Who hasn’t dreamed of flying? Humans have been obsessed with the idea of flight from the beginning of time. However, planes, helicopters, and even hoverboards all require riding complex contraptions to get you in the air. You can jump out of an airplane of course, but isn’t that really falling, instead of flying? However, indoor skydiving offers a unique experience of … well flying, and it’s very cool.
A few years ago, I stopped giving Jeremy traditional gifts. Instead, I prefer to gift experiences wherever possible. I’ve sent him on survival training, race car driving, and even to the BMW Performance Center to push the limits behind the wheel of some very expensive cars.
Read about Jeremy’s BMW Performance Drive Experience.
Last Christmas, I realized we were only two hours away from North America’s largest indoor skydiving wind tunnel, Paraclete XP. Plus, they were running a Black Friday special on Family Gift Certificate Packages. Win! I’m so going to do this one with him!
What To Expect For Indoor Skydiving
Arriving 45 minutes before our scheduled flight time, we checked in at the front desk, filled in a liability waiver (of course), and headed upstairs to meet our instructor.
Being the largest wind tunnel, Paraclete XP attracts more than just first time flyers. Slightly intimidating, but also majorly entertaining, a team of twelve or so competitive air acrobats practiced in the wind tunnel as we waited. Amazing!
It wasn’t long before our instructor, Max, rounded up seven of us for the scheduled time slot.
First Training, Then Gearing Up
Don’t expect too much from training. Our instructor, popped in a short video going over the basics; correct posture, and a small number of hand gestures.
The posture is awkward. Arms slightly bent out front, fingers spread out like webbing. Hips slightly tilted up; this is where most guys struggled. Knees bent, with legs shoulder width apart. Most importantly, chin up. It’s not quite the superman pose I was expecting.
Last, a quick review of the hand signals before getting our gear. Two straight fingers for straighten legs, two curled fingers for curled legs, one finger pointing up to lift the chin, and the shaka (thumb and pinky back) for relax.
Got it, let’s gear up.
What To Wear For Indoor Skydiving?
Empty those pockets; nothing goes in the wind tunnel. No jewelry, no wallets, no phones, no cameras, nothing at all. Small lockers were available, but since we couldn’t bring in keys, they didn’t actually lock.
We envisioned taking photos and video of each other as we waited our turns, but this was a no go. If you want your own photos, bring a spectator, or fly at different time slots.
Most facilities offer video packages, you can see ours below. The video was taken from the control booth on the other side of the scratched glass and the quality is disappointing. We can’t speak for the quality of the iFly locations, who also offers photography packages.
Jumpsuits go straight over your cloths so don’t wear anything too bulky or restrictive. Loose jeans, shorts, t-shirts all work just fine. Shoes with laces are a must.
As the tunnel is super loud, hence the hand signals, we were given ear plugs. Finally, we we grabbed goggles and a helmet. Yup, we looked like complete dorks.
Quick tip for those with long hair. Tuck it into your helmet if you can. If not, fix it into a very tight braid at the base of your skull. Make sure the bottom hair tie will not come out. I had mine in a low pony tail and it got so knotted I had to use a conditioning mask, along with a lot of patience, to get it all out.
How Long Are The Flight Sessions?
It’s a rather short experience. Even with getting there 45 minutes before our scheduled time, all up we were there about 2 hours.
Flight sessions are short, just 1-2 minutes. At first this may sound disappointing, but holding yourself in position is exhausting.
As we had 10 minutes to split between us, we both did 3 rounds of 1 minute 40 seconds. Everyone else in the group had two rounds, which meant Jeremy and I were up first. Yikes!
What Does Indoor Skydiving Feel Like?
At the sound of the bell, another group exited as our group filed onto the bench in the waiting chamber. As I waited my turn, I felt myself getting surprisingly nervous.
As Jeremy exited the chamber, I slipped up to the doorway. Arms crossed in front of my chest, I took a deep breath and performed a forward trust fall into the tunnel. Holding on to my waist, our instructor started with hand signals, adjusting my legs and arms to stabilize myself.
Finally, there it was, the shaka hand signal and a big smile from our instructor telling me to relax. I took another deep breath, and just let my fears go. As I relaxed, he let go of my waist and I floated around the tunnel.
The sensation is challenging to describe. Half floating, half flying, it was like trying to figure out the controls in a new video game. For the most part, I found myself hovering in place or aimlessly floating around the tunnel.
