Get started on an Adventure of a Lifetime
For sheer excitement and high-speed fun, no sport comes close to skydiving. Fortunately, this high-flying adrenaline sport is not as extreme or intimidating as it may seem. Just about anyone 18 years of age or older can take to the skies after some comprehensive safety instruction.
Each year, approximately 500,000 people in the U.S. spread their wings and try skydiving for the first time. On average, these first-time jump students and experienced skydivers make about 3 million jumps annually! Today, more than 10 million men and women throughout the country can say they’ve made at least one leap into the wild blue yonder.
Skydiving is simple, safe and life-changing. If you’re ready to join the ranks of those who have taken the plunge, below is a quick guide to making that first jump an awesome and unforgettable experience.
USPA has more than 220 affiliated skydiving schools, clubs and centers in the U.S., typically within driving distance of most major cities and towns. USPA Group Member drop zones have pledged to follow USPA Basic Safety Requirements, including providing training by USPA-rated instructors and using USPA-required equipment. USPA recommends searching through its online Drop Zone Directory of affiliated Group Member skydiving centers and schools here.
Don't hesitate to ask the school questions about types of training offered, staff qualifications, number of jumps and the school's exact location (to make sure you're not dealing with a referral service). While most anyone can skydive, there are some special considerations, such as weight or other health concerns, so it's a good idea to ask when making a reservation. Most skydiving schools prefer that guests make a reservation by phone or through their website; prepayment or deposits are customary.
Now comes the exciting part: choosing a jump. Following are the three most common skydives for first-timers (individual drop zones may offer some or all of these first-jump methods):
- A tandem jump is the easiest and most popular way to experience skydiving for the first time, usually requiring only a half hour of basic ground instruction. Tandem jumping allows students to experience the thrill of freefall from 13,000 feet while securely harnessed to an experienced instructor. Many people find that sharing the parachute with an experienced instructor allows more peace of mind. Tandem jumps generally range from $150 to $250, depending on altitude and extras.
- On an Accelerated Freefall (AFF) jump, first-time students learn to skydive with their own parachute system, experiencing the thrill of freefall with two instructors at their side—not attached to them. AFF requires four to five hours of intense ground instruction, including learning body flight maneuvers and hand signals that instructors use to coach the student as they fly alongside. The instructors hold onto the student's harness until the student deploys his own parachute. He then makes a solo canopy descent, with radio instruction to help guide him to a safe landing. AFF jumps typically range from $250-$350 each, which includes a four- to five-hour training session and two instructors accompanying you on the jump.
- The static-line and instructor-assisted deployment (IAD) methods are still in use at many skydiving centers around the country. On this type of jump, either a static-line attached to the aircraft or the instructor initiates deployment of the student's parachute as he exits the airplane. The student experiences only a second or two of freefall but has the advantage of making a solo parachute descent with radio instruction to help guide him to a safe landing. Four or more hours of training are required, and prices range from $100-$200 per jump.
Learn more about making a first jump here.
Many skydiving schools capture the intense and dramatic moments of a first-time skydive with a skilled photographer who videotapes and photographs the whole adventure from freefall to landing. Photographic proof is always fun to show off to family and friends!
For those interested in continuing beyond the first jump and becoming a licensed skydiver, USPA’s Integrated Student Program enables students to advance after any of the above first-jump methods. Students typically progress to solo freefall supervision in as few as eight or nine skydives after performing some basic skills. Becoming a USPA-licensed skydiver requires a minimum of 25 jumps.
As new jumpers advance through their student progressions, the cost per skydive decreases. Once a jumper earns a basic skydiving license and gets his own equipment, a lift to altitude costs only about $25 per jump.