Updated: Feb 12, 2019
The thought of your first skydive can be overwhelming in itself. Before you even think to book your first jump, you will most likely have a ton of questions racing through your mind. Where should I go? When should I go? What do I need to know? You might not even know the options you have in completing your first skydive. There are options and hopefully this article will equip you to make an informed decision that best fits you.
Tandem or Solo?
There are three methods of skydiving that are available to first time jumpers: Tandem Skydive, Instructor Assisted Deployment (IAD) and Static Line.
A Tandem Skydive is where a student skydiver is geared in a harness which is then attached to a qualified Tandem Instructor. The instructor will guide the student through every aspect of skydiving including the free fall, piloting the canopy and the landing. Due to strict regulations surrounding the gear and the licensing of instructors, tandem skydiving is significantly safer than all other forms of skydiving. The student requires minimal instruction prior to their tandem skydive therefore spending an average of 20 minutes of classroom time. Students will learn basic body position for exiting the plane, free fall and landing. They will also be taught how to steer their own parachute. More than two and a half million tandem skydives are made each year around the world for pleasure. It is also a popular training method for first time skydivers. It exposes first time jumpers to the skydiving routine with minimal expectations from the student and maximum safety. A typical Tandem Skydive altitude will be from 9,000 - 13,000 feet, which allows the student 25 to 60 seconds of free fall. Because the student is attached to an instructor, it is possible for their experience to be filmed and/or photographed throughout every aspect of the skydive.
The Instructor Assisted Deployment (IAD) is a method of skydiving that allows a student to jump from an airplane without an instructor attached to them. There is 4-6 hours of classroom training (often called the First Jump Course) required prior. Upon successful completion of training, students will be equipped with a student rig (this is the container that holds the parachute) and will proceed to the airplane with an IAD Instructor (Jump Master). The plane will climb to approximately 3,500 feet where the student will then exit the plane. As they fall away, the instructor will manually deploy the students pilot chute by throwing it into the wind, in turn beginning the deployment sequence for the main parachute to open. All students will be guided by way of an attached radio while under canopy and for landing by an instructor on the ground. Although IAD does not encompass any free fall component, the student will be taught in much greater depth the fundamentals of skydiving such as body position, canopy flight, and emergency procedures.
Static Line is very similar to IAD as it relates to training and overall experience of a first time skydive. The primary difference is in how the students main parachute is deployed. Although a Jump Master is in the plane with the student, they do not manually deploy a pilot chute. Rather, there is a cord (the Static Line) attached to the students deployment bag (a part of the student rig) which is attached to the plane. When the student jumps from the plane, the static line extends and activates the deployment sequence for the main parachute to open. The Static Line is widely known as it was the main method used in past years for first time skydivers. However, with the development of IAD it has become not as commonly used. It continues to be the primary method used by military services.
Where Should I Go For My First Skydive?
There are over 1,300 skydiving centers (commonly referred to as Drop Zones) across the world and although they all provide a skydiving experience, each is unique and may differ on the methods used. Some drop zones offer everything from Tandem Skydiving, First Jump Courses (Solo Skydive), development training to wind tunnels, while others only specialize in Tandem Skydiving. Many drop zones offer a variation of skydiving methods; so this means that the most important question you have to ask yourself is what first skydive method would best meet all you are looking for ~ Tandem or Solo? Once you have that question answered, it is time to do a little research. Some important items that you might want to consider when choosing a Drop Zone may include but won't be limited to:
Do they offer the skydiving method you would like to do?
Do they have social media platforms that make you feel they are a reputable operation? Not all drop zones will be streaming live on FaceBook, or Tweeting excited jumpers, but having a basic and informative website is very important.
What have others said about their experience with a first skydive at that drop zone? Make sure you look at the reviews specific to the method of skydive you want to do.
Do they have information about their drop zone that identifies they are following all the regulations required to ensure your safety? Many Drops Zones will be registered with an affiliated National Governing Body. For example, the Canadian Sport Parachuting Association (CSPA). Tandem Instructors are required to be certified; don't be afraid to ask for their credentials.
Are their hours of operation workable for your schedule? All drop zones vary in operating hours, days and even times of year. Some are open year round, some close for winter, some offer skydiving 7 days a week, while others only operate on the weekends. If you are looking at taking the First Jump Course (Solo Skydive), most drop zones will have pre-set days and times these courses take place that you will have to register for ahead of time.
Do they have a way to contact them to answer any other questions and/or concerns you might have about your first skydive? Do they answer you promptly? Google search is full of great facts and myths about skydiving but the most important source of information about what you can expect from your first jump will come directly from the drop zone you choose.
Where are they located? There are drop zones located along side busy airports, in big cities, on farm fields and over beaches; so there is an opportunity for you to consider the surroundings and how it may enhance your first time experience.
Let's Get Skydiving!
Let's Get Skydiving!
If you have done a little homework you will be well equipped to book your first skydive! It's not always best to leave the deciding factor on price but certainly shop around. Often you can find some great discount opportunities but always keep in mind that if a drop zone is bragging of the lowest costs around, what is that business sacrificing to save some profit?
Whether your first experience is;
A Tandem Skydive where you will fly up to 10,000 feet above the earth, flip with your instructor into a 200km/h free fall and then hear the roar of the parachute open up above you. Taking control of steering your parachute as you soar your way through the sky like an eagle then having your instructor bring you in for a safe landing back at the drop zone.
You gear up with the student rig and take flight to 3,500 feet where you will climb out onto the strut of the airplane and feel like a super hero for that second before you let go and embrace that exhilarating moment when the parachute opens and you grab the steering toggles. The freedom as you descend back to the drop zone where your ground instructor guides you in for a safe landing!
When you land you will relish in your accomplishment and forever be changed by the most remarkable experience imaginable! You will be a part of the less than 1% of people who can say they have gone skydiving and we think that is pretty awesome!