Published: July 11, 2017
If you're a teenager or student who's really stoked on the idea of making a skydive, it may seem like a hell of a long wait until you blow out 18 candles. You probably have questions about it, so we're here to give some helpful answers--and some super-helpful secret strategies to skill-build while you wait.
Is the minimum age for skydiving a real, non-negotiable thing?
Oh yes it is. The minimum age for skydiving is 18 years old. We require a government-issued photo ID from every potential skydiver to ascertain that we never bring anyone into the plane who hasn't crossed that landmark birthday. It's not just us, either; it's every dropzone in the United States. We wish we didn't have to, because we remember what it's like on the other side of the age-of-consent fence, but that's just the way it is in the good ol' U. S. of A.
If I am a teen under 18, can I still skydive if my parents are willing to sign for me?
Unfortunately, no. Since skydiving must use "hold harmless" waivers and these waivers are only binding if the person signing is at the age of consent--18, in the USA--or older, parental or guardian permission holds no validity. Unfortunately for super-keen teenagers or students under-18s, the participant legally has to be the signatory of these legal documents (since they're directly related to release of liability regarding recreational sports). Even if your parent or legal guardian accompanies you to the dropzone and begs on your behalf, there's seriously nothing we can do. So sorry about that.
If I'm a student not 18 yet and I really, really want to skydive, what can I do?
There isn't anything quite like making a skydive, but y'know what? There's something you can do that's close--and that can actually help you once you're old enough to start skydiving in earnest. It's the vertical wind tunnel, and it's pretty much the best thing to happen to skydiving since ever.
There's no indoor skydiving facility super-close to New York City. In fact, the closest indoor skydiving to Long Island, where we're proudly situated, is a bit of a drive away--Yonkers, New York, to be precise--but if you're aching to get your first taste of human flight before you cross the age-of-majority finish line, it's worth it. If you can't make it out there, get creative--maybe there's an indoor skydiving wind tunnel near where your tribe is headed on vacation, or near a family member who's overdue for a visit. Building your bodyflight skills in the context of indoor skydiving can only help you once you finally get up in the sky.
You can also go for a tandem paragliding flight, which operates under different rules than skydiving does in the US. (Legally, according to the FAA, there is no age limit in order to fly an Ultralight Aircraft, which is how a paraglider is classed.) There are loads of crossover skills between paragliding and skydiving wings, so learning to fly a paraglider will put you in an excellent position to fly a skydiving canopy.
Long story short: We know it's hard to wait when all you can seem to think about is flying. But y'know what? You can rest assured that there's a whole airborne world waiting for you on the other side if you use your time wisely.
If you decide to have your 18th birthday party at the dropzone, you certainly wouldn't be the first. Just make sure to bring enough cake for your instructor!