Skydiving Weight Limits: Explained (With Workarounds)

While the sport is incredible – really incredible – everything is based on safety. Safety of the gear, safety in control, safety in landing. And unfortunately, a skydivers weight affects all three.

It’s true that there are weight limits to skydiving. Both for tandem and solo jumps. In this article I go through what these limits are (depending your skydiving drop zone), why they’re in place, and what your options are.

In short, the weight limit for skydiving is about 225lbs (100kg). This is the maximum weight that most skydiving airfields will allow. However, you can skydive at a heavier weight in some locations (listed below). This does depend on a few factors, and may include a surcharge for the weight.

That’s the short answer, but I’ve covered everything you need to know below.

Skydiving Weight Limits – In Detail

Despite misconceptions (thanks Hollywood), skydivers are generally super safe people. They might be crazy, but they’re not reckless.

For that reason, every dropzone will make you step on a scale – privately – to make sure you’re within their weight limits.

These limits do vary per drop zone, but there’s a standard that almost every airfield abides to. This pass/fail system looks at your height and weight to see if you’ll fit the harness well, and not put too much strain on the kit.

Trust me, you don’t want to ignore this and then have a 20 minute torturous ride under canopy in too small of a harness! Say goodbye to any feeling in your legs…

Below is the general chart that most airfields stick to – courtesy of Chicago Skydive.

Skydiving weight limit chart

As you can see, it’s not just the weight that’s the limit. Your height also comes in to play. Unfortunately, if you’re super tall you could be perfectly slim but still be over the limit.

While I know this all seems unfair, there’s very real, very scary reasons behind it.

Let me explain why this is important first, before we get into ways around it.

Why Skydiving Has Weight Limits

Now, don’t get me wrong. The equipment used in skydiving is strong. Super strong.

Some say that you could even put a small car underneath a skydiving canopy, and it would land mostly undamaged (I’ve always wanted to test it).

So why is the weight limit for skydiving so strict?

Well, there’s a few reasons for that. I’ll go through them 1 by 1.

Equipment Ratings

Even if a piece of equipment ‘could’ take more weight, there’s generally a maximum recommended amount given by a manufacturer.

In skydiving, this is typically the tandem student harness, and the overall kit of the combined student and instructor.

If you push these limits, you’d be using the equipment outside of their allowed limits. That means you’d void any insurance, and literally be putting your life at risk. Now in a literal sense, I know that the hooks attaching you could probably take a good bit more weight than we allow. But I would never, ever want to push that limit!

Wear & Tear

Now, let’s say we strap a heavier person into the gear and send them on their merry way. The other issue here is that – while everything will hold together – the wear and tear is a lot more damaging. Particularly when the parachute deploys, and all that gear has to rapidly slow you down from falling at 120mph to about 5mph. Imagine breaking at those speeds in a car, it’s a lot of force!

Controllability

The more weight under a parachute, the harder it is to control.

Too heavy of a student and instructor can hinder the control you have over the parachute. That means risking a sketchy flight path, or not being able to turn properly.

Trust me, the last thing you want is to find yourself landing in some angry farmers field, with a bull coming towards you and a small cabin’s worth of canopy attached to you!

Landings

That faster fall speed makes it much harder to land properly. It’s the difference from jumping onto a treadmill when it’s running at walking speed, vs jumping onto it at a brisk jog. It’s hard to get the landing right.

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Skydiver landing

Coming down quicker under canopy means landing can be trickier.

The majority of skydiving injuries happen during landings (sprained ankles, bruised elbows), and added weight only increases this likelihood.

With all of that covered, let’s look into what to do if you’re eager to throw yourself out of an airplane, but find yourself (or your friend) weighing over 225lbs.

Can I Skydive If I’m Over 225lbs?

Here’s the good news – the answer is yes! The bad news? It kind of depends, and it’ll probably cost you.

While not every airfield does this, there are some skydiving airfields with higher weight limits. A few include:

  • Skydive Utah: 250lbs. https://www.skydiveutah.com
  • Skydive Wisconsin: 240lbs tandem, 235lbs solo. https://skydivetwincities.com
  • Skydive Virginia: 265lbs. https://www.skydiveorange.com

I’m working on researching all of these airfields into one big database. If you’re in the UK, you’re in luck. Here’s a good number of the UK skydiving drop zones and their weight limits.

What If I’m Just A Little Over The Weight Limit?

I’ll be honest, some instructors might let a few pounds slide, with a sly comment of skipping lunch!

In most cases however – it’s a hard and fast number. This is because everything needs to be written down, and if anything were to happen, a serious review process gets hammered down onto the airfield. Including looking into tiny malpractices like this.

Skydiving only exists because it’s safe, and no self-respecting instructor will break the rules.

