10 Skydiving Terms You Should Know

Published: October 18, 2020

Skydiving is a sport with a veritable dictionary of funny terminology. When you walk around a dropzone, it can sometimes sound like we're speaking another language. Don't be dissuaded! Here are some of the more common ones, so you can have a little more context for your next conversation with a motor-mouthed jumper.

1. AAD

"AAD" stands for "Automatic Activation Device." This is an amazing little piece of equipment that lives next to the reserve parachute. The AAD deploys the reserve in the event that the jumper loses consciousness during freefall (or is otherwise unable to deploy his/her canopy in time). AADs are one of the big reasons why the safety of skydiving has improved so precipitously since the birth of the sport. (At the San Jose Skydiving Center, we're proud that all our tandem and student rigs are fitted with AADs!)

2. Beer Line

This is an imaginary line that separates the landing area from the area on the dropzone where landing is not allowed. If an experienced jumper accidentally lands past the beer line, he/she owes beer to everyone on the dropzone (after jumping is done for the day, of course) as a penance.

3. Burble

In skydiving, the burble is the area of turbulence created next to the jumper's body in freefall. When the jumper is falling in a belly-to-earth configuration, the burble is directly over his/her back. Different bodyflight configurations result in different burbles, but one thing is true, no matter what: if you wander into another jumper's burble, the turbulent air is likely going to cause a goofy crash.

4. Drogue

In a tandem system, the instructor deploys a drogue parachute shortly after exiting the aircraft, so as to reduce the terminal velocity of the tandem pair. Slowing down the tandem pair's descent rate allows the deployment to occur within a safe speed range.

5. Dropzone (DZ)

A dropzone is a skydiving-specific airdrome with an official parachute landing zone. Sometimes, a dropzone can be on a private airstrip; sometimes, it's on a municipal airport. Always, a dropzone is on an airfield. (...So if you look for a dropzone on Google and the address is in a town, there's something fishy going on!)

6. Jump Run

Jump run is the part of the skydiving aircraft's flight during which the door is open and jumpers are exiting the aircraft. Experienced skydivers all the way down on the ground can tell when a plane is on jump run (because the sound of the aircraft changes). We like to think of it as a superpower.

7. Belly Jumpers

Skydiving has more than its share of specific disciplines. "Freeflyers" monkey around in freefall in configurations that range from standing to sitting to upside-down to carving, and everything in-between. Wingsuiters fly those "flying squirrel" getups you've certainly seen on YouTube. "Swoopers" use small, zippy parachutes to execute high-speed maneuvers close to the ground. The term "belly jumper" sounds funny, but it's world-championship serious. It's a nickname for participants in a discipline called Relative Work, which sets groups of skydivers to the task of building complicated formations while they fall together in a belly-to-earth configuration.

8. Terminal Velocity

Terminal velocity is the constant speed that a freely falling object eventually reaches when the resistance of the medium through which it is falling prevents further acceleration. Terminal velocity for a skydiver is about 120mph--the top number on your car's speedometer!

9. The Spot

Skydivers are taught to peek out of the plane before throwing themselves out into the sky. The "spot" is the correct moment to leave the plane. A good spot allows a jumper to land back on the dropzone. Back before the advent of GPS, this was a much trickier process!

10. The Peas

This is the term for the spot on the dropzone designated for ultra-accurate landings. It's usually a circle of gravel with a radius of just a couple of feet. Landing "in the peas" is something to brag about!

Speaking of "something to brag about"--have you joined us for a skydive yet? We'd love to be a part of your best day ever!