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Steps To Skydive Certification

Skydiver in freefall

[Joggie Botma] / [iStock] / Thinkstock

I’m sick of being limited to a terrestrial existence. Could things be any blander? It’s time to take to the sky. Feel the harsh winds blistering across my face and see the ground advancing like the fist of Hades to crush my skull. But then I’ll pull the chute, do some twists and turns and loops and mock eagles far down below and Hades will have to take his anger out on someone else.

Solo skydiving has been a dream for many, many years, and if poverty weren’t such a crippling bastard I’d have done it long ago. But sometimes the longer you wait the sweeter things become, right? Alas, that time has finally arrived. Soon I’ll venture to my nearest drop zone, sign the waiver, pay the money, and make like a bird. Sound good? Here’s how you can do it too.

Step One: The Tandem Jump
If you’ve never been skydiving before, most drop zones require that you jump tandem first. You’ll be attached to an instructor, and before they summersault you out of the airplane they’ll probably make jokes about dating your girlfriend after you’re dead. Luckily, you won’t die, which means vengeance is yours. Tricksters, these guys. It’s only right to dish it back.

Step Two: First Jump Course
After you have your first wild ride on a tandem jump, look into completing a “first jump course” through the United States Parachute Association. It’s a ground school that teaches you about emergency procedures, gear, malfunctions, hand signals, and how to deal with all that crap. You may be itching to get back to the sky, but pay attention, this stuff saves lives.

Step Three: Accelerated Free Fall (AFF)
Talk to the folks at your drop zone and get signed up for an AFF course. This isn’t cheap. Pester them and see if there’s any kind of deal that can be worked out if you’re short on cash. Sometimes they’ll abide, sometimes they won’t. It’s worth a shot so long as you don’t take it too far. The course requirements vary from place to place, but typically there are seven levels to get through. At each level you’ll be required to prove your knowledge of safety procedures and certain maneuvers for a jump. The early levels include jumps with two instructors and you gradually work your way up to being more or less on your own. You may have to perform some badass tricks like flips, too.

Step Four: Licensure
Once you’ve graduated from an AFF course, you can apply for a license, after which point you’re good to jump on your own.

Expect to pay up to around $2K to complete all of these steps, and that’s not including any gear, but damn, is there anything else that gives you as visceral an experience as jumping out of airplanes? Then it’s on to BASE jumps, wingsuiting from hot air balloons and an addiction to adrenaline and hopefully not death. See you out there.

By Bryan Schatz


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