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Sky Diving
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Skydiving

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So you've decided to spice things up a bit and jump out of a plane! Or maybe this has been a dream you've had all your life and the time has come to make it happen. Whatever your motive, you're in the door of doing one of the most fun things you'll ever do and being introduced to one of the coolest communities you'll ever come across. This high adrenalyn sport is at the Swakopmund airport.

4 Steps to start with
It’s not always easy to figure out how to go about making your first skydive. If you follow these steps, you will be well on your way. Skydiving is a sport where you never stop learning and there is no such thing as a stupid question, so when in doubt, ask!

Regardless of what your motives and reasons are, it's important that you understand the risks and requirements before you take that first leap!

STEP 1 - Be aware of the risk

So the first question in your mind is obviously: ‘’How safe is skydiving?’’ And the frank answer is: Skydiving is not tenpin bowling. There are some very real risks involved but as with any other "extreme" sport there is a direct relationship between your knowledge, skill and attitude and your chances of enjoying the sport for many years to come.

Considering that students comprise the bulk of participants in the sport, relatively few fatal accidents involve student skydivers. This is due largely to the design of skydiving equipment used for students and the quality of instruction and care provided at most skydiving schools. All parachutes are designed for reliability, but student gear is also designed to be easy to use and forgiving.

Medical Fitness
In most countries there are some requirements for medical fitness. This simply means you have to be in good health and physical condition to skydive and should not be on medication, which could affect judgment or performance. Some medical conditions can be properly managed if the instructor knows about them. Make sure to mention any heart conditions or episodes of blackouts.

Age
You have to be at least 16 years of age and have notarized parental or guardian consent to be allowed to participate in some training programs. The person providing consent for a minor may be required to observe all pre-jump instruction. Most commonly, schools require all participants to be at least 18.

Testing
Once you've completed your ground training or FJC (First Jump Course), it ‘s common practice and good teaching procedure for students to be required to pass written, oral, and practical tests before you'll be allowed to make your fist jump. Don't panic! The written tests are normally a quick check of your knowledge and understanding. Oral tests are used to exercise and build your decision-making ability and practical tests are structured so you can show your reactions and skills. All of these are necessary to assure the instructor that you are ready to make a safe jump. It should also give you confidence that you're ready to go out there, have fun, and be safe!

STEP 2 - Choose a method of skydiving training

Depending on how much time you have, how much cash you've got to spend, and how strong your nerves are, you have three options for what method of skydiving you'll use for your first jump: tandem, static line, and AFF (Accelerated Freefall).

These methods vary in that some are designed to give you a quick experience and introduction to skydiving while others start with full blown first jump courses that will set you on the path to becoming a certified skydiver.

Consider your options. Think about the experience you'll get out of each of these and your reasons for doing it. Then pick one. Whichever method you choose to expose yourself to the sport we know you won't regret it. You'll have fun, broaden your horizons and shift your boundaries.

Accelerated Free Fall Training (AFF)
The AFF program will give you a true taste of modern sport skydiving.

The ground training is a bit more extensive because the student will be doing a 50 second freefall (that's right!) on his/her very first jump. The student will exit the aircraft at 10,000-12,000 feet along with two AFF Jumpmasters (JM) who will assist the student during freefall. The jumpmasters maintain grips on the student from the moment they leave the aircraft until opening, assisting the student as necessary to fall stable, perform practice ripcord pulls, monitor altitude, etc. The student then pulls his/her own ripcord at about 4000 ft.

The AFF program is a 7 level program. Levels 1, 2, & 3 require two freefall Jumpmasters to accompany the student. These dives concentrate on teaching basic safety skills such as altitude awareness, body position, and stability during freefall and during the pull sequence, and most importantly- successful ripcord pull. On level 3, the JMs will release the student in freefall for the first time, to fly completely on their own.

Levels 4, 5, 6, & 7 require only one freefall JM and teach the student air skills such as turns, forward movement and docking on other people, front loops, back loops, "superman" exits from the plane, etc.

Each AFF level is designed to take one jump, and requires about 45 minutes of training. After successfully performing the objectives of each level, the student moves on to the next level.

After graduating Level 7, the student enters a more free format stage called "Level 8" where they practice and hone their skills by themselves and in small groups until they obtain 20 freefalls and qualify for their ‘A’ license.

