How Skydiving Feels With A Fear of Heights: My Story
I’ll never forget standing at the top of the Eiffel Tower, and barely being able to stand up straight. I swore I could feel the whole tower moving and my legs were jelly.
Funnily enough I also took a job climbing telecommunications towers for a living. The same thing happened. While most of the team could scale them no problem, once I got a little bit higher I couldn’t’ focus from picturing the whole tower falling over.
And don’t even get my started on bungee jumping.
Skydiving however… skydiving is different.
Despite my fear of heights, when it comes to skydiving I’m totally fine. On my first jump I was expecting to be paralyzed with a fear of heights – but it never appeared. (Though I was super nervous in other ways!)
In this article, I wanted to talk about having a fear of heights, and how skydiving feels to me (and others I’ve included) in terms of that fear.
If that sounds good, then let’s dive in.
A History of Heights
Humans have been on this earth for a long, long, long long long time. Yet we only mastered the ability to first fly in 1903 – which is still pretty recent!
Just over 100 years of flight definitely isn’t long enough for our brains to get fully used to it. That exact reason is (mostly) why a fear of heights doesn’t affect a skydiver.
On the other hand, humans HAVE had a ton of time to get used to normal heights.
What Normally Happens
When we’re kids, many of us aren’t scared of heights. We’ll scare our parents by climbing things, walking on walls, or just getting dangerously close to a steep drop.
Some behavioral psychologists reckon that we are trained to be scared of heights through bad childhood experiences (a particularly bad fall), and from our parents sternly telling us to keep away from large heights.
Personally, I can feel that my brain recognizes a large height as a huge potential threat. The sheer sight of it rings huge alarm bells in my fight or flight response, and being polite or having fun is instantly replaced by survival instincts.
When you’re in a plane, however, that’s different.
What Skydiving Feels Like With A Fear of Heights
If you’re 50ft, 100ft, or 300ft up on a narrow structure, your brain knows to be scared.
But if you’re 10,000ft up in the sky, your brain doesn’t know what the hell to think!
When you’re up this high, your brain doesn’t quite understand what to think
My experience of skydiving was that it didn’t feel like being up high. It felt much more surreal. Looking down out of the plane, you can’t logically feel the height you’re at.
To me – skydiving feels more like jumping into a picture, than jumping from a height.
It’s basically as if your brain can’t process what’s happening. Which is great, because it means it doesn’t know to be scared of what you’re doing.
Don’t get me wrong – there’s plenty of other reasons your brain will be surging with adrenaline and nerves. But a fear of heights probably won’t be one of them.
Another Skydiving Experience
With anything like this, your own experience will vary. That being said, I’m fairly confident that this ‘picture’ effect is a common feeling – talking to other skydivers.
I also found this great account from a first-time skydiver with an extreme fear of heights. Here’s his story:
I have been wanting to talk about this for a while now…
I have a fear of heights, but its not crippling. Standing on the edge of anything higher then 2 stories getts me anxious, insides start to flip, my palms start to sweet, and I have to step away from the edge.
ven watching movie scenes like in MI4 on top of the Dubai tower send my heart racing.
That said I go out of my way with the express intention of showing myself that I can overcome this fear. I have been on top of some of the worlds – tallest – buildings, freaking out the entire way up. (something about a single elevator shaft straight to the top….) The worst is standing on the glass floors looking down. Even did one of those Sky Coaster things, have done countless roller coasters, and drop towers. Not to mention several times in airplanes of all sizes. And every time I do one of these things my stomach turns and I find myself in the restroom before the trip to the top.
So, when the opportunity to go skydiving presented itself, I very hesitantly accepted. IT WAS THE MOST EXHILARATING THING I HAVE EVER DONE IN MY LIFE & WOULD DO IT AGAIN.
The day of, I woke up feeling sick. I couldn’t eat anything for breakfast. Went to the air field with a friend, and I went straight into the restroom. After emerging, I put on the air suit, and took it right off and went right back to the restroom (I hate my insides). After suiting up again, we walked to the plane and locked the door. The entire time I was freaking out, wouldn’t look out the window, and asked my tandem instructor a million questions about the harness & parachute. So my friend jumps first, and then it’s my turn. And it hits me, I don’t know exactly what happend, but the only thing I wanted to do was jump out the plane. I swing my feet around the ledge, and the wind is whipping. I start to worry my shoes my blow off. The instructor gives me the single and we push off. I am pretty sure time slowed down to an all time low. It was the most breath taking thing I have ever felt. You can see the curvature of the earth. The fact that I was huddling towards the ground didn’t even enter my mind. the best way to describe the view is like the most hi-deff zoom in of google earth you could ever see. I shouted in ecstasy the entire fall. I had never felt more alive. And just about then the shoot was pulled and it was over. After touching the ground, the only thing I wanted to do was take the plane back up again.
