Skydive Delmarva offers up some tips for those interested in taking up the thrill of free falling — skydiving


The seasons might be changing and the weather cooling, but there’s still some time to get outside and live adventurously for a few more weeks.

If you’re looking to try your hand at something extreme, exhilarating, thrilling and, by some accounts, stupid, why not jump out of a plane? …with a parachute of course.

Skydiving, according to Dave Matchett, general manager of Skydive Delmarva in Laurel, can be done by just about anyone, and provides a rush unmatched by any other extreme activity.

Matchett has 19 years of experience and more than 8,000 jumps to his credit, and passed on some tips for those that want to try jumping just once or anyone interested in coming up with a free-fall hobby.

Most of the time, skydiving is something people just want to give a shot, a bucket list item of sorts. So for those adventurers, Matchett recommended a tandem jump. Participants will go through a 20- to 30-minute ground training session, be assigned to an instructor, then get in the air where they’ll be attached — their back to the instructor’s front — for the fall. The free fall is typically a minute long before the chute is pulled, and then jumpers can enjoy a nice, leisurely ride to the ground.

If you jump in tandem and think you might want to make skydiving a hobby, there’s a route to go to become a regular jumper, Matchett said. The accelerated free fall program is a little more in depth and trains participants to eventually make jumps on their own. It starts with a five- to six-hour ground school before you’re headed into the sky. Upon jumping from 13,500 feet, the jumper will be held by two instructors that will guide them with hand signals and radio control. You pull your own chute here, he said, and then steer yourself to the ground. As the course progresses, participants learn various maneuvers to run through the sky, like flips and spins. By the eighth jump, Matchett said, the AFF jumper is all set to take the sky on all on their own.
  After going through the AFF program, if you want to continue living on the edge in the activity, you’re going to have to gear up, Matchett said. That means picking up a jumpsuit, altimeter, goggles, a helmet, and of course, a parachute. Chutes usually run anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000, but he said they retain their value and can be used for several years. In picking a chute, Matchett said it’s all about experience level. For the less versed, a bigger chute that allows the jumper to slowly glide to the ground is recommended. But if you’ve got quite a few jumps under your belt, a small chute that generates more speed and allows swooping is the best option.
  Skydiving, for those more experienced, can actually become a competition. Various events are held that allow jumpers to compete in the art, either solo or in teams. Matchett said four-member teams can choreograph jumps that create some pretty interesting sights in the sky, and if jumpers want to get involved it requires a lot of concentration and effort.
  The last, and most important thing Matchett wants people to know about skydiving, is what the thrill of it feels like. “You’re actually truly weightless,” he said. “You’re falling at the speed of gravity. Once the parachute opens that’s a whole different aspect. There can be hard, carving turns and swoops against the ground. You can be as aggressive or as passive as you want.” So whether you’re looking for a full-on thrill of a lifetime or a free fall followed by a relaxing approach where you can take in the scenery, Matchett said skydiving is for just about anyone.

For more information on Skydive Delmarva, call 302-875-3540 or 888-875-3540.

Email Brian Citino at brian.citino@doverpost.com