I’VE been skydiving for 25 years now. I started in 1989 when the Parachutist Association of the Philippines, Inc., opened its doors to civilians who wanted to experience the sport for the first time. Skydiving has been around since the 1970s. It was an airborne skill taught in the military, so most of the skydivers back then were servicemen. My batch was the first of the new generation of jumpers who were trained post-Martial Law.
You literally hold your life in your hands in skydiving. Knowing that is the ultimate rush. If you fail to pull your hand-deployed chute, you die. It’s that matter-of-fact. It’s also exciting to know that not everyone can voluntarily throw himself out of a perfectly good aircraft flying at several thousand feet. You feel special. You feel like you’re lording over your own dominion that looks vast, microscopic, and untamed from above.
No doubt, free-falling is skydiving’s most thrilling part, the closest you can ever get to flying without the aid of any mechanical device. Instant fun is yours to savor within seconds as you feel the ground rush up to you.
I can understand why people with an irrational fear of heights find this phase rather unsettling. The reality is, when you’re hovering at several thousands of feet above ground, everything below appears so flat that there’s no awareness of height. This is unlike bungee jumping or looking down from a penthouse balcony, wherein you can see people on the ground and there are other structures around you that accentuate your vertical distance to the ground.
Yes, fear is natural—and subduing it is skydiving’s deepest reward.
Before you muster the courage to skydive, though, you must assure us that you’re in tip-top shape. If you have a weak heart, often experience blackout spells,and are panic-prone, then these conditions must first be addressed. A clearance from your doctor is required. We want to be certain that the stress won’t kill you. If everything’s in order, then let’s go for it. I say everyone must try skydiving at least once in this lifetime. Most definitely, it’s one goal you must include on and tick off your bucket list!
A few safety tips to remember: Always familiarize yourself with your equipment. Learning how your parachute’s canopy handles and how to properly flare when landing prevents you from stalling or even braking late. Stick to large drop zones first and prioritize a safety landing area, as opposed to one that’s tight and has a lot of hazards.
Overconfidence is a sin. So is violating what I’ve just enumerated above. Low-pulling, which means deploying your parachute below the given limit (2,000 feet for professionals; 2,500 to 3,000 feet for newbies) is strictly prohibited.
If you want to develop fast reflexes, skydiving can surely help you with that. It prods you to think quickly and make sound decisions on the fly. Constant free fall also harnesses your ability in body flight because you learn how your body reacts to the air, which is crucial to moving around and controlling the speed of your descent.
Take up a course in skydiving at a recognized training school and start off with a static jump, wherein the parachute is designed to open a couple of seconds after your jump so you don’t control the deployment. If you decide to really get serious about the sport, do 5 to 6 more static jumps before you try free-falling for the first time. From there on, everything will literally fall into place.
Get ready to jump!
Yes, it’s daunting. Jumping off an aircraft isn’t a natural thing for a human being to do. Once you experience it, more often than not, you develop the courage and confidence to do it again. Just focus on the instructions, especially the emergency procedures, and practice the whole process until you are confident and it becomes second nature to you.
Fear is normal. It doesn’t matter whether or not you have a fear of heights—I don’t know of anyone who, at their first peek out of the plane, hasn’t felt afraid. But skydiving is one of the most exhilarating experiences you can ever have.
Try a wind-tunnel system first. If you do have a fear of heights, this would be a good way to get a feel of things. The wind-tunnel system simulates free fall minus the butterflies in your tummy. For those who have the budget, give iFly at Sentosa in Singapore a go. Another similar facility is Genting Wind Tunnel in Malaysia.