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If you’re reading this, you may be squinting sideways at the fact that tandem students can’t bring their own GoPro skydiving. Your tiny little camera would be fine, you’re probably thinking. That not allowing them along is a rule we made up in order to net a little extra moolah from every tandem skydive.
Let’s stop there for a second.
It might interest you to know that the reason you’re not allowed to bring your own camera on a tandem skydive comes down to a rule. It’s set by the self-governing body for the sport of skydiving – the United States Parachute Association (USPA) – and says that the minimum number of jumps you’ll need in order to bring Mr. GoPro skydiving is a whopping (and probably surprising) two hundred.
On a tandem skydive, you’re not a passenger. You’re a student – with a responsible role. Because that’s the case, you’re required to follow the same rules all skydivers must observe.
The USPA uses exhaustively collected stats to develop their rules. Those stats speak loudly: malfunctions due to cameras are more common when the person holding the camera doesn’t have sufficient experience to know precisely where the camera should and shouldn’t be. Skydiving videographers — along with tandem instructors, when they’re the ones wielding the GoPro — use skydiving-specific mounts (and considerable knowledge) to keep all of it well clear of the equipment on which a safe skydive depends.
On a side note: If you’re frustrated by the 200-jump limit, consider the experienced skydiver who’s already jumped a hundred times and has to wait another hundred.
In many situations where sports cameras like GoPros are used, they’re an unobtrusive part of the furniture. On a skydive, however, even a small camera presents a surprisingly significant liability.
The most common malfunction cameras cause is the dreaded “line snag”. That’s when a foreign object gets in the way of a normal parachute deployment and causes a great big snafu. If you have to cut away a main parachute that’s stuck to you while the reserve parachute is deploying, you have a bad situation on your hands. Can you picture that? (Okay, you can stop.)
Something else to note: Cameras are very distracting. It’s not at all uncommon for a camera to get in the way of proper response to emergency situations. And that’s statistically a lot more likely when the jumper has performed fewer than 200 skydives.
In brief: A new jumper can’t safely handle both a camera and a tandem skydive at the same time. (Unconvinced? Just wait until you make that jump. The skydiving experience is a lot more everything than you imagine it will be.)
All the data and experience we’ve collected as a sport points to the fact that it’s safer, more satisfying, and more enjoyable to do a tandem skydive when you’re 100% focused on having the time of your life.
So leave that GoPro at home – and don’t worry: Your footage will be there for you to enjoy when you land!