Can You Breathe While Skydiving?

The view from above on your first tandem skydive is breathtaking, but not literally! One of the most frequent questions from first-time skydivers is can you breathe in freefall? The answer is yes! Many tandem jumpers comment on not being able to breathe when exiting the airplane, but it’s a mind trick that you can easily overcome.

We can see why the common misconception persists about not being able to breathe when you are flying at 120 miles per hour. Science disproves the myth along with the thousands of skydivers out there breathing while jumping daily. What is really going on for first-time jumpers is a sensory and chemical overload to your brain. You can breathe just fine in free fall because the rush is all in your head. With the three tips below you can easily overcome the sensation of not being able to breathe.

1. Be Mindful Of Your Breath

If you have ever tried yoga or meditation, you will be familiar with connecting your mind and breath. If ever there is a time to be mindful it is when you are skydiving! Being focused and intentional at the moment when you are ready to make that leap into the sky is the best way to experience flying free and taking in the view. There is truth to having less oxygen available when you are at higher altitudes, but there is still plenty for you to breathe. If you are into facts, there is 40% less oxygen in the atmosphere than at ground level. The best way to combat the “thinner” air is to breathe more deeply. Rather than shallow inhales, try to fill up every nook and cranny of your lungs. The more thought you put into your breathing, the easier it will be.

Can You Breathe While Skydiving? | Skydive Orange

2. Scream Like You Mean It!

Freefall is a big head rush. Your mind and body are in sensory overload, and sometimes your brain can’t manage all the input, and you forget to breathe. Remember that mindfulness about connecting your breath with your mind and body? Take a deep mindful breath right as you get up to the door to make that leap. Screaming on your exit from the plane is a great way to express the elation of flying, and it also helps you get a deep breath before and after you are finished screaming your head off! If you can exhale to scream, you’re definitely able to inhale and breathe. It’s really pretty simple when you think about it.

3. Mind Over Matter

You are probably reading about being able to breathe during skydiving because you are considering taking your first jump. Think back to the very moment you decided skydiving sounded like something you wanted to try. Your brain is capable of putting your wildest dreams into action. The mind over matter process that allows you to overcome your fear of stepping outside your boundaries will also remind you to take a deep breath when you exit that plane.

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Here are a few interesting facts. In the United States, there are around 40,000 active skydivers, making roughly 3.3 million jumps per year. For those who pursue the sport of skydiving, freefall becomes a second home. If you think about these statistics, it’s hard to imagine that so many people would willingly subject themselves to jump after jump if it were actually impossible to breathe in freefall. When it comes to breathing in freefall, the trick is mind over matter and being focused in the moment.

Take a deep breath and jump into the excitement – book your tandem skydive with Skydive Orange today!

Can You Breathe While Skydiving?

Skydiving and Breathing at the Same Time, Can you do it?

Golly — you’d better breathe while you’re skydiving! After about a minute of freefall and between five and seven minutes flying a parachute, holding your breath would start to get pretty old. We’re not free diving up here, friends. Indeed, you can breathe while skydiving. Even in freefall, hurtling at speeds up to 160miles per hour, you can breathe. There’s no real trick to it; breathing while you’re skydiving is just like breathing while you’re running, while you’re swimming, or while you’re singing. Here’s what you need to know.

Don’t Forget To Inhale

Jumping out of the door of an airplane in flight is a little — well — distracting. It’s no wonder that so many first-timers forget to breathe when they’re perched in the door! You can bet that, with so many new sounds, sensations and stimulations all around you, the basics (y’know — like getting oxygen into your airbags) might fall a little bit down your list of attentional priorities.

We’ve been doing this a long time, so we understand that the struggle is real. To get you back into the habit of inhaling, exhaling, rinsing and repeating, we tell each of our first-time tandem students to yell like crazy when they exit the plane. It’s the same trick a baby uses to fill its lungs after being born — that primal scream forces the student to take a deep breath and acclimate. Boom!

breathe while skydiving bay area skydiving

Get A Little Extra

Here’s another hot tip to get you oxygenated in the wild blue yonder: breathe more ! Scientifically speaking, the concentration of oxygen at the altitude from which we jump at Skydive California (about 13,500’) registers approximately 40% lower than the concentration of oxygen on the ground. Don’t worry about passing out — that amount of oxygen is sufficient to hold you over for the amount of time you’ll be up there, which isn’t long, and you wouldn’t require supplemental oxygen unless you were planning to jump from another 1,500 feet higher up.

That said: As we mentioned before, the concentration of oxygen is lower, so try breathing deeper . It feels more comfortable, more calming and more meditative if you focus on trying to breathe about 40% more deeply . Scientific? Naw. Comforting in an intense moment? Yes indeed.

Get Deeper as You Get Higher

As the excitement of the skydive ramps up (usually as the altimeter on your instructor’s wrist ticks steadily upward in the plane), your breathing is likely too shallow. For all the reasons we just explained, don’t let it! Keep your body out of the shallow-breathing panic mode.

