|Impressions of the Rec.Skydiving Boogie|
by rita - email@example.com
Photos © 2000 Jan Davis / rita / David Ferree
I'm sure loads of people will send their impressions of our boogie at Sebastian this past weekend, but I figured I'd get the ball rolling with mine since I have a few hours to spare here at work this evening. Seems I have a few hours to spare quite often these days.
Rather than duplicate what others will say, I'll present my impressions, based on those things I experienced and leave the reports of big way, formation jumps, sunset CRW stacks and other awesome fun jumps to those people who were fortunate enough to be on them and can give eyewitness accounts.
I must admit that I almost got "cold feet" about going to the rec boogie. I couldn't help but wonder what the point was. Feeling sorry for myself, I couldn't imagine enjoying it since I was not in a position to actively jump this year. A badly bruised knee, combined with the vestiges of last year's crash landing not to mention still trying to knock off the weight gain from my prolonged period of inactivity following my injury last year, left me with no alternative but to do the "sensible" thing and not jump. I couldn't see how I would fit in and thus my hesitation. I needn't have worried. I had non-stop fun from the moment I stepped off the airplane at Orlando, and am still shaking my head in wonder that I would have even considered staying home.
Reve' Smith was the poor soul who got stuck playing chauffeur on Wednesday afternoon. Her agenda included picking me up at noon, and then returning for Bozo and another low time jumper from the Atlantic City area at 6:00.
We had six hours to kill and I knew exactly how best to kill it. I was going for an aerobatics ride. Wheeeeeee!!!!!! Always being one for a good time, I figured that if I couldn't spin around under a canopy or in freefall, perhaps I could do it in an airplane. Besides, at least I couldn't slam my legs into the ground that way, much less f*ck up a landing, right?
Suffice to say, I had a wonderful time. The folks at Warbird Adventures in Kissemee, Florida run a first class operation out there, and at no time did I experience the slightest fear. I knew I was in the very capable hands of a former jump pilot, Graham Meise, who used to shepard me to 'tude at Cross Keys back in '96 when I was bumbling through AFF. I'd always get to 'tude uneventfully in those days only to experience the mishaps on the way down. Shame he couldn't have been under canopy with me.
||Going for what I thought would be merely a wheeeeee!!!!! ride, this wound up being nothing short of a full-blown flight lesson and one that, amazingly, I seemed to do half-way decently with, getting the hang of reading the instruments, keeping track of altitude, and controlling the damned thing putting my world in an inverted angle at will with Graham's able help without nary an incident. Shame my first skydive didn't go as well. I left that airport laughing, and I think Graham had a good time as well. He had a woman who didn't know how to say no ... to any maneuver he suggested.|
The only time things got a little dicey was when it came time to land when I sought reassurance that Graham was planning to take the controls for this part of the flight.
His response that he was planning to jump left me a little concerned especially since the guy has a few thousand skydives to his credit. Oh, Jeez! NoFlare is gonna land this thing? No way.
But sharing my AOL screen name with him--NoFlare--and its origins convinced him to help me out with this little task. In fact, he took the controls and handled the whole affair expertly. Such a gentle touchdown! How come I can't do that with a canopy?
After getting Bozo and a local AFF student at the Orlando Airport, we headed on down to Sebastian. Let the good times roll!
A trip to the Dairy Queen (we wanted a first class dinner on our first night!). Talk of alligator meat. No shit skydiving stories -- scar comparisons -- "I got more hardware than you do ... " We pretty much lost our poor AFF student. He didn't like the sounds of our tales especially when he realized that we weren't "shittin" him. Oh, well.
Thursday morning, a cloudless blue sky. The airplanes start up early. I had been hatching a plan, but today probably wasn't going to be right. The winds were almost non-existent. I bid my friends good luck and great jumping, and settled myself in to watch.
Amazing stuff! How the "old timers" took the newbies like Reve' under their wings and taught them just a few of the things that make this sport what it is. And how those low timers, one such as I was last year, actually seem to improve little by little, sometimes by great bounds with each successive skydive. The laughter, the joy, watching the videos, learning, absorbing--this is what a boogie is all about, and it's what made ours so wonderful. Jan Davis flew her ass off all day and never forgot to turn on her camera. The footage she caught is gonna make one hell of a boogie tape, and I can only hope that she hurries the hell up with it.
