Well, now that you've made up your mind that you want to do this you can't just rent a parachute from the costume store on the main street and take a leap out of your cousin's Cessna! Not only would it be illegal it might prove to be an unhealthy way to enter the sport!
So where can you go? There are few ways you can find the nearest DZ to you:
The Dropzone.com Dropzone Database lists more than 700 DZs all over the world. Organized by region, country and state you can browse and search the database till you find a DZ near you. There's a lot of information on our pages and in most cases you can jump straight to the web page of the DZ for more information. You can also read reviews by other Dropzone.com members who have jumped here before. It's a great resource!
If you're in the USA, call the United States Parachute Association at 540.604.9740 or visit their web site to get the name of an affiliated drop zone in your area.
Dropzone.com has more than 32,000 members and with more than 1.2 million posts to the forums you'll be certain to hear from someone. Register for a free Dropzone.com account and ask about DZs in your area in the Dropzone.com Forums.
Yes, as you know you can find almost anything on Google. Use your city or region name and "skydiving" or "skydive" as keywords and see what it spits out.
Look in the Yellow Pages online in your local phone directory. You're bound to find some skydiving ceters under "parachuting" or "skydiving".
You probably have some friends who have done it. Are they still alive? If so, then go to the same place they did; that way, you can feel assured of your safety. ;-)
- Skydiving clubs - If you're in college, most universities have skydiving clubs. This offers a cheaper and easier way to get into the sport. Plus, nothing brings people together better than absolute terror. You may even make some friends.
How do I tell a good Drop Zone from poor one?
Most dropzones that provide regular student training will be affiliated with the official skydiving organizing and regulating body in your country. The United States Parachute Association (USPA) is the representative body for sport parachuting within the US, and a member of the FAI (the international equivalent). Representative and regulating bodies like the USPA usually develop and monitor safety and training doctrine for the sport. In some cases they also provide liability insurance for students and DZs in the case of damage to property. Ask about their official affiliations and benefits when you contact a DZ.
In the USA the USPA has successfully instituted rating programs for Coaches, Instructors, and Instructor-Examiners to ensure that only properly trained and qualified personnel work with students. In the USA you should insist on USPA Instructors and Coaches. If you're outside the USA, do not hesitate to ask about the rating programs for Instructors in your country and the qualifications of those people you'll be working with.
Do not be afraid to ask to see your Instructor or Coach’s rating card. It should show the appropriate rating and expiration date. Also note that currently, most Tandem Instructors are certified by both the the equipment manufacturer and USPA.
USPA affiliation is not required, and does not guarantee a DZ to be a "good" DZ, and non-affiliation does not mean the DZ is "bad". However, the USPA, through their diligence and caution, has compiled an excellent safety record over the years.
Use the Internet to do some research of your own. Reading the DZ reviews in the Dropzone Database is a good idea. Remember to always take everything online (good and bad) with a pinch of salt. If at all possible, one of the smartest things to do is to visit the DZ before you make your jump. Ask if you can sit in on a FJC. Hang around, talk to some people and pick up on the vibe.