Can You Breathe While Skydiving and Other Skydiving Myths

Can You Breathe While Skydiving and Other Skydiving Myths

Can you breathe while skydiving? The answer is yes, you can! Even in freefall, falling at speeds up to 160mph, you can easily get plenty of oxygen to breathe. The only thing that stops first timers breathing during their skydive is that they simply forget; that’s why we encourage people to scream out as they leave the aircraft, which kick starts the breathing and reminds them that they can!

Not being able to breathe is a common misconception of skydiving. Yes, your first skydive will take your breath away – but not literally! Here, we’ll unpick some of the most common misconceptions of skydiving.

Myth: You can’t breathe while skydiving

As we’ve already said, this one’s not true. You can absolutely breathe during your skydive, and we actively encourage you to do so!

We’re not really sure where this myth comes from. We know that plenty of people think it, but knowing that you can breathe very easily, we struggle to understand why.

That said, your first time skydiving can be quite overwhelming. The trick is to really just relax into it and enjoy every moment. For those of us who do it as a regular hobby, freefall is like a second home and is as comfortable for us as being on the ground.

Myth: You can talk to each other when skydiving

Now we do know where this one comes from! Remember the movie Point Break? The 90s movie (recently re-released) features a skydiving scene during which the skydivers are able to speak to each other freely.

(video contains adult language. NSFW)

Unfortunately, this one isn’t true either. Much as we’d love to be able to chat in the air, the reality is that the noise of the wind and the speed at which you’re falling make it nearly impossible to hear one another.

Instead, skydivers use hand signals and eye contact to communicate with one another. This allows us to give coaching and feedback in the air. To support this, we plan all of our skydives on the ground first, so everyone knows what they’re doing and can get on with it in freefall.

Myth: You go up when your parachute opens

Have you ever watched a video of a skydive and spotted that the skydiver appears to go up when they pull their parachute?

There are even people who suggest a distance that they ‘go up’ (something like 22 feet). But again, this one’s not true!

The only reason people think it is perspective. The camera that is filming the parachute opening is on the head of another skydiver – who continues to fall as the other skydiver deploys. This means, relative to the camera flyer, the skydiver is slowing down, and therefore appears to be ‘going up’ when, in fact, they actually continue to fall, just at a reduced rate.

Myth: There are better things to try in life than skydiving

This one’s definitely not true. at least, that’s our opinion! What could possibly be better than jumping out of an airplane and feeling the rush of freefall, following by the peace and calm of the parachute ride, then the enduring sense of pride in what you’ve achieved?

Of course, we’re joking a bit here, but we really do believe skydiving is one of the greatest things you’ll ever do. Don’t believe us? Come and try it for yourself! We’d love to show you why we love it so much.

Quick Skydiving Guide: How do skydivers move and breathe in the air? How do they land?

Quick Skydiving Guide: How do skydivers move and breathe in the air? How do they land?

Skydiving is one of the most addictive extreme sports that you can do these days. As the saying goes, “If riding an airplane is flying, then riding a boat would be called swimming. If you want the true experience, get out of the vehicle.”

And it’s 100% true. Skydiving can even be therapeutic as it stimulates much-needed energy and positivity. One thing that makes skydiving so addictive is the idea of literally flying in the sky – that moment when there’s no difference between you and the birds.

That brings up a lot of questions though. How do you even navigate the skies, and more importantly, how do you land without any repercussions? When I first got into skydiving, I used to worry about all this too, but thankfully that didn’t stop me. I’ve been skydiving for 6+ years now and will answer all of your questions (and more) in this quick guide.

Let’s talk about mid-air navigation first.

1. Do skydivers reach terminal velocity?

Skydivers reach terminal velocity about 10 to 12 seconds after jumping from the airplane. At that point, you reach maximum speed or the point of zero acceleration and begin to float in the sky as you descend to the ground.

Before I explain the steps, here’s what you need to know:

  • Terminal velocity is the maximum velocity of the body when flowing through any fluid. If you didn’t know already, anything that “flows” is a fluid, i.e., air is also a fluid.
  • Freefall is when you fall from the sky against only the force of gravity itself.
  • Acceleration is the difference in speed. If your current speed is more than your actual speed, you’ve accelerated.
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When you jump out of an airplane, you start falling because of Earth’s gravitational forces, right? Any object near Earth’s surface will accelerate at a constant rate of 9.8 m/s 2 . So, when you jump, you fall at a speed of 21.9mph after 1 second, 43.8mph after 2 seconds and so on. On average, skydivers can reach a maximum velocity of 200mph during freefall.

The terminal velocity of an average skydiver falling is 118.6 mph. In other words, after a few seconds, you’ll fall at a constant speed of 118.6 mph with zero acceleration, and this is where the fun begins!

