Somehow, no matter what season it is, a large percentage of US family vacationers find themselves down in Florida for a while. This is even more true during the colder winter months when families are looking for an escape form the harsh weather, but it would be a mistake to say that Florida isn’t a popular tourist destination in the summer as well.
Florida pretty much has it all. Great weather, tons of sun, beaches, Disney World, surfing and a laid back lifestyle just begging to be enjoyed. It’s easy for people who are visiting Florida to decide they never want to leave, and it’s no wonder that time share and vacation rentals are being snatched up left and right. Some people arrive in Florida and instantly know it’s a place they want to spend a lot more time in than their original itinerary suggests.
While there are a ton of great things to do in Florida, Tampa specifically which everyone already knows about, there is one great activity to take part in while you’re in Tampa that isn’t as publicized. We are talking about none other than skydiving.
Whether you are a professional skydiver who has completed hundreds of jumps in your lifetime, or you’ve never even considered going skydiving before your trip to Tampa, it doesn’t matter. You can still show up at a skydiving facility and be in the air before the day is over. It’s a great system.
If you’re planning a trip to Tampa, then you’re in luck. We are going to be going over everything you need to know to make your first jump in Tampa a successful one.
Skydiving for the first time in Tampa
When most people hear that it’s possible for someone who has never been skydiving before to be able to do so on their first day in Tampa, they automatically assume that it’s very unsafe. They have visions of people plummeting to their deaths from thousands of feet above the earth’s surface. We can’t blame them – it does seem quite dangerous at face value to let someone with no prior skydiving experience just jump out of a moving plane like that.
In reality, skydiving as a first timer is incredibly safe, and this is mostly due to the fact that every drop zone (a term given to the ground portion of a skydiving facility) in North America has a system in place to quickly and safely bring brand new skydivers up to speed.
On the day you’re scheduled to jump, you’ll want to make sure you arrive at the drop zone with lots of time to spare. Make sure you get a good nights sleep the night before, and set your alarm early so you don’t oversleep. The earlier you can arrive at the drop zone the better. Once you arrive, you’ll immediately go into your first training session of the day.
The point of this first training session, is to get you familiar with the process of skydiving, just in case anything unexpected is to take place during your free fall. They will be showing you exactly what you need to get yourself from the plane back down to the ground safely, all by yourself. Of course, you won’t be by yourself – you’ll be jumping with a skydiving instructor strapped to your back. If for any reason though, the skydiving instructor isn’t able to help you, like if they lost consciousness on the way down, you should theoretically be able to save yourself. The chances of you actually needing to use this information is very slim, but if you find yourself in a position where you do need to use it, you’ll be very glad you learned it.
This initial portion may be taught by a video which you’ll watch, or there may be an instructor walking you through everything. Each drop zone has a different way in which they like to teach their new skydivers. It doesn’t matter so much whether you are taught by video or by a person though, the important thing is that you’re paying attention because this type of information might just save your life.
After you’ve become familiar with the skydiving process, it will be time for you to learn all about your skydiving equipment. Your instructors will help you to put your gear on and get it fitting properly. This is the point where most people hit their first hang up when it comes to skydiving. The gear is not going to be comfortable, and there’s not a whole lot you can do about that. Some people will try to put their skydiving gear on, but not tighten it up al the way, in an effort to make it more comfortable. This is not advisable though, because of how unsafe it is. Your skydiving equipment is safety gear, and not wearing it properly means it won’t be able to keep you safe.
The best thing you can do to make the skydiving gear more comfortable, is to wear light, loose fitting clothes. If you wear something like a tight, rigid pair of jeans, then you’re just going to feel even more miserable as you put your gear on, and it will make the whole experience that much less enjoyable.
While we’re on the subject of clothes for comfort, let’s also talk about clothes for safety. We highly recommend wearing a pair of long pants and long sleeves for your jump. They don’t need to be heavy, but they should cover your skin. A pair of sweatpants and a long sleeve t-shirt works great for this. The reason is, it can be very cold 12,000 feet up in the air, and the last thing you want to be thinking about during your free fall is how you wished you wore something warmer. Not only will you be very high up, but the wind resistance against your skin will also be working to make you much colder as well. Many people believe that because it’s warm outside that they don’t need to follow this long sleeve advice – but be aware that just because it’s warm on the ground doesn’t mean it’s warm up there in the air.
You should also bring some closed toed shoes which can be laced up. If you arrive in sandals or open toed shoes, you simply won’t be allowed to jump. This actually isn’t for your own safety, but for the safety of those around you. Shoes that can’t be tied tight or are open toed can easily come off as you speed through the air. While you could scrape your feet coming in for a landing, this isn’t the biggest concern. The drop zone will be more concerned your shoes will come off, and not being slowed by the parachute, will head towards the ground at a high rate of speed, putting anyone waiting below you at major risk.
Do yourself a favor and show up early, and with all the right clothes on. It will ensure that you’ll be able to jump on the same day as you show up. Once you’ve gone through all the training, it will be time for you to get in the plane and get ready for your first jump.
