Preparing For Your First Skydive: Tandem / Solo Skydiving

Skydiving is an amazing experience, but I think everyone would agree it’s intimidating!

The nerve-wracking ride begins from the moment you decide you’re going to jump. From booking the skydive to leaving that plane, every step has plenty of nerves built-in.

(Don’t worry, it’s all more than worth it!)

In the mean-time, it’s best to read up and get fully prepared for falling through the sky.

I’ve covered all the different things you can read up on in this guide. Just to make sure it helps everyone, I’ve covered from the moment you make the decision to jump, all the way until you leave the plane.

If you’ve already booked your skydive, skip to Step 3.

Preparing For Your First Skydive

Step 1 – Scout Your Options (Tandem vs Solo Courses)

Made the decision to throw yourself out of a plane? Fantastic! Go you!

Now you gotta figure out how you want to do it. You can either do it tandem or solo (yes, jumping alone from your first jump!). Here’s the breakdown:

  • Tandem Jumps: You do one amazing jump with an experienced instructor strapped to your back. After a 20 minute training brief you can hop in a plane and go for the experience of a lifetime. With your instructor taking care of everything.
  • Solo Jumps: You do a full day of training, then start your own skydiving journey! This is either done static line (low altitude, parachute opens automatically) or accelerated free fall (high altitude, instructors jump with you). I’ve compared static line and AFF courses here.

The option is up to you. The best way to decide is whether you want this to be a one-time amazing experience, or something you might want to enjoy over and over again.

Step 2 – Find Your Drop Zone (Course Type, Plane Types, Climate)

Once you know what type of jump you want, you need to find where to do it!

There’s plenty of drop zones around – it’s just about finding the right one for you. Here’s a few lists of drop zone locations for various countries:

Here’s what to look for in your potential drop zone:

  1. Course Types. All airfields do tandem jumps, but some will only do static line, and others only AFF solo training.
  2. Plane Types. This isn’t just how cool you want your ride to look! Bigger planes can go to higher altitudes. This means more freefall time, and more fun! They typically will also get up to those altitudes faster, and take more people (which can mean cheaper jumps). Small planes are still great, and it’s quite unique being in a small Cessna with the door open.
  3. Climate. Jumping in the cold is very, very different than warm weather. Skydiving is a super weather-dependent sport, so a warmer climate with less wind is ideal. Especially if you need to book ahead beyond the weather reports.

Once you know your type of skydive and where you’re doing it, let’s get into the real preparation.

Step 3 – Plan Your Clothes (Climate)

Wearing the right clothes can be the difference in a comfortable jump to near torture. Proper clothing will mean your harness fits comfortably, you’re warm but not roasting, and you can move properly. Here’s a few tips:

  • Be slightly warmer than you need. You lose 2oC with every 1,000 ft you go up – so that’s -20oC when you’re at 10,000ft! That’s before you have 120mph of wind blowing onto your whole body.
  • Avoid hoods. These can get in the way of your helmet and jumpsuit (if wearing one).
  • Layer up. Instead of one big jumpers, try to have a few slim layers. That way you can adjust the amount of clothes you’re wearing depending on when you end up jumping. (Weather can delay your jump for a few hours).
  • Make sure you can move! Especially for solo skydiving, you need to easily be able to put your arms above your head. Try not to wear so many layers that you restrict your movement.
  • Wear good shoes. Especially for solo jumpers, landings can sometimes be a bit hard. A good pair of boots or sturdy shoes will protect your feet better than old trainers. Also, it should go without saying, but make sure they’re tied on tight!

I’ve got a whole bunch of clothing tips in the fabulous skydiving fashion guide.

Step 4 – Pack Your Bags (Food, Layers, Distractions)

Or if the jump’s not happening for a while, at least make a pack list!

Airfields are a tale of two extremes. They’re either filled with pure excitement and adrenaline, or complete boredom as you wait for weather delays.

It’s important to make sure you’re able to enjoy the day, no matter what comes. Here’s a few things you should consider bringing:

  • Light snacks. Fruit, granola bars, drinks, sandwiches… almost like you’re preparing for a picnic! Check beforehand if your airfield has a café you can rely on.
  • Distractions. Books, a laptop, study material, a deck of cards, etc. One of my fondest memories at the airfield is making friends through playing card games during endless weather delays!
  • A change of clothes. For in-case you end up getting soaked in the sky or in your landing!
  • Your phone charger
  • Extra layers. Who knows how hold/cold it might get.
  • Your camera. Don’t bring it on the jump, but people flying parachutes and landing them makes for some great photo ops.