That being said, it doesn’t mean you can’t game the system a little bit. Skip breakfast, dehydrate yourself the day before, and you could quickly lost just enough to get on board. After the weigh-in you can rehydrate.

The bottom line, though, is that this could just be a great motivator to lose weight. There’s a lot of skydivers out there who had to shed a few pounds before jumping. Their desire to finally skydive was what pushed them to change up their diet and hit the gym!

Other jumpers keep weight off for the sport. Being held up in a harness is a lot more comfortable if you’re a lighter person – you also glide back down slower and generally get easier landings. So there’s a number of skydivers who stay active so they can fly easier.

Conclusion

Well, that’s about it when it comes to skydiving weights!

In the future I do hope to collate a full database of all the USA dropzones that accept jumpers above 225lbs. If you happen to find something like this, please do let me know.

I hope you enjoyed reading this. If you did, please do check out the related articles below.

Skydiving Requirements: Weight Limits, Height, Age

Want to skydive? Make sure you meet the general skydiving requirements below. As much as we wish everyone could skydive, there are certain skydiving requirements that have to be met. Skydiving is already one of the safest extreme sports around and ensuring we meet these requirements will help keep it that way.

Skydiving requirements will vary some from dropzone to dropzone. At Wisconsin Skydiving Center, these are our skydiving requirements for weight, height, and age.

Anne Mae skydiving at Wisconsin Skydiving Center near Milwaukee, WI

General Tandem Skydiving Requirements

Maximum Skydiving Weight

Over 200lbs? We can still take you on a skydive. While the maximum weight for our “Learn to Skydive” Accelerated Freefall program is 200lbs, we can take individuals weighing up to 260lbs on tandem skydives.

Our skydiving weight requirement is not in place to be discriminatory. The skydiving weight requirement is all about safety, for both our customers and our instructors. The larger the skydiving student, the more physical strain it puts on the skydiving instructor. From exiting the aircraft to the parachute opening and landing, the added weight can create extreme complications.

Deployment of a parachute while tandem skydiving at Wisconsin Skydiving Center near Milwaukee

Aside from putting an undue physical strain on the instructor, jumpers that are larger than 260lbs push equipment limits. When you consider a tandem skydiving weight requirement, you have to consider that the parachute must safely carry the combined weight of the skydiver, instructor, and the equipment—not just one out of the three. Each parachute system we use has been issued a Technical Standard Order (TSO) from the Federal Aviation Administration. This TSO certifies the amount of weight under which the parachute can effectively operate. Exceed this weight limit and the gear may not function properly.

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Please note, there is a surcharge for customers over 200lbs. We know paying more for our service may strike you as strange, but please allow us to explain. The surcharge is in place to cover the increased strain on our equipment for larger weight loads. Bearing larger weights puts more wear and tear on our equipment, which means we incur greater costs for increased maintenance. In addition to greater wear and tear on the equipment, taking a larger student on a skydive requires much more physical exertion on the part of our instructor. Because our instructors work diligently to provide a safe, professional, and fun experience for our students, we feel it is only fair to compensate them for the more demanding workload. The surcharges are as follows. In the range of 200-230 pounds, there is a surcharge of $50. For students exceeding 230 lbs, the surcharge is $100.

Age Minimum But No Age Maximum

Skydiving requirements for age are pretty straightforward. In order to complete a skydive, you must be 18 years of age or older. (However, we will share that waivers can be issued by the United States Parachute Association for terminally ill individuals, through organizations like the Make a Wish Program, to complete tandem skydives at earlier ages.)

There are no age maximums for skydiving at Wisconsin Skydiving Center near Milwaukee

As far as a maximum age requirement for skydiving, there is no “age cap” on tandem skydiving ! In skydiving, truly, you are only as old as you feel. At WSC, we’ve taken jumpers well into their 90’s on tandem skydives. The only real requirement for making a skydive at an older age is being in generally good health and possessing moderate mobility. We will go more into the general health requirements for skydiving below.

General Health Requirement for Skydiving

Skydiving is a sport, not an amusement ride. That being said, ideal candidates for skydiving should be in fairly good health with reasonable mobility. Before skydiving, certain health issues, like high blood pressure or diabetes, require careful consideration. Though, having these conditions do not necessarily preclude you from skydiving. If you have questions regarding your health and eligibility to skydive, it is important that you contact your healthcare provider. After chatting with them, give us a call. We take individuals with health restrictions on a case-by-case basis.

If you know you’re ready to skydive and it’s your first time, check out our article on getting prepared for your first skydive.

Tandem Skydiving Weight Limit | Chicagoland Skydiving Center

Many people wonder: is there a weight limit for tandem skydiving? The answer is yes.