Now that the adrenaline is gone, would I do it again? Yes. Would I freak out and get sick the 2nd time around. Most definitely.
What I think it boils down to is the fact that you might fall and there is nothing there to catch you/break your fall. With the parachute, I didn’t really worry. There was a bigger chance I would die driving to the air stip then the shoot not opening. With the tall buildings, there is always a rail or window to stop you from falling. Standing on the roof of my building looking over the edge… not ever going to happen.
Kind of a ramble… sorry. Typing all this made my hands sweaty.
Does Skydiving Give You Butterflies?
I wanted to quickly include this question, as it gets asked a lot and is related to height issues.
The answer here is no! You absolutely don’t get butterflies when skydiving.
This is mostly to do with momentum. We get butterflies when we rapidly accelerate – whether that’s a rollercoaster accelerating or a car going over a bump, and we suddenly became weightless before gravity catches us.
When you exit the plane to skydive, the plane is already flying at 80+mph. You’re already travelling so fast, and as you lose forward speed you gain downward speed – so it all kind of evens out.
On the other hand, if you skydive from a helicopter or hot air balloon (or bungee jump) you absolutely get the butterfly feeling! It’s super intense and can last until you’ve hit terminal velocity (~10s).
What’s The Worst Part About Skydiving?
Now that we’ve covered that fear of heights isn’t an issue, I’m also often asked what the worst part about skydiving is?
This varies for different people, but for me the scariest is definitely the plane right up there.
You’re sitting in the loud little plane – typically too loud to talk to anyone beyond shouting a few words. You’re alone with your thoughts, and looking at the little door you’re about to leave from.
Most people with half an imagination find this to be the hardest part, but make to just stick with it! Once you’re actually jumping and exiting the plane, it instantly transforms into the most breathtaking experience of your life.
A fear of heights can put a lot of limitations on our life, but thankfully it doesn’t have to apply to skydiving.
I hope this quick article has helped clear up how the fear might affect you, and why you don’t need to be super scared of it. While almost everyone I’ve spoken to shares the same feelings as the two experiences in this article, do bear in mind your own body and experience might be different.
Reading up before taking your first dive through the sky? Make sure to check out the related articles below! I’m trying to build a great resource for any beginner skydivers out there.
Can I see curvature of the Earth on a picture
I’ve been piloting a drone yesterday and made a video hovering at around 100m, the visibility was very good. I’ve shown the video to a friend of mine and we were arguing whether it’s the curvature of the Earth visible at horizon, or is it just camera lens disturbing the image.
I’m rather sure it’s curvature of the Earth, but still don’t know how to prove it. I already checked that on the lower part of the picture the buildings-roofs are lined up straight, no disturbance. Yet the horizon is slightly bent (checked by putting a piece of paper on the screen). Which I think already proves the point: should lens disturb the picture, the disturbance would be visible both on the upper and lower part of the picture symmetricly.
I’ve read How high must one be for the curvature of the earth to be visible to the eye?, but it doesn’t help me just yet. As far as I understand, the above link help calculating the distance to the horizon depending on the altitude. But why is the horizon bent?
I would appreciate anyone helping me straighten my thinking :).
$begingroup$ The curve you’re seeing is in all probability a distortion effect. You’ll need a much better lens than the cheap ones in drones or mobiles. (Those are even designed to have a wide angle.) $endgroup$
$begingroup$ Curvature of earth shouldn’t be visible from this height. You’re almost certainly seeing distortion from your lens. Lens distortion will vary across the picture – though usually it will be symmetrical, so a straight ~horizontal line at the bottom should have similar (and opposite) distortion to one at the top. $endgroup$
$begingroup$ Actually, the visibility may be very good for your locality (England, perhaps?), but in general it’s not very good. Hereabouts (western US) it’s not unusual to have visibility around 100 miles/160 km from the top of a mountain, or a light plane. And you can’t see noticable curvature at those altitudes. $endgroup$
$begingroup$ I think this is heigh enough! But wonder how heigh this is taken ? p2penergy.com.au/images/Backgrounds/… $endgroup$
2 Answers 2
Make your own numbers. I will take one sample, just change your figures.
I have one 4K resolution dron camera. So I can register 3840 x 2160 pixels in one shot.
Considering the Earth as an spherical body, the distance from you to the horizon depends on Earth Radius and your height by:
So depends on your height:
My camera have a 24mm focal (on 35mm relative), so in the photograph, I can see 84º degrees. So the distance on between the edges of my horizon is:
Once that you have this data, you just need to calculate the arrow of the arc expected:
Arrow Circ. Arc = Radius * Cosinus [ Arc-Sinus (Dist/2/Radius)]
So, with this data and the initial data of the camera:
So finally. If you have a perfect visibility condition, your camera is completely leveled, there is no fish-eye distortion. On a 4K camera at 10 km height, the Earth curvature it will be 2% -> 36 pixels on 3840 pixels wide.
