As the door of our brightly colored blue, red, and yellow Cessna opened, the wind rushed in, deafening and surprisingly cold. At 14000 feet, the false sense of security that had been building as we ascended abruptly disappeared. Only a few feet now separated us – tightly strapped to our flight instructors – from the gaping hole in the plane. Beyond that, nothing but air.
Had we lost our minds? Were we seriously about to jump out of a plane?
Now I’m sure at this point, at least half of you are thinking, “These people are crazy.” But the rest of you are either flirting with the idea of skydiving someday, or you’re just curious to know what our experience skydiving in Germany was like. We’re here to tell ya – it was awesome!
So what brought us to the crazy moment when we were suddenly airborne?
If it weren’t for a friend of ours, who knows when we would’ve gone skydiving. It had been on my bucket list for a long time, but so are a lot of things. Skydiving is expensive, we were lazy, we never made it happen.
Then our friend Helen graduated with her PhD in Ulm. Her boss – an avid skydiver – gave her a voucher for skydiving in Germany as a grad gift. Talk about an incredible boss!
When it came time for her to book her jump, she invited several friends to come along, including us.
Jumping with Skydive Saulgau
So it was that on a cool but sunny day, we found ourselves driving to Skydive Saulgau in southern Germany.
The skydive center is located in Bad Saulgau in the state of Baden-Württemberg just west of Bavaria. It’s so far south, it’s nearly in Switzerland.
By car it’s 2 hours from Stuttgart or 2 1/2 hours from either Munich or Zurich.
I’ve never been skydiving, but I have zoomed-in on Google Earth really fast.
Arriving at the Airfield
From the minute that we arrived at the Skydive Saulgau airfield, we felt like we were in good hands. The entire staff were warm and friendly.
The place was a bluster of activity as experienced jumpers expertly packed their skydiving equipment and tandem jumpers like us nervously milled about.
We were excited.
We were nervous.
But we were ready to DO THIS!!!
All extreme sports come with some inherent risks, and skydiving is no exception. There’s always the possibility of parachute failure, mechanical failure, or jumper failure (ie, panicked attempts to cling to the plane after jumping).
The first thing we had to take care of was the boring task of paperwork. That means disclaimers with legalese about the possibility of injury or even death.
Trust me. We were well aware.
If at first you don’t succeed, then skydiving definitely isn’t for you.
Getting Fitted With Skydive Gear
Paperwork complete, it was time to get geared up for the big jump. At this point, it still didn’t quite seem real that we would be jumping out of a plane soon.
We were each introduced to our instructor, an experienced skydiver who would be our tandem pilot for the jump.
For a short time, life was as simple as focusing on their instructions while they kept us busy getting geared up. They fitted us with goggles, a soft helmet, and a zipper jumpsuit, then followed that up with a quick safety lesson.
Once we were geared up and had completed the safety briefing, it was hurry up and wait.
The worst part.
Well, that and the moment when we inched our way out to the open door of the plane and willingly threw ourselves into freefall.
But while we were waiting, the waiting felt like the hardest part.
It didn’t help that we were given an assigned time slot for our group, and we could check the TV screen on the wall to watch us get bumped up. As each group was called up and our name inched toward the top, it just made the waiting worse.
Does anyone else hate public speaking?
It’s like that – the waiting for your turn as the nerves build and you just want to get the show on the road.
If I had to choose between skydiving and public speaking, I’d take skydiving any day. So much less scary.
The Plane – Up, Up & Away!
And then just like that, it was time to board.
Our time was up. Our number was punched. It was our turn to go.
You see how all of these sound ominous, don’t you?
Climbing the few steps up into the small plane, we took our seats in single file on either side of the Cessna.
Because of weight restrictions, one member of our party hadn’t been able to fly with the rest of us. He’d been bumped to the next group going up after ours.
We felt bad for him as the rest of us settled in for the 15-minute flight up to our “exit” altitude of 14,000 feet.
The “Exit” – The Scariest Part
My instructor, Boonie, tapped my shoulder from behind. Patting his lap, he indicated I scooch back from my seated position on the floor of the plane onto his lap.
A former German paratrooper, this was undoubtedly old hat to him.
How many times had he jumped? Did he even still get a rush?
I, on the other hand, was new to the business – and I certainly wasn’t accustomed to sitting on strange men’s laps.
Awkwardly inching backward, I inwardly cursed my steady diet of pommes, doner kebabs, and apfelkuchen while in Germany. Convinced I was squishing poor Boonie, I silently vowed to eat more vegetables once we were safely on the ground.
Over the steady throb of the plane engine, he yelled enthusiastically, “ARE YOU READY TO DO THIS??”
I gave him a thumbs up, grinning like a fool who still doesn’t know what’s about to happen. Apparently lacking common sense, I wasn’t nervous. I was just excited.
And then someone opened the door of the plane.
And at that moment, if I hadn’t been tightly strapped to Boonie’s confident and relaxed 6-foot+ frame, I just might have ridden that plane straight back down to the airfield.