But why? Well, there are a few answers to that question, and we will explain them here.

Most skydiving centers will say their weight limit for a tandem passenger is approximately 200-220 pounds for women and 230-250 pounds for men. There is typically no minimum weight, only a minimum age (18 years old in the US). But there’s more to it than the number on the scale.

Some dropzones have “heavy” upcharges built into their pricing model – basically charging heavier customers more ($1 per pound above 220lbs is a common example). Policies like this are not meant for “fat-shaming,” but instead directly related to how much more work (and the associated higher pay rate for the instructor) is required to take that person on a successful skydive.

At Chicagoland Skydiving Center, we have found that most people that fall within the approved sections of our skydiving weight limit chart (shown below) can be safely accommodated on a skydive. Most respected skydive companies will operate within similar thresholds.

skydiving-weight-limit-chart

Sometimes, we have to make on-site assessments of potential tandem jumpers. This is sometimes necessary for guests on the higher end of the allowable weight spectrum. In these situations, we must test out harness fit, and see the student demonstrate the strength to pick up their feet while in a seated position for landing.

It’s our responsibility as skydiving experts to assess potential safety concerns, and the last thing we want to do is make someone feel bad about their body. So, we want to explain the factors that influence our decisions.

So why is there a skydiving weight limit?

Tested Equipment Limits

The manufacturer of the skydiving equipment defines the limits for its use. For the equipment we use at CSC, the total weight of the tandem pair using the system must not exceed 500 pounds. (That means the weight of the student, plus the weight of the instructor, plus the weight of the gear combined). All the components and the final rig design goes through rigorous testing before released to the market and must receive at TSO (Technical Standard Order) from the Federal Aviation Administration. The weight limit helps keep tandem skydiving consistently operating within the known tested limits of the gear.

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Tandem Harness Fit

When you make a tandem skydive, you are outfitted with a harness that is designed to adjust to fit a wide range of body types. But, there is a limit to how far straps and pads can go and stay properly secured. If we aren’t able to achieve a proper harness fit on the ground, it could cause catastrophic problems in the sky. Our height/weight chart offers one way to set expectations about who can safely use the tandem harness.

Parachute Performance Range

While it’s certainly more technical, parachutes are essentially a fancy arrangement of nylon and strings. Needless to say, there are limits to how well they can perform when pushed to the limits of weight suspended underneath. A proper deployment sequence and manageable flight is only possible with reasonable weight in the harness below it. The instructor’s ability to steer and control the parachute decreases the more weight it is carrying. The strength needed to “flare” the parachute (a maneuver essential to landing) increases substantially with a heavier passenger.

Because both people must be considered when it comes to tandem jump weight, consider what must happen as the student gets bigger/heavier….the instructor must get smaller/lighter. Have you ever tried to steer a snow sled or kayak with someone nearly twice your size on the front? It’s not easy! Consider how much is being asked of a 150 pound instructor to control and land a parachute safely with a 245 pound passenger attached to his chest.

Physical Strength for Landing Position

There are several ways to perform a parachute landing, but the most consistently successful method involves the tandem student lifting his or her legs up in front of the body while in the seated position in the harness. This “legs up” position must be held for the final 5-10 seconds of flight, so it becomes less likely that feet and ankles touch down first, which could topple the tandem pair forward or put extreme strain on the lower limbs. This can be more difficult for people without the necessary core strength, or a belly that gets in the way. This limitation is simply more common for people falling outside the pre-approved sections of the height/weight chart.

Sometimes it helps to get an outside expert perspective on these types of issues, so we talked with our good friend Tom Noonan, the Director of the Tandem Skydiving Program for United Parachute Technologies. This is the company that manufactures the world’s best tandem skydiving systems, the gear we use at CSC. Tom helps manage the training of skydiving instructors, accountability to standards, and overseeing how tandem skydiving equipment is used all over the world. Tom visits CSC regularly to train our staff, to host standardization meetings for tandem instructor examiners, and sometimes, even to skydive for fun!

Bottom line: skydiving is an extreme sport. We like to have fun, and in some cases the risk simply becomes too great to make it enjoyable. Our safety approach is really about limiting risk factors as much as possible. Weight limit and body profile assessments are simply one of the ways we do that.

While other dropzones may have a different weight policy than we use at CSC, we hope this information helps answer many of the common questions about this issue.

Still have questions about being able to jump with us? Feel free to contact our Customer Care team to discuss this issue further.

prepare for your first chicago skydive

Becky Johns

Becky Johns

Becky Johns is a marketing professional in the outdoor industry. She is an experienced skydiver, AFF Instructor, and has made over 1,000 jumps since she got her license at CSC in 2011.

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