Do you remember when you first learned to drive a car and got on the highway for the first time? It’s likely your heart was pushing blood to every part of your body, with the exception of your knuckles which were death-gripping the steering wheel at 10 and 2! Now imagine the car you’re driving is a Ferrari. The stress of not crashing a $200,000+ sports car while learning to drive doesn’t lead to an enjoyable experience.
This imaginative analogy is similar to learning to skydive. Before you hop in the Ferrari, you need to learn to drive a car that provides a confidence-building sense of safety without the pressure of high performance.
Let’s break it down:
What is Tandem Skydiving?
Tandem skydiving pairs you, the novice, with a professional skydiving instructor. Sharing a harness built for two people, a tandem skydive allows a first-time jumper to experience what skydiving is all about without the need for hours of extensive training. Under the guidance of a tandem skydiving instructor, an individual can make a skydive with about 45 minutes of instruction.
Why is Starting Out with a Tandem Skydive a Good Idea?
Learning to skydive comes with some surprises – and discovering these details following a mind-numbing six hours of ground school while falling at 120mph is not the time be introduced to unexpected elements!
These unexpected elements include:
Learning how loud it is in free fall
Experiencing the wholly unique sensation of free fall
Understanding the importance of and feeling a stable “arched” position
Reading an altimeter during free fall
Feeling the deployment sequence when the parachute opens
Flying the correct landing pattern and how to land
It’s not uncommon for individuals to feel overwhelmed when choosing to learn to skydive without making a tandem first. Any confidence you felt literally flies out the window. No bueno. Tandem skydiving shouldn’t be looked at as a simple carnival ride; it’s actually a training tool and the best introduction to the sport. You can’t confidently drive a Ferrari if you have never driven a car!
Learning to Skydive
If your goal is to become a licensed skydiver, it is possible to begin the journey by enrolling in an AFF (Accelerated Free Fall) course. AFF begins with a six-hour ground school or what’s known as a “First Jump Course” which serves to:
Introduce the equipment used during the skydive
Teach an individual how to manage emergency situations
Teach an individual about aircraft safety and how to exit
Instruct correct body position in free fall
Teach hand signals to be used in free fall
Instruct how to fly a parachute and land a parachute
Following the course, you’ll board the plane with two instructors who will skydive with you. But make no mistake – you will be wearing solo-flight equipment!
If all of this sounds intense, it is. Many people have learned to skydive via the AFF process for decades and it does work, but it is a lot of information to digest within a compressed period of time. Today, more and more dropzones are modifying their AFF programs to include one or even two tandem skydives at the start of training. Other skydiving centers are requiring time in a wind tunnel.
Our recommendation is to begin the skydiving journey with a tandem skydive as it builds confidence and introduces all of the surprises listed above during a low-pressure situation.
The Elements of a Great First Jump Experience
Whether you plan to become a licensed skydiver or if you simply wish to make one tandem jump, there are some variables that enhance the experience. Here are a few added tips to elevate your first jump:
The higher the altitude, the better! Higher altitude = more free fall time = more fun!