New AFF Student w/ massive door fear!

Recommended Posts

On July 4th I took my AFF class, made my first jump, completely de-arched on exit, funneled, lost my first instructor in seconds, and locked legs with the second instructor, all I remember was flipping upside down for some time as she tried to get me to widen out my legs and eventually she released my chute for me.

Flew out of state for 20min tunnel time, went decent.

I was terrified. I came back the next weekend, rode up, couldn't get myself to jump was literally petrified couldn't even get in the door. Did a tandem jump and went home.

Went back last week, rode up, same issue! Came down, rode up for a tandem , rode down again.

I want to do this more than anything, by biggest fear is having a repeat of my first jump. That and the noise after the door opens. I have done heliskiing, and have no fear of the height. It's the loud noise that bothers me. Any tips? I have looked for a DZ that does Static as I feel that the idea of the chute opening minutes after we exit w/o any responsibility will instill more confidence to help get me past my door fear.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
Yes, the door's scary. And yes, you do it anyway. That's kind of the point, isn't it? I think you need to see that you can do it and do it well. With 20 minutes in the tunnel, stability shouldn't be much of an issue. You know how to get stable, right?

If the noise is the problem, maybe talk to your instructor about wearing ear plugs. They usually want to talk to you on the ride up, but perhaps you could put them in when you're coming around to jump run.

If you can get past it, the door's just a door. The door in your head is a lot scarier than the door on the plane.
I'm trying to teach myself how to set things on fire with my mind. Hey... is it hot in here?

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
I was really very freaked by the noise and volume of wind at the door. Exit can be extremely tough mentally. I am not yet licensed and I am not an instructor either, so take what I say in the context of that. But, what I found worked best for me was to visualise a perfect jump on the ride up and the steps I would have to do on that level. Push aside other thoughts. Know its normal to be scared especially early on. But if you want it enough you will find a way to feel the fear but do it anyway. Door fear lessens with each jump even if it takes a few to feel a big difference. You just have to find ways to manage the fear and keep in mind your goal, that you want to learn to skydive.
For me what I found was on the ride up I would deep breathe to relax my body as much as I could, and visualise a great jump and go over all the steps repeatedly in my head on the plane (and I had been doing this on the ground too, before gearing up) so that I knew the dive plan. Instructors told me to do this but also I learnt it after my first jump, from reading Brian Germain's book Transcending Fear. Its a great book if you have not read it.
When it was time to go to the door, I just focussed on the required steps to exit. Then once I was out, the second I hit the air, the rest of the dive plan for freefall and deployment. Then the rest till I was on the ground. I honestly think the only way I handled it was to just eat the elephant one bite at a time. Those first couple of jumps, when I thought about all of it it was overwhelming. Breaking it down really helped. I was so scared on AFF 1, I was literally pushed/pulled out the door on my exit count, because my legs didn't work. I can laugh about it now but it wasn't much fun at the time. Its easily the hardest thing I have ever done. I just grit my teeth and dug my heels in and was determined to learn despite being scared. Just because you are scared right now does not mean you can't learn, so long as you can function and follow instruction. You will probably find the next exit tough but if you re-manifest and jump again the same day, the ones that follow will be easier.

One of the biggest things that I wish I could have got sorted earlier was noise reduction by a good helmet, because I found the noise was a massive distraction. The helmet I had in AFF did not fit well, but had a radio installed in the back of it. Zero noise reduction from it. The fit was so bad for me I hated it and hunted down a good design preloved helmet to get started with once I was off radio support (with instructor approval of course). I hated the wind in my ears. I can't say how much difference it has made to my ability to concentrate and relax. Its a helmet from Cookie, and what I found was I can still hear the instructor talking to me in the plane but the noise reduction when the door opens and when I am out is really awesome, everything is a lot more peaceful and I can think. There is still noise of course but its in the background now. For me it was almost like the wind at the door, and the first few dives until I learned to sort of tune it out more, were just extra sensory stuff on top of already being scared, that I found it all almost totally overwhelming. The helmet really helped reduce that sensory input a lot. I graduated AFF a few weeks ago and love skydiving so much.

Tunnel time certainly helps you learn to relax in the wind.
Do some reading on the forums, if you search for Door Monster or Exit Fear you will find threads where others before you have shared what worked for them.
If you are truly freaked out maybe talk to your instructor if they offer TAF programs. A friend of mine got really scared, bailed out of the first jump as AFF, did it as TAF. Came back after a bit and worked through the AFF course. Graduated. Whatever it takes to learn...
I hope you keep at it. The rewards are absolutely worth it.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
Static Line or Instructor Activated Deployment are great to take the load off and to all you to do canopy practice. But you could easily be afraid to do a SL jump as well if you allow yourself to focus on the things that bother you, like the noise.

I will say that I have very sensitive and previously damaged hearing so I am careful with loud noise. Earplugs helped me a lot but you will need to work with your instructors regarding earplugs to make sure you can hear them when you need to and under canopy if they use radios. I am very accustom to listening through the plugs, even before skydiving, so they were not a problem for me, but approach the idea with some testing and instructor involvement.

Your pattern of allowing the fear to win more and more, now won't even let you do a tandem. You might consider waiting a while. The real truth is that you will jump when your desire to do so exceeds your desire to stay in the plane. Having time off may allow your desire to increase, or maybe your fear to increase, it just depends on you.

I had two major problems as a student. They were motion sickness and poor stability due to a poor/weak arch. Time off helped me become more determined, be more flexible, and to be more mentally prepared to overcome my challenges. I got calmed down, regrouped, and better prepared to manage the training.
Instructor quote, “What's weird is that you're older than my dad!”

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account. It's free!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now