If you are interested on it, that is not the way. Human eye can not perceive clearly the Earth Sphericity at a commercial flight altitude. So forget your dron, yo should go for a balloon.
$begingroup$ Thank you for the great answer. Unfortunately I cannot upvote yet, as I need 15 reputation to do so :(. $endgroup$
A drone can’t fly high enough to show the curvature of the Earth. When the Americans were testing German V2 rockets at White Sands in the late forties and early fifties, some reached altitudes of well over 100 miles, but even from that height the curvature of the horizon was barely perceptible. Whatever illusion of a curved horizon you may perceive in your drone photo is only what you would see from a high building.
If you can’t get to the heights reached by V2 rockets, the best way to see the curvature of the Earth is to watch a tall ship approaching from over the horizon. On a clear day, the tips of the masts or funnels will be visible when most of the ship is hidden by the curvature of the Earth. Likewise when the sun goes down beyond the marine horizon and your town is in twilight, a high flying aircraft overhead will be illuminated by the sun that you can’t see because the curvature of the Earth is in the way.
From a high building the horizon will appear to curve because it surrounds you in a 360 degree circle, and circles by definition are curved.
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Tandem Skydiving: Everything You Need to Know
Skydiving is one of the most popular adventure sports in the world with upwards of 3 million jumps annually. The thrill of freefalling from a great height, releasing the parachute and gently gliding towards Earth is hard to match.
There are two types of skydiving experiences you can opt for: Accelerated Freefall (AFF) and tandem skydiving. While you require legal training and certification to try AFF, tandem skydiving is ideal for those with no prior training in the field.
What is Tandem Skydiving?
Tandem skydiving is where you jump out of a plane that has reached a particular height, with a certified instructor deploying the parachute.
Unlike solo skydiving, where you are responsible for controlling every aspect of the jump and landing, an instructor guides you from start to finish during a tandem skydive. In tandem skydiving, the instructor controls the jump in its entirety — from the different body positions and movements while skydiving, to deploying and controlling the parachute.
Tandem skydiving is generally preferred by first-time skydivers or people looking to learn how to skydive. The adventure sport is also extremely popular amongst tourists in cities like Dubai, Sydney, Melbourne.
How To Prepare For A Tandem Skydive
You can prepare for a tandem skydive by reading up on the dropzone and checking out reviews of others who have finished a tandem skydive. This is important because you need to be able to trust the skydiving center before signing any agreement or making a payment. Once you’ve shortlisted a skydiving center, watch videos of other skydives to get a general idea of what the experience would be like.
The night before your skydive, try and get proper sleep and avoid consumption of alcohol or drugs. In the morning, eat a light yet filling breakfast and dress in comfortable clothing before heading to the center.
Most skydiving centers require participants to be at least 18 years of age. Kids between 13 to 17 are also allowed to skydive at certain centers with signed consent forms and if they are accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
Individuals weighing more than 200 to 220 lbs will not be allowed at most skydiving centers. This number slightly varies across different skydiving centers.
Comfort should be your priority when getting dressed for a tandem skydive. Wear loose, yet fitting clothing like t-shirts, pants or shorts because you’ll have to put on a jumpsuit on top of your regular clothes. Women can avoid wearing dresses, skirts or any material that flows to avoid getting it caught in the harness or the parachute. Comfortable sneakers are ideal for a tandem skydive.
Here are a few safety instructions you must absolutely follow if you’re planning a tandem skydive:
- Listen to every word your instructor is saying and ask them to repeat if you have trouble understanding
- After you jump, bend your body like a banana: head upwards, back arched in a u-shape position and feet pointing towards the sky
- While freefalling, never touch or hold your instructor’s arms. They need their arms to be free to deploy the parachute on time.
- When landing, lift your knees and feet to avoid your feet from touching the ground while in forward motion
Tandem Skydiving Steps
Wondering how the entire process of tandem skydiving works? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!
- AAD: The Automatic Activation Device automatically deploys a reserve parachute when a skydiver crosses a predetermined altitude threshold at a high speed
- Arch: This skydiving position allows divers to fall stably in a belly-to-earth position
- Canopy: In skydiving terms, a parachute is called a canopy
- Reserve Handle: This is the handle you use to deploy your reserve parachute
- Container: Another term for the parachute harness that contains the primary parachute, reserve parachute and the AAD
- Toggles: These are brakes attached to the steering line of the parachute and are used to steer the parachute
Training for a tandem skydive takes between 20-30 minutes. It includes training sessions on how to exit the aircraft, maneuvers to employ while in freefall, how to deploy the main canopy yourself and more.
