festive skydivers enjoying the day at Perris

Why People Call Skydive Perris the ‘Mecca’ of Skydiving

August 1, 2017 8:57 pm Published by

Photo credit (above): Dennis Sattler

Skydivers have been dropping out of the Perris sky for more than half a century–for the last forty years, on the Conatser family’s watch. The story of the Skydive Perris we know starts in 1977, when Diane Conatser and her husband Bennie bought a scrappy, dusty airfield in the then-teeny, agrarian hamlet of Perris, California. The town’s population had just broken 5,000.

These days, Skydive Perris is a legend of epic–and well-earned–proportions. It’s world-famous for all kinds of reasons, and it confidently occupies a place at the center of the skydiving universe. It’s a mecca, for sure, and here’s why.

The Program

We like to explain it like this: the skydiving school at Perris is the skydiving equivalent of an educational program that takes you from kindergarten to Harvard. Skydive Perris offers one of the best student skydiving programs in the world for absolute beginners. That said, when you take your next steps into the sport, you really see why Perris is a mecca–because at Perris, you can immediately start training with the world-level athletes who base themselves here. Our continuing education for skydivers includes a full staff of top-level skydiving instructors.

student learning to skydive at Perris

The Perris program’s soup-to-nuts nature is pretty much unique on the planet. We’re obviously on-hand to support you during the you-vs-fear battle before your very first tandem jump, and to celebrate with you when you walk through the door with an A-license. After that, we stand ready to coach you at the highest level towards every goal you pursue in the sport; we help you work towards the certification to take others for their first jumps; we can even help to plan the television special you shoot with the rest of your world-champion skydiving team.

The Tunnel

At most skydiving schools, the curriculum takes you straight from the classroom to the sky. That’s the way things have been done since the invention of the sport in the 1950s. That said: it’s not the 1950s anymore, is it? We’ve invested heavily in a way that results in much more efficient, effective learning: an “indoor skydiving” wind tunnel. We built ours back in 2003, long before wind tunnels started to take over the world–and, because of it, we turn out students with noticeably better freefall skills at the outset of their careers.

Our ground school includes two flights in our Indoor Skydiving Simulator after the classroom part of ground school. In the tunnel, you can put what you’ve learned in the classroom into practical use before you’re falling through the sky and wearing a parachute. The stakes are lower, you learn better, and it’s way fun. No other west coast dropzone can offer that.

The wind tunnel isn’t just for new jumpers. In fact, learning bodyflight in the tunnel is the way to optimize your skills as you progress. It’s democratizing, too: Every day, you’ll see world skydiving champions step out of a session and first-timers step right in. The tunnel is an invaluable tool for everyone in the sky, and the fact that we’ve got one on-site is just another reason we’re a mecca.

The People

Remember, back in school, that one incredible teacher who made an indelible impression on both your education and your life? A good part of our mecca-ness is that we have a full staff of those superstars.

Because of our “mecca status,” we attract the best instructors. (They want to live and work on a dropzone that has great facilities, awesome planes, a convenient location and a super-friendly atmosphere, after all.) Our instructors have written books about the sport; they’ve participated in countless world records; they’re international skydiving champions; they’re high-flying sponsored athletes. Skydive Perris either is currently or was the home of scores of skydiving pioneers (like the Flyboyz freefly team, as well as our very own legend, Dan BC). Most of all, though, our people love skydiving to the core and they’re eager to pass it on to new learners.

Dan BC with another skydiver

Photo by: Dennis Sattler

The Planes

Our fleet of planes are our pride and joy. They’re the safest and most reliable skydiving aircraft in the industry, and we care for them like family. Every single one of our skydiving aircraft are twin turbines which have been extensively modified and upgraded to the highest standards to facilitate both military and civilian jumpers.

Oh–and we also have a lot of them. Our aircraft fleet currently comprises no less than four Skyvans, two Twin Otters and a Douglas DC9. There’s even a resident hot-air balloon to jump out of over Perris. The balloon is privately operated, but landings are right on our DZ if the winds are right. If you’re wondering: Yes, this is a rare and titillating opportunity in skydiving, and we’re pleased as punch that it adds to our mecca status.

woman jumps from hot air balloon

Photo credit: Trisha Maas

The Top-shelf Events

For all of those reasons–and the fact that we simply know how to do events right–the world of skydiving chooses Perris to host the biggest events in skydiving, over and over and over again.

Perris has been the host of numerous big world records (like the 42-Way Freefly in 2004; the Jump For the Cause record in 2009 when 181 women from 31 countries jumped in formation to raise more than $900,000 for a cancer-care center; the 200+ sequential record in 2015; a 61-way wingsuit record in 2015; a full week’s worth of world records just this year, in 2017). Smashing these records takes an incredible amount of planning and training, much of which is done right here, through the P3 training programs for big-way skydiving and record prep.

We’ve also been home to the USPA National Skydiving Championships on several occasions: 2004, 2005 and this year, in 2017. You’re invited to come out and watch!

The Pool

All jumped out? Need to cool off? There’s another reason we’re a destination dropzone: The entertainment options on the ground include a sparkling swimming pool. For most of the year, it’s a buzzing congregation point for hot and sweaty skydivers (and just-plain-hot skydivers working on their golden Southern California tans. Bring your own pool float and a pair of binoculars to enjoy the sweetest spectation spot on the campus.

people hanging out poolside at Perris

Photo by: Joel Hindman

The Pub

There’s a great story behind Skydive Perris’s legendary Bomb Shelter restaurant. It’s been a local phenomenon since the 1960s, when it was essentially a container with a backfiring crop-warmer in the corner (hence the name). These days, it’s a proper bar and grill, serving up delectable American cuisine for every culinary proclivity.

Once your plate is licked clean, you’ll stick around for the company. Skydiving athletes from all over the world gather at the Bomb Shelter after the jumping day is done, swapping stories, whispering confessions, swooping around with tall tales and larger-than-life plans. It’s the beating heart of our little mecca, and it runs on draught beer.

The Parties

The skydiving community is where the sport is really at–and any mecca is lit up by the power of the passionate people that make the pilgrimage, no? If that’s true, our community is downright blinding. Like the Candy Cane Lane house that looks like it might drink up all the power on the grid; like the Vegas Strip on a Saturday night; like a searchlight, sending a beam up for the entire world to come and find the source of.

The worldwide community descends on Skydive Perris in droves, year-round, to jump and to celebrate at our skydiving parties (also known as “boogies”). Our parties are known the world over, and our legendarily long list of annual skydiving events speaks for itself. We are always doing something over here at Skydive Perris, whether it’s cheering on one of our instructors as he nails a world record for slip-n-slide skydiving to hosting training camps for the biggest stunts in the sport.

slip n' slide skydiving landing

Photo by: Joel Hindman

At the end of the day, it’s that mutual support that makes us the mecca we are. We were founded to support the skybound dreams of everyone that comes here, and we’ve found hundreds of ways to serve that mission over the half-century we’ve been at it. Skydive Perris is a lucky dropzone indeed to have such cool stuff to share with the world, but at the end of the day it’s our people that make us a mecca.

What are you waiting for? Make that pilgrimage today!

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This post was written by Skydive Perris