Late in the afternoon, I decide that it's time for me to have some fun. But what to do, what to do. I know! I'll take an observer ride! Hell, that pilot looks kinda cute anyway, and besides, I've never ridden a jump plane all the way down from 13,500' before. Might just be fun. "You know, I come down pretty quickly," warned Steve when I climbed in next to him. "Don't worry," I quickly replied. "I'm a veteran at this stuff." A quick description of my stunts in Kissemee the day before seemed to put him at ease. I could only imagine him saying "I've got a live one here, let's see how she fares."
Well, my lord! I think the ride back down is almost as fun as the jump. Carefully checking back, waiting for the last skydiver to depart. A quick jab at the controls, a sort of uphill motion, and then wheeeeeeeee!!!!!!!! Holy shit! And here I was planning on taking pictures. Nope. I damned near dropped the camera. This is good fun! I learned something, though. Ya gotta keep clearing your ears. That descent is pretty fast. But, hey! Time is money, and there's another load waiting to go. As we come in for a landing, the runway spread out before me. I can't imagine how he can place that plane gently right on the tarmac, seemingly effortlessly, so gently. Shit! I'd have slammed my sorry ass into the concrete. "You mind if I do this again later in the week?", I asked Steve. This is way too much fun. His thumbs up was all I needed in answer.
|Friday, early, early morning. I'm standing outside watching the first vestiges of sunlight coming through the clouds. It's awfully windy. Shit! Hope it dies down. Man, please don't screw up our boogie!
The first load goes up. You can see them carefully controlling their canopies for descent. Obviously they're rocking quickly collapsing their canopies upon landing. The bus heads out. Oops! Guess one landed off.
A second load, a short time later. The winds are a bit better, but alas, not for the experienced jumpers under their smaller canopies. A tandem gets out, but that's about it. The catchers run out onto the field. That TM is gonna need some help. The rest of the jumpers come down with the plane. Oh, boy. I'd better run for cover. There's quite a few rec.skydivers on that load, and I know at least one of 'em ain't gonna be happy. James hates riding the plane down. Wonder if Snuff is gonna give them pushups now too?
So, the rest of the day was spent socializing, enjoying each other's company, telling no shit stories. Watching videos that everyone had brought. Just really great times. The "pie patrol" went to the bakery and we all waited for the excitement. This was gonna be good!
All day poor Jan sat with a video camera in her hand ... purposely so that the intended recipient wouldn't get suspicious seeing her with it. Her ruse was that she wanted to use this opportunity to get a lot of ground shots of rec.skydivers just enjoying each other's company. Poor Bozo! He had no idea the carefully laid plans that were being executed as he sat there innocently, regaling us with an unlimited supply of tales that only he could tell so wonderfully.
Finally, late in the day the big moment arrives. A couple of people distract poor Bozo as the pie patrol gets into position behind him. A quizzical look as someone takes off his hat. Wouldn't want to dirty it with pie. A suspicious look as Jan moves in with her video camera.
||And then ... just an "oh shit!" as realization hits. Bill Flynn moves in-- squarely--a pie in each hand--dead center to the target--right in Bozo's face. Beautiful! Bill's son, Peter, finishes the job as two more tasty treats meet their target. Hey, Jim, come on! At least I made sure one of them was your favorite, apple! And I felt so badly to be involved in this massacre when not that long before, Bozo and I had shared some very special moments. Moments that meant more to me than life itself. Moments more emotional than anything I've yet experienced in my life.|
With the winds high, a gem of an idea began forming in my head. Originally planning to stay on the ground during the boogie, I began to regret that decision. I didn't feel it would be right to stay on the ground, that if I wanted to get back into the air, this would be the time to do it among my friends in a supportive environment where I would feel no pressure and the focus would be on fun. But, alas, it would not be safe. Not at this point, not with a bad knee, some excess weight, and two legs that had been broken badly a mere year before. No, it would be more prudent to wait. Or would it? With these winds, it just might be doable. Maybe even I could have a decent landing.
