Male and female confidence in skydiving abilities


So a while back I wondered, “Do we fly differently?” First, thank you to everyone who participated in the survey!

As promised, here are charts and graphs and numbers and some surprises.1

We asked three questions:

  1. I am a ☐ female – or – ☐male.
  2. I felt confident in my canopy-flying and -landing skills at jump #___. [Fill in the number.]
  3. I felt confident in my freefall skills at jump #___. [Fill in the number.]

We’ll start you off with the takeaways: the four TL;DR graphs.

First, answers to the canopy confidence question, grouped by male and female answers (click any graph to enlarge):

Grouped answers to the question "I felt confident in my canopy-flying and -landing skills after about jump #___." |


As I expected, females reported lower overall confidence than males did.

But then we get to freefall confidence:

Grouped answers to the question "I felt confident in my freefall skills after about jump #___." |

What?! Women are confident in freefall earlier in their jumping careers than men are? Knock me over with a feather.

And now, differences in the males’ confidences in freefall and under canopy:

Male confidence levels in canopy versus freefall skills. |


And female confidence:

Female confidence levels in canopy versus freefall skills. |

“Confidence” is a very subjective term. I’m sure if we asked the exact same people the exact same questions again on a different day, they would answer differently. Confidence also doesn’t equal skill, obviously, and I wasn’t particularly interested in actual skill levels. I was interested in how people felt about their skill levels.

From our little (highly unscientific) survey, it seems that women are confident in freefall sooner than they are confident under canopy — but also sooner than men are! So there are two issues here: Proportionally lower female confidence in canopy skills and proportionally lower male confidence in freefall skills.

I have a few theories why, but I would really love to know what you all think, especially you instructors.

Do women function better in the structured world of AFF, where freefall is the emphasis, and therefore gain more confidence, and earlier? Is it because women are more easily coachable in freefall? Or is it because newbie women get invited on more jumps and have more free coaching offered to them? Are women more flexible and find it easier to arch into a good boxman? Are men more genetically suited to flying canopies and women to flying their bodies?

And, does any of this actually matter?


Nitty gritty details only numbers nerds will love

More charts and tables. Yippee!

The raw data (minus comments) is here if anyone would like to make their own charts or analyses: BSM-ConfidenceSurvey-2014-10-30 . Please let me know what you come up with!

287 people responded in total; 203 male and 84 female

287 people responded in total; 203 male and 84 female

Respondent Data

Female membership in the U.S. Parachute Association2 is, on average, about 14% and so is our readership. It’s not surprising to me that a proportionally higher number of females responded to this survey, especially because it was about a gender issue. Personally, and with no data to back this claim up, I see females responding at proportionally higher rates than males do whenever we have surveys or discussions.


(Complete side note: Ever wonder why most of the articles in our magazine are written by women? I’m not discriminating against men; women contribute way more than 14% of our content. It’s just who shows up and participates.)

Raw chart of responses to the question, “I felt confident in my canopy-flying and -landing skills after about jump #___.” with some milestone jump numbers highlighted:

Raw answers to the question "I felt confident in my canopy-flying and landing skills after about jump #___." |

“I felt confident in my canopy-flying and landing skills after about jump #___.”

Male Female
Mean 152 226
Median 75 150
Mode 50 200, “Not yet.”

So on average, men felt confident around jumps 75-150ish, and women felt confident somewhere between 150 and 200ish. For me, the most interesting number there is the mode, the answer most reported. 29 males, or 14% of the males, responded that they felt confident under canopy at jump 50. The mode for females was jump 200 and “not yet,” both with 10 female (12%) responses.

Most people felt confident under canopy by jump 100. Let’s look closer at those people:

Details for people who felt confident under canopy at or before jump 100. |

Woah. A not insignificant number of dudes were confident in their canopy skills at jump NUMBER ONE. Not a single female reported confidence with fewer than ten jumps.



“I felt confident in my freefall skills after about jump #___.”

Male Female
Mean 206 120
Median 100 73
Mode 100 40

So, males reported feeling confident in their freefall skills somewhere between 100 and 200 jumps; females felt confident between about 75 and 120.




And a bonus gif for anyone who’s stuck around this long, comparing canopy confidence to freefall confidence. Because gifs.

