So, you’re interested in the thrill-seeking world of skydiving! I understand that getting started in any new sport is difficult, particularly so when it comes to willingly throwing yourself out of a plane. While there is no substitute for experience, I’m going to try and prepare you for what to expect in the exciting days to come!
First, you’re going to need to do a tandem. Unless you have prior experience through the military or another similar occupation, that would be step one for you! To ensure a seamless process from check-in to jump, please bring a valid ID, be at least 18 years old, wear comfortable clothing, and close toed shoes. A tandem is where a qualified instructor harnesses you to themselves, while wearing a large specially designed rig (skydiving term for the “backpack”, harness, drogue or pilot chute, main canopy, and reserve canopy) and both you and the instructor complete the skydive together!
Completing 1 to 2 tandem jumps will start your journey towards an “A” license! Wait, you need a license to skydive? Sure do! An “A” license will allow you to jump solo at almost every drop zone in the world! This process is known as the AFF program (Accelerated Free Fall program) is a strict 8 level course that is used in drop zones all over the world. For the US, our licensing process is governed by the USPA (United States Parachuting Association) and is a necessity to jump solo using ram air canopies (not rounds). Unfortunately, the GI Bill isn’t generally accepted for this school, so do your homework on each program’s cost and time obligation.
Your second step is to start your schooling and training to achieve that license. This begins with a 4-8 hour ground school, followed by a written exam to ensure safety and an understanding of the rules and regulations that keep you and other skydivers safe at all experience levels. After that, it’s time to take to the skies for your first solo jump! Don’t worry, you’re not truly alone. Your instructor(s) will be with you every step and fall of the way by reviewing safety regulations, doing gear checks with you, and holding onto your leg straps until you are far enough in the AFF program to be deemed safe to let go of. Your instructor will be coaching you through the entire freefall and canopy ride to ensure your learning and safety.
Upon completion of the AFF program, under the assumption you passed each level without having to redo any, you should have about 18-20 jumps under your belt. An “A” licensed skydiver has a minimum of 25 jumps, which means the last 5-7 jumps are all up to you! Your instructor will watch and check in with you, but not go with you. This is your time to prove yourself competent in the mechanics and safety of skydiving. After you have 25 jumps, your instructor will give you a written exam to apply for an “A” license! Congratulations! You passed! Your instructor stamps a large “A” on your forehead, your drop zone celebrates your accomplishment with a photo or small party, and you are officially free to roam the skies. Your own gear can be purchased through a gear shop or online, ask your instructor for assistance when looking for gear. Welcome to the club, blue skies!