Skydiving Schools: Picking the School and Training Thatís Right for You
Author: Brooks Patton
Perhaps you've considered actually jumping from a perfectly good airplane, from time to time, in your past. Perhaps you are the unwitting recipient of a skydiving gift certificate from a friend. Whatever the case, despite the good advice to the contrary from sane people all around you, you're actually going to go through with itÖ..
So now what? Finding a top-notch skydiving school can seem like a daunting task. Every skydiving school web site you visit seems great at first blush, but then you start to see a trend develop, namely, they seem to all claim to be the best, friendliest, safest, and highest-jumping drop zones in the world. Though your friends, still coming to grips with your decision, might argue that you clearly have no common sense, you know full well that you do. That same common sense is telling you that not all of these schools can actually be the best. So how does one actually choose? How do you read through the hype and come away with the best thrill of your life?
It's a good question, and deserves a good answer because you only get a first jump once in life. Here then, is the answer to that question, a short guide to selecting the best skydiving school for you. The best way to begin is by actually defining what your desired end result of this experience is to be. Seems like a no-brainer; the end result is to simply jump out of an airplane and float to the ground, right? Wrong. There's a lot about how you get from air to there that can influence your experience and ultimately your opinion of the sport.
The first step to making this decision is in understanding the types of jumps that are available to you. I will explain each, along with the pros and cons.
1) Tandem Jump:
A tandem jump is a method of jumping where you exit the plane not with a parachute strapped to your back but an entire instructor. This is the most popular choice for new divers and is highly promoted by drop zones. The reason for this is multi-faceted; there is no responsibility on the new skydiver's part, they simply go with the flow and the instructor does all the work. This diminishes nearly all new-diver fault risks but also has a higher profit margin for the drop zone. Given the responsibility-free nature of a tandem jump for the new skydiver, the ground portion can be done in an hour or less, and requires only a one-to-one instructor/jumper ratio, where Accelerated Free Fall initial jumps require two instructors and far more ground school. If you are simply jumping to be able to buy the tee shirt from having done it once in your life, this method is for you. The relief of putting all the worry into the hands of a capable pro is terrific. If, however, you think you may want to take up the sport beyond this first jump, it might be well worth your while to consider investing your money into the first required dive of your AFF (Accelerated Freefall) certification. Your tandem jump, in most cases, will not apply towards this series of jumps, making your investment in the tandem jump somewhat of a waste if you pursue licensing. Only you know the answer to that question, and as long as money isn't an issue (and if it is you might want to find a cheaper sport) you can just do the tandem jump anyway.
2) Static Line Jumps:
While not as popular as tandem and AFF, Static line jumps offer an option that combines the thrill of piloting your own chute without the concern of deploying it. Though the methods can vary, basically you jump from the plane at a much lower altitude, around 3000-5000 feet as opposed to 12-14,000 for tandem and AFF. As you jump, a line attached to your chute deploys it as you exit and fall away from the plane. In an AFF or tandem jump chutes are typically deployed around 5000 feet, hence this flight altitude for static line deployments. There is literally zero freefall on a static line jump.
3) Accelerated Freefall (AFF) Jumps:
Accelerated Freefall courses combine ground school classes and a series of jumps taken with two instructors, maintaining progressively less hand contact with you on each subsequent jump. This leads up to a completely unassisted solo jump where you will demonstrate basic maneuvers. While these jumps are typically taken to receive your USPA (United States Parachute Association) license, it is not (usually) a requirement that you perform the subsequent jumps in order to do the first one. While the price of that first dive is higher than a tandem jump (far more ground school and two instructors per diver), it also offers a bigger thrill and substantial feeling of accomplishment. Most skydiving schools will have you complete your ground school and first AFF jump in a single day. If you continue on with your training, you'll eventually receive your USPA licensing after you have met all requirements and taken the required tests. This licensing is required by nearly all drop zones in order to jump solo.
Armed with this information, you can now start narrowing down the selection based on your skydiving requirements. Look for schools that are USPA-member drop zones. Take the time to research the drop zone and get a feel from other divers about your drop zone(s) of choice. Most drop zones are typically very warm and friendly, and give newcomers as much attention as their regulars. There are, from time to time, skydiving schools/drop zones that cater more towards one end of the scale than the other. User opinions and reviews can reveal this if you take the time to do the research. This is easily accomplished at the website referenced below.
The most important thing of all, however, is that you have fun. Despite all of the advice from your well-intentioned friends, that fact is that your desire to pursue this sport puts you in a whole different category than those folks. Fear of falling is primal; we all feel it and are genetically predisposed to it. The dividing line is between those who fear, but have enough courage to control that fear and transform it into an incredible experience, and those who fear, shrink from it, and declare that anyone who doesn't is insane. Put your fears aside, dive into human flight and enjoy the thrill of a lifetime!
About the author
Brooks Patton is the Marketing Director for Skydiving-School.com,. the newest and most comprehensive online skydiving community. Much more than a drop zone directory; it's a suite of interactive web-based services designed specifically for skydivers. Join free today at http://www.skydiving-school.com.
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