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It might help you to think of deep breathing as a responsibility to yourself. Make no mistake: as a tandem student you are not a “passenger.” You are a skydiver . As such, you’re accepting the challenge of directing your own experience, which means your instructor can’t breathe for you. It’s on you to breathe deeply and regularly.

breathe while skydivin san francisco skydiving

Need a hint? Take this one straight from the yoga mat: inhale for six counts, hold that breath in for four counts, exhale for six counts, hold it out for four counts. Repeat. Try to consciously relax the muscles as they tighten in your hands and face. By the time the door opens, you’ll be full of oxygen and ready to rock.

Will your first skydive will take your breath away? Yes! But not literally, especially if you follow this guide. We’re looking forward to showing you how deep a breath of fresh air our sport can be!

Can You Pass Out While Skydiving?

Jumping out of a plane and zooming towards the earth is not really what we humans were designed for, so every skydiving-related question is a good question. And the answer to this one is yes, you can pass out while skydiving. (You can pass out doing anything, actually.) The likelihood of passing out during your skydiving experience is slim, though, and not only are there things you can do to minimize the chance of losing consciousness but your instructor is also equipped to take care of you should the unexpected transpire.

So, deep breath in … exhale slowly. Let’s get into what feels scary and see about ironing out some of those knots in your stomach!

Woman wearing skydiving equipment and prepping for her first tandem skydive at Skydive St Louis near Chicago

How Fast Do You Fall?

Some have the need for speed, and others see a comet of vomit in their future at the thought of it (:shudder:). When people ask, “What’s the scariest part of skydiving?”, the expected answer is freefall because it’s so fast – but that’s most frequently what skydivers love the most!

During freefall, you typically accelerate to 120 mph … and it might not feel as you imagine it to feel without prior skydiving experience. For many, this is a revelation: freefall doesn’t feel like falling. It feels more like floating! You don’t get that heart attack waiting-to-happen feeling of a roller coaster because you leap from a fast-moving plane and continue going mega fast. You don’t halt at the top of a hill and plunge without warning!

The speed you develop when you jump is a gradual transfer of momentum until you reach terminal velocity. Terminal velocity is a fabulous physics term that describes the state of air resistance rushing up being equal to the force of gravity pulling down. With experience, skydivers have tremendous control while riding this supportive cushion of air. It’s not a helter-skelter plummet like movies might have you think.

The skydiving season ends in late fall when it gets cold in St Louis

Let’s Talk About Parachute Deployment…

After about 45 seconds in freefall, the parachute will deploy. Parachute openings happen in stages, purposefully designed to grant swift but steady deceleration. Skydiving is supposed to be fun, not painful. If the canopy deployment consistently hurt, people wouldn’t do it again and again (and again …).

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Tandem students are not responsible for deploying the parachute, and tandem instructors are highly credentialed and extremely experienced (regardless of the “this is my first-time” jokes they toss your way!). Your United States Parachute Association (USPA) certified instructor is well-versed in the sophisticated technology and stringent safety protocols associated with their rig. They have everything covered so you can relax and enjoy the peaceful parachute ride.

Should something go awry, not only does every skydiver jump with a reserve parachute but the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires that every tandem parachute have an automatic activation device (AAD) installed on the reserve. In the unlikely event that your instructor passes out, for example, the AAD would trigger parachute deployment. This happens via the unit continually measuring the air pressure, and if you are still falling over a certain speed at the end of freefall, it activates and deploys your canopy.

Woman finishing her skydive with legs up at Skydive STL

Tips to Win Out Overwhelm

As we noted at the top, there are things first-timers can do to steady the ol’ nerves – and it’s probably advice your mom has already given you!


  • We mammals are wont to hold our breath in the face of potential danger, especially if we perceive we may encounter a shortage of oxygen. Good news: there’s plenty for all at 10,000 feet – take it in! Ground yourself by focusing on your breathing. If you forget to breathe, as is common too, make a conscious effort to scream on exit. You can’t roar without first filling your lungs.
  • One reason people feel faint is by eating too much or not eating enough. Have yourself a regular-sized, healthy meal before heading to the dropzone. Avoid fried foods or those that feel “heavy” in your belly.

Drink Water (Not Alcohol)

  • A sure-fire way to feel sick is dehydration. Drink plenty of water ahead of your reservation, and pack a cooler of water and snacks to bring with you too. Lay off the alcohol the night before – skydiving hungover feels awful, and there’s tons of time to celebrate afterward. Note: you cannot jump under the influence; no exceptions.


  • Get a good night’s sleep! Rest is best for a great day at the dropzone. Skydiving feels a-m-a-z-i-n-g, and getting the most out of your experience means taking time for self-care ahead of self-empowerment. Boom!

Get Video

  • So, your mom might not know to recommend that you get the video, but we’re here to tell you that you oughta. Watching yourself accomplish something extraordinary is incredible fuel that can propel you to achieve other things that feel overwhelming. You. Can. Do. This.

At Skydive STL, safety is our top priority and skydiving is our passion. Have other questions? Check out our FAQs or connect with our team – we are here to support you. And when you’re ready for an epic adventure – come jump with us!




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