The idea for a tandem began to take form.
The ladies in manifest were very kind. JJ of the video concession was wonderful. Everyone seemed to want to make this experience the greatest for me. The plan began to take form. Scott, one of Sebastian's best tandem instructors, was assigned to me. I swear to Christ ... all I asked for was someone really good. Someone who would understand my "special need" for a gentle landing ... someone who could help me enjoy this and take what could potentially be a stressful experience and make it a wonderful one. They gave me Scott. Oh, yes! This one was gonna be good. He looked like a Chippendale! Scott and Bozo had a quick talk. The plan was that Bozo was gonna dock on us, and Jan was gonna film the event. This tandem was definitely gonna be special and unlike any other.
That ride to 'tude was, to say the least, not very pleasant for me. Thoughts of ambulance rides and hospitals and broken bones seemed to take control of my mind. But, with Scott's kindness and everyone's encouragement I knew nothing bad could happen. Grasping Jim's hand for the better part of the ride, I could barely let go long enough to let him do his gear checks.
Finally, Scott asked me to sit in his lap. That's probably when I started calming down. Hey, a girl could get used to this!
All too soon, jump run. Fear takes hold again. Breathing deeply we proceed to the open door. I don't ever remember the plane being this frigid before. The cold is taking my breath away. We're the last group in the plane. Scott checks the spot and calls for an immediate go around. Oh, Jesus Christ! I just wanted out. The pilot is doing a complete second jump run as I stand there crouched, reminding Scott that I have a weak knee, and receiving his assurances that he'll support me.
"Just come over here to the door and crouch down." Scott guides me to the open doorway. "I need to spot now." Leaning out into the air stream, he's carefully checking the spot. These winds are squirrely. He wants to make sure we have a nice, uneventful landing. I'm yelling, reminding him, "Please support me! Don't let me topple." I had visions of my knee giving out and my sending our tandem pair on a head-down spiral out over the Atlantic. But Scott was on the case. He wasn't gonna let that happen.
|Finally, it's time to go. With a quick count, we all peel off. Well, maybe Jan went a bit sooner than the rest of us, but she got back. I see these two huge bats coming at me. Jan parks herself in front of me filming, snapping stills. Trying to catch my breath ... smiling ... waving ... giving her the finger... laughing. God, what a wonderful experience! Almost a rebirth! Taking my place in the sky! Whatever limits that place must have right now felt so damned good!! I felt like I had come home. Bozo looks so funny moving in, docking, and then finally tracking away.
Wait a minute! Where the hell you going? Scott's got his altimeter in front of my face. He's tapping my wrist. I try to high-five him. What an ass!
Oh, shit! Jesus Christ! What altitude are we at? Oh, boy! Shit! 4,500 grand. Damnit! Wave off! Quick! Scott pulls. Oops! Oh, well, can't flunk a tandem, can you? We couldn't do spirals under canopy--way too far upwind. We rode it in just about the whole way. Jim and Jan kicked ass to get back. We had it a bit better because of our higher altitude. But, alas, everyone landed on the DZ, and there was a crowd on the landing field to see my earthward return.
Sashaying in, feeling the wind on my face, I felt like I had come home. Won't be much longer! Keep working that bad leg. Take the weight off. You'll get back for real next time on your own. Those are the thoughts going through my mind. "We're gonna stand this one up," Scott informs me. "No! I can't do that. Please, let's slide in." But, no, Scott assures me we'll be fine. "Okay, lift your legs," he instructed. Almost in tears I pull them up. "This is as far as I can get them, Scott," I wailed. God, I don't want to go to the hospital again. Next thing I know, I'm standing there. What the f*ck? I didn't even feel the landing. God, that boy can flare too!
Surrounded by friends, hugs, warm congratulations. I couldn't help it, the tears flowed. It felt like such a release--able to do it with the help of people so dear in such a wonderful supportive place as Skydive Sebastian! I grabbed everyone for a hug, a kiss. I was a blubbering mess. Poor Scott. I had him in a bear hug that I wouldn't release. And, no! I didn't even think to make a grab for his ass. Grabbing Jack Ceman, a wonderful soul who had been through the same thing not many months before, I knew I had a kindred spirit. Someone who could understand, and he did, totally, as he held me and let me cry my tears freely.
