Sunday, September 26, 2010

Hurtling through the air toward certain death

Oh, man. Crazy weekend. Where to begin?

Wait, not here! Gotta back up first.

I went skydiving with my brother, Brandon, and my mom's boyfriend, Don, on Saturday evening. We had originally scheduled to skydive last Sunday, but the weather was horrible and erratic — dumping rain one minute, kind of clearing up the next, then dumping rain again.

Luckily, Saturday's weather was perfect. The sky was completely clear and the temp was in the mid-70s. It felt like an awesome July day.

I spent the morning touring Woodinville wineries with my recently engaged friends who are searching for a wedding venue, so that took my mind off of being nervous for the skydive. Then I took a nap, which I attribute directly to the flu shot I had gotten on Friday. Right when I woke up, it was time to head to Snohomish. No time to be nervous!

The atmosphere at Skydive Snohomish is very relaxed, which I think is crucial for jumpy people like me. Music and skydiving videos were playing while we paid and signed our lives away — pages and pages of initialing statements like, "I acknowledge that skydiving is DANGEROUS and EXPERIMENTAL and that I may be SEVERELY INJURED or KILLED."

I'm not kidding — they were very generous with the caps-lock key.

Then we watched a brief video, which walked us through what we would be doing. I was all good until it got to the part where you actually jump out of the plane — it turns out that you and your tandem instructor scoot on your butts over to the open door, and then you have to hook your legs under the plane and wait for your instructor to go "one, two, three!" before he shoves you both out.

I'm sorry... HOOK my LEGS under the PLANE? I'm not sure why that really freaked me out, but it did.

We went outside and did a little practice arching our bodies, which is apparently the optimum position for hurtling through the air toward certain death.

Then it was time to put on our sweet jumpsuits and get harnessed up.

My instructor was a jolly fellow from England named Spotty. Yes, Spotty. That's not his real name, but that's how he introduced himself, so I was hoping that it wasn't his skydiving skills that were spotty. He was a cool guy and kept me relaxed and informed of what we would be doing at all times, which I really appreciated.

He also encouraged me to do jazz hands during freefall, which I totally did!

Once we were ready to go, it was right out to the little plane. The sun was about to set and we had to be back on the ground by the time it went down. Again, no time to be nervous, thank goodness!

We all sat on the floor of the plane — no seats, obviously — in between each other's legs. The flight was beautiful — about 10 or 15 minutes of flying up to 13,500 feet, with awesome views of the mountains and Puget Sound. This part wasn't very scary, either, since Spotty kept chatting me up about wineries and other random stuff.

When we were almost to the right elevation, Spotty strapped me to him really tightly and put my little hat and goggles on. It felt really safe and secure. Then the door opened and I watched two groups jump before me — Don with his instructor first, then another guy with his instructor.

It's really, really weird to watch people fall out of the plane you're in.

Suddenly it was our turn. We scooted to the door and I instinctively grabbed the right side of the opening, which was immediately nixed by Spotty. I was supposed to hold onto my harness, which I did, as I HOOKED my LEGS under the PLANE — my first "HOLY S#!T!" moment, but not as scary as I thought it would be. Then it was "one, two, three!" and out we went.

At first we were not level. We were freakin' headfirst, sideways, all over the place. I was screaming and freaking out, but having a lot of fun, and did I mention freaking out? Once we got into the correct position (see above, on the grass) the freefall felt much more controlled. And it didn't even feel like falling because it didn't seem like the ground was getting all that closer.

Spotty was making swimming motions with his hands and laughing, and I was doing jazz hands and realizing that I should keep my mouth shut (i.e. stop screaming) so that I could actually breathe and not have tons of air rushing into my throat.

I was also trying to look at the horizon and not just stare at the ground, but it was hard to hold my head up since it felt like Spotty's chest was right above my head. Apparently we were in freefall for about a minute, but it felt like it went by so much faster.

I was really, really glad when the parachute opened (for many reasons!), since I got to relax a little and stop completely freaking out. I was able to take my goggles off and look around more, and Spotty had me hold on to the handles that controlled the parachute. He showed me how to pull on them to go left or right, and he did some pretty scary, fast turns. I was happy to hang and chill and look around without the deathly whipping around that some of the other skydivers were doing.

I was shaking and in awe the entire time. I kept saying, "Holy s#!t!" and "Wow, this is crazy!" because it really, really was. Who jumps out of planes?! Who does this every day?!

The landing was the last semi-scary part, but Spotty really knew what he was doing and told me exactly when to lift my legs up to avoid viciously breaking them. We slid to the ground harmlessly on our bottoms, and I couldn't stop laughing. Spotty captured the moment perfectly when he said: "Welcome to skydiving — the sky is now your playground."

I've perused many lists of people's lifelong goals around the Internets, and skydiving pops up on most of them. If you're thinking of going, do it! If you live near a reputable skydiving facility, the only obstacles to overcome are lack of money, lack of time and lack of will.

I've decided to make new experiences and adventures a priority in my life, so the decision to dedicate some money and time to skydiving was really easy. As for will, I was much more scared to jump off a bridge last summer than I was to jump out of a plane last night. I've come a long way, baby.

Life is crazy like that.

1 comment:

  1. It's too bad your brother doesn't have a cool blog like this. It's nice to know you got more than a certificate of this awesome experience - pictures in particular. I guess I'll have to take the dive with him next season.


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