|"First Out" - A First Jump Story|
By Iain Firkins - email@example.com
As many people did when they where young, I dreamed of parachuting. I dreamed of falling under a parachute from a plane like GI Joe. I even made little models with Lego men, cling film and string!
I didn't get involved until I got to University. I remember talking to one of my friends, Colin, about it. He'd been in the Army and had done a few jumps. It was about the time of my birthday so I told myself that if my parents asked me what I wanted to do, I would get them to pay for me to skydive.
Unfortunately, that didn't happen. Months passed without ever looking back to that. "It had just been an idea", I told myself, "Nothing to lose any sleep over."
Then, one fateful day, when the sort of things happen that just don't make sense, I was sitting in the University's student union room when this guy came over and said "I'd like to introduce you to Fraser, he needs some help with his web page". Okay, it was something to do. So I went over and helped. At this point, Colin commented that he'd been trying to contact Fraser to inquire about skydiving. Skydiving?!? Turns out this guy was the president of the club at University.
We sat down for the next couple of hours chatting about the web site and the sport. He showed me loads of articles about the sport and told me about this new 'rig' he was getting. Terminology meant nothing to me at the time, so I smiled and nodded as he told me about it. He also mentioned that the club had a 60 percent female membership (important fact for later!). Colin had sort of fallen into the background at this point - it was only really Fraser and me talking.
As the time for me to leave approached, Fraser said "We're going down to train tomorrow. Do you fancy coming along?" Wow! Could I afford it? Would I really want to do it? I said I'd let him know later that day. Colin disappeared off to his lecture and I missed it and stayed behind. I did the whuffo thing with Fraser. How much is it? Is it dangerous? Will I hurt myself? What's it like? Too many 'What if ..' questions to remember. "Ah hell, why not! I'll be there tomorrow." Then followed the lengthy discussion on how to get there. Turns out this dropzone is only 10 minutes from my house and had been there for years.
I went to work that evening feeling slightly different. My mind kept wondering what it would be like. Could I do it? That's when I decided not to tell my Mum. I knew she'd only worry so I thought I wouldn't mention anything until I got the photograph of my first jump back.
I went through the training pretty uneventfully. All through the day our heads were turned towards the blue sky and comments of, "I want to go now" rippled through the group. As the end of the class approached, it got darker so we were resigned to having to come on another day. I went home that night knowing that this was something I wanted to do. Besides, there was a 60 percent female membership to worry about as well!
It took another couple of weeks before I did my first jump. The weather had been bad that week, but on the Friday it improved and we were jumping all day. After the loads had been sorted, I was given number one on my load.
First out! I couldn't believe it! Still, I told myself that at least I wouldn't have to go through watching everyone else doing it. I also told myself that no matter what I was thinking, I would go. I couldn't face the rest of the group knowing that I hadn't gone. I would be too embarrassed. That was my motivation.
We took off--my heart in my throat. I was facing an open door and being presented with the most amazing views of the surrounding countryside. It was breathtaking! Seeing the clouds in the distance, seeing the sun reflect off the English Channel, seeing the fields below, so small, so tiny. I'd been in passenger jets, but these views were much more amazing. "I could get used to this", I thought.
I think it was at that point when it hit me - it didn't matter that the club had 60 percent females, it didn't matter that this could get expensive. I felt alive! - More alive than I'd ever felt before. This is for me! In that brief second, my whole outlook on life changed. No longer would little things annoy me. There was much more to life than such things as worrying about exams or worrying about having loads of money.
My thought track stopped. I had glimpsed my alti --3 500. This was it! I was going to jump! My heart pounded in my chest. My hands started to tremble. I looked at the rest of my load and weakly smiled. All eyes were on me. They knew and I knew that my time was coming. "five left" came a cry from the jumpmaster. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. "five left" came another cry. I took another deep breath. "Stand by!". This was it! No turning back. If I didn't go, I'd never forgive myself.
"CUT!" The engine throttled back. The stall siren sounded. "In the door!" I shuffled myself forward and perched on the edge of the door. The howling of the wind was in my ears and on my face. A quick nervous swallow. A quick look in. The JM had his face inches from mine. "GOOO!". And I pushed away. I was pleased that I didn't even hesitate. "Arch" was as about as far as I counted. There was buffeting, noise and then suddenly silence. I looked up. I saw a lovely open parachute. The relief was amazing.
I went through my drills. Released the brakes and pumped the canopy. I looked down and around me. I let out a cry of relief and joy that they probably heard in the plane! I had done it! I couldn't believe it! A voice came over the radio giving me instructions. "Turn left, left, left, release". I could see the dropzone pretty much underneath me. Another look at the view. Another cry of joy. My heart was still pounding in my chest.
The ground came closer and closer. I passed through 1500. "No spiraling now" a little voice at the back of my head said. I passed through 800. "Set up for final now" came the same voice again. 500. "Turn and face the wind" that voice said. I watched the ground as it got very large very quick. No obstacles. Okay, this is it. "Flare!" came that voice. I flared, too high as it turned out, and landed a little bit quicker than I wanted to. I fell over as I hit the ground. "Get up" that voice said "they'll think you're hurt". I got up straight away. A quick look up. I could see three other parachutes of varying sizes flying around. A few cries of joy could be heard. I picked up the parachute and began the long walk back across the grass to the packing shed. I'm sure that smile on my face lasted until the end of the day.
Load after load more students did their first jump. The girls there that day all had mobile phones and were frantically ringing worried mums to tell them they were okay. I hadn't told my mum. That would wait until later.
I went home that night reliving that jump again and again. I still couldn't believe that I had done it. I didn't have the photo but this couldn't wait!
The look on my Mum's face as I told her arrogantly, "Guess what I did today-Jumped out of a plane!" She thought I was lying. She then commented, "Actually that doesn't surprise me. You've always wanted to do crazy things like that. I'm glad you didn't tell before --- I'd have been worrying all day."
I think she does as all mums do: worry whenever I tell her I'm jumping on this day or that day. She could just about watch my AFF video when I got back from Florida in July. She's worrying now because I'm going back to Florida in three weeks for some more skydiving.
Surprisingly, whenever I think of that first jump, I go through the same feelings again. Even writing this, my heart rate has gone up slightly. I guess it's just part of the sport. But I wouldn't change it for anything.
I said earlier that the day I signed up was one of those fateful days. Up to that point, it was just an idea that hadn't been realized. If Fraser had not been there on that day, skydiving probably would have stayed as an idea I'd once had. I'd have probably spent the money on a PC that I didn't need, or a car that I didn't want.
To all skydivers and WHUFFOS, Blue Skies!
Page 2 - for more stories see Page 1 and Page 3