What is Skydiving?
Skydiving is a sport that provides an incredible adrenaline rush and is an experience that provides sights like no other. Taking the jump can be an out of body experience that you will remember for the rest of your life. While being relatively safe, it poses some liability concerns but can be practiced safely with the proper equipment and technique.
Leonardo Da Vinci drew the earliest sketches of today's parachute back in the 1400s. The earliest days of skydiving date back to the late 1700s in France. Skydiving evolved over time from gentle parachute descents to freefalls and competitive diving, dating back to the 1930s. Today, skydiving is available just about anywhere in the world.
While there is no universally accepted surface for skydiving, there are a few constants. Skydivers jump out of a plane at high altitudes and land on the ground in a grass field. Skydiving planes are usually smaller than a plane for travel. The most popular plane used when skydiving is the De Havilland Twin Otter. This plane takes divers to 13,500 feet in 15 minutes!
Having the proper equipment when skydiving is essential. While skydiving is a very enjoyable experience, jumping out of a plane without a parachute would not be as much fun. Skydivers are very well equipped before even stepping into the plane. With the proper equipment, skydiving is perfectly safe activity. See the list below for a few pieces of skydiving equipment.
Here is the essential skydiving equipment you should have:
Other than making it safely to the ground, there are a few objectives when skydiving. When skydiving, the main objectives are to remain stable during the freefall, maintain altitude awareness, and open the parachute on time. Those three objectives will ensure that the diver will land correctly. In a competitive skydiving setting, there are multiple objectives. Divers will be judged on their ability to land accurately, among other various characteristics.
Rules and Regulations
General skydiving regulations require that students be at least 18 years of age as well as sign the skydiving organization's waiver. Most skydiving academies will require both a weight minimum and a weight limit as well.
Here are the most important skydiving rules you should know:
- Skydivers must have a gear check before every jump.
- 35 seconds of working time is permitted in a formation skydive (FS).
- Formation skydivers must fly belly-to-earth. Freestylers do not.
Every skydive has the same technique when in freefall. When you first begin freefall, cross your arms over your chest with your heels reaching back towards the sky. Spread your arms out and upwards with a slight bend in the elbows, pick your chin up and keep your heels up towards the sky.
Here are the most essential skydiving techniques you should know:
- Tandem Skydive - skydiving with an instructor.
- Formation Skydive - skydiving in a group of people.
- Freestyle Skydive - skydiving alone.
Here is the common terminology and slang in skydiving:
- AAD: Automatic Activation Device. This device is like an emergency backup computer. It reads barometric pressure and speed and will automatically deploy a reserve parachute if a skydiver crosses a specific altitude threshold.
- AFF: Accelerated Free Fall. This is a modern course which takes an individual from no experience to jumping on their own.
- Exit Weight: Exit weight is the total weight of the jumper and the equipment.
If you are looking to get into the sport and want to know more about skydivers, there are a few names you should be familiar with
Here are the most famous skydivers you should know:
- Luke Aikins
- Jeb Corliss
- Shital Mahajan-Rane
There are skydiving leagues all over the world. Skydiving leagues range from a national level to a state level, with categories for all skill levels, practices, and areas. If you are interested in skydiving or want to skydive competitively, it is important to familiarize yourself with some of the opportunities of skydiving leagues.
Here are the most popular skydiving leagues you should know:
- The National Skydiving League
- United States Parachute Association
- Skydive Spaceland
Events and Competitions
Skydiving competitions take place on both the national and collegiate level. These competitions are referred to as championships and take place all over the world.
Here are the most popular tournaments in Skydiving:
- USPA National Championships: An invite-only competition, the USPA is a 10-14 day event conducted in the fall. It ranges everywhere from skydiving to parachuting
- USPA National Collegiate Championships: A competition for college students to get their start in skydiving.
What is the highest skydive you can do?
The highest altitude that you can skydive from in the US is 18,000 feet. The highest skydive ever recorded was 135,889 ft. by Alan Eustace in 2014.
Should I wear glasses or contacts when skydiving?
When skydiving, always wear protective equipment over your eyes. This can include goggles or any protective eyewear. The high speeds and altitude can be dangerous to uncovered eyes.
Is skydiving safe?
Although it has an element of risk, skydiving can be very safe. In a tandem skydive, the student is paired with an instructor, harnessed together with all the proper equipment. As long as the weather conditions are safe enough to jump and divers are equipped with the proper equipment, skydiving can be done safely.
What if my parachute doesn't open?
In the unlikely event that the main parachute does not open, there is always a second parachute, called the reserve parachute, packed away in the container just in case.