stories, lessons, and a lot of nonsense

Putting on a brave face before the jump.

I wanted to title this post, “Highway to the Danger Zone,” but that would have been an incomplete title.  It would have had to have been “Highway to the Danger Zone While Strapped to Another Man,” since I went tandem skydiving this past weekend.  Big thanks to the Sherminator and his family for taking me.  It was a really fun experience.  I was definitely scared, missing out on sleep Thursday and Friday night leading up to the jump on Saturday.  I was scared Saturday when I left.  By the time we got there, I had calmed down most of the way, and as we pulled into Skydive Great Lakes, I accepted what I was going to do and wasn’t even fidgeting anymore.

The plane I jumped from

There were two things tied for most uncomfortable part of the day.  First, the leg harnesses were really bad, but the point is to keep you attached to the parachute, so I will forgive them.  They were bad enough when I was strapped into them, but when the parachute pulled, it got really uncomfortable.  It really dug into the legs, but again, it’s better than dying, so I’m okay with it.  The second most uncomfortable thing was having to sit on my instructors lap for a couple minutes before the jump.  I really had to pass gas, but I didn’t want to offend the man whose life my hands were in, so I had to hold it.  Between sitting on a man’s lap for the first time in forever and holding in gas, I was pretty uncomfortable.

The plane taking off.

There were about 10 seconds of being really scared up in the air.  I wasn’t the first person to jump, which was nice, but that meant I had to sit in the plane with the door open for a bit. That wasn’t too scary, but it reminded me that this was real and about to happen.  The scariest part was when the guy before me went, and we immediately slid over to the ledge.  I was instructed to tuck my feet under the plane, grab onto my chest harness, and arch my back.  For at least five seconds, I was not touching the plane, and I wasn’t going anywhere.  I was swaying in the wind, 3 miles in the air, attached to a guy I had just met.  He let me know it was about time to go, counted it off, and pushed off the plane.  We backflipped away from the plane and the free fall began.  That flip and the first few seconds after it took a second to adjust to.  I had to remind myself to breathe, and when I did, it felt like I was under water or had a bloody nose or something.  The air was very thin.

The free fall lasted for about 60 seconds, and when the chute came out, I was simultaneously disappointed that the free fall was over and relieved that the parachute worked.  There’s a back up chute that would bail us out if the first chute didn’t work, but I didn’t want to experience that so much.  The rest of the fall lasted for a few minutes.  I got to steer – and I feel like a kid who sat on his dad’s lap driving through parking lot just saying that – and I got to assist in a downward spin.  It was like a crazy roller coaster for a moment while I twirled in the air.

It was a great experience.  I would like to do it a couple more times, although at this point, I have little desire to make a solo jump.  Maybe some day, but for now, I’m content flying through the danger zone strapped to an experienced jumper.

Here’s the video, shot from the ground.  It would have cost too much to have them film it in the air, so Hayden filmed it on my phone from the ground.  I’m the second person to land in this video.

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