When trying something new, I know gaining as much knowledge beforehand often helps me with my fears and maybe it’s the same for you. So, this is my detailed account of my first ever skydive.
During my freshman year of college, various clubs and organizations on campus setup booths along the main sidewalk near the Student Center to pass out information and entice new students to join them. This is when and where I first remember my idea of wanting to go skydiving originated.
I didn’t join the award winning skydiving club but I made a mostly unspoken plan in my head to go skydiving before I graduated from college. It took me five years, instead of the usual four, to graduate so I had extra time to complete my goal. During the last week of school, a member of my senior design project team said he was planning to go skydiving the day after graduation with some friends. I thought about going with them but I didn’t seriously pursue it so my skydiving before graduation plan never happened.
As the years passed after graduation, the idea stayed with me and I even shared the idea in passing with others but nothing ever became of the conversations. Why not? Perhaps due to the fact that I don’t like heights. I don’t all out avoid heights like a phobia but they do make me squeamish so I don’t purposely seek them out. So, why did I want to go skydiving? I really don’t know other than maybe I’m slightly crazy and I like to face my fears head on since I know that can help cure them.
Fast forward to about four years after my college graduation to the age of Groupon and suddenly the skydiving plan was seeing some action! Triangle Skydiving Center (TSC), north of Raleigh, hosted a tandem skydive deal with a significant discount so with the green light to go do this from my husband, we were in the first 10 purchasers of the Groupon deal that day. Within a short period of time, the minimum required purchases for the deal to move forward had been made so our deal was on and we were also able to recruit a friend to get in on the deal with us as well.
We called TSC and signed up for a summery Friday afternoon jump time and arrived with our comfortable clothes (yoga pants and a t-shirt for me) and tennis shoes. Our choice of time turned out to be great as we were part of only a small group and the three of us were the only tandems on that load.
The time we were asked to arrive was well before our actual jump time to accommodate paperwork, suiting up, and practicing. When doing “dangerous” activities, there are pages and pages of forms to be filled out so as to agree that you are slightly insane for participating in the activity and will not blame anyone for any unfortunate outcome. Then we watched a video of ZZ Top instructing us on the do’s and don’t’s of first time skydivers.
Each of our tandem instructors came into the briefing room and things got busy quick. We were introduced to the person who would hold our lives in their hands or on their chest to be accurate, given a jumpsuit, hat, goggles (attached to the hat so you wouldn’t lose them in mid-air), and everyone got an altimeter (altitude meter) except me since they ran out or something.
Being on the nervous and anxious side of things, I decided to take a last chance bathroom run before suiting up.
Our instructor had us lie on the floor to simulate what we would be doing as we exited the plane and were diving through the air. There is not much to remember to do but I remember thinking it all just seemed surreal and unnatural what was about to happen. Maybe because it is!
We were given the opportunity to have a videographer jumping with us to record the momentous occasion but K and I decided we’d save the money toward another adventure, possibly more skydiving! A smart decision, we later found out.
We waited for the call to the board the plane in the hangar then made our way out to the tarmac. As I walked toward the Twin Otter that would take me up into the sky then unceremoniously dump me out, I remember thinking my plan from college was actually going to finally happen.
I like to count things, however, I was in the very front of the plane just behind the pilot so I couldn’t see everyone but I think there were around 10-12 jumpers. The plane had bench seats that allowed us to sit with our backs against the windows and looking at the people across the aisle.
We put our seatbelts on, closed the jump door, and taxied down the runway and were in the air much quicker than any commercial flight I’ve ever been on not to mention quite smoothly. So weird to think I was going up in a plane that I would not also be landing in.
After reaching approximately 3000 feet the jump door was opened as it was now “safe” to fall out at that altitude and still pop open your parachute and land safely. As we climbed to around 13,000 feet, our tandem instructors hooked our harness into their harness and continued to make multiple checks that everything was hooked up and ready to go.
For anyone that may be uncomfortable being in VERYCLOSE proximity to someone they just met, this may not be the extreme activity for you. Also, since the seats did not allow us to straddle it bench style, we had to basically sit in our instructors lap to make sure everything was hooked up and tightly strapped down. As a female it could be awkward for sure but I think I was more amused at watching the guys being intimately strapped to another guy.
Even though it was very warm on the ground (90F), the higher we climbed the colder it got, to the point where I was shivering.
At approximately 13,500 feet, people started jumping from the plane in pretty quick succession. Being in the back of the group, I watched as one by one then two by two as everyone but my instructor and I had left the plane.
I don’t really have an explanation for what it’s like to see your husband then a good friend jump from an airplane but the image is burned in my memory.
As each tandem left the plane, I could see them not really fall straight but not really flip over either then a very small parachute, that I assume is some kind of drag parachute to slow the freefall, is deployed.
Finally, after one last quick review of what I would need to do, it was my turn to exit the airplane. I was calm but scared and just knew that I wanted to go but not on my own accord so was thankful to be going tandem with an instructor. I knew whatever I did I was not going to look down and actually as we lined up by the door to go out, I got down into position on my knees and remember looking out past the wing and staring at the horizon waiting for the inevitable falling feeling.