Women are far more confident in their freefall skills than men are. Who knew?


So after all that, what do you think?



1. Caveat: I am not a data scientist. I have mashed this data in obscene ways and presented it even worse. If you know what you’re doing and would be kind enough to offer me some guidance, please please do.


Reader question: What’s your dream life?


We wax damned poetically about Living The Dream. The elusive, beautiful, mystical LTD. We post amazing videos of people flying these unbelievable lines in European mountains and print stories about people who have cut away to live the dream.

Sometimes I get a little down on myself and wonder why I’m not out there LTD’ing it up, living in a tent at the base of an Italian mountain, hitchhiking to Kathmandu for a BASE documentary with a quick SCUBA excursion in the Caribbean before paragliding in outer Mongolia. When my idea of a good weekend is a few fun jumps and maybe some Bed Bath and Beyond, if there’s time – am I really living the dream? Does anyone else’s dream include naps and gardening?

So this month’s reader question is:

What is your LTD?

What would you really be doing if you won the jackpot?

My LTD is owning my own tiny, slightly shabby house in Florida, flying in the tunnel every now and then, putting out a smutty little magazine every month, being my own boss, making a high hop & pop every once in a while, reading in a kayak on a lake on a sunny day. If I won the lottery, I’d pay off all my debt, buy a few paragliding trips to Utah, and keep on keepin’ on. Shamefully bland dream life, but totally the one I’d pick. Thankfully, it’s also the life I live! LTD, yo.

Select responses will be printed in the upcoming issue of Blue Skies Mag. Comment here or email me at Sign your comment or email with your name or nickname as you would like it printed. Responses might be edited for spelling, grammar, clarity or space.

Friday Photo Challenge: Halloween Costumes

A skydiver's Halloween decorations.

It’s Friday, which is the best of all the days to issue challenges. And the f/ph sound, you know, it sounds like a good day to challenge you to dig up and post photos of your best skydive/BASE/paraglide Halloween costumes from years past.

We’ll start with one that doesn’t even follow the rules, because it’s a Halloween decoration, not a costume.

A skydiver's Halloween decorations.

A skydiver’s Halloween decorations.

Okay, go dig out your photos and share!

Do we fly differently?

male and female symbols

I don’t know if this is allowed or cool or against the rules of reddit or the galaxy, but there is a really good question posted over there right now. An anonymous girl wonders if she’s “that guy” at her DZ — the one people worry about because she’s so unsafe and terrible at skydiving.

The question – and resulting great advice – has nothing to do with sex and/or gender, but it’s what I’m still thinking about. From the start, I had a hunch it was posted by a girl. She talks about only doing small tracking jumps because she’s not 100% confident in her skills and doesn’t want to put other people in danger. I know there are exceptions #noteveryman but I don’t hear that concern from male jumpers often.

And landings. Oh, the dreaded female landing problem. I die inside a little every time I think about this. I want to not see the obvious — that it’s usually women who can’t stand up landings when they want to. It’s usually women who dislike, or even fear, canopy flight. It’s usually women who don’t quite “get” landing patterns. There are lots of really good female canopy pilots, not just competitive CPers, but everyday, good, solid pilots. The people who do have problems though? Yeah. Lots of women.

There is no biological reason why women should have more difficulty flying a parachute than men have. None. You can talk to me about iron levels in the nose or depth perception or whatever crap you want but I simply don’t believe men and women have enough physical differences to matter when it comes to flying and landing a modern-day parachute.

Am I right in thinking that, although women make up 15% of the sport, we take up a lot higher percentage of the people who had trouble with canopy flight – or are not confident in our skydiving skills all around?

If you wouldn’t mind, click the button below to take a super quick survey, because I like data. I have a hunch what the results will be like, but maybe I’m wrong. If you don’t want a pop-up survey, it’s also here:

I shall report back with glorious graphs and numbers; in the meantime, what do you think? Do you see more women than men struggle with canopy flight and confidence in general? What can we do about that? Sisters In Skydiving is a great start; are there other programs or tactics you’ve seen work well?

