Skydiving fever will take over the city for the next two weeks, as professional jumpers from more than 50 countries around the world arrive in Dubai to take to the skies. More than 1,000 participants will take part in the World Parachuting Championships Mondial 2012, which starts on Thursday November 29 and coincides with the celebrations for the 41st UAE National Day on Sunday December 2.
With all the action going on in the skies above our heads, there will be more reasons than ever to feel inspired to take up this high-adrenaline sport. Feeling inspired ourselves, we collared Raul Bocanegra, the general manager of Skydive Dubai’s desert campus and master instructor for the entire region, to find out what’s involved in becoming a professional skydiver, how much it costs, and the career opportunities open to qualified pros.
As you might have anticipated, choosing to pursue a sport that involves repeatedly boarding a plane and throwing yourself out requires rather a lot of capital. The first step in learning to skydive – the AFF, or ‘accelerated freefall’ course – costs Dhs10,000 at Skydive Dubai, after which Raul explains you’ll pay Dhs100 for every jump as you work your way through the licences. And that’s before you factor in equipment rental. ‘When you buy your own equipment, for something top-notch you’re looking at Dhs30,000. For something mid-range it’s anywhere between Dhs20,000 and Dhs30,000. You can find something used for Dhs10,000 but, you know, it’s your life. I’d want to spend the money,’ Raul explains.
‘It’s a very, very expensive sport. It’s been like that since the day I started, and it’s never going to change,’ he adds. ‘But surprisingly, even with the economy the way it is right now, drop schools around the world haven’t suffered – at all. I ask around with other drop school owners, and they tell me that instead of spending the money on a holiday, people just jump as a stress reliever. It makes sense, but it’s hard to believe,’ he laughs.
‘The first thing you’ll do is AFF –accelerated freefall, or tandem progression,’ Raul explains. The AFF requires you to complete eight successful jumps (each is a test), so depending on the student, it’s possible to complete your AFF within three days. You then start working your way through licences A to D. ‘A is 25 jumps, B is 50, C is 200 and D is 500,’ says Raul.
Apparently the fastest they’ve seen someone reach D licence in Dubai is a speedy 12 months, but he notes that finance will be a factor for most people. ‘There are certain requirements at each stage of training. For example, for the B, you have to do 50 jumps, but you must also have completed a canopy piloting course as well, which involves five jumps.’ Canopy piloting is considered one of the most important aspects of skydiving: Raul explains that 70 percent of all skydiving accidents occur when people don’t fly their canopies properly. ‘Another requirement for B is water training, and for D you have to do night jumps – each licence has a set of distinctive requirements.’
The next step
Once you have your D licence, the skydiving world is your oyster. You can train to be an AFF instructor, tandem instructor, or even decide you want to become part of the competition circle. ‘The great thing about this sport is that it’s a choice. Some guys become AFF instructors, and that’s all they want to do. Some decide to enter competitions. It’s like running: you can go running every day as a hobby, or you can enter marathons. It’s the same with skydiving.’ Whatever appeals to you, Raul explains that Skydive Dubai has world-class coaches ‘for everything in the world to do with skydiving’. ‘It’s a very, very addictive sport. You try it once and it’s all over.’
FAI World Parachuting Championships 2012
What? An enormous global event where the world’s best skydivers show off their skills in a series of competitions.
When? The championships start on Thursday December 29, when the first jumps will begin. The official opening ceremony takes place on Friday December 30, and the competitions will run until Saturday December 8, daily from 7.30am until sunset.
How much? The event is free for spectators.
Where? Skydive Dubai, behind Habtoor Grand Beach Resort & Spa, Dubai Marina. www.wpcuae.ae (04 324 4446).