It is probably quite reasonable to think that hurling yourself out of airplane and zooming towards the ground at 120mph feels like falling, right? Well, it both does and does not all at the same time. Skydiving contains a lot of feelings and sensations that all add up to make it one of the most amazing and thrilling experiences available to us humans. Let’s have a look at a few of the important things to know about how it is going to feel when you jump…
The terminal velocity of a human in freefall is most commonly stated as being around 120mph. With practice, you can manipulate your body to fly at different speeds – but for a tandem pair (instructor and student harnessed together) or a solo skydiver falling on their belly (how you are likely to be picturing a skydive) this number is right. The important thing to understand about the speed of skydiving is that it feels like the fastest thing ever. Sure, it is possible to go faster than 120mph in various motorized ways – but there is something pure and unique about the velocity you generate using only gravity.
It is common to think that when you skydive from an airplane there will be a sensation of falling that you feel in your stomach – kind of like when you drop on a rollercoaster. Lots of people don’t enjoy this feeling, so it should be reassuring to learn that this doesn’t happen when you leap from an airplane. When you skydive, you are jumping out of a flying machine that is actually traveling along forwards at around 100mph – so instead of dropping away from the door, you are actually flying forwards to start with and then gradually transitioning into vertical freefall over the first ten seconds. The skydiver term for this is ‘going down the hill’ – as you can think of it as a big arcing slope rather than a sheer drop.
While skydiving is very fast, you don’t really feel like you are falling. Skydivers apply their bodies to manipulate the ‘relative wind’ so they can move around. This takes some practice, but by using your body, arms and legs to create movement – you feel like you are simply flying. Flying your body takes a lot of time, effort and practice to master, but you can start right away. Whether you are doing a tandem jump for your first skydive or have joined a course to earn a license of your very own, you will be instructed from the outset how to fly properly. The first step is to fly stable, which is done by arching your body with your hips down towards the ground and your head up looking forwards. This position acts like a shuttlecock – keeping you the right way up with your parachute pointing upwards where it needs to be. Once stable, you can then think about learning to move around – and the best way to do this is by asking your instructor. They will probably tell you lots of terrible jokes, but we all do this work because we want as many people as possible to experience what skydiving is like – and will happily teach you about what is involved.
There is no way to fully understand what skydiving really feels like until you try it for yourself, and you definitely should. If you have never jumped before then your head will be full of questions as you build up to the big moment, but what you need to know most of all is that when you are in freefall – it feels like it is exactly the right place for you to be.