A. How do skydivers float?

Does that mean gravity doesn’t affect you after a few seconds? No. This is where Archimedes’ principle of buoyancy comes into play. In layman’s terms, the principle states that “when something is flowing through a fluid, it displaces the tiny molecules and will be met by some resistance from the fluid particles.”

In a skydiver’s case, this resistance is air resistance. After a few seconds, your body stops accelerating and reaches the terminal velocity. The air resistance at that point is equal to gravity acting upon your body, and the net force becomes zero, making your body float in the air.

Yes! That’s what makes skydiving so addictive. There’s no fun in constantly falling or getting hung on a parachute. It’s those few minutes that make it truly blissful.

B. Can you breathe mid-air? Do your ears hurt while flying?

Even at 14,000 feet above ground, oxygen is still in the air.

Skydivers can breathe mid-air just like they would on the ground – while both free-falling at 160mph and floating at 120mph!

First-timers sometimes find it hard to breathe because of the extreme experience itself and not the lack of oxygen. But if you just take a deep breath and calm down, you can breathe normally. For the ears, it depends.

In general, your ears won’t hurt while skydiving. You’ll feel the altitude change a bit as it climbs, but that’s hardly a cause for concern. But skydiving when you’re congested can be dangerous. Worst case, your eardrums could puncture because of the congestion and blockage.

It won’t lead to permanent hearing loss, but it’ll hurt pretty bad. So, if you’re congested, you’re better off sitting one out.

2. Why do skydivers spread their arms and legs?

Skydivers spread their arms and legs to get in the “floater” position. This increases the air resistance (buoyancy force) on your body and slows down the rate of descent so you float longer.

You can fly (float) in the air and move around however you want by positioning your arms and legs. Even though it feels like something straight out of a comic book, there’s a scientific principle behind it.

If you look closely at the definition of Archimedes’ principle, it works based on how many fluid molecules are being affected, i.e., it depends on the surface area.

This means, when skydivers spread their arms and legs to get into a “floater” position, they increase air resistance by increasing the body’s surface area.

A. How do skydivers regulate height?

For those who have played GTA games and jumped out of airplanes using parachutes, you already know these two positions.

Skydivers regulate their height by using two body positions: floater and diver. In the floater position, you spread your arms and legs to slow down the fall, while in the diver’s position, you keep straight (like a missile) to fall faster.

Different positions have different outcomes. You can move a knee and turn a full 360 degrees. Here’s a video on wind tunnel acrobatics that’ll give you a good idea of the effect of different positions while floating:

B. How do parachutes work, and when to open them?

Now that we’ve floated around enough, it’s time to start preparing for landing.

Parachutes work by taking advantage of Archimedes’ principle. Its large surface area and circular design trap much more air than your body so a huge amount of air resistance is created to deaccelerate your fall.

BUT, there’s one problem. You cannot trap fluids, especially gases, as they’ll start moving in random positions to try and escape. This can cause the parachute to flip upside down, which is very dangerous for the diver.

Here’s an excellent diagram by BBC.co.uk explaining the process:

Diagram of how parachutes work

This is why parachutes have a huge holes in the front.. Since the holes are much smaller than the parachute, the amount of air that’s trapped is more than the amount leaking out.

So, you can still accelerate while making sure your parachute doesn’t flip. This also helps skydivers change their direction by changing the angle of air leaking out of the parachute.

Skydivers open their parachutes based on the altitude. They usually carry two altimeters (one at the wrist and one at the helmet) to measure their distance above the ground. In case of failure, reserve parachutes have AADs to automatically open the ‘chute after a certain altitude.

If you want to know more about parachutes and AADs, read my ultimate guide on reserve parachutes and how they’re different.

3. How do skydivers know where to land?

First-time skydivers, especially tandem skydivers, are often worried about the landing and whether it’ll be dangerous. But in reality, modern landings are quite safe because of the flaring (the act of stopping the forward motion) of the parachute.

Nowadays, skydivers dive in pre-determined routes and landing destinations. You have to steer your parachute to a well-suited area and start flaring the parachute as you approach the ground for a successful and safe landing.

Skydivers generally land in one of two ways: feet-first or butt-first. Both are equally safe and can be used by tandem skydivers.

Here are some guidelines about choosing the right landing spot provided by The United States Parachute Association (USPA):

  1. Always land under a flat and level parachute that’s not turning when you reach ground.
  2. Steer your parachute to a clear and open, hazard-free area.
  3. Use the parachute inputs to gradually bring it to a stop instead of hitting the ground hard.
  4. Use the PLF maneuver to absorb any impact if things don’t go as planned.