PS: I don’t really know if this is a sex or a gender thing. I use “male” and “female” here in a kind of hazy, generic sex-and-gender way, with no intention to exclude or limit — more because I have no idea where the skydiving-confidence difference comes from.

Have you or someone else you know been that skydiver that other skydivers worry about? … | reddit

i58: Do It Anyway

Blue Skies Magazine October 2014 cover

It’s alive! Our October issue is mailing out now to current subscribers. If you are not a current subscriber, you can change that right here, right now.

Please give it until October 31 for the postal service to get your mag to you. If you still don’t have it by then, let us know by emailing Kolla at and she’ll get you sorted.

Blue Skies Magazine October 2014 cover

i58: October 2014 | James “Macca” Macdonald takes a selfie during UK Parachuting’s Sibson Boogie.

On the Cover

MACCA SELFIE WOAH! James “Macca” Macdonald takes a selfie during UK Parachuting’s Sibson Boogie and Beth Victor (née Athanas) writes about something I’m sure none of us have ever felt before. You know, because we’re all such radical, extreme WOAH risk takers. Or, you’re a normal person like Beth (and me, and Kolla) who is actually quite cautious, despite participating in one of the world’s most dangerous sports.

Featured Photo

Jim Hickey‘s parachute on fire. Really. Photo by Niklas Daniel,

The FlyBy

  • Comic Relief by Nadene Beyerbach, | Dummy holes abound.
  • Monthly tit4tat, | Get ready to say farewell to tit4tat; last entry is December. Unless … they get more contributions …
  • Finish freefliers set Nordic records!
  • Reader question: What’s your biggest fear?
  • 2014 Drop Zone Awards voting! Polls are still open, so get your votes in.


Most Jumps 2014 by Norman Kent, Jay Stokes tried to beat his own record with 700 skydives in 24 hours. Weather didn’t agree, but the attempt was remarkable.

Photo Interview: Hannah Betts by Zach Lewis

Hannah is one of those rare breeds who seems like an even more awesome human being than her looks — and her looks look pretty damned spectacular.

Jumping into Persia by Salman Amiri with Shahram Dabiri

Iran wasn’t exactly on my “I Want To Go To There” list before, but Sal and Shah may just change my mind. Sal and his partner Hadie are working to open the country’s first civilian drop zone and would cordially invite you to visit Persia.

Mustache BASE 2014 by Mara Schmid,

The funnest looking BASE boogie we’ll ever be totally unqualified to join.

Douggs’ Logbook

A peek into the actual BASE logbook of the legend Douggs,


It’s not a conspiracy that we print so many of Norman Kent’s photos or anything, he just makes it so freaking easy with so many amazing photos from so many places. Caroline E. Layne’s first helicopter is frozen in time this month.

Skydive Balaton & Tora Tora Helicamp 2014 by Max Heidenfelder

Hungary was already on my “I Want To Go To There” list and Max’s honest DZ review moved it up a notch or two.

Make: Custom-Molded Sugru Earbuds by Tiago “Quase” Seiler

I love Sugru and have been searching for someone to do an Instructable-type something with the stuff. Quase originally posted this on reddit and I pounced, bringing it to print for your page-tearing-out-as-reference pleasure

Personal Responsibility by Terry Wahlen

Not as exciting a term as some others, but probably the most important one. You can’t look sexy in a coffin.

How to Not Hate Skydiving by James La Barrie,

DZOs and anyone who works at a drop zone: READ THIS. Or, get burnt out and hate the most glorious sport in the world. Your choice.

And the Sky Is Still There by Sydney Owen

Sydney’s latest “From the Other Side: Tales of a Former N00b” is all about priorities. The sky is rad; even radder because it’s not going anywhere any time soon.

World Meet Hiccups by Kurt Gaebel, National Skydiving League

Some constructive criticism from an impartial observer of the latest World Meet. Thank Kurt for saying what needs to be said!

Turbine-Erotic Asphyxiation by the Fuckin’ Pilot

Pilot, I know you know where the term “pillow biter” comes from.

Back in the Day by Melanie Curtis,

Ah, back in the day, when we didn’t care how un-matchy our jumpsuits were or how we ranked in the world. Melanie goes there for Nationals.


SkyGod answers some questions, and some non-question questions.