DeLand, Florida: The Birthplace of Tandem Jumping

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Daytona Beach is home to 23 miles of beautiful beaches, Bike Week and the Daytona International Speedway. For those who want to try something a little more daring, Skydive DeLand offers groups a chance to jump out of a plane and fall almost 14,000 feet, attached to an instructor. In a recent visit we decided to give it a shot, and quite literally fell for this experience. We spoke to the general manager, Mike Johnston, to learn more about skydiving options for groups.

Q: How does a day of tandem jumping work for a group?

A: Skydiving is about as varied as track and field or skiing and there are a lot of different things that groups can do. It is a very exciting and varied activity, but everyone has to start somewhere. By far, the most popular way to begin skydiving is by doing a tandem jump. This process would start when a group calls us to arrange a date. We’ll set a time, everyone will arrive and they’ll go through a registration process. That includes a short video that gives an outline of what the activity will be.

Then group members will wait to be scheduled for instructors and flights on the aircraft and with a large group we’ll usually take 3-5 people up at a time. You can also have a video person, it’s an optional feature but we highly recommend it. Approximately 20-30 minutes before its time to board the aircraft, the person will meet their instructor. The instructor will give them a personalized briefing for the jump and will help them get fitted with a jumpsuit and put a harness on the person. They’ll get fitted and we’ll give them goggles, too. Then the tandem master will pick up his parachute, which is specially designed to carry two people, and the passenger will be attached and they’ll do a run through.

Then it’s time to go to the aircraft and when it arrives everyone will climb in. If there’s a video, the video will be shooting during the entire process. When it’s getting close to jump altitude, the instructor will make sure the jumper is ready and secure. If there’s a video person, the person climbs out and holds on to the outside of the aircraft. There’s about a minute of free-fall time. At approximately 5,000 feet the instructor will deploy the main parachute. They can converse pretty easily at that point and it’s about a 5-minute ride under the open parachute canopy to come in for landing. Usually after landing everyone jumps up and down, hollers and has a good time.

It’ll take about 40 minutes to transfer photos and videos onto a CD and groups can sit at our restaurant. We have a large screen with players so that jumpers can review their video.

Q: How long does the hole process take?

A: For an individual, we recommend you plan to spend 2-2.5 hours from the time you show up. With a large group it can be an all day thing because people will be going up in small groups, all day.

Q: How large a group can you accommodate?

A: We can handle anything from a single person up to 60 people in a day, as is within our routine. We can do more than that if we make the right preparations. The restaurant holds up to 100 people.

Q: Where are you located?

A: From Daytona Beach’s beachside, we are a 30-minute drive. It’s a 15-minute drive from the airport and inland we’re up route 92, which is International Speedway Blvd.

Q: You have to be pretty fearless to jump. What’s some feedback from groups who’ve done it?

A: Reactions are just as varied as the people who come. A really common one is, “Man, this is the best thing I’ve ever done!” I’ve even run into people that I see from time to time and years later they’ll still say that it’s the most rewarding thing they’ve ever done. Some people don’t enjoy it as much but most enjoy it a lot and it gives them a sense of accomplishment. It’s an experience that’s very unique and it’s hard to compare to anything else. People who have made a jump of any kind find it hard to describe to people who haven’t and for those who haven’t jumped it’s hard to understand.

Q: DeLand is known for tandem jumping, right?

A: Yes, tandem jumping was developed in DeLand, roughly 25 years ago. The majority of tandem equipment that is used around the world is built here. The largest tandem manufacturers are in DeLand. The skill of the instructors is a big factor and we’ve been doing this longer than anyone so a lot of people come here to learn how to be tandem instructors.

Q: Do you get a lot of groups to skydive from out of town?

A: Yes. We draw from throughout central Florida as part of what we consider our locals, but we have people that come from anywhere in the state and even anywhere in the world. The majority of our tandem customers are from our immediate area but on any given day you’ll find groups from anywhere in the world..

Q: Do you get large groups often?

A: Fairly regularly. It’s common for people to get groups together. It’s not uncommon at all for groups of friends, co-workers and families to come out.

Q: Can groups create packages to include a post-jump lunch?

A: While it’s not routine, we could definitely make specific arrangements. It’s very easy for us to do because we have a full-service restaurant and bar and they can put together all kinds of food packages.

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