That day is without a doubt the best of my life so far. I reveled in the warmth of my friends and their support, and even their love.
Saturday. For me, the last one of the boogie. Another light wind day. Great! Now I could watch the pros do their thing. I had my moment the day before. That was enough for me. This would just have to be a one-tandem boogie, and that was fine.
||Another observer ride with Steve, another awesome landing. Snapping pictures, trying to get just the right angle for a shot out the front window of the FrankenOtter as we dived after dropping the last jumper. God, what a great experience. Can't wait to get those pictures developed!|
Then, watching a dear friend on her first reserve ride, a newbie that morphed into a true skydiver that day as she expertly handled her first total mal and freely claimed the blame--an old and so familiar story: bad pack job. Pilot chute jammed into its pouch too tightly. She expertly landed her reserve on target, did what was necessary to save her life, and proved the value and the worth of all that training we received, and our constant emphasis on safety and currency.
Yo, George, you owe another tee-shirt, man. I told Reve' to email ya. I just hope she found her freebag on Sunday after I left, and after we were unsuccessful on Saturday evening.
So, that's about it. A nice beer party on Saturday night, and folks started moving out on Sunday different times, with a few stragglers left to go on Monday.
I can't say enough good things about Skydive Sebastian. I can't remember how many people I talked to, who I told--you are so lucky to have a place like this to call your home! The people seemed so caring--staff and upjumpers alike.
The DZ organization went out of their way to make this a boogie to remember. A team room provided for our use free of charge. Discounted jump tickets for the upjumpers. A party on Saturday night. The organizing services of the very capable Martin Evans and his people. Seeing the improvements people of all levels were making shown again and again on the videos Jan Davis shot. These are the things wonderful boogies are made of.
Those special considerations, such as the ones granted to me on my tandem--letting Jan film and Jim dock on us--those things showed just how much the fine Sebastian folks wanted to make this boogie special for us. Those efforts did not go unnoticed, believe me.
Special thanks from the bottom of my heart to Scott for giving me that awesome tandem experience so meaningful, so precious. To JJ, head of the video staff for letting me have that familiar face of Jan in the air filming it. To Steve, the pilot, for letting me ride right seat with him and not getting mad as I yelled "Wheeeeeee!!!!!!!" in his ear. A hearty thank you to Dino, the chief instructor, for being so diligent helping to catch our group when the ground winds kicked up as our tandem was coming in on final. We're just sorry we scared off your potential student. Man! You would have probably had a lot of fun with that one! But, then, I think you skeered him too.
Thanks to Tiffany, who was so reassuring and so accommodating telling me that I could just "play it by ear" and do what felt right when I got to the boogie. Letting me know that whatever I decided in terms of jumping would be fine, and that they would do whatever they could to accommodate me when the time came. They went above and beyond in that regard. Thanks for the quick arrangements for the shuttle too. I would imagine that can't be easy to arrange when you only get a few hours notice.
|A very warm thank you to the ladies of the manifest --truly among the hardest working personnel on the DZ. You are truly an amazing bunch, and probably very much underpaid as well. Take heart, Andy. What the hell? Give 'em all a raise.
Thanks to Martin Evans for the good times, the good conversation, and what I am sure were some great skydives. Sadly, I couldn't be on them but perhaps next year.
And finally, a very special thank you to Andy Grimwade. A well run DZ looks like a place that's effortless to run. But that's the whole rub. It's a well run place because it takes a crew of well-trained, dedicated people to make it appear to run itself. Andy leads that crew. Thank you for giving us a wonderful boogie to look back on. One that we'll hope to repeat again next year, and the one after that, and the one after that.
Thanks for the hug. And you know something? I never got a chance to check out your buns. Sad, because you do have such nice legs.
To everyone who didn't make this year's rec.skydiving boogie--hate to tell you, but you missed a hell of a good time. Hopefully, next year you'll join us.
Blue skies! And thanks for everything!
-- rita <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Page 2 - For Jan's and David's stories of the boogie see Page 3