Tandem Jump Training
Tandem jumps are a very popular means to offer an introduction to the sport. They allow the curious potential student to experience, first-hand, and the thrills of skydiving without the stress of AFF or SL progression. Most drop zones are set up to offer tandem skydives under two different scenarios: the "one-time fun jump", or as part of a hybrid training method sometimes called "tandem progression."

The former only requires about 30 minutes of ground preparation; the latter is completed after a fairly standard First Jump Course (FJC) which can last up to four hours or more. Tandem jumping, by definition, consists of an experienced jumper called a "Tandem Master" or "Tandem Instructor" and the passenger. The tandem master rides on the back and wears an extra-large parachute system capable of carrying weights of up to 500 pounds; easily able to safely suspend two people. The passenger (or tandem progression student) wears a specially designed harness that attaches in four points to the front of the tandem master. A tandem freefall generally lasts between 45 and 60 seconds, followed by a four minute canopy ride to the ground.

Tandem jumping provides an obvious advantage for the adventurous spirit who cannot adequately meet the physical or proficiency requirements for the S/L or AFF jumps. By relying on Tandem Master's skills, they will still be able to experience the thrill of skydiving.

Static Line Training (S/L)
This method has evolved over the last ~30 years from its military origins into a successful method for training sport parachutists. The student gets 4-5 hours of ground training and is then taken to an altitude of about 3000 feet for the jump. The jump itself consists of a simple "poised" exit from the strut of a small single engine Cessna aircraft. As the student falls away from the plane, the main canopy is deployed by a "static line" attached to the aircraft. The student will experience about two to three seconds of falling as the parachute opens. Subsequent S/L jumps require about 15 minutes of preparation. After 2 good static line jumps, the student will be trained to pull their ripcord for themselves. The student then does 3 more static line jumps where they demonstrate this ability by pulling a dummy ripcord as they leave the plane (the static line is still initiating the deployment). The student is then cleared to do their first actual freefall.

The first freefall is a "clear & pull", where the student initiates the pull sequence immediately upon leaving the aircraft. Next is a 10 second delay jump. Subsequent jumps go to progressively higher altitudes with longer delays. After 20 freefalls, and meeting certain other basic requirements, the student receives their ‘A’ license and is cleared off student status.

STEP 3 - Set a date and jump!

You know how we are. We plan and plan and don't get to it. Set a date, get out there and make the jump! If at all possible gather some friends together to do it with you. Doing a first jump course or any skydiving in a group is always a lot more fun and you'll have other people around to motivate you.

Freefall sounds scarier then it is. In reality you barely have a sensation of "falling" while skydiving. You'll feel the stresses and excitement of the air rushing past you. However, because there's nothing up there for your brain to use as a reference point to tell you that you're falling, it will feel more like you're lying on a column of air, floating.

Upon opening your parachute it'll feel like you're being pulled upwards. You're not going up. You're just decelerating pretty quickly and that causes the sensation. Your parachute can be steered by a simple steering mechanism. A "toggle” in each hand will enable you turn the parachute left and right fly it where you need to go.

STEP 4 - Get licensed

You've done it and you loved it…. Now you get a nice cheesy certificate and if you want them, you also get some cool photos and a video to impress the whuffos with. So, what's next? Do it again! Come back next weekend, and do it again and again...

It takes about 15 to 20 jumps, each with more tasks, until the student is competent enough to jump without instructor supervision. However, if you learn with the AFF method, you can start jumping on your own after seven jumps. Each successive jump costs a little less. Once you're certified and have sold the shirt off your back to buy your own equipment it gets cheaper for your slot on the plane.

Once you're a seasoned skydiver there are many disciplines that you can try. Each of these has their own experience and proficiency requirements. Talk to your Instructors before you try something new. It is always prudent to get additional formal training in your discipline by someone qualified. We also strongly suggest you find yourself a mentor. Approach some one whom you respect and trust and ask him or her to coach and guide you through your skydiving career and progress. It is important to have someone you can bounce your plans and ideas off just to test them and get some experienced input. Never stop learning and developing skill and attitude.
We'd love to share the sky with you somewhere at a boogie in the near future.

Blue skies!

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