It’s imperative that you get to know and trust your skydiving instructor before making the jump. This involves verifying their certification and license. A certified instructor should have a Class D license and must have completed at least 500 jumps. Once you’re convinced of your instructor’s legitimacy, get to know them! The more comfortable you are with your instructor, the better your tandem skydiving experience will be.
The few moments before your tandem skydive will be nerve-wrecking. There will be a million thoughts darting through your mind which could lead to panic. To avoid this, focus on the positives of the experience. Talk to your instructor and get assurance from them about the safety of the process. If you’re feeling uneasy, have some water and take slow, deep breaths in frequent intervals. Close your eyes and think about the euphoric feeling of flying like a bird that awaits you.
Once you jump out with your instructor, you’ll experience a momentary sensory overload — this is because your mind and muscles will work overtime to adjust to the sudden pressure on your body. This will be followed by moments of absolute peace as you fall through air at a speed of more than 120 mph. The freefall part of your tandem skydive will last between 45 to 60 seconds — so make sure you make the most of it. At this point, the instructor will release the parachute and your speed will slow down considerably. The instructor will maneuver the parachute as per the wind and after 4 to 6 minutes of gliding, you’ll finally reach the ground.
Tips For Your Tandem Skydive
- Plan your day: Prepare to spend at least 3-4 hours at the skydiving center. The weather, most likely, will delay your skydive.
- Motion sickness: If you get motion sickness, inform your instructor before the jump. Guests prone to motion sickness get nauseated during the parachute descent because of the turns. Once your instructor is aware of your motion sickness, they’ll be more gentle while descending.
- Avoid alcohol: Drinking before skydiving is absolutely prohibited. Most skydiving centers are strict about alcohol consumption before the jump and can even prohibit you from skydiving if they suspect you’re intoxicated.
- Advance booking: Book your tandem skydiving experience in advance because skydiving is a very popular attraction and walk-ins are generally not accepted. Making a reservation in advance also allows you to plan your day better.
- Stay hydrated: You’ll be spending around half a day at the drop zone. Carry enough snacks and water to last that long. Avoid overeating or starving yourself before the jump, though, since you’ll be needing plenty of energy.
- Get goggles: If you wear eyeglasses or contact lenses, check with the skydiving center staff and get goggles to protect your eyewear.
- Mental preparation: Tandem skydiving is more of a mental challenge than a physical one. Taking that first step off the plane will require plenty of courage on your part and you need to be mentally prepared for it. To do this, have an honest discussion with your instructor. Talk to them about your fears and ask them about their experiences. This will not only let you trust your instructor but offer you some much-needed inspiration.
- Capture photos: Your first skydive will be a momentous event and worth remembering for the rest of your life. To capture the moment, get professional videos and photos clicked when you skydive. While expensive, your skydiving photos and video are incredibly priceless and hold immense value.
Tandem Skydiving FAQs
Q. What is a tandem skydive?
A. In a tandem skydive, two people jump from an airplane together, strapped to one another. It is the instructor who controls the jump, the canopy release and the landing.
Q. What is the difference between tandem skydiving and solo skydiving?
A. The biggest difference between tandem skydiving and solo skydiving is that in the former, the student shares a parachute with their instructor while in the latter, they jump alone and get a parachute to themselves.
Q. How long does a tandem skydive take?
A. A typical tandem skydive should take you anywhere between 4-5 minutes. The first 50 seconds are spent freefalling after which the parachute is released.
Q. Can you drink alcohol before skydiving?
A. Don’t consume alcohol or any drugs at least 24 hours before your tandem skydive.
Q. Can you breathe while skydiving?
A. Yes, of course. Even when you’re falling at a speed of 160 mph, you’ll easily get plenty of oxygen to breathe.
Q. What should I eat before skydiving?
A. Don’t overeat before skydiving. Ideally, you should have a light meal, such as a sandwich, salad or healthy snacks like trail mix, protein bars, smoothies, etc.
Q. How high does the plane go when skydiving?
A. Typically, an airplane will release jumpers into the sky from a height of 10,000 to 13,000 feet.
Q. Is there a weight limit for tandem skydiving?
A. Yes, most skydiving centers require that participants weigh less than 220 lbs/100 kg. There’s no minimum weight limit, though.
Q. Can you go skydiving in the rain?
A. Most tandem skydiving centers cease operations during rains. This is because there’s limited visibility when it rains and the raindrops hitting your body at the speed is not a pleasant experience.
Q. Do people throw up when skydiving?
A. Typically, no. There are instances where people throw up if it’s their first skydive but that doesn’t happen during freefall. Instead, most cases of throwing up happen during the parachute ride. Inform your instructor if you get easily motion sick so that they can maneuver the parachute gently.