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Skydiving reliably sends first-time jumpers quaking in their boots. If that’s you–biting your nails behind the wheel in the dropzone parking lot, trying to psych yourself up to walk into the office–you probably ask the same question everybody else does. Sheesh: Is skydiving this scary for everyone?
As a matter of fact, dear reader: It is. Here’s the good news, though: since it’s the very act of pushing through that fear that makes skydiving so magically transformative, we can assure you that getting over your fear of skydiving is liable to be one of the greatest things you ever do for yourself. We’re here to help you out by passing along our hard-earned wisdom, offering some tools to tackle it.
#1. Come Out And Watch with No Commitment
Guess what? You can help yourself get over your fear of skydiving even before you even slap down your credit card for a tandem skydiving reservation. Just show up to the dropzone on any given weekend day–picnic blanket, cooler and binoculars in hand–and watch! That’s it. Just find a comfortable spot to soak up the sun and check out the action. You’ll watch tandem student after tandem student shuffle nervously into the hangar and leave the landing area with the biggest smile you’ve ever seen. After enjoying such a show, could you possibly imagine it’ll be any different for you? Likely, no.
#2. Get A Better Education
One of the reasons that skydiving is so scary is that television, films and the media have the sport all wrong. It’s easy to be scared by the prospect of something that has been so unfairly cast as perilous, reckless and careless. Right?
The only way to step around that sticky morass of misinformation is to get familiar with the actual safety statistics for the sport of skydiving. These data prove that skydiving isn’t just safer than you probably think it is–it’s way safer than even driving to the dropzone. (Whoa!) When you see scary stories on the news or freaky viral videos on the internet, remember: Take it with a grain of salt. And remember that millions of happy skydivers worldwide have jumped hundreds–even thousands–of times without incident. There’s a reason that skydiving is such a popular sport all over the world!
#3. Check Out the Equipment Beforehand
The modern sport of skydiving enjoys a creaking smorgasbord of safety- and comfort-first technological advancements. It’ll help you push through your skydiving fear to learn a little about ‘em. Square parachutes, for instance, proffer baby-soft landings in comparison with their round grandfolks. Reserve parachutes back up the primary parachute in case of emergency. And automatic activation devices (“AADs”) open the reserve parachute even if the skydiver can’t do it for themselves. It’s a fabulous system, and it’ll calm you even as it wows you.
Also remember: Even though you couldn’t tell a reserve handle from a cutaway from an AAD if we tested you right now, every iota of the equipment at Skydive Ramblers has been thoroughly tested and regulated. We’re more than happy to review the equipment as many times as you need us to in order to feel secure. (We love this part!)
There will be a moment on your tandem skydive when it gets really, really, really real: When the door opens. Ask anybody; they’ll agree.
When the door opens and your brain is starting to go into fireworks mode, here’s what helps: Breathing. Slowly breathe in for three counts. Slowly breathe out for three counts. Repeat. It’ll help you engage with the present moment and allow you to fully enjoy the splendor of freefall.
#5. Remember Your Training
It might surprise you that fear of heights on a skydive doesn’t happen in the airplane door. It happens much later, if it happens at all. Usually, fear of heights kicks in at some later point on the canopy ride. Here’s how it might go: You’ll look down between your feet and the landscape will cease to look like a topographic map (as it does during freefall). You’ll start to see the details. You’ll start to be able to gauge your approximate height. Suddenly, you’ll realize: Gadzooks! I’m really high up!
If you feel your fear of heights kick in as your tandem instructor is getting ready to set up your triumphant landing, here’s what to do: Start doing those long, deep breaths, and start reviewing your ground-school training. Repeat after us: The sky doesn’t sprain ankles; panicking does. Practice drawing up your legs, just like you were taught to, as your instructor navigates the landing. Don’t try to run out the landing; just lift, breathe, and wait. You’ll be safely on the ground before you know it, feeling as inspired and capable as you ever have. After all: You conquered your fear of skydiving, you superperson, you!