Do skydivers feel weightless when they enter freefall? It’s hard even to begin to imagine how freefall feels unless you’ve experienced it. Comparing it to riding on a rollercoaster and passing its peak isn’t an ideal example, nor is the sensation of a bungee jump. The feelings are very different. 

Weightless is one way some have described it, but what does that mean? How can falling so quickly translate to a weightless feeling? Will you feel weightless for the entire freefall? 

Let’s talk about the feeling you get from freefall and why some describe it as feeling weightless. We can also look at whether your stomach drops or if you feel a sense of falling.

Do you feel weightless when skydiving?

Do you feel weightless when skydiving?

If someone tells you that when you jump out of a plane at 12,000 feet and start falling to the earth at 120 MPH, you will feel weightless, you may think they’re joking or a little confused. Surely falling from a plane feels like… well, falling? But in reality, weightlessness is a relatively articulate way of describing it. 

The moment you leave the plane and drop into freefall, you will instantly feel a sense of floating. The closest comparison we can think of is floating on a lilo or inflatable bed on a pool. It’s a very laid-back and calming feeling. Just like you are cushioned by the water when gliding on a pool, you feel cushioned by the air as it caresses your body in freefall. 

So are we actually weightless when we are in freefall? No, you still weigh what you weigh, and that weight, combined with your surface area and gravity, determines how fast you fall. But when you hit your terminal velocity (your falling top speed, around 120 MPH), you are no longer accelerating or decelerating. At that moment, you are neither grounded nor are there sensations of being pushed or pulled. It’s that feeling of no force acting on you that gives the sense of weightlessness.

Does your stomach drop when skydiving?

Does your stomach drop?

On a rollercoaster or certain carnival rides, you will often be pushed, pulled, and thrown around, trying to give you that stomach-dropping sensation. It’s a fun way to get a quick natural buzz (as long as you don’t vomit). If you’ve never skydived before, it’s normal to assume the freefall part of your skydive will feel like your stomach is dropping x100. But in reality, it doesn’t feel like that at all.

When you are in a rollercoaster car clicking to the peak of the first significant drop, the seat you are sitting on pushes you up while also carrying you to a greater altitude. At the same time, gravity is pushing you down against the seat. The moment you pass the peak and the roller coaster suddenly drops down, you feel that stomach-dropping sensation. While there is that sense of weightlessness for a brief moment, it’s also combined with the rollercoaster car suddenly pulling you in a different direction. While this is similar to the weightlessness of skydiving, it still feels very different.

When you drop from a skydiving plane, the actual drop is much smoother. Unlike a roller coaster passing the peak, there is a less sudden change in direction. While a roller coaster lifts you up and then suddenly pulls you down, in freefalling, you are at the mercy of gravity alone, gradually accelerating to your terminal velocity. The feeling of a skydiver is not only different, but it’s more exciting and more tranquil at the same time.

So why do you feel it in your stomach? The reason you feel this sensation in your stomach is down to the fact your stomach and intestines are a bit more ‘floaty’ than other organs in your body, and they feel sudden movements more.

Does skydiving feel like you are falling fast?

You accelerate at the same speed as a Nascar

When you leave the plane and enter freefall, you fall pretty fast. Within a second, you are traveling 10 MPH, and by about 3.1 seconds, you should hit about 60 MPH. That’s about the same 0-60 speed as a top Nascar. So you’d think it would feel like you are falling extremely fast. But freefall gives you that sense of weightlessness, and it also doesn’t feel like you are falling fast at all.

It’s all about perception. When you are in a road vehicle, and you slam down the accelerated to rapidly gain speed, the world rushes by you. The faster you go, the quicker the trees and fields pass by. The perception of things rushing past you combined with the noise, and physical sensations is the feeling of accelerating fast and traveling at high speed. When you skydive, you are at such great heights that you feel disconnected from the world below. When you jump, the world surrounding you looks like the most beautiful landscape picture, almost surreal and tranquil in beauty, rather than something you are hurtling toward. Nothing is passing you, and the ground is so slowly moving toward, you don’t get that sense of falling at 120 MPH.

There are moments when you pass close to a cloud, and that can suddenly give you a sense of your speed. But this is usually brief as it passes so fast. Base jumping and wingsuiting are very different, and due to jumping in close proximately to objects and land, there is a very real feeling of traveling at fast speeds. Just as the adrenalin kick is an exaggerated fear instinct, the sense of floating and weightlessness is as much about mental perception.

So what does skydiving feel like?

So what does skydiving feel like?

Perhaps the best way to describe the sensation of skydiving is that it’s like flying. 

When you reach the point of jumping out the plane door, a lot is going on physically and mentally. Freefall doesn’t come as a surprise; some skydivers start buzzing and feeling the anticipation of a jump hours or even days before the actual jump. When you ride up in the plane, your heart is already beating, and your fight or flight instincts are kicking in. Then when you finally face those doubts and fears and exit the plane into that weightless feelings, your emotions all change again.

The freefall has a sense of payoff. Partly it’s rewarding as you have broken past the doubts and anxieties and made the jump. Partly it’s calming and can give you an almost zen-like outlook, contrasting the nervous energy and stress you felt leading up to the jump.

Rather than your stomach dropping and feeling the intense speed of the fall, you actually feel weightless, and it feels like time slows down. In addition to the lack of speed perception, the natural adrenalin rush you are getting is also opening up your airways, feeding more oxygen and blood around your body. This rush of adrenalin ultimately makes you think and feel with much more clarity. It’s hard to honestly explain the feeling or find words that do it justice. The best way to find out exactly how it feels is by facing it head-on and doing a skydive yourself. I promise you won’t regret it.