That’s about everything you need to know about skydiving for the first time – from jumping off the plane to landing on the ground safely. I recommend trying skydiving at least once in your life. If you’re like me, you may even get hooked! If you have any questions, get in touch with me.

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I got into extreme sports about 20 years ago and am a die-hard adrenaline junkie. Just like in business, I choose my outdoor adventures based on how much they scare me. My goal is to share the lessons I’ve learned over the past couple of decades braving the unknown to encourage you to do the same.

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Elevated Adventurer is your go-to sherpa for all things adventure sports and outdoor exploration. Here you’ll learn everything you need to know about your favorite outdoor sports from rock climbing and scuba to skydiving and extreme sports.

How Skydivers Breathe (and How to Ensure Proper Breathing)

Skydiving Requires Oxygen Supply When Jumping From Above 15,000 ft

Jumping out of an airplane for the first time while being strapped onto a tandem instructor and free-falling at a speed of 120 mph can literally take your breath away. Which then begs the question, how do skydivers breathe during skydiving?

Skydivers can breathe normally during skydiving as long as they jump from below 15,000 ft. For jumps above 15,000 ft, skydivers need to use oxygen supplies. First-time skydivers sometimes also experience difficulties breathing because their whole body tightens up and they forget to breathe.

The scariest part of skydiving is not the physical activity, but the fear of the unknown. Achieving great things in life comes with embracing your fear and deflating it. Leaping faith during skydiving can be scary but exciting at the same time.

In the following, I explain three methods how you can breathe normally as a first-time skydiver. I also show when skydivers need oxygen supply.

Why Do First Time Skydivers Have Difficulty Breathing?

First-time skydivers normally deal with a lot of nervous energies before the jump. People tend to overthink, especially if they are doing things for the first time.

As the plane goes up, your body produces a lot of energy and adrenaline and some people tend to hold their breath. It is normal that people hold their breath and forget to breathe when they face something scary. Skydiving is not different specifically because it involves high altitudes.

The breath can also become more shallow before the jump. This is caused by the increased level of adrenaline in our bloodstream. Adrenaline causes the airways to relax to quickly give more oxygen to the muscles (which will become stronger with more oxygen). As a result, we do not breathe in as deep as we usually do.

In order to release the tension and nervous energies during a nerve-wracking activity, you need to consciously take a deep breath in and exhale as you step out of the aircraft.

The oxygen level at around 10,000 to 15,000 ft. is 40 percent lower compared to the concentration on the ground. However, there will be no shortness of oxygen at this height, as there is enough supply to support normal breathing.

In general, skydiving has incredible effects on the human body beyond increased levels of adrenaline. If you want to know more about them, check this article out.

Three Methods of Breathing During Skydiving

Student jumpers experience difficulty in breathing because they simply forget that they can breathe. Here are three ways you can breathe as you exit the plane and embark on the 120 mph free fall.

Breathe Consciously in Through Your Nose and Out Through Your Mouth When Skydiving

Just like with any other strenuous activity or sport, you can focus on your breath and consciously breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. This is a great way to relax your entire body and use the right amount of energy so that you do not get tired easily.

You can practice this before your skydive. When riding as a passenger in a moving car, try to stick your head out of the window to experience the 60 mph speed. It is not so different from being on a freefall at a speed of 120 mph. Breathing then can be challenging because the strong wind is hitting your face, but it is doable as long as you focus on it.

Keep Your Chin up and Eyes on the Horizon When Skydiving

If you look down, you might inhale too much wind during the free fall. To avoid that, it is recommended to keep your chin up so that the 120 mph wind will only hit your neck and the bottom of your chin. It will be much easier to breathe since the wind is not rushing towards your face.

Another good way to keep your chin up is to fix your eyes on the horizon. It is the perfect time to appreciate the beauty of the view. It is a good distraction and reward from such a nerve-wracking experience. Most skydive centers have beautiful landscapes and majestic sceneries.

Scream as Loud as You Can When Skydiving

This is the most common advice of tandem instructors to their students. If you do not know what to do, especially when panic kicks in, just scream as loud as you can. Screaming will help you release the energy and adrenaline surge. Once that tension is released, your body will feel more relaxed and you can fully enjoy the entire skydiving experience.

It can kick start breathing and will remind you that it is not difficult to breathe in the air as you free fall. It’s like riding on a roller coaster. Screaming on top of your lungs will help you enjoy the whole ride. Once the 40- 60 seconds dive is over, you will find it easier to breathe and even talk to your instructor while under the canopy and enjoying the view.

Effects of Not Breathing Properly When Skydiving

Not breathing properly during skydiving at high altitudes can have physical and mental effects on beginners, as well as experienced skydivers. Here are some things that might happen in case you forget to breathe, and some helpful workarounds.

