The Skydiving Tandem Weight Limit (And 5 Reasons Why It Exists)

A tandem skydiving pair - the instructor wearing a black helmet and white suit and his lady student in a light blue suit with orange accents in head-down position exiting a small white airplane against a backdrop of a cloudy sky.
The Tandem Instructor Stabilizes The Flight

Skydiving is one of the few extreme sports that you can do without having a high level of fitness. However, there are certain weight limits and fitness requirements for skydiving tandem students in place that ensure safety for the student and tandem instructor. 

The weight limit for tandem skydives is 230-250 pounds (100-113 kg) for men and 200-220 (90-100kg) for women. However, even if you are within the maximum weight range, you might not be allowed to jump if you are not able to lift your legs up at a 90° angle. 

At first, it sounds unreasonable that men and women have a different weight limit when doing a tandem skydive. However, there are five good reasons why the weight limit is set as it is (including the different limit for men and women).

If you exceed the weight limit, I also have three ways for you to still perform a tandem skydive!

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Why Does The Weight Limit for Tandem Skydives Exists? 

In general, the weight limit exists due to safety concerns of the skydiving company and regulators. When the tandem student exceeds 200 pounds it becomes increasingly difficult for the skydiving company to guarantee a safe and enjoyable ride due to the following five reasons: 

  • Canopies have weight limits 
  • The harness does not fit if people are too big 
  • Controlling the canopy becomes too difficult
  • Tandem students must be mobile during the landing procedure
  • The experience will not be enjoyable if you exceed the weight limit 

The Weight Limits Of Skydiving Canopies

Skydiving belongs to the aviation industry and therefore is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In the aviation industry, it is standard that manufacturers provide limits on how much weight the aircraft can carry. Parachutes are no different – every parachute comes with a weight limit.

For tandem parachutes, the weight limit is normally 500 pounds (227 kg). This limit includes the weight of the student, the tandem instructor and the weight of the system such as the harness. The system normally weights already 60 pounds, leaving only 440 pounds for the student and the tandem instructor. 

This sounds reasonable but why do manufacturers do not build bigger parachutes?

There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the parachute also gets heavier with increasing size such that it will not be able to carry much more weight. Secondly, skydiving is still a niche market where manufacturers are highly specialized. In order for them to operate profitably, they need to produce standardized parachutes at the highest possible volume (economies of scale). However, there is not enough demand for such heavy parachutes. 

One is tempted to think that one just needs a smaller tandem instructor with less weight in order to allow for more weight. For example, if the tandem instructor would only weigh 150 pounds, the tandem student could weigh up to 290 pounds.

While this is theoretically possible and some specialized skydiving will allow this uneven weight distribution between the student and the tandem instructor, it becomes much more difficult for the tandem instructor to control the canopy. 

Have you ever wondered how skydivers maneuver during freefall and safely navigate back to the ground? While it may look effortless, skydiving requires precise control and technique to achieve the desired outcomes. In this blog post, I delve into the different maneuvers skydivers use to control their movements and speed during freefall.

Controlling The Freefall And Canopy Gets Harder With More Weight

The tandem instructor is responsible for managing the whole skydive – from jumping off the plane, over stabilizing the free fall, bringing the student in the right body position, deploying the parachute, steering it to the drop zone to landing the student safely and without injuries.

All these maneuvers become much more difficult with increasing weight because of decreased mobility and unequal weight distribution between the instructor and student.

For example, it is much harder for the tandem instructor to stabilize a student during freefall who weighs 150 pounds (68 kg) than a student who weighs 250 pounds (113 kg). The tandem instructor needs to outbalance every incorrect movement of the student and this becomes much harder if the student weighs much more than you do.

While it is easy for an experienced tandem instructor who weighs 180 pounds (81 kg) to counteract the movements of someone who weighs 135 pounds (61 kg), it is hard for him to do the same with a student that weighs 250 pounds. It becomes also harder to steer the canopy and to navigate through the drop zone because the canopy will react slower to steering signals and the instructor needs to steer more (i.e. he needs more strength)

If you are curious about when parachutes fail to open, you can check out my article, which explains the 13 most common reasons why parachutes fail. It also includes surprising tips and tricks to avoid parachute failure!

In addition, mobility during the freefall is reduced – which is not only unpleasant for the student and tandem instructor – but can also have fatal consequences. If any issue such as a parachute malfunction occurs, the tandem instructor needs to resolve this as quickly as possible (within 5-7 seconds, otherwise it might be too late). If he is less movable become of a heavy passenger, he will need more time.

If you’re interested in learning more about the safety aspects of tandem skydives, make sure to check out my article on whether tandem skydives are safer than solo jumps. You might be surprised by the answer!

