If it’s your first time skydiving, you may start to have doubts and feel your survival instinct kicking in. A voice in your head might be telling you not to do it. You may think of ways it can go wrong, but in reality, it’s going to be a very safe experience. Spinning while in freefall is one common fear. Many newbies want to know how to stop a spin when skydiving, it’s not something you should worry about.

Skydiving spins aren’t very common, but they do occasionally happen. But don’t worry, with a little bit of know-how, you can learn how to stop them safely.

Let’s look at what we mean by a skydiving spin and how to stop one. We can talk about the common causes and best preventions and how to spot one starting.

What is a flat spin?

Sometimes known as a ‘flat spin,’ a skydiving spin is when your body begins to turn on its z-axis. You will adopt a belly-to-earth position when you jump out of the plane and go into your freefall. This positioning will have you spread out, with your face, belly, and feet pointed down to the ground. A skydiving spin is when your body then rotates horizontally, like a merry-go-round.

Such spins can quickly build momentum if not corrected, and you will begin to spin faster and feel less in control. The flat spin is very rare with skydivers. It’s more common with wingsuit flyers, but even then still a rarity and quick and easy to correct once you know what to do. 

How does a skydiving spin feel?

amusement park
How does a skydiving spin feel?

A skydiving spin will usually start slowly. At first, it will feel a little disorientating, but if you act quickly, it can be easy to break out of. If a skydiver doesn’t react quickly to a spin, it will begin to gain speed, and it will soon make you feel dizzy and lead to unconsciousness. As rare as they happen, it is even rarer for one to get out of control.

Felix Baumgartner is the skydiver who completed the famous Red Bull Stratos jump, breaking so many records. During his 128,000 feet altitude jump, he briefly entered a dangerous spin early on in his descent. It was less than a minute into the freefall, and Felix had already reached his terminal velocity of 834 MPH when he began to spin uncontrollably. Fortunately, he managed to stabilize himself before he fell unconscious.

Speaking in the press conference, Felix commented about his spin. He mentioned how it gave him a strange feeling that he was swimming without water, and he lost his sense of direction. While he did have an emergency drogue chute he could have released, he managed to fight out of it and continue the skydive unaided.

Felix went on to say: “When you spin so violent, what we call the rapid onset, all your blood goes into your brain, and there’s a lot of pressure. I had to maintain consciousness because I needed to stop this spin, and I did. I had to use all of my skydiving skills.’’

What causes you to spin?

A skydiving spin is usually caused by having too much asymmetry to your body shape and position. It is more common with newbie skydivers due to being too stiff and nervous. If your body is too rigid and flat, any asymmetry can be exaggerated and liken the chance of a spin. Once a spin starts, it can make anyone feeling stiff, and nerves react in the wrong way, getting even stiffer rather than relaxing.

In some respects, skydiving is more mental than physical. To perform well, you have to overcome irrational instincts and doubts. Staying relaxed and taking deep breaths is a key contributor to having a great dive. Feeling tense and rigid will only make your skydive more difficult.

How do you control a skydiving spin?

flying through the air
Freefalling in control

As mentioned above, if you start to notice yourself spinning, the first thing to do is relax and not panic. Take slow deep breaths and try to let your muscles and joints loosen up and relax. Think of your body as a kind of vehicle: the stiffer its parts are, the harder it is to steer and control. If you loosen up and relax, you will probably start to control and stop your skydiving spin.

If you are still turning, stay calm and try to ignore it. You can then try to consciously move your body to turn in the opposite direction. Intentionally trying to turn the opposite way should help you gain control of a rogue skydiving spin.

Another good way to stop an early spin is to create more asymmetry. By focussing on your body position, intentionally bending a leg or pointing a hand down, and then returning it into place, you can regain your symmetry.

How do you stop a spin when skydiving?

How do you stop a spin when skydiving?

You mustn’t deploy your parachute when in a skydiving spin. Doing so can easily cause your lines to get twisted. If your lines get twisted, you might need to cut them free and rely on your reserve. In a worst-case scenario, it may even cause your canopy to twist.

If the techniques of breathing deep and relaxing and attempting to reverse the spin aren’t working, there are other techniques to help you. One is to arch your back as much as you can. Arching will take away the flatness of your body and offset the power of the spin.

If the technique of lowering an arm or bending a knee, then retaking asymmetrical form, doesn’t work, try curling up into a ball. Bring your knees to your chest and wrap your arms around them. Imagine you are doing a dive bomb into a swimming pool. Only hold it for 1-2 seconds and then spread back out into the belly-to-earth position, trying to extend your arms and legs as far as they’ll go.

All this talk of spinning may all seem a little scary if you are new to skydiving, but it’s extremely rare. As you gain experience, you’ll quickly become more in control and confident in the air. And as a newbie, you’ll also have professionals diving with you, and if they see you starting to turn and panic, they will quickly come to adjust your position and get you back into a safe and fun freefall.