Altitude Sickness Can Be Caused by Improper Breathing During Skydiving

Altitude sickness, also called Hypoxia, is caused if someone stays at a high altitude for an extended period of time without sufficient oxygen supply to their brain and body. This could result in passing out, or blacking out during the free fall or canopy ride.

Fortunately, altitude sickness is not so common in skydiving, because the FAA set the ideal height for tandem jumping and solo skydiving at between 10,000 and 15,000 ft. At this height, there is sufficient oxygen to facilitate proper and normal breathing. Also, only a short time is spent at this altitude, since you will be descending at a speed of 120 mph, which is enough to get you to the parachute deployment height in just about 40- 60 seconds.

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In case a tandem jumper blacks out due to lack of oxygen, they will miss out on the canopy ride, and it will also be difficult for the tandem instructor to manage their body position under the canopy and during landing. However, students will still arrive at the dropzone safely.

If solo skydivers blackout during their jump, their automatic deployment system will activate the parachute at a preset altitude. However, it is still not guaranteed that the parachute deploys properly because the skydiver might spin around uncontrolled before the deployment.

If the parachute deploys properly, the solo skydiver is still likely to be drifted apart from the designated dropzone and get injured during the uncontrolled landing. That being said, it is very unlikely for solo skydivers to blackout during their skydive.

Motion Sickness Can Be Caused by Improper Breathing During Skydiving

Some people may experience motion sickness as a result of insufficient oxygen supply, resulting in headaches, nausea, or dizziness. So if you are prone to motion sickness, here are a few tips on how to prepare for your big day.

On the night before skydiving, your heart and mind will be racing with excitement, making it challenging to get some decent sleep. However, to avoid getting motion sickness and ruining the skydiving experience it is recommended that you try to get plenty of rest so that you have energy throughout the day and maintain optimal physical and mental performance.

There are also instances where first-time skydivers pass out under the canopy, not because of fear or difficulty in breathing, but due to dehydration and not eating properly before the jump. It is therefore highly recommended to have a balanced meal at least an hour or so before your scheduled appointment. However, do not overindulge since you might throw up during the jump.

It is also advisable to pack some light snacks and to stay hydrated while waiting for your turn to jump. Stop by a drug store or pharmacy and purchase a non-drowsy motion sickness patch or pill in case you’ll need it.

Conditions When Skydivers Need Oxygen Supplies

Tandem and solo jumping usually do not require oxygen support. However, some instances require oxygen supplies. A few cases are listed below.

Skydivers Need to Weak Oxygen Supply if the Jump From Above 15,000 FT

As per the FAA regulations, passengers are required to wear oxygen supplies if they are exiting from a height of 15,000 ft. above the sea level. This is because the oxygen consistency at that level is thinner, and might result in serious hypoxia and decompression sickness.

Even though some experienced skydivers could jump from a height of 16,000 ft. without oxygen support they are not allowed to do so because it is too risky and a limit needed to be set at some altitude.

If skydivers go even higher and perform High Altitude Low Opening (“HALO”) jumps they must wear special equipment in addition to the oxygen supply. This might include specialized jumpsuits that provide skydiver not only with oxygen but also protects their body from the cold as they speed up to the ground.

For example, on 24th October 2014, Google’s Senior Vice President, Alan Eustace, made a stratosphere jump and set a new exit altitude record of 135,898ft (41,422 m) with help of a helium-filled balloon and a pressure suit that had a life support system (including oxygen supply) in it.

If you want to know about the highest altitude that people can jump from including whether it is possible to jump from space to earth, check out this article.

Skydivers With Certain Medical Conditions Need to Wear Oxygen Supply

Contrary to common beliefs, people with pre-existing medical conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes can also participate in the sport – as long as their cases are well managed.

They need to contact a health care provider, who understands the risk of skydiving and secure a medical clearance. As soon as they have a green light from a doctor, it’s recommended that they use the oxygen equipment. Wearing an oxygen supply reduces the risks drastically for people with diabetes and high blood pressure.

Once medical clearance is received, it is important to inform the skydive center in advance such that it can check whether oxygen supply is available.

In conclusion, you can breathe and you should never forget to breathe when skydiving. Proper breathing will help you to savor the experience and not miss out on exciting moments during the 120 mph free fall.

Enjoy your free fall!

Hi, I’m Kai. The first time I jumped out of an airplane and experienced free fall was one of the most amazing moments of my life. For me, skydiving does not only stand for freedom and independence but being present in the moment and being respectful to others and oneself. Now I want to share what I’ve learned with you.

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Hi, I’m Kai. The first time I jumped out of an airplane and experienced free fall was one of the most amazing moments of my life. For me, skydiving does not only stand for freedom and independence but being present in the moment and being respectful to others and oneself. Now I want to share what I’ve learned with you.

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