I picked up this book after years of contemplating skydiving, but never having the nerve to follow through on those urges. I truly wanted to do it, but something deep inside my brain kept telling me it was unsafe, and I belonged inside of a moving airplane at all times.
I have a friend who is an experienced skydiver, and who was always pushing me to at least give it a try, but I was still resistant. One day he said something to me though that really changed my mind about things. He said, “If riding in an airplane is flying, then riding in a boat is swimming.” That analogy really made an impression on me, but it didn’t seem like the type of analogy my friend would have been capable of coming up with all on his own. When I asked him where he heard it, he told me he read it in the book “Parachuting: The Skydiver’s Handbook” by Dan Poynter.
I figured if any book about skydiving out there would resonate with me, it would be that one. It was first released in 1978, but from all of the reviews I could find, it seemed like the information had been updated several times and was still relevant. Apparently, it was already in its 10th edition, which was reassuring, because when it comes to something like skydiving, it can be quite dangerous to rely on outdated information.
When I first opened the book, I couldn’t help but notice the striking similarities between this book and the books from the “…for Dummies” series. If it had been titled “Skydiving for Dummies”, it would have fit right in with the series. Let me just say though, that this is by no means a complaint, as I am a big fan of those books and the way in which they present information to the reader.
As someone who has never gone skydiving before, I was initially apprehensive that this book would be well over my head. That is not even slightly the case though, as the book lays everything out in an easy to digest format. Skydiving is definitely a complicated sport, with lots of intricate equipment and methods of using said equipment, but I never felt even the slightest bit confused while reading the book.
The book also does a fantastic job of making a new skydiver feel safe about going skydiving for the first time, while also stressing the utter importance of doing things safely. The book makes you understand that skydiving, when done correctly is an extremely safe sport, but it also helps you to understand just how wrong things can go if you don’t take the proper precautions.
When I opened the book, I understandably had many questions and concerns about the health and safety aspects of skydiving. I had initially written them all done and was very surprised that by the time I reached the last page, all of my questions and concerns had been answered or addressed. It really surprised me as to just how comprehensive this book actually was and how much thought had been put into laying out all the information inside.
Probably the most important part of this book for beginners, is the way in which it helps you to realize just how safe skydiving can be for a beginner. I had previously envisioned my first jump being a solo jump, and that if I had a moment of panic and couldn’t remember how to pull the parachute, I would be toast. I then learned that almost all first time jumpers will jump with a jumpmaster strapped to their back, who would take care of everything for me on the way down. That information alone made me confident to take my first jump.
I also learned that a first time jumper could jump without being strapped to an instructor, although they would be tethered to one with a rope. This allows them to pull their parachute all on their own, but if they get into trouble, the instructor would still be there to bail them out. The book is careful to note, that method is for more adventurous first timers, and those who are still timid like myself should definitely make their first time with an instructor.
So, most of you are probably wondering if I just read the book and then failed to follow through on actually going skydiving. The answer is no. This book gave me everything I needed to finally make my first jump. When I showed up at the skydiving facility which I decided upon, they were really impressed at how much I knew. When I went through my on-site training session, a couple of the instructors even thought I was lying about never having gone skydiving before. They said they had never seen a first timer with so much knowledge of the sport. When I mentioned “Parachuting: The Skydiver’s Handbook”, they all knew exactly what I was talking about, and could instantly recognize how I knew so much.
As for all the things I learned in the book, I found them all to hold true in practice. Everything I had read definitely carried over into my real life experience of skydiving, to the point that I always knew what was going to come next. While it would have been way out of my comfort zone to have actually done so, I felt like I could have done the jump solo if need be. Not that they would have let me jump solo on my first time, but the book prepared well enough for a hypothetical situation like that.
I’ll also say, that this book is great not just for beginners, but for experienced skydivers too. After making my first jump, I met up with my skydiver friend who initially recommended it to me. After we talked about my first skydiving experience, the conversation switched back to the book again. I asked him what he thought of the book as an experienced skydiver and his review was very positive as well.
He said that while the book is an excellent resource for beginners, it’s common in the skydiving community to revisit the book every few years. He said that once skydivers become too experienced, their knowledge becomes too commonplace and they can find it easy to forget what some people don’t know about the sport. The eventually find themselves simply going through the motions of skydiving and aren’t able to properly teach new skydivers the ins and outs of the sport.
By reading through the book again as an experienced skydiver, it forces you to relearn all of the principles of skydiving over again from the beginning, so that you can then apply those tactics to teaching a new skydiver. If you’ve ever been taught by someone who was such a professional, that they couldn’t speak to you on their level, you know exactly the phenomenon my friend is talking about.
Overall, I can find very few things to fault this book for. It would have been nice if the book had more images, but it’s a very minor complaint given all the amazing information I was able to pick up through the text.
I would say this book is a must read for anyone who is even remotely interested in skydiving, regardless of their skill level. It is certainly essential reading for a new skydiver, but is excellent supplemental reading for an advanced skydiver as well.
I give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.