What Does Tandem Skydiving Really Mean?
Many things in life are better in tandem, this is also applicable to sky pursuits. Whilst this article is about tandem skydiving, the picture above shows people parasailing in tandem.
One thing that seems to constantly confuse people about skydiving is what the term tandem skydiving really means, and at what point they are able to do it. Tandem skydiving can actually have some very different meanings depending on who you talk to, and not all of them will be available to you if you just show up at the drop zone looking to sky dive for your first time. While tandem skydiving does generally mean that two people will be jumping at the same time, there’s a little more to it than just that.
What many people are looking to do when they show up at a drop zone for the first time, is the opportunity to jump with a friend or significant other. They have seen pictures and videos of people jumping strapped to each other, and think it will be a fun activity for them to do with someone else.
Then they show up at the drop zone and are faced with a completely different reality. The drop zone tells them that they simply aren’t allowed to jump together like that, since they are both brand new skydivers. Some people even get upset that the drop zone won’t allow them to jump together. Can you believe that? The drop zones care much more about their personal safety than they do about the idea these two people have about jumping out of a plane together. What a world we live in!
The reality of the situation is, no drop zone in their right mind would ever let a person with no prior training jump out of an airplane unassisted. You can probably imagine exactly what could go horribly wrong in a situation like that. While we still believe that skydiving is an extremely safe sport when done correctly, jumping out of a plane on your own without the proper training is certainly not “doing it correctly”.
So what is tandem skydiving then?
For your first jump, tandem skydiving will mean you are jumping out of the plane with a certified jumpmaster. A jumpmaster is a professional skydiver with a minimum of 500 jumps under their belt. Most jumpmasters however will have thousands of jumps under their belt, and only the newest jumpmasters will have only 500 – and they will quickly work to increase that number.
Before you get ahead of yourself and board the plane with your jumpmaster though, you will need to undergo a bit of training first. Once you arrive at the drop zone, you will be briefed about the experience you’re about to take part in. Different drop zones do this in different ways. Some will show you a video and some will explain it all in person. They will show you how to put on your gear, and show you how it all works. They will also teach you what to do in an emergency situation, like if your jumpmaster loses consciousness on the way down. While that is extremely rare and very unlikely to happen, they will still want you to know what to do just in case that does happen.
Once they feel you are ready, you will board the plane with your jumpmaster with all your gear on. Once the plane reaches the right elevation, and is over the area where you’ll be jumping, it will be time to connect with your jumpmaster. You will both be wearing a harness and your jumpmaster will strap themselves to your back. This will definitely feel pretty awkward while you’re still standing inside of the plane, but once you begin your free fall, you’ll both be so weightless it won’t feel nearly as awkward. Even if it does feel awkward, you’ll be much more focused on the free fall you’re experiencing.
Speaking of the free fall, not everyone is brave enough to actually push themselves to do it. If you truly want to jump but can’t seem to build up the nerves to actually jump, then tell your jumpmaster. They can give you the final nudge you need, right out the door of the plane to get your very first free fall started. They won’t push you if oyu truly don’t want to want to jump, but they’ve seen enough people who wanted to but just couldn’t’t bring themselves to, to be able to tell the difference.
Once you’re in your free fall, you won’t have anything to worry about. You could close your eyes the entire time and make it safely to the ground, but where’s the fun in that? You’re much better off enjoying the fun. This is the part where most people seriously start having fun and enjoying their skydiving experience. They get to truly enjoy the free fall, knowing that nothing bad is going to happen, and as soon as they reach the right elevation, the jumpmaster is going to be pulling the chute for them.
Once the chute is pulled, the jumpmaster will guide them slowly down towards the ground and make a nice, easy landing. The experience is so positive for so many people, that most of them can’t wait to get up there and jump all over again. A good percentage of people become completely hooked on skydiving, right after their very first try.
But what if I really want to jump with a partner?
It’s definitely possible, although it won’t be possible any time in the near future. There is a whole lot of training you’ll have to go through first to be able to jump without the help of a jumpmaster. Even if you feel like you understand everything perfectly, a drop zone will be very hesitant to let you jump before they think you’re ready. You wouldn’t believe how cocky some people can be about their ability after only a few jumps. They jump a few times and think they are ready for the big leagues. It’s almost like they don’t understand they are risking their own lives by jumping solo before they are ready.
A good rule of thumb is that if you don’t have your own equipment, then you’re not ready to go skydiving. Keep in mind, we aren’t saying that having your own equipment automatically makes you ready to go skydiving. Since you’ll have to go skydiving so many times before you’re ready for something like that though, it’s unlikely a person will have been skydiving that many times without first having bought their own equipment.
There is also a workaround if you want to do a tandem jump with a partner, but only one of you is committed enough to spend all that time learning the techniques properly. One of you could go through some very rigorous training first, and then bring the other one up for their very first dive. Of course, it doesn’t need to be their very first dive, as they could have dove before several times with a jumpmaster, but it would likely be their first jump ever without a jumpmaster.
So even though we see pictures all the time of people jumping together, one of those people is almost always a jumpmaster. We know it sounds romantic to jump with your significant other, but there’s absolutely nothing romantic about a skydiving injury. The next best thing, is you could both head up with a jumpmaster and jump out at the same time. Sure, it won’t be the same as you both jumping out while strapped to each other, but at least you’ll both make it back down to the ground in on piece.