This advice comes from having been through a rather unpleasant experience in my early 20s, during my time with the SAS. I was taking part in free-fall training in a remote area of South Africa. As I pulled the release at 14,000 feet, my canopy ripped quite severely, causing me to spiral down and smash into the desert, breaking my back in three places. I ended up spending a year in their military rehabilitation centre and was very fortunate not to be paralysed or even killed. So trust me, I have learned this the hard way. That said, that experience was the start of everything and whilst life certainly isn't just about pursuing a buzz, parachute jumping remains one of the most exhilarating experiences humans can enjoy (or endure).
SOME COMMON MISTAKES...
If there's one thing I've learned over the years it's to keep calm in those big, defining moments
Serious time and consideration should be taken when packing your chute. Most malfunctions are due to bad packing
Being physically stable before you deploy your chute is essential. If you are out of control and spinning in free fall and you pull your release, you'll just end up wrapped in your chute. 14,000 feet above ground is not a good position to be solving a tangle
Everyone should do their checks before they jump. Don't be too proud to ask somebody next to you for their input (just make sure you trust them)
It's the ground, not that altitude, that will kill you, so make sure you pull your release when you are high enough, rather than trying to smoke it in too low. You should be at 3,500 feet at the least
Mr Grylls' autobiography, Mud, Sweat and Tears,
is out on the 26th of May