‘You Do What?!’ Skydiving at 120 MPH, that’s what!


Ashley Evert, L&A&E Asst Editor

“You Do What?” is one incredibly unathletic girl’s journey to explore alternative sports. Check back every week for my take on sports I once knew nothing about and now find fascinating.

Free-falling through the air at 120 miles an hour isn’t most peoples’ idea of fun, and yet thousands of people make more than 2 million jumps each year.

To skydive safely, the student must be less than 225 pounds because of the way the equipment is designed. Jumps last for about 60 seconds of free-fall and five to seven minutes with the parachute deployed.

Students must also be at least 18 years old, due to the obvious legal implications. This is a dangerous sport, but skydivers say the experience is well-worth the risk.

Beginners must do a tandem jump, which means that they are strapped to a professional, before they can venture into the air by themselves. More than 65 percent of the jumps made in the U.S. are tandem jumps because they offer the general public the safest way to make a jump.

After the person’s first tandem jump, he can become a licensed United States Parachute Association skydiver. The hopeful skydiver will be enrolled in a First Jump Course, or “FJC,” where he or she will study on the ground for four to six hours for his first solo-gear sky dive. When he completes the FJC, he will make a skydive with a USPA instructor assisting him where he will fly a canopy by himself with ground radio assistance.

Chris Skokowski, a freshman at Penn State’s Hazleton campus, made his first jump on his 18th birthday last year and completed 25 jumps to earn his skydiving license exactly a year later.

Skokowski said the experience was “a thrill of a lifetime. A lot of people ask why I would jump out of a perfectly good airplane, and I say ‘you have to try it for yourself to find out.’”

On becoming a licensed skydiver, Skokowski said, “It feels like I opened a door to a new world. Sort of like when you get your driver’s license, you just want to get out there and experience it for yourself.”

He isn’t nervous anymore like he was for his first jump. “The fear of falling is something we are born with, but once you overcome that fear, the benefits are spectacular.”

Logan Alucci, a freshman at Pace University in New York, made skydiving a priority on her bucket list and made her first tandem jump a month after her high school graduation. She had to take a 20-minute class where she had to stick her arms and legs out to make sure she could hold the arch in her back prior to skydiving. When she made the jump, she said she felt weightless.

“It’s like nothing you have ever experienced before because you picture skydiving like a roller coaster, your stomach is going to drop and you heart’s going to race, but you’re so high up in the air that your body can’t even comprehend the height,” she said. “When you’re falling it kind of just feels like really fast floating.”

Most people assume that nerves would get the best of them before the jump. Alucci disagreed. “How can you be worried about anything when you’re falling from the clouds?”

She described the free-fall as a unique feeling, but “when the parachute opens, it feels so slow and relaxed. You can talk, you can move around. He (the professional) let me hold the parachute and turn it whatever way I wanted.”

Alucci guessed that she could have turned upside down, but didn’t want to. She said she actually felt very safe in the air — not at all what people expect when they are floating mid-air with only a parachute to keep their bodies stable. She attributed this stability to gravity.

Afterward, Alucci’s stomach hurt because of motion sickness, but when that resided she felt very calm. She said she took a nap to recuperate, then for days afterward she felt a constant rush. Alucci said she would skydive again “in a second. I would go today.”

Anyone interested in skydiving can to go paskydive.com for rates and information on sites closest to them. Packages are also available with additional activities like white water rafting and horseback riding.