I’ll probably never know if I could’ve actually made the leap on my own because I was strapped to Boonie, and he was intent on throwing us out of that plane.
I’ll never forget those few seconds when it came time to butt waddle like a drunken crab over to the door, swing my legs out, and hang suspended over nothingness.
Head back, arms tucked in, wind roaring in my ears…
Stomach clenched in anticipation…
Nothing to stop us from falling except for Boonie’s firm grasp on the edge of the plane.
And then he let go.
The Freefall – 60 Seconds of Pure Adrenaline
It’s funny, the things you remember.
During our entire experience of skydiving in Germany, I don’t remember ever being afraid or worrying that something could go wrong. I’d heard horror stories about people vomiting after their first jump or panicking mid-air. Obviously you hear about the occasional accident with parachute failure or a mid-air collision.
Mostly I was just worried I’d do something to embarrass myself or fail to stick the landing.
It never occurred to me that the hardest thing to do during freefall is simply to BREATHE.
What does skydiving feel like?
It feels like breathlessness. Nothing can prepare you for the roar of the wind and the force of it pushing the air back into your lungs.
Your body struggles to adjust to the onslaught of entirely new sensations. You’re suddenly weightless, briefly upside down, the ground nothing but a nearly solid expanse of green cleaved from the sky by the horizon.
I felt like I didn’t take a breath until we’d been in freefall for several minutes, yet the entire freefall from 4000 meters to 1500 meters only lasted 60 seconds.
And literally within seconds of leaving the plane, I started babbling over and over, “This is amazing.
Some people say it doesn’t feel like you’re falling. I don’t know what they smoked before their jump, but I definitely felt like I was falling. So did Travis.
At least for the first few seconds.
But it doesn’t feel like the sickening way your stomach revolts when you hit a steep drop on a roller coaster or when you nearly fall off something and catch yourself at the last second.
More than anything, skydiving feels like flying. Arms wide, fingers outstretched, utterly weightless.
It’s as close to pure freedom as I’ve ever felt.
Parachuting – Swirling & Sunshine
Another tap on the shoulder. That was the signal for me to tuck in my arms, elbows at sides.
We’d reached 1500 meters.
Boonie pulled the cord and our parachute unfurled above us like a flower in spring. The roaring wind abruptly became a soft breeze as we drifted gently above patchwork green fields.
After a few seconds of peaceful drifting, Boonie gestured for me to take the controls. Suddenly I was in charge!
Was he crazy??
Tentatively tugging on one side, our course barely shifted until Boonie grabbed my arm and pulled down, hard.
Finally, a turn!
He let me play around for a few seconds before taking the controls back.
“Do you want to spin?” he asked.
“Ye-AH!” I whooped.
Pulling hard to one side, he sent us into a deep spin so fun it surprised a ridiculous giggle out of me. Expertly bringing us out of the 360-degree spin, he guided us toward our landing field below.
Sticking the Landing
Now I’m not sure how many ways there are to land or which one is “best,” but we landed on our butts.
It might not be glamorous, but it sure was easy.
I’m guessing it’s also less risky, since the majority of skydiving accidents come from injuries to the lower limbs during landing. If you have to land on your feet and hit the ground running, you’re more likely to twist an ankle or break a leg.
Instead, our instructor had us tuck our legs straight up in front of us while still in the air – and keep them up.
On the ground on your butt.
Tips for a Better Skydiving Experience
1. Sky dive with a friend.
As with everything in life, the entire experience is so much more fun with a friend – or even better, a group of friends! Beforehand it helps ease your nerves, and afterwards, you’ll forever have the shared memories of that crazy time you went skydiving together.
Since you’re presumably a newbie jumper reading this, you won’t be able to actually jump with your friend using the same parachute. You’ll each be jumping with an instructor.
Ideally though, you should be able to go through everything else together, from the brief safety training to gearing up and going up in the same plane.
2. Wear comfortable, practical clothes.
If you’re wondering what to wear when skydiving, go for comfort. The company should provide you with goggles, a helmet or soft but snug hoodie for your hair, and a zip-up jumper to put on over your clothes. For women, yoga pants are ideal.
Footwear is probably the most important single article of clothing since you definitely don’t want a loose shoe flying off in mid-air. Sneakers are ideal, and sandals or loose shoes likely won’t even be allowed.
Some companies will have you land on your feet also, so it’s extra important to wear sturdy shoes.
Trav Travel Tip: If your wedding ring is loose at all, take it off before your jump. Trav’s is loose, and he easily could’ve lost it skydiving. He left it with a friend on the ground before the jump.
3. Opt for the videos/photos & budget for them (see costs below).
While we can’t speak for all skydiving companies, it’s generally not allowed for jumpers to film their own jump with an iPhone, GoPro, camera, etc. The risk is too high.
Normally this is the kind of thing we cheap out on, but we’re so glad we didn’t. Get the video if you can afford it!
