You can learn to skydive!
I met Victoria and Rebecca Bradley at the Sibson Airfield in Peterborough where they jump and train student skydivers. They introduce me to a friend and one of their former students, Lynne, and explain just how accessible the sport can be.
“Like any sport that involves adrenaline and speed, skydiving is quite an emotive thing to do. There are very few people that aren’t moved in some way when they’ve jumped out of a plane, whether it’s to say they never want to do it again, or they immediately want to do it again. We say you should try it at least once, even if you hate it, at least you’ve done it!”
Lynne started skydiving about 18 months ago. “I’d always had it in the back of my mind that I’d like to do a parachute jump, as a bucket list type activity. I did a charity tandem skydive, thinking it would be a one-off experience, then I got the bug and decided I wanted to skydive on my own.”
“The first jump was just such an amazing feeling. I was looking forward to it, and when we sat in the door of the aircraft with the wind on my face, I was scared. I didn’t know what to expect, but they literally pushed me out, you have no choice. As soon as the wind hit my face, that was it, I knew I loved it. When I landed I felt totally exhilarated - I’d done it, and just wanted to do it again straight away.”
Victoria explains that there’s no specific fitness you have to have, “Core strength is quite important, and a general level of fitness. If you want to start skydiving you just need to decide whether you want to do a tandem (strapped to an instructor), or Accelerated Free Fall (solo skydiving). Once you’re in contact it happens very easily, people are surprised. You just pitch up and get stuck in!”
Rebecca continues, “There are many skydivers that have physical disabilities, partially because of the military side of it. There are a lot of guys that have lost legs or arms, there are ways to adapt the kit for practically anyone to skydive, it’s very inclusive. There’s almost no one that can’t do a tandem if you want to do one to start with.”
Lynne recalls, “My first jump was a tandem, so then I had to start my AFF training. You do ground school for a day and get taught lots of different skills, and you do some consolidation jumps. Before you can jump on your own you have to learn how to freefall in a stable position, then about your equipment and the sequence of things you need to do during the skydive.”
“The first solo jump was a massive difference to the tandem. You’ve got your own parachute, you’ve got the responsibility of looking after yourself. Once you’ve opened your parachute you're on your own, you’ve got to get yourself down. It gives you a great sense of achievement.”
It is quite an expensive sport, but there are ways to make it less expensive. Tandem jumps cost about £200, but they tend to be a one-off experience. The AFF course costs about £1,500, although Rebecca explains that some dropzones will let you do the course with no real outlay initially and you can pay it off interest free over time.
“Once you’re qualified and you have your own gear it’s about £23 per skydive. For a complete set of brand new gear you’ll spend about £5,000, which isn’t cheap, but you don’t need to buy new. Most people buy second hand to start with and some people go through their whole skydiving career without buying new. That makes it a lot more cost effective, but fact is there is a bit of an outlay. If you did want that one off experience you can do the tandem jump. Some people do a lot of tandems, they don’t want to learn to skydive themselves but they just love that rush.”
Victoria describes the characteristics of a good skydiver as “Someone that is willing to listen to advice, take it in, come back better and learn. The obvious implications of not listening and learning are serious. You’ve got to be pretty committed to succeed because of the weather in this country. Every day before jumping, even if jumping doesn’t happen, we give a briefing for the students to remind them of the safety aspects. You’ve got to keep coming for that even if you don’t jump because you must stay current. You have to be committed.”
“Most people were very surprised when I started skydiving,” says Lynne, “but now they see that I’m doing it regularly they’ve become more relaxed about it, it’s just accepted. I come here most weekends and do two or three jumps a day if the weather is good enough. Victoria and Rebecca started training me on my Level 2 & 3. They were brilliant, so enthusiastic. Seeing other women skydiving just gives you confidence to know that you could actually be really good at it. They're just amazing, so positive, always cheerful. They make you feel that you could literally do anything!”
Find out more about Victoria and Rebecca Bradley and their journey as competitive skydivers, Accelerated Free Fall and Tandem Instructors, and coaches.