Patrick Swayze, maybe, circa 1992? That guy who jumped from space? Or that other guy who jumped from space? Some of your brain’s stock footage of a lemming-long-line of military parachutists issuing from the rear door of a cargo aircraft? You might be imagining some version of a devil-may-care rule breaker who never calls his mom. And you’re almost certainly picturing a dude.
All of the above mental images are little gifts of movies and the media. They certainly don’t represent the majority. No worries–we’ll catch you up to the modern moment, so you won’t be too shocked when you head out to the dropzone and look around.
When you see what a “skydiver” looks like, you might be amazed.
You might imagine that you’ll be walking into a room full of 18-24-year-old men with reaper-themed tattoos and peacock attitudes. You’ll probably assume they’ll all turn and give you a once-over when you enter, sneer at you, then go back to the business of being cool.
Instead, you’ll be walking into a pretty solid cross-section of humankind. Men and women of all different ethnic backgrounds, creeds and upbringings end up putting on parachutes. We come from every walk of life: stay-at-home moms; accountants; real estate agents; students; vegans; musicians; line cooks; entrepreneurs; scientists; soldiers. Some of us bring our families out for the weekend, so you’ll often see kids running around the observation area.
…And, by the way, we’ll never sneer at you! A skydiving dropzone is a very welcoming environment.
You might imagine that skydiving is a reckless activity for reckless people who just kinda wanna watch the world burn. Au contraire. Our sport may be presented as reckless in the media; in reality, it’s anything but.
We follow a very strict book of rules and recommendations, set forth by the United States Parachute Association–which was founded at the dawn of the sport with the goal of giving everyone a matching set of safety expectations. This book is called the Skydiver’s Information Manual (lovingly referred to as the “SIM”) and it governs pretty much everything we do up there. It defines the best practices for gear, training, maintenance, emergency response, inter-skydiver communication, airplane procedures and minimum jump numbers before trying specific new things. The SIM also prescribes safety technologies–such as the Automatic Activation Device. The AAD is a little piece of equipment that sits so outside the spirit of recklessness that it actually opens our parachutes (all on its own!) in case we, for some reason, can’t.
The SIM gives every skydiver, all over the world, a common reference point for safe, skilled skydiving–and it just doesn’t allow for recklessness. (Recklessness is sloppy, anyway, and we’re trying to be the best jumpers we can be.)
Sure, there exists a sliding scale of daredevil feels at any given dropzone–but “adrenaline junkies” are not the norm. Many skydivers will even freely admit to you that they are even afraid of heights!
At the end of the day, loving skydiving just comes down to a sense of adventure. You might not bungee jump or go whitewater kayaking for fun, but were you the kid that loved to swing real high at the playground? If so, you’ll probably get right into this sport. And we’re here to introduce you to your new tribe!