll open your pilot chute, which will deploy the main canopy so that you can glide safely (and slowly!) down to earth.
When you jump, you jump with two chutes. The second chute will function as the reserve chute in case your main canopy fails to open. If your main chute fails to open, you’ll need to cut it away so that you can open the reserve. Once you open your chute, you’ll use the steering lines to maneuver yourself in the direction you want to land. As you develop your skydiving technical skills, you should eventually be able to land with precision exactly where you want to. Landing in a precise spot is such a highly respected skydiving skill that there are actually competitions that celebrate this skill.
There are several different ways that people skydive, and each method is dependent on your skill level.
Tandem Jumping: This is the most popular way for beginning skydivers to experience their first jump. When tandem jumping, you’re strapped to your instructor, and the two of you jump together. Instead of you carrying your own backpack, your instructor will be wearing one giant backpack on his back that will have everything in it needed for the jump. It will be large enough to support the both of you. With the tandem jump, something called a drogue chute is required. This type of chute is necessary for tandem jumps because it’s built in such a way that it supports both parties’ weight. It will allow you to fall at the correct rate of freefall speed. The instructor will pull the cord when it’s time to deploy the chute, or he’ll let the student do it (if he trusts him or her!).
Formation Skydiving: You’ve seen pictures of this: a group of experienced skydivers will jump together, join hands, and do a series of daredevil maneuvers. They’ll finish off by separating and landing as normal.
BASE Jumping: This may as well be called extreme skydiving. The acronym BASE stands for “building,” “antennae,” “span,” and “earth”. In other words, the jumper will be jumping from one of these types of structures. Due to the dangerous nature of these types of jumps, only the most experienced jumpers are allowed to do them. In spite of this precaution, there have been many BASE jumper deaths over the years.
Freestyle: This is another daredevil-type skydiving sport where a skydiver does acrobatic moves and jumps before deploying their chute. Freestyle divers usually have their moves filmed by another diver.
Freeflying: This type of skydiving differs from freestyle in that the diver is able to hold his body in several static positions while going through freefall. The freeflyer’s skill enables him to have control over how fast he’s going and where he lands.
Skysurfing: This is an extreme for of extreme skydiving. The skydiver wears a snowboard like board on his shoes. He’ll then surf the sky. The skill level needed to be able to do things like stand up straight and even just control the board is intense. A budding skysurfer should get extremely comfortable with freeflying and freestyle diving before even thinking about sky surfing.