The types of jumps available to a first timer in Tampa
By far, the most common type of jump available to a first timer, whether in Tampa or anywhere else, is known as the tandem jump. For a tandem jump, you’ll be jumping with a jumpmaster quite literally strapped to your back. A jumpmaster is a professional skydiver with over 500 jumps under their belt, whose job it is to keep you safe. If you met a jumpmaster with only 500 jumps though, it would mean they are a very new jumpmaster who has just recently been certified. Most jumpmasters have over 1,000 jumps, since they jump multiple times a day and the jumps all add up quickly.
Once the plane reaches the correct altitude, it will be time for you to jump. You and your jumpmaster will suit up, and they will double and triple check to make sure you’ve got all your gear put on correctly. Then, once they are completely sure your gear is properly secured, they will strap themselves to your back. This won’t be the slightest bit comfortable as you stand there in the plane, with another human attached to you. Once you begin free fall though, it will all become a whole lot more comfortable, because you’ll essentially be weightless.
As you head over to the open door of the airplane and look down, you won’t be blamed if you suddenly get cold feet – it’s a perfectly normal reaction. In fact, it’s usually on the plane with all their gear on ready to jump, that most people decide to back out. It’s pretty scary looking down at the ground from the open door of the plane.
Your jumpmaster has seen this same scenario play out dozens of times before, and should know exactly how to handle it. If they can see you truly want to jump but are just too scared to force yourself to do it, they can provide you with that last little push you need to get you out of the plane. For most people, it’s not a problem of wanting to do it or not, they just don’t have the nerves to actually hurl themselves out of a moving plane.
If, on the other hand, the jumpmaster can see that you’re genuinely terrified, and don’t want to jump anymore, they won’t be cruel enough to push you out of the plane. Keep in mind though, that if you decide not to jump, you’ll still be responsible for paying the full price of the skydiving experience. This is because most of the cost is split between the airplane and the jumpmaster’s time, both of which you’ve already used by the time you’re up in the plane. Many people see the jump itself to be free at this point, and for some, it can be the motivation they need to make them jump. Some people just can’t resist something for free, and it makes it easier for them to just go for it.
If you decide not to jump, you’ll be able to ride the plane back down to the ground safely. Your jumpmaster may ride back down with you, or they may decide to jump solo. For an experienced skydiver, it can be very difficult to get all the way up there in the plane and not actually jump.
If you do jump, your fears should vanish the second you begin free fall. Not only is this the point of no return, but there will be too much adrenaline pumping once you begin free fall for you to worry about anything else. Fortunately for you, your jumpmaster will be handling everything, so all you need to do is sit back and enjoy the ride.
Once you reach the correct altitude, your jumpmaster will pull the parachute, and your descent will start to slow. While most people get a real thrill out of the free fall, the glide down after the parachute has been pulled can be very enjoyable as well. It feels like you’re floating, and you get to truly take in the view below you. Lots of people hit the ground and say they loved it so much, they want to go again immediately. Depending on the facility and what time it is when you finish your jump, that might even be an option, and you could even get a discount on your second jump of the day.
The other type of jump available to first timers in Tampa, is known as the static line jump. This jump is only for people who are much more adventurous, and don’t want to jump with a jumpmaster strapped to their back.
Instead, they will jump simultaneously with a jumpmaster, who will be tethered to them by a long and very strong rope. Once you reach the correct altitude, you will be responsible for pulling your own parachute. If for some reason you panic or otherwise can’t get your parachute to deploy though, your jumpmaster will be able to pull theirs, and since you’re tethered to each other, your descent will begin to slow as a result.
You’ll also be responsible for guiding yourself back down to the ground safely. You’ll be in communication with another jumpmaster on the ground via a walkie talkie, and they can monitor the wind patterns and help get you back down to the ground safely. If you panic here, then the jumpmaster in the air can also take over, making sure nothing bad happens to either of you.
The point here is not to rely on your jumpmaster, but to have you doing all of these things on your own. The jumpmaster is just there in case you can’t manage to do something on your own, but they should be seen as a last resort – plan to jump as if they weren’t there, that’s the whole point.
A static line jump will be more expensive, because the training period will be more extensive, and because you’ll be utilizing the time of two jumpmasters instead of one. If you’re at all apprehensive about the skydiving experience, then this is definitely not the type of jump for you. You would be better off starting with a tandem jump, where the jumpmaster on your back handles everything for you. If you’re a bit more adventurous though, and can handle the bigger adrenaline rush, then you might just want to start out with the static line jump and enjoy the thrill.
Where to go skydiving in Tampa
By now, hopefully we’ve been able to convince you to give skydiving a shot next time you head to Tampa for a vacation. If so, you’re probably wondering exactly where you should be going for your first skydiving experience once you arrive. Before we tell you though, it’s imperative we stress to you the importance of always checking into a facility’s safety records before jumping with them. While any facility in North America is probably perfectly safe, with even one accident causing them to lose their license, it still pays to check – you’ll be putting your life into their hands. Call up each facility individually and ask about their safety records and practices, as well as any other questions you might have. If anything sounds fishy, hang up and call the next one.
Here’s a couple places to get you started:
400 Airport Drive West
Sebastian, Florida 32958
4241 Sky Dive Lane
Zephyrhills, FL 33542
So, now you know that skydiving, even as a first timer, in Tampa is completely safe, the types of jumps you can do, and even where to do them. If you’ve ever considered skydiving in the past, you’ve now got now excuses left to keep putting it off. Give it a try today, we bet you’ll love it!