|Just go out and do it!|
by Nick - www.dusk.to/dawn
April 22, 1995
7:00 AM - We're in my dad's brown Cadillac, cruising down the country highway towards an airfield just outside of town. Me, my dad, Eric, Kevin, and Dan: the bravest of the brave. Its four days after my eighteenth birthday and I always promised myself that as soon as I turned eighteen, I would go skydiving. Donuts and coffee abound, and the chocolate on chocolate ones with the nuts on top seem tastier than usual. I'm wondering if anyone else is as nervous and excited as I am. The energy certainly seems high. We're going 75 MPH. Its a high-speed sort of theme.
8:00 AM - In the hangar office, filling out paperwork. Funny thing that. I guess when you jump out of a perfectly good airplane at twelve thousand feet with a piece of cloth strapped to your back, they're worried what will happen if something goes wrong. Yes, yes, I waive my rights to everything. Blah blah blah. I made sure to remind the head instructor, Jim, that I wanted a video. It costs a lot extra to have a camera man jump with you, but its worth it to see the expression on your own face later. Everybody that worked at the hangar was exactly what I might have expected from a bunch of guys who skydive for a living. Wild and high-strung and a little too cliche. That's okay, that's what I like about them.
10:00 AM - Receiving instructions on how everything is going to happen. None of us is really interested in doing the whole deal, we just wanna jump and say we jumped so we're all doing a tandem jump. Which basically means that you're strapped to an instructor when you jump and he is responsible for pulling the chord and everything. I'm not really paying attention, I just want to hurry up and do it before I chicken out. I wanted to bring along my dad and my friends partly because I wanted to be able to share such an exhilarating experience and partly because I knew they wouldn't let me wimp out. Or hear the end of it if I did. Humiliation, or risking life and limb? When you're an eighteen year old male, I think the answer is clear.
12:00 PM - Some girl showed up who also wanted to do a tandem jump today and she turns out to be really cute. So the instructor let her jump first, ahead of us. That pissed me off, but hey, what can you do. The last thing I want is to aggravate the guy who is responsible for pulling my parachute chord. That's okay. A couple more hours to get psyched up.
2:00 PM - In the air! Since this was my little event, everyone was nice enough to let me go first. The plane is this old, rusty, rickety prop craft that you would definitely want to jump out of, given the chance. Its got one seat for the pilot and the rest of the cockpit and cargo area are gutted out for skydivers to sit on the floor. There's five of us total: the pilot, another instructor, the camera man, my instructor, and me. So it takes us about a half an hour of slow climbing to reach the designated jump altitude of 12,500 feet.
2:10 PM - Slowly climbing. The guys are making jokes and I'm just sitting there and pretending to think they're funny. I'm really not paying attention at all. The camera man will flick on his helmet cam every once in a while and ask me how I'm feeling or make a joke and then tape my response. They probably know that I'm nervous beyond expression because they've done this a thousand times before. And all I can think is, damn these little leather helmet things are so dorky.
2:29 PM - About the time that we're getting close to the jump altitude, I've kind of calmed down and I'm not really nervous anymore. I'm all strapped onto my instructor and we're just sitting around and chatting. I didn't notice it but I was definitely trembling.
2:30 PM - The pilot bangs on the hull of the plane to signal that we're at the right altitude and its time for action. I'm thinking to myself that I'm actually feeling pretty good and not too nervous and maybe I wasn't going to be as scared as I thought... expected I would be. Then the camera man opens the door and I can see out and down. Holy shit, that's a long way down. The camera man climbs out of the plane and on to the strut of the wing where he proceeds to wrap his legs onto the top of the wing and suspend himself upside down. He dangles there, waiting for us to get ready so he can drop off at the same time.
2:30:30 PM - Before I have much time to consider what's going on, my tandem instructor is pushing us into position at the edge of the door. I'm trying to help but I'm too stunned by the view I'm about to become intimate with to really do anything but sit there and be stupefied. One, two, three...
The camera man had a really great shot and you can actually see my mouth moving to form the words as we drop out of the plane together. The earth is rocketing up at me at critical velocity, which sounds fast but doesn't quite do the concept justice. I can't hear a damn thing because the wind is pushing past my ears too fast but I think my instructor is yelling something. Probably he's just as excited as I am; it only takes me a few seconds of free fall to realize that I could do this a hundred times and never feel less exhilarated. The camera man swings around and I give him a thumbs-up...
2:31:05 PM - Fwump! The parachute is out and we're... floating. Its absolutely beautiful and serene up here. You can see for miles in every direction and from this height everything just seems so peaceful. My instructor briefly asks me how I felt and how the dive was and I answered something stunned and nonsensical. But he knew that I would rather just enjoy the moment so we slowly sail down in silence.
2:40 PM - After almost ten minutes of silent floating, I'm ready to snap into reality a little bit. The instructor asks me if I want to take the controls on the parachute and steer us around. I didn't even know you could do that! So he shows me how to do tight spirals and I almost got sick. Whoa, apparently my stomach hasn't quite caught up with me yet.
2:45 PM - Here's the tricky part. I'm wondering exactly how we're supposed to land. I imagine that if it was just one person, you'd just land on your feet, maybe at a run. But with two people, are we really supposed to do that? No, my instructor informs me. He has the unfortunate task of providing his own ass as the landing strip. We're gonna land on our butts, or more specifically, since he's behind me, his butt. When we get right above the ground, he'll yell 'Flare! Flare!' and I lift my legs out in front of me and...
2:45:30 PM - 'Flare! Flare! Ow! Ooof! Thud! Skiiiiiiiid...' We're on the ground. The camera man is already on the ground before us so that he can tape my reaction once I get my feet back underneath me. I think I said something dorky like I'm going to Disney Land. I was so stunned and shaking from non-stop adrenaline surges that I forgot to offer a hand to my instructor to help him up. My life will never be the same.
That was my first skydiving experience. I've done a couple of AFF dives since then and I've always intended to get my full certification and start really getting into the sport but one thing or another has always prevented me. Usually time. But if you have any inkling of interest, I highly recommend that you take the plunge. Just go out and do it. You'll never go back.
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