Skydiving: Why skydivers are happy people
Erin Rogers, Sentinel Leisure EditorSALADO - Skydiving.
Thursday, September 20, 2012
Just the word alone can either bring up feelings of fear, excitement, anticipation or anxiety.
Two weeks ago when I heard the word “skydiving,” the feelings I had were curiosity and hesitancy.
Now, when someone says the word, a smile instantly spreads across my face and I feel like I need to report to the nearest drop zone and jump out of a plane immediately.
My friend Michele Huff and I made the commitment to go skydiving at Skydive Temple in Salado two weeks ahead of our jump date, and I didn’t allow myself to think about the actual fall until the day before I was going. I didn’t fully trust myself to follow through with the jump if I allowed myself to think about my toes creeping over the edge of the open door to an airplane flying at 13,000 feet above the Earth.
I arrived at Skydive Temple before Michele and had the opportunity to talk to a few of the jumpers there, who assured me that this would not be my last jump since I would be falling in love with the sport in about 45 minutes. I still wasn’t so sure, but I put on a brave face trying to convince them (and myself) that I was beyond ready to jump out of a plane.
Michele arrived, and we were introduced to our photographers and our experienced skydivers who we’d be jumping tandem with.
I was immediately comfortable with my skydive instructor, Sam King, who was fully relaxed and didn’t overload my already-nervous mind with too many instructions. He gave me a few key points to remember during our 30-minute training, chose a hot-pink skydiving jumpsuit for me – just my style – and strapped me tightly into the harness that would later attach me to him when we jumped.
Right before we walked out to the plane, my videographer, Austin Catchings, did a pre-flight interview to put in the video he was creating for me.
“What on Earth made you want to jump out a perfectly good airplane?” he asked me – which at that point, I still wasn’t sure about the answer. “I’ve always wanted to,” was my true, but still crazy, response.
Sam, Austin and I walked out to the plane with the other tandem skydivers and their instructors. I sat on the plane in front of Sam, so he could strap me to him on our way up, and we began our ascent to 12,000 feet.
When we were at about 4,000 feet, Austin came to do a pre-jump interview, asking if I was at all nervous.
“Not yet, but maybe in a few minutes when my feet are dangling out of the plane,” was all I could get out before I realized what I said – in a few minutes, my feet would be dangling out the door of an airplane at 12,000 feet.
While Sam secured my harness to his harness, I watched Austin put his helmet on that had a video camera strapped to the top of it, and a switch in between his teeth that took a still photo whenever he bit down on it.
I was still thinking about how cool Austin’s camera technology was when he opened the door and it was suddenly very loud and everything started happening very quickly – Sam said it was time to go while he tightened the goggles around my head.
The first skydiver was already out the door and Sam was scooting me to the back of the plane for our jump, Austin was actually OUTSIDE of the plane, hanging on to the edge of the door and smiling while Sam edged me and him closer to the open door.
I remembered that Sam told me to hold onto the straps of my harness when we jumped, and not to let go until he tapped my shoulder. So I held onto my straps, looked down at the ground so far below us, counted Sam rock us back and forth three times like he said he would, and we rolled sideways out of the plane.
Because of the absolute and all-encompassing rush, I couldn’t think. I knew I was supposed to be holding onto my straps, and I knew I was falling.
And I knew I loved it.
Sam and I were falling fast – but spinning slowly – and when we leveled out with our bellies facing the earth, I realized I was laughing, not screaming. The feeling of the free fall was incredible. I can say with honesty and full confidence that it was the newest feeling I’ve ever had – nothing in my life can compare yet.
I had forgotten about Austin in the controlled chaos of the jump, but he was suddenly there with us again, grabbing my hand to let me know he was there when I didn’t see him right away, because, let’s face it – I was a little distracted with that whole “jumping out of an airplane” endeavor.
He was smiling huge and waving at me, holding onto my hand so he wouldn’t fall away from Sam and I. Austin started making different hand signs for me, giving me different ideas for the photos he was taking of me. I’m thankful he was helping me out because I still couldn’t think straight at the time!
He stayed with us for a little while, and then before I knew it Sam pulled our parachute and Austin was gone. This was the most surprising part of the whole experience for me – realizing how fast I was falling. When Sam pulled the parachute, Austin was gone in an instant, I blinked and he was so far below us – that’s when I realized I had been falling that fast, too.
The second most surprising thing was how completely silent it was after Sam pulled our parachute – he and I were just floating and talking. He told me at one point that we were at the same height as the world’s tallest building. And at 800 feet, he told me that’s where the Army jumps from – it seemed a little too low for me.
Because the sky was partly-cloudy the day I went, Sam and I were surrounded by clouds. He asked me if I wanted to go inside one, saying it was something not many people have the opportunity to do since most people jump on very clear days.
He let me steer our parachute into a huge cloud, and it was pure white in every direction I looked – it seemed very unreal.
We came out of the cloud and Sam navigated us over the Central Texas landscape and pointed out different landmarks to me as we slowly floated down to the landing zone.
He gave me a few simple instructions on landing procedures and we had a perfect landing, Austin waiting there for me to do a post-jump interview.
After skydiving once, it would be impossible for me to not go again, because the feeling is something to chase.
I’m already planning my next jump, and am proud to say I now understand the reason skydivers are happy people.