Published: October 25, 2016
How, exactly, do you prepare for the experience of stepping out of an airplane in flight?
It might seem like that particular act is something for which you can't do anything to ready yourself. It's so far removed from what you have any context for--that's why you're even doing it, right?--and so it's a challenge to prepare yourself for skydiving in the best possible way.
Take if from the source, if you will. When this author went for her first tandem skydive, absolutely no preparations whatsoever were made. I walked up to the first dropzone I saw (in South Africa, where I was traveling at the time), having done no research at all, not having had any breakfast, tired from a late night the night before, wearing non-freefall-friendly clothes and totally unsure of what to expect. Oh--and I *didn't* get photos. Or a video. I fell in love with skydiving that day--and everything went fine--but believe me when I tell you that I wish I'd done everything differently.
Here's what I learned from *my* experience. It might help you with yours.
Take a few minutes to read other peoples' reviews. They're very telling. If I'd read the reviews written about the dropzone where I bumbled up for a jump, I would have known that the unprofessionalism I experienced was totes normal--and that other places operated very differently.
I also would have discovered that it was not a United States Parachute Association affiliate. USPA-affiliated dropzones all over the world follow a certain set of guidelines for safety and professionalism that keep tandem students safer. (Skydive Monroe is certainly one of these if you're wondering.)
Skydiving on an empty stomach is no fun. Skydiving on a full stomach is no fun, either. My empty stomach made my (totally normal) nervousness way worse; something about that vacant, rattly gut feeling is absolutely the wrong thing for a skydive. Do yourself a favor and arrive at the dropzone having nourished yourself--and take a few snacks along with you, just in case there's a wait.
I was so nervous the night before my first skydive that I didn't sleep a wink. In the years since I've learned that this is a very normal phenomenon. If I could do it again, I'd take the same precautions against insomnia that I'd take during the nervous night before any big life event--because a first skydive is, make no mistake, a very big life event indeed!
I was wearing a loose-fitting shirt and shorts when I made my jump, and the dropzone I visited didn't have a jumpsuit to lend me. This made for a chilly jump, with my shirt trying to run away from me by whatever means it could devise. Since then, I've learned that the best way to approach a skydive is to dress in close-fitting layers. If you're offered a jumpsuit, treat that as a solid favor--it'll keep the fabric of your clothing in check, and prevent any grass stains from cramping your style.
Ask the dropzone for a general timeline of your experience, from when you arrive to when you land from your jump. It'll help you relax to know what's coming next and when--and relaxation is key. Take time to breathe deeply and visualize the process to calm jangling nerves.
Of everything I did wrong the day I made my first skydive, this is the one that stings the most. The first video I have of myself in the sky is the day I did my first AFF training jump because I was required to have video for that. If I'd had any foresight before I hopped into the plane for that first tandem, I'd know that there would be no moment like that first jump ever again. I'd love to look back on that version of myself and see that terrified face with the life that was about to change--but the decision I made then is made, and, suffice it to say, there's no video to smile at. It's my hope for you that you'll make a different one.
This is by far the best advice I can give you. Breathe, deeply and often, from the moment you land at the dropzone all the way to your hootin', hollerin' landing. It'll help you get the very most out of your jump. Remember: You're not the first to be scared, and you won't be the last.
Now that you know how to prepare for skydiving, are you ready to give it a try? Book a tandem skydive with the team at Skydive Monroe. Or, if you'd like to know more about what to expect, check out one of our most popular articles on What Does Skydiving Feel Like.