Describing the indescribable...
Everybody who hasn't jumped out of a perfectly good airplane wonders the same thing: what does it feel like to skydive? There are both physical and emotional answers to this question.
It's such an unfamiliar concept, falling through the air at 120+ mph. Most people who have jumped say things like "the feeling is indescribable" or "unlike anything else" when talking about the sensation of freefall. Not exactly helpful. So, how is a first-time skydiver to know what to expect?Chicagoland Skydiving Center challenged some of its first-time skydivers to describe the experience. We got a lot of replies, and you can check out all the answers submitted on our Facebook page.
In our opinion, the best people to ask are the ones who just experienced freefall for the first time. But, in nearly 50 years of skydiving in Chicago, we've heard it all - and we settled on the clearest answers we could. There are two ways to explain how skydiving feels that satisfy most people.
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PHYSICAL - What your body feels when you skydive
Your senses come alive when you make a skydive. Some mention "sensory overload" after their first jump, and it's because you are experiencing so many things at once, it's hard to separate one from the other.
You see the world from an unfamiliar point of view. You've viewed from above from airplanes or on maps apps, but the detail (and beauty) you notice with only air between you and the Earth is like the most vivid picture or movie you've ever seen.
You smell fresh air. You know that crisp, clean smell you notice from a cool gust of a wind, or standing on top of a mountain? It's that. You are several miles from familiar scents. In freefall, it's just pure fresh air.
You hear the loud rush of wind. It's similar to static from blowing into a microphone, or the loud sound in your head the moment you splash into water. It is not harsh or painful, but it is too loud to carry on conversation. But once the parachute opens, it's quiet. The kind of quiet that can only be noticed after chaos. The peaceful kind.
You feel temperature change and pressure on your skin. Even on a hot day, it will be noticeably cooler at jump altitude. It's like opening the refrigerator door on a hot day, and having that wave of cool rush over you. The wind resistance from your freefall speed feels like pressure. Not painful, but instead like you are being supported but can also move your arms and legs. Next time you're riding in a car on the highway, stick your hand out the window, thumb facing forward - then turn your hand with your palm facing forward - feel the difference in pressure. That's what we're talking about.
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EMOTIONAL - WHAT YOUR MIND FEELS WHEN YOU SKYDIVE
Most people describe skydiving with emotions. Simply because with all the sensory information they are trying to process, it's easier to revert to an emotional response. Freedom. Bliss. Focus. Confidence. You'll hear a lot of answers like this because it's a powerful experience. For most, a fear has been conquered or a lifelong wish has been granted. That's big!
Some people even relate the feeling to sex. Yes, really. And for many people it is a very real comparison. We have seen more than a few tandem students experience an "air-gasm" after the parachute opens. There's no shame in that response, it's probably not your instructor's first time.
WHAT IT DOES NOT FEEL LIKE
Many people believe skydiving will feel like things they dislike - which is why they ask before they go. The most common fear is "the stomach drop" sensation found on roller coasters or fast spins. Guess what - there is no stomach drop in skydiving! Honestly.
That feeling that most people hate comes from the sudden change in speed you experience on a roller coaster. Ever heard of G-forces? Your body is moving at a high speed, and making quick changes in direction. But guess what, humans are mostly liquid. Tilt a water bottle back and forth - see how the liquid responds? Well, that's what's going on at a smaller scale in your body, and when your insides take slightly longer to catch up to your outsides - you get that feeling.
When you go skydiving, you are starting from a moving airplane. Typically, you are traveling 100+ mph, it just doesn't feel like it because you're protected inside the cabin and there isn't much close around you to provide a visual reference for your speed. When you jump out, you are gradually building up a little more speed, only about 20mph over the course of 10-15 seconds. That's actually a pretty long time, and your body doesn't experience enough force to trigger the anxiety response to it in your brain.
Now, if you like that feeling, tell your instructor. While flying the parachute, they can certainly make some fast spinning turns to get you moving. But if you're prone to motion sickness, or just don't like that G-force feeling, simply say so. There are perfectly calm ways to fly a parachute to the ground, too.
One of the greatest things about skydiving is that the experience is very personal. Everyone has a reason for making their first jump - a fear to overcome, something they want to forget, or the love of adventure. What ever your reason may be, if there's a part of you that wants to skydive, then do it! The only way to know how it feels to you, is to experience it yourself.