Skydiving is the original extreme sport, but that doesn’t mean a battle against adversity to go do it. Jumping out of an airplane for the first time is a thrilling, intense, challenging experience – but it is also a very precise, measured and accessible thing to do. The tandem skydiving experience has been refined over the years into a slick process that gets people jumping in the most efficient way possible, while also presenting a window into the amazing sport of skydiving.
What is a Tandem Skydive?
A tandem skydive is when a student and an instructor are harnessed together for the jump, and use a single larger parachute system (two parachutes – a main and a reserve) designed specially for this purpose. The student goes on the front, and the instructor on the back – piggy back style – and the harness is clipped together at each shoulder and each hip. This allows for a brand new skydiver to jump after just a short briefing, as the highly experienced instructor manages the technical stuff – means the student can relax and enjoy the ride.
Skydiving airplanes are comparatively small, and the process is less like flying on a commercial jet and more like climbing in and out of the back of a truck. The flight up to altitude is an enjoyable part of the skydive experience, but due to various factors such as exit order and balancing the plane – it takes a little finesse to get things just right. As a tandem student, you are looked after directly by your instructor the whole time, and he or she will be right there to help you with every step.
The first position skydivers learn to use is belly-down with your arms and legs out wide – and this is applied for solo and tandem students alike. This method is easy to achieve, very stable and keeps your parachute pointing upwards where it needs to be. Arching your body to keep your hips low and your head and limbs up makes an aerodynamic shape and creates stability, and while practicing this lying on the floor feels like hard work – with the wind supporting in the sky it is comfortable to the point you will not notice putting in any serious physical effort.
Modern parachutes are very good at what they do. Using science and math and computers we have continually refined the characteristics of different designs to provide us with exactly what we want. A parachute opens in stages, throughout which you are gradually slowed from terminal velocity in a measured and smooth way. There is a dramatic element, as you are in the sky falling towards the earth, after all, but you will likely be surprised at exactly how comfortable this part is.
The best way to land as a tandem skydiving pair is by sliding in on your bum. Landing a parachute involves a little timing to get right, but when done correctly is as gentle as hopping down from a little step. Sure, it is possible to land in a heap (and if you progress on to learning to skydive solo this will happen at some point) – but during the tandem skydiving experience this is what your instructor is there for. To land, you must lift your legs up at the hip so they are sticking out in front and, although this does require a little strength to achieve, you only have to do it for the last few seconds right before you touch down. Your instructor will let you know exactly when so you don’t need to worry.
Skydiving for the first time can be an anxiety-inducing prospect, but you shouldn’t worry. Over time, every part of the process has been examined and refined with the customer experience in mind. Yes, leaping out of an airplane is a wildly exciting thing to do – but skydiving is a sport, not a stunt. Skydivers want things to be comfortable and enjoyable, and we want to pass this experience on to all who wish to try it.