Learning To Fall
It’s been just over a week since I made that first step. We were at 13,500 feet; I was standing with my toes hanging over the edge of the door; and my feet pointed towards the wing. I had a jump master strapped to my back, and I was ready to take the plunge of my life, or so I thought.
I’ve been talking about going sky diving for a while now. My brother and I were going to do it at one point, but we couldn’t get our schedules to line up. I was talking about it at Kenny and Pat’s house, and I said, “I want to do it, but I don’t want to go by myself.” At that Harry piped up and said, “I’ll go with you.” The conversation ended with assurances we would re-address it come spring time.
At the end of ski season, and with spring burgeoning, Harry dislocated his shoulder on the slopes. Again the adventure would have to wait.
By the time October arrived Harry was rehabilitated and we started making plans. On our first attempt, we made it to The Ranch and paid our fee, only to have the jump canceled due to gusty winds. Of course, I appreciated the safety aspect, but I sure was disappointed. I was pretty sure we wouldn’t get another opportunity this year.
We setup another appointment for Saturday November 17. On Thursday, I flew home from 65 degree Kentucky to meet the cold; snow showers; and in general bad weather. I was sure there was no way we’d be going sky diving the following Saturday. However, The Ranch called Harry Friday afternoon, and told him we were still on. It turned out to be a beautiful day even if it was a bit chilly with temperatures in the 30s.
Ali and I arrived at the ranch with about 15 minutes to spare. I paid and was immediately paired up with my jump master Denes (pronounced Danish). As I was getting into my jump suite, Scott the videographer came up and introduced himself. After talking for a few seconds, the camera was rolling. A little more prep and we made our way to the tarmac. I had to stand on a bench while Denes tightened my harness. One thing that was subtly implied, though I would have preferred a more overt warning, was this — Make sure your “beans and frank” are in a good, “free” position; otherwise the jump could prove to be quite painful.
The plane pulled up and we loaded. It turned out Harry was the last tandem jumper to board the plane, which meant he’d be the first one out. I wasn’t second in line, but Scot arranged it so I would be. The plane ride was a little bouncy as we made our way up. At about 5,000 feet the door was opened and a “regular” jumper nonchalantly dove sideways out of the plane. The door closed, and we continued our climb. The views were spectacular from the plane, I could see the Ridge, the Hudson river, and probably down into the City, if I had looked in that direction.
On the climb up, Denes connected our harnesses together in preparation for the jump. We hit 13,500 feet and another “regular” went out the door, then it was time for the first timers. Harry was up and I watched him go. It was time for me to make my way to the door.
So like I said, I was ready to take the plunge of my life. Denes was counting off the jump, “PROP, UP, DOWN, ARCH,” but I couldn’t hear him. I just felt a gentle rock each time he said something, and then we were away. The first few seconds out of the door were frickin’ scary. Thank goodness it didn’t last. Once my body adjusted to rapidly plummeting towards the earth, everything was cool.
As you go out the door you are supposed to arch and push your pelvis out. As we did this, we started to flip over backwards, but we didn’t quite make it all the way over. If you asked me before I saw the video I would have told we did a full flip. Either way it felt really cool. In fact, I haven’t come to terms with a way to describe the first few seconds out the door. At some point I felt the double tap on my back, which indicated it was time to let go of the harness. We were in freefall for around a minute and fell for over a mile.
Once the ‘chute was deployed everything went quiet, and I was able to talk to Denes. He asked if I like roller coasters, and I said, “Yes!” Immediately we were whipped around spiraling and doing 360s and 180s — what a blast!
I’m not sure how high up we were when I spotted the airport, but all I could think was, “this is going to be over way too quick.” We swung out wide, and then went over the hanger and I waved at everyone. Denes told me to hold my feet up, and just like that with a feather soft landing we were on the ground.
All I can say is wow. You’ve got to go try this for yourself — simply amazing.
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