Published: March 29, 2017
When you commit to the idea of making a jump, you probably ask the same question everybody else does: Is skydiving this scary for everyone? The answer, in our years of experience is yes. But--since it's pushing through that fear that makes the act of making a skydive so magical--we can assure you that getting over your fear of skydiving will be one of the best things you ever do for yourself. Here are some tools to tackle it--broken down to each moment that you're likely to be buried under a wave of butterflies.
When You're Trying To Get A Good Night's Sleep The Night Before
The first time you'll probably really feel that fear of skydiving is, ironically, when you're in the most comfortable place you know, miles from the dropzone--in your very own bed. Most people have trouble sleeping the night before they jump. They toss and turn and ruminate, worrying unnecessarily.
Here's what to consider if you find yourself staring anxiously at the ceiling the night before your jump: The media doesn't understand skydiving. When they're reporting on one of the sport's extraordinarily rare incidents, they usually don't even bother to peek at the actual statistics (which prove that skydiving is way safer than driving). Take the reporting with a grain of salt--and remember that millions of happy skydivers worldwide have jumped hundreds--even thousands--of times without incident. There's a reason this is such a popular sport!
As You Arrive On The Dropzone And Get Oriented
When you arrive on the dropzone and start signing the paperwork, you might bite your nails at the waiver. After all, it states "INJURY & DEATH" and "WILL NOT SUE" several times. Then you'll be introduced to the skydiving gear, which looks complicated. Most people are really biting their nails at this point.
If you're nervous when you're getting oriented on the dropzone, here's what to remember: One of the reasons that skydiving is scary to lots of people is that yes, it is a dangerous activity, and yes, the equipment takes time to understand. It'll relax you to meditate on the fact that Skydive Newport is a USPA member dropzone--held to the very highest standards of safety, training and equipment maintenance. Also remember: Even though you couldn't tell a reserve handle from a cutaway from an AAD if we tested you right now, every iota of the equipment has been thoroughly tested and regulated, and we're more than happy to review the equipment as many times as you need us to in order to feel secure. (We love talking about our gear. Seriously.)
When You're Taking Off In The Plane
When the door opens and you set up at the edge to exit, things start getting really really real. This is where the tandem skydiving students who were super-chill Buddhas before tend to get all EEK!. If that's you, you're certainly not the first (today! Or on this load!) You're in plenty of excellent company.
When you're dealing with a hefty dose of door-phobia, here's what to do: Breathe. Breathe in for three counts; breathe out for three counts. Then do it again and again and again, slowly. Skydiving is scary because you're facing the unknown; if you come back to your breath, you'll trust the process that much more (and be more plugged-in for the ride, to boot!) Before you know it, the parachute will be opening and you'll be "scrubbing the tapes" of your freefall memories, so do your very best to breathe and be present.
When You're Landing
At some point in the skydive, you'll look down between your feet and the landscape will cease to look like a topographic map (as it does during freefall). You'll start to see the details; you'll start to be able to triangulate your approximate height, and often times acrophobics (and even mild acrophobics) will have a moment of OHMYGOSHI'MHIGHUPHERE butterflies.
If you feel your fear of heights kick in as your tandem instructor is squaring up for a landing, here's what to do: Remember your breath, and remember your training. Repeat after us: The sky doesn't sprain ankles, but panicking does. Breathe those deep, three-count breaths, and remember to draw up your legs as your instructor navigates the landing. (Don't worry--he/she will remind you.) Don't try to run out the landing; just lift, breathe, and wait. You'll be settled lightly on the ground before you know it, at the middle of a flurry of high-fives and/or hugs.
Once you've successfully tussled with the demons of your fear, you'll be well prepared yourself to answer when people ask, "So: Is skydiving scary?" Your answer will probably be the same as ours: Yes! But never, ever let your fear hold you back. You're better than that!
If you are considering skydiving, this is THE place to do it.
» Janine Gaffney