In this 101, MTV Producer, VJ and Skydiver, Zerxes Wadia takes us through the precise steps of learning how to skydive. And how he obtained his AFF skydiving license.
4Play: You’ve been a marketing graduate, a producer for MTV, a VJ and even a skydiver. How does this diverse skill set tie in?
Zerxes: They are all actually connected and not so diverse. Let me explain, I was an advertising and marketing student where they teach you how to present and promote a product or a service using the weirdest of ideas that your right side of the brain can come up with and filter it using the left side of the brain and finally put it out there! As the years passed I stopped filtering what the left brain had to say and I became the product. Then I was always meddling with brands and thinking of ways to promote them which lead me to heading the branded content team for MTV! And now I do what feels right when, and keep changing roles as required.
4Play: What was the draw to Skydiving?
Zerxes: Skydiving and me go a long way back. Always loved heights and wanted to go higher and faster. Infact, I wanted to be an astronaut as a kid but then it was too much studying, so I dropped that thought. Then there was skydiving, the thrill and adrenaline of jumping off an airplane and skyrocketing towards Earth, till you open up a nylon bag and float down like a feather, this sounded perfect. There was a routine to it and yet the uncertainty of the canopy opening up properly, and varying wind conditions, and nailing the landing was absolutely pivotal to every jump. Sounded like a mix of everything from adventure, to extreme sport, to flying. I loved the concept of learning how to skydive!
4Play: When and why did you decide to obtain an AFF skydiving license?
Zerxes: Despite my love and want to skydive, I had one condition, I would never jump tandem. If I ever did skydive, it would be when the reins were entirely in my hands! Hence, in the last 27 years I had never done a skydive though I have been around a bit. I got this opportunity finally to be a certified skydiver through an Accelerated Free Fall (AFF) Program. My first was a solo jump as promised to myself, and now I have a sum total of 12 jumps! Saving up to add more to the kitty!
4Play: How does one go about getting certified?
Zerxes: First you find yourself a school which you either trust or comes highly recommended. In my case, my friend Harry who runs B.E.E.P. which is Beautiful Experiences Extraordinary Places knew my coach Jean Phillipe, and put us in touch. After that I researched a bit, decided to take the plunge and within 2 months I was on my flight to Paris.
4Play: Now that you’ve been licensed to execute AFFs, what next? B.A.S.E Jumps or, Wingsuiting?
Zerxes: Honestly, I have a long way to go, before I can move up to any of these alternate jumping methods. For example, I have to have 100 jumps in my log book before I can carry my own Gopro while jumping. Because there are safety procedures you need to learn in case the Gopro on the wrist or helmet gets tangled in the canopy. To wingsuit, I need at least 200 jumps to begin training. So, yes it is a long way. For now I want to be able to carry my own GoPro! 😀
4Play: How do you divide your time being a VJ and an adventure sport enthusiast?
Zerxes: I VJ and produce for a living as of now, and in my annual breaks I try to sneak in touring on my motorcycle! I am a very avid biker and India as a country is very ideal for this, considering we are a huge ass landmass, with such diversity that you can ride away anywhere. For example, when I decided to ride to the Himalayas from home, I rode through super-hot conditions in Gujarat, deserts in Rajasthan, the fields of Haryana, valleys of Dharamshala, till I got to the snowcapped mountains in the Himalayas, and all the way back. Imagine so much diversity in just 15 days on a motorcycle. And I try to ride to nearby spots every fortnight, for tea or lunch or something.
Besides that, I try signing up for treks and stuff or, I just put myself into shows which have me traveling while doing adventures! That’s when I get really lucky! 😛
4Play: Is there any other adventure sport, you’re into?
Zerxes: Next on my list are, parkour, skiing, snowboarding, scuba diving and paragliding. Infact, I had tried basics of parkour but, lack of facilities and time constraints made me drop that. But it is still very high on the list and will follow up soon on that. Tried skiing while in Gulmarg but, that was an extremely short break so had to let that go midway. But, I have tasted the snow and cannot wait to get back on those skiis! The rest, I plan to take a break and get at least one certification each year!
4Play: Are there any parallels between VJing and Skydiving?
Zerxes: Your biggest parallel is getting over your fears. As a VJ you drop the fear of being on camera as yourself because, you are not acting and people have to accept you for who you are which may or may not happen! As a skydiver, you have to give up on the fear of worst case scenarios and take the plunge. Both need you to trust yourself and give it your best, the outcome is yours to relish later. Being a VJ or a skydiver, will have the world sit up and take notice of you and you suddenly have the power to inspire people and help them follow their dreams!
Zerxes shed some light on the process you undertook to obtain an AFF skydiving license.
The school I went to was OJB Para which was located in Mimizan in the Southwest of France and a couple of train rides away from Paris. Away from civilization, the closest town was a beach called Mimizan Plages, a very gorgeous town with quaint restaurants and happy people. When you decide to get certified as a skydiver, you are going to try and learn a sport in a few days, so all your effort will go towards that and more you are cut off from civilization, the easier it is to get into a routine. Pop a few beers in the evening and crash early so you can start early the next day!
The certification can happen in 3 days if you have ideal weather conditions but, give yourself a week so you can finish the certification and move on to doing more solo jumps for the log book and upgrade your license. The first day is ground training and basics followed by your first jump in which 2 trainers jump with you but not attached to you, they help keep you steady and open the canopy in case you get excited and forget about that. Post that they fly away and you are on your own to navigate and land, using radio assistance. This jump is captured on go-pro cameras, by both the coaches and the next day begins with a debriefing based on those videos on what went right and wrong, followed by a revision of everything you learnt and safety procedures after which you go for your second jump. This point onwards only your main instructor will jump with you and after every jump is the routine of debrief and evaluation. The second day you should ideally manage 3 jumps and the day after 2 jumps which will finish your certification and give you your first completely solo jump, without any instructor or, radio assistance in air.
No. Of jumps
For the AFF certification, I had to do a total of 6. The first one with 2 coaches jumping side by side to keep you stable. The second day three jumps, with one instructor to stabilize you and a radio to assist you with landing; and the third day, 2 jumps with instructor but, without radio, which gets you certified. So 6 jumps later you are a certified skydiver, and after that you can choose to move up on the licenses and specialize.
Every jump is a test, with the instructor maintaining a logbook of the jumps taken, the activities done in air, the different ways in which you jump out of a plane, the mistakes made and the lessons learnt. As you master one skillset at a time, the instructor teaches you another one to perform in the air, and so the cycle goes on.
Easily a couple of lakhs for the basic AFF certification, with accommodation at the school itself; but varies depending on which school you are getting the certification from.
Countries this is available in
Almost every place that you can do a tandem jump from offers these courses but, the only thing is you have to connect with these schools beforehand and book yourself a slot, and set aside at least a week for this.
Ready to Go Skydiving? Check out this instructional infographic.
Is Ultramarathon your thing? Check out Ultra Trail Running 101 to get started with the sport.
Author: Sukrit Gupta
An avid climber, ultrarunner and day dreamer, Sukrit is a fan of everything that is self-managed and solo. A flag bearer for self sufficiency and pushing beyond limits, he loves to spend his time slithering over rock faces and devising cruel trail running courses in his mountainous backyard in Manali.