Know The Right Gear
Any professional and seasoned skydivers will tell you that the feeling of weightlessness during free-falling is unlike any other. It’s calming, freeing, and the first jump can be life-changing.
But if there’s one thing that’s not-so-calming about skydiving, then it has to be the cost that comes with it. If you’re doing it for the first time, you’ll find that typical skydiving gear - from the jumpsuit up to the parachute - can set you back thousands of dollars.
“Pretty much every skydiving place has all the equipment needed for a first-time skydive,” Sterling Dunn, a military veteran who has been skydiving for many years, said. “Skydiving is an expensive sport so spending extra money when not needed could actually cause you to give it up before you even start.”
He recommends, though, that first-time skydivers should invest in a pair of high-quality goggles instead of having to rely on the pairs provided by the facility. It’s one of the most essential pieces of gear for any skydiver as these protect their eyes not only from the sun but also from dirt, debris, and strong winds that can hamper their vision.
Although sunglasses would help, you will have to deal with a lot more wind in your eyes which makes it harder to see. Skydiving is an experience that’s best enjoyed when you can see everything around you clearly.
Once you get the hang of skydiving and you’ve decided that you’re really serious about getting into the sport, you can start looking to purchase an altimeter and helmet. When it comes to head protection, you’ll often see skydivers wearing either a full-face helmet or an open-face helmet.
Knowing which one you should buy all boils down to personal preference. Wear full-face helmets if you are looking to shield the top, back, and sides of your head. However, visors are more susceptible to wear and tear so you may have to spend more on maintenance.
Open face helmets, which are more commonly worn than their full-face counterparts, are popular among jumpers because they can feel the wind freely on their faces. If you’re after full visibility, less hassle in maintenance, and an overall cheaper cost, you might want to consider this option.
If you’re on the lookout for a chute, Automatic Activation Device (AAD), Reserve Static Line (RSL), or any other equipment that you might need, don’t be afraid to ask for advice and do as much research as possible. Consider getting the input of your local riggers and even employees at your local drop zone. Most of them will have more than enough knowledge and experience to help you find what is right for you.
“Always have any gear checked out by a local rigger before using especially if you’re purchasing used,” Sterling advises. “Most riggers are more than happy to give you a few moments of their time to make sure you are safe before jumping off.”
Calm Your Nerves
As humans, we are made to roam the lands and not the skies. Thus, being nervous or scared when flying is only a natural human reaction. Before the jump, make sure to ease the anxiety by doing activities that help you calm your nerves. It can be yoga, a quick jog around the neighborhood, or even as simple as reading a good book. Whatever it is that puts your mind at ease, do it so you won’t feel as scared or nervous.
You can even try practicing breathing exercises beforehand. In fact, it has more benefits than most people would realize. “Breathing exercises are great for anyone,” Sterling said. “They are also great for the core and lower back. Both sets of muscles are pivotal while skydiving solo. Any core, lower back, and breathing exercises will help you excel in the sport.”
On the day of the jump, make sure to relax and breathe as normally as possible when exiting the aircraft. Go into the “arch” or “skydiver” position, and try to watch the aircraft fly away after exiting. Doing those few easy steps will ensure a good exit and set you up for a fun jump.
Eat Before The Jump
When you’re anxious, you’ll notice that you have trouble taking any food down. Sometimes, it’s the opposite. When you’re nervous, you can sometimes think about scarfing down a big, heavy meal. But when you’re skydiving for the first time, these are actually big no-no’s.
An empty stomach keeps your blood sugar low and can make you feel light-headed. A full stomach can make you nauseous. The last thing that you want to do is to throw up in the air or worse, on someone else’s face in the middle of a tandem jump.
Always have a light snack or two before the jump to keep your blood sugar levels consistent. Avoid eating foods that are greasy and fatty as these can only exacerbate your nausea. Instead, choose foods that are high in protein such as eggs or tofu. Even a bowl of cereal or a glass of smoothie will do if these are the only things that you can stomach - especially if your jump takes place in the morning.
As with food, you should also prioritize staying hydrated. Long days on the drop zone can be hot, so make sure to have access to plenty of water. Avoid drinking alcohol or other beverages that can dehydrate you. In fact, you should never drink any form of alcohol before the jump as it can make you sick and uncomfortable as the altitude rises.
Research as Much as You Can
Skydiving, as with all things in life, is an experience that you can understand better with enough preparation. You want to have fun and enjoy every second that you’re up in the air. Whether it is your first time or you want to get more serious about the sport after getting hooked on fun skydiving experiences, you want to equip yourself with as much knowledge as possible.
“Watching skydiving training videos are a good tip for any skydiver,” Sterling said. “YouTube has tons of videos that show every step of how to become a skydiver. Companies like Skydive Spaceland actually have their training films published online for anyone who wants to study with them.”
He also added that beginners would benefit from trying out tandem skydiving first before going solo. Since you’ll have an instructor with years of experience with you, they are your best source of knowledge while being safe during your training.
“The feeling of opening your parachute for the first time is indescribable and the instructors know that,” Sterling shared. “Most instructors absolutely love being able to experience that with you. Most first-time tandems have very heartfelt conversations while descending and it leaves both parties with an amazing experience.”
Keep Safety in Mind
As a first-time skydiver, you probably have tons of questions popping into your mind. And perhaps one of these questions center around safety. Remember that as a newbie skydiver, your instructors and the staff at the skydiving facility will always have your best interest and safety in mind. But it goes without saying that you should be responsible for your own safety as well.
Besides checking if your gear is in perfect condition, make sure to listen closely to what the instructors and the staff have to say - especially when it comes to deploying your parachute. To give you an idea, parachute deployment altitudes depend on what type of jump you’re doing.
An average tandem jump can be around 5 to 5.5 thousand feet while a recreational skydiver is around 3 to 4 thousand feet. Knowing the perfect timing of deploying your parachute is crucial to ensure a safe landing.
“Opening a chute too early can cause issues that range from not so bad to possible death,” Sterling said. “Avoid that as much as possible. Opening too early could give you a long, cold ride back down.”
Sterling also added that it can also cause you to land off course with a possibility of running into something or someone. It is always best to stick with planned deployment altitudes and only deploy early in an emergency.
Skydiving can be both exciting and nerve-wracking - especially if this is your first time. To be able to get the most out of your jumping experience, preparing yourself as much as possible is the key before that big day.
So before you go ahead and cross it off your bucket list, make sure to do a lot of research and consider seeking the advice of seasoned skydivers. You want this experience to be safe, memorable, and most importantly, enjoyable.
Sterling Dunn is a military veteran who battled depression and trauma through skydiving. Get to know more about his inspiring story here.