The first time I jumped out of a perfectly good airplane was during my bachelor party in April 1993. I went skydiving today for only the second time.
A few months back, a highly cross-fit colleague mentioned that she has always wanted to go skydiving. We immediately calendared a date to go for tandem jumps. I was aware recently how much time had passed since my first sky diving experience, so when the opportunity presented itself, well, I jumped at it.
The family, my colleague and I left for Lake Elsinore about 7:30am. The two of us jumpers paid our money, signed our lives away, watched a video and went to get suited up. The Child also wanted to skydive today, but none of the schools in the area permitted children under 18 to jump.
Without going into a whole lot of detail, let me just say that whole experience was so much simpler and safer than it was two decades ago.
It took about an hour for us to harnessed, trained, meet our jump-masters and load into the plane. One of the girls in our training class was celebrating her 18th birthday. A strange look came over her face when I mentioned that my last jump was more than a year before she was born.
I checked out both our tandem jump-masters to make sure that they were happy and well-adjusted individuals who had reasons to live. You know, people with families that they wanted to go home to. I joked that I would get into a lot of trouble if anything happened to my colleague. Her jump-master countered with a fact that he was also highly invested in her landing safely as well. That ended that conversation.
The plane ride was cozy. My colleague’s female videographer was to my left. In order to clip into my jump master, I had to slide my left leg behind her and put my right knee in front of her chest. Then I had to sit on my jump-master’s lap. Awkward for me, but it wasn’t an issue for this crowd. The crawl to the edge of the plane was much easier than the first jump. I remember on my first jump, I couldn’t believe I was standing on the edge of plane’s open door. This time, it was more of, OK, let’s go; so we did.
The two and a half mile fall goes quickly. After we left the plane I looked back to see the underbelly of the plane as it pulled away from us. We were free-falling. My instructor had us spinning around, seeing all 360 degrees of the desert valley in under a second. The free-fall is noisy and incredibly fun. I was waiting for the quiet that comes under the canopy of the parachute. It’s as if someone quickly turns down the volume on a stereo from 20 to 2. It became peaceful and quiet.
Along the way, that motion sick feeling set into my stomach. I knew it would be there from my first jump, which is why I didn’t eat much for breakfast. I kept breathing and tried to keep my gaze fixed.
My colleage was way ahead of us. I could see her jump-master was having a ball making harsh turns. I kanew she was having fun. Then it was our turn to start to make some fun turns. I could have asked the jump master to take it easy to avoid the motion sickness getting worse, but how wimpy would that have been just floating to the ground with minimal fun? Turning is fun and the whole ride goes way to quickly, just like the last 20 years. My stomach was going to have to take this one in the neck.
As we approached the landing zone we made a few more harsh turns. I could see Laura and The Child standing on the ground. I called to them from a few hundred feet above the ground. They heard me yelling.
I still have the VHS video and the pictures from my first tandem jump. I didn’t feel the need to buy them this time out. Laura did capture me in my last moments of the descent after she heard me calling her name
When I landed 20 years ago, it was on a day much like today. There was no wind. Back then we tried to land on our feet. It didn’t work so well for me and came in like Derek Jeter sliding into second base. I was hoping to redeem myself today. Today the no wind SOP was to land on our butts. I really wanted to nail the landing this time. Next time, I am going on a windy day.
I enjoyed the entire experience more this time than before. There is something about knowing what’s about to happen that abates the fear.
I am not in love with skydiving but it’s definitely fun. I think I have one or two more jumps left in me. If The Child wants to jump when she turns 18 in a few years, I will go with her. I would like, my last jump, God willing, to be on Long Island, New York. Some place green and not as brown as the Southern California desert.
Hopefully, it won’t take me another 19 years to get up in a plane. Of course, it might be a cool thing for a 66 year-old guy to do.