Extreme sports are called extreme for a reason: they push you to your physical and mental limits in terms of exertion and strength. They are also often more dangerous than your average game of football. But the thrill and the uniqueness of such sports is like no other. That being said, one such extreme sport that challenges an individual’s sense of fear, at the same time fulfills an elemental dream of man (to fly), is skydiving.
Skydiving isn’t just falling out of a plane with a parachute on. It’s more like “falling with style” where an exact science and technique goes into the jumping, deployment of the parachute and landing. Agreed it is not the safest of sports but the occurrence of fatalities while skydiving has been greatly exaggerated, with a fatality rate of 0.0001% or approximately 1 death in every 100,000 jumps. However, it is better to be safe than to be sorry, so below are some safety tips for skydiving, to make each jump a safe experience.
Safety Tips and Advice for Skydiving
Safety is not just the technique or method of jumping but rather is made up of a number of factors listed below.
- Jumpsuits are meant to keep your body warm and protected against the frigid, cold air at high altitudes. They are also durable enough to prevent scratches and bumps on landing. However, depending on what form of skydiving and your expertise level, the material of the jumpsuit differs. So consult with your trainer or an experienced jumper as to what jumpsuit best suits your skydiving style. Do not experiment on your own.
- Check your jumpsuit for holes or tears. Make sure it fits properly and there is no way for air to enter it. Always try on the suit prior to jumping well in advance, to ensure it is in good condition.
- Wear a helmet when skydiving. No jump is 100% risk-free and a helmet can go a long way in minimizing injury. Make sure your helmet is open faced but protective and sturdy. Check its shock absorption factor. It should fit your head and not feel heavy or very large or too small and tight. Do not take it off at any time during the jump.
- Goggles are not mandatory but are an extra safety measure to protect one’s eyes during the descent. Gloves should only be worn if you are comfortable using your equipment with them on. Wear durable shoes with firm soles and grip, such that during the descent, you can touch the ground without causing any harm to your feet. Make sure all such attire is comfortable and will not hinder you during your jump.
- The altimeter is a specialized piece of equipment that measures your height above the level of the ground and can also predict your speed of falling. You can opt for a visual one, which should be worn on the wrist or the front of the torso. Check the visibility of the display, its durability, analog or digital display and ability to measure pressure. You could go in for an audio altimeter that is worn inside your helmet and will inform you of the decrease in altitude as you fall. These altimeters have pre-set alarms that indicate when you should deploy your parachute.
- An Automatic Activation Device (AAD) is a must have and any proper school, training institute and instructor will advise you of the importance of this piece of equipment. This device is a small computer that keeps an eye on your height above the ground and how fast you are descending. It calculates the optimum height when the parachute should be deployed for a safe landing and if you, the jumper, fail to do so at the right time and height, the AAD will open the chute for you. The AAD is a lifesaver and calibrating it on the ground, checking its functioning prior to a jump and buying a good model is your way of ensuring a safe jump.
- Your parachute is connected to you by a harness. Make sure your harness fits you properly and is sturdy and tough, without any wear and tear. Have a supervisor or instructor check your harness prior to a jump. Keep a hook knife on you, any time that you skyjump. In case of an emergency, where the main part of the parachute (canopy) will not open, use the hook knife to cut it away.
- Do not compromise on the quality of your skydiving equipment and making any changes or tweaks in them should only be done if sanctioned by an instructor or recognized expert in your skydiving team or class. Maintain such equipment in good condition.
- Be informed about the skydiving process. Ask a lot of questions and do not choose the first skydiving school or institute you see. Instead, visit different schools or go for a demo class on the ground, talk to instructors and ex-students on your own. Check the licensing of the school, what safety programs and measures are implemented and check the school’s skydiving history, with respect to fatalities.
- Do not be too enthusiastic or overexcited to jump. Choose the right skydiving style based on your experience. For new jumpers, it is best to opt for the tandem style of skydiving where the instructor and you have the same chute and he/she controls the diving experience. Until you have experience or until your trainer feels you are ready, do not jump on your own.
- Prior to a jump, whether for the first time or the umpteenth time, eat a light meal. Check your equipment and pack your parachute under the watchful eye of your instructor.
For first time sky jumpers, along with ensuring physical safety prior and during your sky jump, your mental attitude should be strengthened and prepared for the experience. However, as your skydiving experience builds up, you can ignore safety procedures and become careless and this can turn dangerous, not only for you but for your fellow jumpers as well. Keep safety first and jump with ease, by making sure all safety checks and procedures have been carried out well in advance.