If jumping out of a perfectly good airplane sounds like your idea of fun then you may be one of the growing number of people who will dare to enjoy the extreme sport of skydiving this year. Adrenaline-pumping activities of all kinds are becoming more popular with Americans and many even plan their vacations around extreme experiences like ice climbing, swimming with sharks and skydiving. But before you take to the sky there are few questions you should ask.
- Is It Safe?That’s the first question anyone considering taking a dive should ask. The most recent statistics from the United States Parachute Association show that out of 3 million jumps in 2010, 21 fatalities occurred. That translates to 0.007 deaths for every 1000 jumps. While that number is extremely low it does not include accidents that aren’t fatal. Skydiving is considered “safe” by professionals in the field, but there’s no denying that the activity is inherently risky. If you’re skydiving as part of a vacation package, do purchase travel insurance to make sure any medical costs will be covered–just in case.
- Is There a Weight Limit?It could certainly ruin your day to show up to the dive center and find out you’re too big to join your friends in a skydive. Sources vary on the answer to this question and much may depend on the dive center itself. The questionable “limit” is approximately 220 pounds. The best advice is to call ahead and follow any restrictions closely. Equipment must be fitted correctly to work correctly and fudging on your weight could literally put your life at risk.
- Do I Have to be in Perfect Health?Some health problems may exclude you from diving. Back or neck injuries, heart ailments or epilepsy are a few of the major concerns. If you have physical limitations or are physically handicapped you may need to find a center that is specifically equipped for assisting people with handicaps. Consult your physician to determine if you are in good enough health to try skydiving.
- Is There an Age Limit?You must be at least 18 to skydive but there are no restrictions on how old you can be as long as you are in good health. In fact, skydiving has become more popular with senior citizens in recent years. In 2009 George Bush Sr. celebrated his 85th birthday by taking his first dive and a brave Australian gentlemen by the name of Frank Moody recently took his first jump at the tender age of 101!
- What’s up with that Second Chute?The odds of needing a second parachute are slim, but in the off chance the main parachute doesn’t open, all skydivers are equipped with a backpack that holds a second parachute. Typically the main parachute won’t fully inflate until the diver descends to about 2,500 feet. Once the chute is fully operation you can use the steering lines to guide yourself to a safe landing. If the main parachute doesn’t deploy or isn’t functional the second chute ensures a safe landing.
Many first-time divers choose tandem jumping as a way to experience the fun of skydiving. Tandem jumping is a great option for people who want the thrills but are afraid they may forget their instructions. For some, skydiving is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure to cross off their bucket list, but don’t be surprised if your first dive leads to a lifetime of enjoying this extreme sport.