Slight movements sent me up higher into the chamber, which made me very nervous. On my first go, I was pretty happy just floating around the bottom near the metal safety netting.
As I exited the chamber, our instructor Max gave me a thumbs up as he yelled out to the group that my flight was perfect. Ahh, already teacher’s pet.
By our second round, Max was giving us instructions for turning, which was a ton of fun. I never got it completely down, but Jeremy was very good at it.
As a final hurrah on our last round, our instructor gripped on to the back of our flight suits and whirled us up to the top of the tunnel. How awesome! Not all instructors do this, so if you want to give it a try, ask ahead.
Below is a short video of our 3rd flights. Slightly sped up as it’s a little more interesting. Jeremy’s very good with turns on this round, and you’ll see at the end when the instructor takes us for a quick spin at the top.
Answering Typical Concerns About Indoor Skydiving
Is Indoor Skydiving Safe?
For the most part YES, but people have been injured during indoor skydiving. Common injuries I could find tend to be shoulder dislocations and muscle strains.
Personally, I believe having a good instructor is a must.
- During Jeremy’s first flight, his legs almost got sucked through the door, but our instructor was immediately there to course correct and get him sorted again.
- Another guy in our group managed to flip over at around 10 feet in the air. As he came quickly down our instructor caught him, made sure he was okay, then flipped him over and got him stable again.
- Several times, Jeremy and the other guys in our group came down from up high up quite quickly. Our instructor was straight there to make sure they were safe.
Though people have been injured during indoor skydiving, the risks are low compared to just about any other sport experience, like skiing, white water rafting, or skydiving.
It’s worth noting, Jeremy left the facility feeling fine, but I was sore. My muscles felt like jelly. The next day, it really kicked in. We both felt beat up, especially around our shoulders and arms. Our soreness lasted about two days. Can you imagine if we did more than 5 minutes each!
Can You Breath While Indoor Skydiving?
YES! Though I kept finding myself holding my breath. Jeremy had a huge cheesy grin the whole time on his first run. The wind blowing open his mouth made him look like a Wallace and Gromit character, it was too funny. So, I found myself super conscious about keeping my mouth closed.
Can You Eat Before Indoor Skydiving?
Another YES! There’s nothing special you need to do to prepare. However, they don’t recommend consuming alcohol beforehand.
Is Indoor Skydiving Safe For Kids?
They advertise indoor skydiving as safe for kids 3 to 103. Here’s what we noticed.
The 5 year old in our group was terrified. The instructor tried his best, but she wasn’t going anywhere without mom. Since you can’t go in with your child, they have to be aware they will be on their own with the instructor.
However, their 9 year old son loved it and was great at it. The instructor had the control room slow down the fan speed for the kids, as they don’t need so much lift.
So, this one comes down to the personality of your kid. It’s a loud machine, it’s a strange feeling, and though you will be close by watching, they will be with a stranger. If they can handle that, then they would likely love it.
Do They Weigh You?
We are not aware of any facility that weighs its participants. However, there is a 250 lb weight limit.
Would I Do It Again?
Hands down, YES! I loved it. When we got home, we watched over the videos. There’s so many things I want to try. Plus, I’d really love to get down those turns.
Where To Stay Near Paraclete XP?
Paraclete XP is in Raeford, North Carolina, really close to Fayetteville, Fort Bragg and the famous golf community, Pinehurst. Any of those areas make a great base for North America’s largest indoor wind tunnel.
- One of the closest options is budget friendly and clean, check out the Holiday Inn & Suites – Fayetteville W-Fort Bragg Area
- Looking for southern charm, The Magnolia Inn at Pinehurst has a great location in a gorgeous setting.
- If you prefer to have your own kitchen, a holiday home like The Tudor Cottage in Pinehurst is a lovely option.
A Quick Note About Covid
Though the front staff were wearing masks, the gear was cleaned, and several hand sanitizer stations made available, it’s impossible to completely eliminate the risk in this environment.
Most participates wore masks, but once you get geared up, you have to remove masks as they can’t go in the tunnel. There’s no way they would stay on.
Besides from the close proximity with your instructor, you’re also in close proximity to your group.
However, during normal times, indoor skydiving facilities are super busy, especially on weekends. As Paraclete XP is not allowing spectators right now, it wasn’t crowded or busy at all. We felt our exposure to others was rather minimal.