Skydiving is always on someone’s bucket list. It’s not something that regular people do every day, except for professionals. Perhaps it’s on your bucket list, but you never got around to doing it because you’re still gathering courage and fighting your fear of heights. You may also be wondering if it’s safe.
You may also ask, “What is the average skydiving height?” and “Can I do it?” Of course, the answer to the second question is always a yes. It’s fun, safe, and you get bragging rights for the rest of your life. However, the first question entails a little more detail, so let’s get right into it.
The Skydiving Height Limit
The average skydiving height around the world is 10,000 feet. In the United States, it’s 14,000 feet, but if you’re skydiving from somewhere else in the world, 10,000 feet is the exit altitude to jump from. Advanced jumpers go at 18,000 feet, which they say is the best altitude to jump from.
For beginners, however, there’s a skydiving height limit. For example, if you want to jump at 15,000 feet, instructors will require you to use oxygen since you may become hypoxic if you jump from the recommended altitude. Hypoxia is when your body tissue, including your brain, doesn’t get enough oxygen, which may happen when you jump at an altitude that your body isn’t prepared for yet.
At higher altitudes, the air gets thinner, and our lungs aren’t made to breathe in thin air. That’s one of the reasons why skydiving organizations around the world set a standard altitude. It’s also why skydivers, professional or beginner, are required to use oxygen, so their lungs won’t give out, and they won’t get hypoxia. If you get hypoxic during a skydive, you may pass out, which is very dangerous. You also have to remember that it’s okay to breathe during freefall.
Breathing during a dive is highly recommended by instructors. It may get a little overwhelming to breathe in air at 120 miles per hour, so instructors tell their students to scream when exiting the plane. It helps get that much-needed air into your lungs and sets your breathing pace for the rest of the way down.
Have you ever watched Mission Impossible? Tom Cruise did this truly impressive jump that took 100 jumps to get the scene to look just right. It was a high altitude low opening jump which means jumping at a higher altitude and getting to a much lower altitude before opening the parachute. Even if Tom Cruise is a licensed skydiver, he still needed to use oxygen for breathing at the altitude he jumped off from in the scene. What’s even more impressive is that he did the jump himself, without a stunt double.
Jumping at a much higher altitude indeed requires a license, and you have to be at least 18 years old to do so. Age, however, is not the only requirement for a skydiving license. You have to complete a minimum of 25 jumps, pass the requirements on a proficiency card, and pass the written and oral exams. It may sound like a lot, but it will get you prepared for when you’re actually in the air. Additionally, you would need to complete certain jumps at different altitudes. It’s a way to prepare your lungs and the rest of your body when you take on higher altitudes.
The time spent in freefall is very short. Jumping from an altitude of 10,000 feet is only about 40-45 seconds, depending on your weight. Once you deploy your parachute, it’s just about 4 to 5 minutes before you get back on the ground, which may seem like no time at all. When you get tired of being in the air for a short amount of time, that’s when you begin craving for higher altitudes. After a few jumps from 10,000 feet, you can start jumping from higher altitudes, such as 15,000 to 18,000 feet. The air is thinner up there, but with the right amount of oxygen, you will be able to enjoy the view a little longer.
Another trivia: the highest altitude that a skydiver has ever jumped from is 135,908 feet and is held by Alan Eustace. That is not an altitude to be messed with since that is the stratosphere already, which is just a few layers before you exit Earth entirely and enter space. You’d have to be an experienced diver before you ever attempt jumping from an altitude in the 100,000s. Additionally, the air in that atmosphere layer is toxic and very thin, so breathing it in would be too dangerous.
Alan Eustace could only breathe because of a specially designed suit that expelled his carbon dioxide and provided him enough oxygen for the 14 minutes he spent in the air. The Google engineer spent months of training, doing test dives at different altitudes, and a lot of adjustments to the suit he was going to use before making an attempt. He says that it was too dangerous to even with the proper amount of training and the right equipment and that he would never do it again.
Training to be a professional skydiver isn’t just months of training. It takes years of training and rigorous exercise to get the body in perfect health to weather the atmospheric conditions. It also takes a great team to assist the professional diver on all their jumps, whether in the air or below.
You don’t need to be a daredevil to attempt higher altitudes. You and your health condition are the only determining factors of the skydiving height limit. You can even be afraid of heights and still jump because it’s an adrenaline rush like no other. It also feels different from a rollercoaster ride because there’s no sudden drop. Instead, it’s one drop followed by a leisurely glide in the air once you’ve opened your parachute. It’s an experience to be added to the top of your bucket list, and perhaps, do it over and over again.
Frequently Asked Questions About Skydiving
Q: Is tandem skydiving safe?
A: Yes! Since skydiving is considered an extreme sport, it’s best to experience it with a partner, whether your instructor or a buddy already a licensed professional. If you’re a beginner to skydiving, always put your safety first and dive with someone who already knows the basics and can guide you through the experience.
Q: Is there a ‘stomach drop’ feeling when you skydive?
A: As mentioned earlier, skydiving is not the same as riding a rollercoaster; thus, there is no sudden drop. Instead, you will feel like you are flying. A cushion of air supports your fall, and it won’t feel like your insides are scrambling to get out.
Q: What is the best height to jump from?
A: 10,000 feet is the basic altitude, but you can jump from a much lower height, like 8,000 feet, as a beginner. Heights more than 15,000 feet require the use of oxygen but give a thrill like no other. You also get to enjoy the view a little longer than when you jump from 8,000 feet.
Q: Am I allowed to jump if I’m heavy?
A: There is, to bluntly put it, a weight restriction when it comes to skydiving, and not because the sport is discriminatory. Diving equipment is designed to support a certain weight, and if you’re doing a tandem dive and you are much heavier than your partner, the parachute may not be able to hold both of you. As a result, your partner, no matter how experienced they are, might not be able to control your landing and prevent an accident from happening.
Q: Am I allowed to eat or drink before skydiving?
A: Yes. It’s highly recommended that you put something in your stomach to avoid that feeling of wanting to vomit. However, it’s best not to drink alcohol or coffee and use drugs before a dive. Being under the influence is very risky for such an extreme sport.
Q: What do I wear during a dive?
A: Sport shoes and loose-fitting clothes are best. It’s going to be cold up there since the atmosphere gets thinner as you go higher, and you would want to concentrate on your dive instead of trying not to shiver too much from the cold. Long pants, lightweight jackets, or a jumpsuit will do, as long as there are no loose strings that might interfere with your parachute cables. Wearing goggles is also recommended so as the wind does not get in your eyes. Diving schools offer a jumpsuit and goggles if you are not sure about what to wear. It’s the standard outfit to keep you from getting cold.
Q: Is it okay to scream?
A: Absolutely. Instructors tell their students to scream as soon as they exit the airplane. It helps get air in your lungs, and you won’t feel lightheaded. Holding in the air might cause you to have hypoxia, which you will want to avoid.