Will I get sick? What if I’m afraid of heights? Will my instructor get mad if I scream in his ear? These are some of the questions that might race through your mind when you’re first learning how to skydive. But here’s the truth: though your palms might get sweaty at the thought, you’re probably ready to skydive right now.At least, that’s what Russell Goldman seems to think. The owner of World Skydiving Center in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Goldman claims that he can have most people trained and ready for their very first tandem dive in 15 minutes. If that’s not enough to put your mind at ease, we asked the expert to give us his top skydiving tips for beginners. You Don’t Need to Be an Athlete to Jump Out of an AirplaneGoldman tries to keep things as simple as possible when teaching beginners how to skydive. He starts with the good news: there are no outrageous physical requirements for jumping out of a plane. “You don’t have to be in great shape,” he said, “but you do need some ability to move your legs up and down.” Most skydiving companies also have weight limits to ensure safety. The normal limit at World Skydiving Center, for example, is 200 pounds. Scared of Heights? It’s Not as Bad as You Think.“[Skydiving] is different than climbing a ladder,” explained Goldman. In fact, when you’re thousands of feet in the air, the elevation becomes an advantage. “We’re so high up, it almost seems not real.” Goldman finds that, while most first-timers quickly forget about the height, they do have something else on their minds. “They’re mostly worried about jumping out of the plane,” he laughed. But that’s OK—beginners don’t need all of their nerves under control. “They’re strapped to one of us [so] we’re doing the work for them.”A Roller Coaster Is More Likely to Make You SickIf you’re prone to sudden nausea, skydiving has one advantage over the typical roller coaster: “You don’t go back up.” Divers don’t feel the repetitive dropping sensation associated with thrill rides, and very few report feeling sick after their first jump. If nausea does occur, it’s likely to happen during the slow, swaying part of the canopy ride.You Won’t Have Any Trouble Breathing According to Goldman, the only reason you might not be able to inhale during a freefall is if you’re holding your breath. “There's no difference between [breathing] in the plane and out of the plane,” he assured us. Freefall speeds reach a maximum of 120 miles per hour—while thrilling, that’s not fast enough to making breathing difficult. Chat with Your Instructor, But Only If You Feel Like It On clear days, Goldman and his fellow instructors at World Skydiving Center will point out sights such as the Chicago skyline on the way down. “During the canopy ride, the instructor becomes like a tour guide,” he said. But you shouldn’t feel obligated to hold a conversation if you’re just enjoying the view. “Some people are chatty. Others are quiet.” In any case, nobody’s going to get their feelings hurt.Get a Good Night’s Sleep Preparing for your first skydive is easy enough: in short, don’t do anything differently. “We want [you] to treat it as a normal day,” said Goldman, which means waking up and eating breakfast as you normally would. He does warn against staying up late the night before. Remember to Bring Your Glasses Or contact lenses, if you need them. Nearly all skydiving centers provide over-the-glasses goggles for skydivers, so you won’t be stuck trying to make out the blurry scenery on your way down. The Landing Is Usually Pretty Soft Goldman prefers to slide people in gently on their backsides, making for a slow and steady landing. First-timers almost always dive in tandem with an instructor who knows how to make the landing as soft as possible, so there’s no need to wear those shock-absorbing shoes.Invite Your Friends and Family “[Skydiving] is a bigtime spectator sport,” Goldman said. Most skydiving centers actually have dedicated spectator viewing areas, so dont forget to flash a thumbs-up to anyone watching the latter part of your descent—including, of course, your triumphant landing. Photos: skydiving 024 and skydiving 014 by Laura Hadden. tandem skydiving (26) [landing] by bertknot. All Flickr photos under CC BY 2.0.
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