Many people view skydiving as a bucket list item. Something extraordinary to do once or maybe twice if they really love it. A bragging right or a story they can share with others, to say they did it.
When people hear the word “skydiver”, they may wonder how a person gets involved in such a crazy “hobby”.
They may have a perception that skydivers must be somewhat insane or only boundless souls who refuse to conform to society’s rules about jobs, security, and family.
There certainly are those types of free spirits hanging out at drop zones all over the world, but there are also dads, moms, spouses, doctors, lawyers and every other imaginable occupation participating in this exceptional sport.
And is that what skydiving is?
Wikipedia defines a “sport” as “all forms of competitive physical activity or games which through casual or organized participation, aiming to use, maintain or improve physical ability and skills while providing enjoyment to participants, and in some cases, entertainment for spectators.”
This is definitely a spot-on description for skydiving.
“There certainly are those types of free spirits hanging out at drop zones all over the world, but there are also dads, moms, spouses, doctors, lawyers and every other imaginable occupation participating in this exceptional sport”.
The people at the dropzone
At a skydive drop zone, you’re going to meet people involved in this sport in many various ways. Your first time there, you’ll most likely be an observer or a tandem student.
First-time jumpers are easy to spot since they are usually wearing a harness without a parachute rig, and often waiting in the tandem areas. You’ll also see instructors, coaches and drop zone employees.
There are office employees who take care of first-time students and other jumpers and make sure everyone has a spot on the plane.
They watch the weather and take direction from other managers who may put flights on hold due to dangerous jumping conditions.
Other office employees can include a shop clerk if the drop zone sells skydive gear, and behind-the-scenes video and photo editors.
The instructors and coaches are usually very busy and focused on taking care of their students. Their job is to make sure everyone is having fun and staying safe.
Becoming a jumper
Occasionally, a tandem passenger feels the “hook” and falls in love with the sport after that very first jump.
Once the decision to become a student is made, they’ll begin a program that includes many lessons on the ground (like packing), many lessons in freefall (like stopping a spin), and both writing and freefall tests.
Once a person is officially licensed to skydive alone, they become a “fun jumper”.
At a drop zone, you’ll find most students and fun jumpers in a packing room, where they’ll get ready for their jumps and pack their parachutes afterward. This is always a busy, fun area filled with adrenaline and excitement.
This is also where forever bonds are formed, videos are watched and studied, and endless (seriously – neverending) chatter about past and current skydives happen.
The skydiving disciplines
Among the fun jumpers at the drop zone, you’ll notice an array of skydive disciplines. This is truly where the “sport” aspect comes in. Skydiving is so much more than just a momentary thrill.
Fun jumpers tend to be drawn toward certain areas of the sport.
If they love speed and canopy flying, they may end up studying how to be a swooper. This discipline involves smaller parachutes and low turns which increases their speed to allow them to glide (or swoop) for long distances.
Another discipline involving canopy flight is CRW (“crew”) or canopy relative work.
Participants open their parachutes immediately after exiting the plane at full altitude (usually between 10k and 13k feet), then “dock on” or connect to each other under canopy and fly as one.
Relative Work (RW) and Free Flying are both disciplines of body flight in freefall.
RW involves flying belly-down and docking on (touching) each other in different formations and patterns. This can be done with just two jumpers or “big-ways” with hundreds of jumpers.
Free flyers also dock on each other, but fly their bodies in a sit, stand or head-down position.
Wingsuiters are probably the most well-known group of skydivers, thanks to beautiful viral videos of wingsuit BASE jumpers who fly close to mountainous terrain.
Wingsuits can also be worn by fun jumpers in the sky.
The extra material in the suit allows for a longer horizontal flight and the ability to “surf” puffy clouds on perfect skydive weather days.
Regardless of which discipline skydivers are drawn to, it’s a necessity for every participant to have proper training as they take on new challenges.
Even a skydiver with ten thousand jumps is still a student in some ways and should practice safety refreshers.
Skydiving is truly an exciting and versatile sport with a very diverse group of members.
Skydiving Relative Work, 8 Ways
Canopy Relative Work
Skydiving Free Flying