What are the main dangers we face and how can we avoid them?
“Skydiving is risk-free!”
If anyone ever told you this, you can doubt their sanity. Yes, skydiving is relatively safe for an extreme sport – but safety depends on many factors: experience, equipment and your knowledge about the possible risks.
There are dangers in skydiving and you must recognize them and take action to avoid incident or injury. The purpose of this article is not to scare you away from this wonderful sport but to encourage you to think twice before doing “brave” or possibly “stupid” things. Most accidents in skydiving are due to bad decisions and wrong procedures.
If one of your goals in skydiving is to fill your Facebook and Instagram with cool photos and videos… I’m sorry, this is not the best motivation for a life-threatening activity!
The main risks of skydiving
Let’s explore the main risks of skydiving that you should take into account…
1. Equipment failure
Despite what most people may think, equipment problems are very rare reasons for skydiving deaths. Although there may be a problem with the main canopy, to have a problem with the reserve also is extremely unusual.
Solution: The obvious way to reduce the risk of equipment failure is to choose a reliable manufacturer with a long reputation.
2. Borrowed equipment
if you jump with borrowed gear and it carries unknown elements (like a Skyhook for example or a freefly pud) and you do not know how they work, you can have problems when executing basic procedures. Jumping with equipment that you do not know or with different characteristics from that you’re used to, such as the type of canopy or harness size, increases the risk of incident.
Solution: Always talk to an instructor/rigger before jumping a rig/canopy you do not know and consider making a solo jump to focus on any new equipment.
3. Bad weather conditions
Unfriendly weather is one of the main reasons for many skydiving accidents. Strong winds, thermals, turbulence, or variable winds can collapse the canopy with potentially fatal consequences.
Solution: Keep yourself informed about the weather conditions when jumping. Learning to make correct decisions based on this information and your limitations can save your life. Better to be on the ground wanting to be in the air, than to be in the air wanting to be on the ground.
4. Medical risks
Skydiving is not an extremely exhausting sport but still requires a good physical condition. All the risks of skydiving become more pronounced if you mix it with medical problems.
Solution: People with heart disease, very overweight or with bone problems should think twice about skydiving, and consult a specialist.
5. Landing injuries
The risk of small landing injuries can not be neglected. You can twist your ankle or break a bone. The most frequent incidents are minor landing injuries and, although these accidents are not severe, they must be taken into account when calculating the risks of skydiving.
Solution: Investing in canopy courses minimizes these risks. Choose a canopy size and model appropriate to your skill level and experience. Err on the safe side.
This is a primary reason for skydiving deaths. Some overestimate their abilities and try to perform jumps that are too complex or high risk for their experience and knowledge. Others do not place enough importance on the fundamentals of safety or make poor equipment choices.
Solution: Make sure you are on top of basic safety matters, such as gear maintenance, practising EPs and learning about your equipment. Avoid the complacency trap. In skydiving, it is better to be prudent and conservative than brave and fearless – especially if you want to continue for many years.
Knowing the risks of skydiving does not eliminate them but it makes your jumps much safer. Stay informed, study and keep learning, know your equipment, ask the experts and invest your time in educating yourself.
Article by Ana Paula Santos Figliagi, originally written in Spanish and translated to English
Comparing the relative risks of skydiving, other extreme sports, and the risk of living… here