Being anxious about your first skydive is perfectly normal. Human beings are land animals and, as such, we are instinctively wary about things we perceive as risky. You need not worry though, because not only is a bit of acrophobia (the fancy term for being scared of heights) very common among skydivers – it is very manageable and the rewards for completing a scary thing like jumping out of an airplane are huge.
Here is a look at why people are motivated by (or often obsessed with) skydiving, and some things you can do to prepare yourself for the challenge …
A lot of the time, people’s fear of heights is triggered by the sensation of being unsafe while on something high – such as close to the railing on a high platform or near the edge of a cliff. You will likely find that when you go skydiving you actually feel quite secure the whole time. In the plane you are sitting down and able to enjoy the view, and while under a parachute you are attached to your instructor and so are unable to topple over.
The best part is that in freefall – as you zoom towards the earth at terminal velocity (120mph) – you are unable to fall off something because you already jumped! The most surprising thing about your first skydive is that no matter how scared of heights you usually are – once you are out in the sky that fear instantly vanishes.
Everyone is nervous about exiting an aircraft from 10,000 feet, in fact a lot of very experienced skydivers will admit to being more scared of heights than the average person. The difference is that people who have already been skydiving understand that the payoff from jumping is very much worth the mental energy investment, and the building tension only makes the jump better once you get out of the plane.
It also takes time and many jumps to grow gradually more accustomed to skydiving, as your monkey brain always wants you to be frightened about the idea. After all, we have only even been flying for around a hundred years which, in the grand scheme of things, makes it very, very new.
Part of feeling good about jumping from airplanes is trusting your gear. Modern skydiving equipment is excellent at doing its job, and smart people have applied lots of math and science to make skydiving an endlessly repeatable sport – with comfortable harnesses, smooth parachute openings, and gentle landings.
Everyone always jumps with two parachutes so, in the unlikely event of a malfunction, you simply deploy the reserve. Also, each parachute system (or ‘rig’) must have an AAD (automatic activation device) that will open your parachute should you neglect to do so.
The best way to alleviate any jitters you might have about your upcoming skydive is to arrive early and hang out with us at the dropzone. The positivity in the air is infectious, and as you see our highly-experienced instructors go about their work, combined with the huge smiles of people touching down in the landing area – you will feel better and better about what you are about to achieve.
Each part of the process is a reassuring step – from getting your paperwork done (required by the United States Parachute Association) and attending your pre-jump briefing, to getting geared up and ready to fly. By the time you are on the flight line, your apprehension will likely have turned to mostly excitement, and you will be itching to get going.
When doing a tandem skydive, your instructor handles the technical stuff so you can enjoy the ride. You do have some things to do that help it all go smoothly, but these are easy to get right and you shouldn’t worry that being scared of heights will get in the way. Your instructor will review the important things as you go, and remind you what to do at the right moment.
When you arrive at altitude and the door is about to open, you will have a few seconds before you jump – this is a good time to take a few nice deep settling breaths before you dive into what may very well be the best experience of your life.
Don’t forget to catch yourself in the act of doing something extraordinary – get the video! Talk about the ultimate pep talk! Plus, it’s social media gold. Show the world your brave side – and don’t forget to tag us @longislandskydiving and #longislandskydivingcenter.