What Every Newly Licensed Skydiver Should Know

What Every Newly Licensed Skydiver Should Know

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Being new in skydiving isn’t for the faint of heart. We know because we’ve been there. And so have all the rest of us, from the lissome freestyle competitor who seems to fly by magic to the guys doing wingsuit formations as they careen across the sky at racetrack speeds. The simple fact is that there’s no way to get good in skydiving that doesn’t start as being new in skydiving. So — if that’s your goal — you’ll need to get through being new. Clearly, it would be easier to turn around and roll back down to the “normal life” that used to define you. But you know and we know that isn’t going to happen.

 

There are a few things we wish we’d been told right at the beginning. Here’s my best pep talk, dear reader. Lean in.

#1. Patience, patience, patience.

Here’s the first thing I’ll tell you: Patience and persistence are the only things that’ll keep you in the game.

If you’re like the rest of us, you’ll have plenty of moments you’ll be tempted to give up. You’ll mess up landings and biff into the dirt in front of fellow skydivers and onlookers that you really wanted to land well for. On some exits, you’ll leave the plane like a pro; others, you’ll crash into your coach, leave it too long in the door or, like, lose a shoe. You’ll be inexplicably terrified some days, waking up in the bunkhouse in a cloud of AV gas fumes and dread. You’ll feel awkward like crazy when all you want to feel is confident.

Let yourself feel all of it. It’s all part of the process. There is, however, one feeling to reject out-of-hand, and that’s despair. Remember: With every jump, you’re moving ever closer to confidence. Celebrate every little victory, however small, and celebrate it with gusto. Accept compliments when they’re paid to you. Pay the beer fines.

#2. Don’t stop showing up.

Fear and frustration are bound to buddy up and try to bully you off the dropzone. Every time you let them, you’re letting them push you another step away from skydiving. You’d be amazed at how many people only make a couple dozen skydives before putting their skydiving license in the bin. Don’t be one of those guys. It’s kinda sad.

Fear and frustration are great teammates, because it’s easy for them to hide together behind “logical, responsible choices.” When you’re new, showing up to the dropzone is hard, and it’s easier to just do the errands that seem to be suddenly pressing; save your jump money to meet some lurking financial obligation you’ve discovered; important social happenings you should probably start preparing for instead of waiting for a load.

Deep down, you know what really qualifies as a “reason” and what’s only an “excuse.” When you notice one pop up, just laugh at it. Excuses, held up to the light, are reliably funny things, after all.

#3. Put your focus on canopy.

Resources are limited — time and money alike. Most new skydivers focus all of ‘em on freefall skills. And y’know what? That’s a shame.

We know, we know. It’s freefall skills that get you on the jumps with the hometown heroes at your dropzone. It’s freefall skills that get you the biggest group hugs. It’s freefall skills that impress your Facebook friends.

Dedicating yourself whole-hog to freefall is a terrible idea at the start of a skydiving career. Right now, when you’re more overwhelmed by the basic components of a skydive than you will ever be again, you need to focus your energies directly on the most important part of your jump: The landing.

The time to do this is now, in these early moments when you’re still actively programming the subconscious responses that might later save your dang tib-fibs. Now is the time to get canopy coaching. Now is the time to rigorously workshop your accuracy. Now is the to learn every detail of your canopy by heart and get rid of your gear fear, once and for all. Don’t end up one of those jumpers who can freefall on the national level but still has a small panic attack when the sock is dead.

#5. Be part of it.

The skyfamily is your family now, and you are welcome here. Stop worrying that everybody thinks you’re a fraud. They don’t. Stop worrying that you aren’t cool enough to hang around. On the dropzone, your genuine self is worth more than any pretended cool. Stop worrying that they don’t really like you. They do. The love you feel on the dropzone is real. You’re part of the worldwide “us,” now. And we couldn’t be gladder for it.

Skydiving for the first time at Skydive Tecumseh was by far one of the greatest experiences of my life. No matter how high maintenance I was before the jump when I was scared, every single jumper employee did everything they could to make my experience unforgettable. I have already recommended here for many of my friends wanting to go with me for their first time on my next round!

Christine Kardel