Even if you don’t necessarily want to share your jump, it’s really cool to have them for your own memories.
4. Don’t plan to drive after your jump.
Sounds like odd advice, right? And it might be, but for the random person who has lingering effects (like vertigo) from skydiving, it’s safer not to be behind the wheel.
I didn’t suffer from this, but Travis definitely did.
As soon as we left the airfield in Bad Saulgau, we had a 5-hour drive home. Travis started out behind the wheel, but after just 20 minutes on the road, we both realized something was wrong. On a straightaway, he suddenly swerved within his lane for no reason. When it happened again, he immediately pulled over.
He realized his sense of equilibrium was off. He kept feeling like he was falling, so he’d jerk the wheel to correct for it – but we were driving straight. Not good. Not good at all. So I drove us home.
Oddly, he still gets the same sense of falling whenever he thinks about skydiving. It’s not a big deal though; we just can’t talk about skydiving at all while he’s driving.
Skydiving Frequently Asked Questions
How fast do you fall when sky diving?
120 miles per hour!
It’s pretty crazy.
Can anyone do a tandem skydive?
No. Most companies have a skydiving weight limit, as well as age and height restrictions.
For Skydive Saulgau, you have to be at least 1.4 meters tall (4’6″) and at least 14 years old. Minors must have a parent present. In general, the maximum weight is 90 kg (198 lbs).
What’s the average skydiving height?
Most skydiving companies use an altitude of either 14,000 or 10,000 feet for their jumps. For those skydiving in Germany, that’s the equivalent of about 4200 meters vs just over 3000 meters.
That matters because it affects how long you’re in freefall once you jump. A 14,000 foot jump will give you 60 seconds of free fall, twice that of a 10,000 foot jump.
It’s also worth noting that the German Parachute Sports Association requires that all tandem jumps start from at least 2500 meters altitude.
How much time should you allow for the entire skydive?
Allow at least 3-4 hours from check-in to landing.
If you go with Skydive Saulgau, it takes about 15 minutes to reach an altitude of 4000 meters (14000 ft) for the jump.
You’ll be in freefall for about 60 seconds.
Once the tandem master pulls the rip-cord at 1500 meters, you’ll parachute to earth for about 3-5 minutes.
Make sure to allow extra time to snuggle the resident pupper dog after your jump.
Is skydiving in Germany safe?
While it may not seem like it, skydiving is relatively safe.
Sounds crazy, right?
It just seems like it would be such a risky thing to do.
Yet statistically there are far fewer deaths from skydiving per year than lots of things we do every day and don’t even think about it. Your chance of dying in a car accident in the US is 1 in 114. Bike accident? One in 4486. Even your chance of dying fromlightning is more likely than dying while skydiving.
We don’t know the exact numbers for skydiving in Germany, but we can only imagine that in a country known for its safety rules and regulations, skydiving is even safer.
Can you sky dive in bad weather?
No, reputable companies will cancel jumps in bad weather: high winds, thunder and lightning, etc.
Skydive Saulgau recommends calling them on the day of your jump to confirm favorable weather conditions.
How much does skydiving cost?
Skydiving prices vary quite a bit, depending on where you go, the type of jump you do, and the quality of the company.
In general, tandem skydiving is expensive. Shop around for the best skydiving places: ask friends or sources you trust, read online reviews, and be careful about going with a company just because they offer cheap rates. You get what you pay for, and safety is important.
Companies will also sometimes advertise lower rates by having you jump from a lower altitude. This is cheaper for them, thus cheaper for the customer, but you have to weigh how much less time you’ll get in the air.
Prices at Skydive Saulgau start at €229 per person with discounts if you buy a voucher online or book for a group. Their jumps are from 4000 meters (14000 feet).
This price doesn’t include photo or video services, so make sure to budget for that as well. We paid an additional €74 each for the “Tandemmaster handheld video” services.
You can also pay more to have a separate skydiver film your entire jump, but we were really happy with our videos.
Disclaimer: We received a generous discount on our jump because we went as a group booked with our friend’s voucher. However, we are not affiliated with Skydive Saulgau, we don’t earn any money if you book with them or click on any links on our site, nor did they sponsor our jump. We simply had a fabulous time with them.
Live in Germany and looking for “skydiving near me?”
Want to try skydiving in Germany but not ready for the real thing?
Consider indoor skydiving. Europe has lots of centers that allow you to get a feel for what skydiving is like without actually jumping out of a plane.
One of the most popular places for indoor skydiving in Germany is WINDOBONA in Berlin.
Fun Facts About Skydiving
What’s the highest altitude skydive jump ever done?
In 2014, retired Google exec Alan Eustace set a world record for the highest skydiving in the world. He jumped from the stratosphere at an altitude of 41.4 km (25.7 miles) and was in freefall for 15 minutes. Crazy!
He broke the record previously set by daredevil jumper Felix Baumgartner. Baumgartner still holds the record though for the fastest freefall speeds ever recorded – a whoppin’ 1,342 km/h (833.9 mph).