Step 5 – Get Talking! (Tell Friends, Get Nice Stories)

Now that you’re all prepped, it’s time to get chatting! Having your first skydive booked is a great conversation starter.

You’ll be surprised who’s done one before that you had no idea. There’s nothing like seeing their eyes light up at the subject, and getting some great conversations and tips out of it. You even get a new skydiving buddy!

Step 6 – Study Up

So… you’re going to throw yourself out of a plane. Potentially with some crazy person attached to your back. You’ll be thousands of feet in the air, falling at 120mph, with only a big bed sheet to stop you.

Sounds pretty scary, right?

The good news is that skydiving is scary, but safe. The fatality rate in skydiving has been constantly following since we first started the sport, dropping to just 0.39 deaths every 100,000 jumps in 2020.

Skydiving Fatalities over time
Skydiving continues to get safer and safer with better equipment and more regulations.

If you’re nervous about jumping, I do recommend reading up on the safety on skydiving. In particular, the UK hasn’t had a tandem fatality in over 20 years.

Step 7 – Watch Videos

The last thing you can do when preparing for your first skydive is to check out some videos of what you’re going to be experiencing!

There’s plenty of great footage available on YouTube. As you’ll find out, the only thing skydivers love more than high-fives are Go-Pros.

Don’t be scared to watch malfunction or ‘Friday Freakout’ videos where they show when things go wrong. Personally I find these to be reassuring, because even if something happens with the main canopy, you get to see that the reserve is always fine.

You can also explore the more advanced types of skydives, like wingsuit jumps and CREW formations.

Step 8 – Sleep Well (or Try To)

Lastly, and this never works but I’ll say it anyway, is sleep.

Do what you can to sleep well the night before you jump. Being well rested will help control your nerves on the day, as well as give you a more positive attitude and better attention during training.

If you can’t sleep, don’t worry. No one can! I’m just saying this to advise against having a super late night, and especially try not to turn up hungover. Double especially if you’re being trained to skydive solo!

On The Day

With all of these preparations done, I’ll quickly cover a few final tips for the day of your jump:

  1. Arrive On Time. Please don’t rock up late and delay your instructors. A delay in the morning will often delay the whole rest of the day. Allocate plenty of time for traffic delays, finding the airfield, getting parked and storing your gear.
  2. Be Patient. Depending on the weather and amount of jumpers, things can take time at an airfield. You might need to spend time waiting on admin, waiting on your instructor, or waiting on the weather. The best way around this is to expect it – and have things to distract yourself with. Believe me, it’ll be worth the wait!
  3. Make Friends. Skydivers are some of the friendliest people on the planet. While they may seem like they have their groups, don’t be scared of introducing yourself! You’ll always be welcome, and people love to talk about their sport. Everyone can always relate to you as a first time jumper, and they’ll enjoy seeing you going through the experience.
  4. Smile – It Helps 🙂 If you’re nervous, try to just smile. It honestly helps! Even if it’s a fake one, it sort of sends a signal that everything’s going to be okay. This is especially true if you’re there with a few friends who are also feeling the nerves. Do your best to distract each other until it’s time to jump.

Extra Tips

Just to round things out, here’s a few other bits of advice I wish I’d been told before my first jump!

  • Book an early time. The earlier your jump, the less nervewracking waiting around you’ll be doing. You’ll also give yourself more spare time if a weather delay happens. Not to mention more time to go for a second jump once you realise how fun it is 😉
  • Don’t come hungover! While adrenaline will fix most hangovers, you want to make the most of this experience. A lot of people rock up to airfields thinking they’re a rock ‘n’ roll superstar with a hangover and a ‘I’m too cool’ attitude. Don’t be that guy/gal! Come ready to learn and take in the experience – then hit the airfield bar afterwards if you like.
  • If the weather’s bad, call head. They may recommend rebooking for a different date if they’re expecting a lot of wind or rain. This could save you sitting around for a whole day waiting to jump, so it’s worth asking!

Conclusion

Skydiving is one of the most amazing things you can do in this life – but the buildup before your first jump is unbelievably nerve-wracking. I hope this short guide has helped give you a few things to prepare yourself before the big day!

Remember that this is all fun, it’s super safe, and you’re here to enjoy yourself. Whatever your brain freaks out and tells you, do your best to look past it and get your butt on that plane. Trust me, you won’t regret it!

If you’re getting ready to start your skydiving journey, consider checking out the other related articles below.

Thanks for reading, and happy jumping!

Blue skies,

Craig

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