The Reasons Why There’s A Weight Limit in Tandem Skydiving
Overview of the Skydiving Tandem Weight Limit And Why It Exists

It Is Harder For Overweight People To Move During Their Skydive

Not only is overall mobility crucial during the freefall, but it is also mandatory during the landing procedure. Students need to be able to bend, kneel and lift their legs to a seating position during the landing. This point really comes down to the fitness level of the student. If you weigh a lot because you are a strong person, lifting your legs should not be a problem. However, if you are more of a couch potato, it will be difficult for you. 

Did you know that landing is the most critical part of skydiving? If not, check out my article about tandem landings. This guide will ensure that you are well-prepared for your next landing!

If you are unsure about the fitness requirements for skydiving, check out my article about the true skydiving requirements. It provides comprehensive guidance, helping you understand the physical aspects and conditions necessary to embark on this thrilling adventure. You will gain clarity and certainty about whether you meet the right physical conditions to pursue skydiving or not!

Of course, they were really disappointed but it is better to be disappointed than to be injured. Most of the injuries happen due to incorrect landings – specifically for tandem jumps. As a result, skydiving companies are really strict about this – the last thing that any skydiving company wants is for their students to be injured! 

Are you curious about how likely you will get injured during a skydive? If yes, check out my article about the true risks of skydiving. It will give you a mind-blowing, new perspective on the sport!

The Skydiving Harness Often Does Not Fit Overweight People

As you can imagine, the harness fit is crucial for a safe jump. At its core, the harness is a really strong and resistant rope that is tied around the student. This harness is attached via carbines to the harness of the tandem instructor who in turn will be connected to the parachute. If the student does not fit or does not fit properly into the harness, the whole system will not work and hence there is no way for the student to jump. 

The harness has straps around the hip and the thighs. As women tend to carry their extra weight around these areas, they might not fit the harness properly. If a woman weighs 220 pounds (100 kg) chances are very high that she will not fit the harness properly.

Men, in contrast, tend to wear their extra weight at the belly where the harness does not have any straps. As a result, men can usually weigh more than women and still be allowed to skydive. So the reason for the different weight limits for men and women is in fact the harness fit.

I hope that manufacturers will put more effort to build harnesses that allow women above 220 pounds to skydive. 

It Is Often An Unpleasant Experience For Overweight People To Skydive

The above mentioned four factors all play into safety concerns, however, they also have side effects. If you are too overweight, you are less likely to enjoy your skydive and experience the joy of the freefall.

Your tandem instructor will be a bit more nervous, you are more likely to spin around during the freefall, the maneuvers in freefall or during the canopy ride tend to be harsher (and more painful) and the harness will hurt. The landing will also be more unpleasant and you are more likely to twist your legs. 

Three Ways To Skydive Even If You Exceed The Weight Limit? 

If you weigh more than 220 pounds as a woman and more than 250 pounds as a man, it might be impossible to skydive at most skydiving companies. However, there are three ways on how you can still skydive! 

Specialized Skydiving Companies Allow For Extra Weight

I have seen companies that even allow for 270 pounds as long as the student is able to lift his legs. These skydiving companies use lighter harnesses than the standard ones that allow the students to weigh a bit more. You will also jump with a very experienced tandem instructor who will be able to manage the flight even despite the unequal weight distribution. 

Performing A Skydiving Solo Jump When Being Overweight

You can ask the skydiving company to perform a special skydiving solo jump with you. In this special jump, you will be equipped with your own parachute that will be automatically deployed at 2,500ft. Two instructors will jump next to you and stabilize you during the freefall. Skydiving companies normally do not advertise these kinds of jumps because there is not much demand for it, so you should call them and specifically ask for it. 

Skydiving As A Health Goal

The last option is to lose weight. This might sound obvious, however, there is more to it than you might think. The most common reason why diets fail is because it is too hard for people to stay disciplined.

People who attach a feasible reward to their goal are three times more likely to reach that goal.

If you have set yourself the very feasible and exciting goal to skydive, it will help to stay focused even in moments of strong temptation. 

Would you like to know more reasons why tandem skydiving is worth it? Read my article and it will get you inspired and motivated to take the risk!

How Much Does It Cost To Skydive When Having Overweight? 

Prices vary from skydiving company to skydiving company, however, they usually charge between $1 and $4 for every pound above 220 pounds. They charge you more because it takes more work for them to prepare such a jump and because it is a more specialized tandem jump. 

That being said, I hope you will go skydiving soon! 

Enjoy your freefall!

Guide cover with title: Tandem Skydiving Newbie's Guide
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Kai Schmidt

Hi, I'm Kai. The first time I jumped out of an airplane and experienced free fall was one of the most amazing moments of my life. For me, skydiving does not only stand for freedom and independence but being present in the moment and being respectful to others and oneself. Now I want to share what I’ve learned with you.

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The image shows the maximum weight limit for tandem skydiving and the reasons why it exists.