I was recently fortunate enough to get away for a week with my parents and girlfriend to Key West, Florida. After the long, cold winter that we enjoyed in Michigan, it was only fitting to sneak away and shake off those Winter-time blues in the warm Florida sun. The trip itself was very memorable and enjoyable but there are a few highlights from it that will be fresh in my mind forever.
This was the vacation where I finally jumped out of a plane.
I’ve wanted to skydive for quite a while now, the earliest I can trace back the interest or desire is probably to high school. I’ve always enjoyed thrills and doing things that I couldn’t do anywhere in my hometown, most of my vacations always seem to have these unique opportunities. In recent years, I was able to learn to Scuba dive, rock climb and white water raft in West Virginia and kayak Northern Michigan more times than I could possibly count. Nothing compares or comes close to jumping out of a perfectly good airplane though.
For as interested as I’ve been in the sport, I’ve always had apprehension as well. I’ve never thoroughly enjoyed flying, I’m not sure I ever will. Heights aren’t so much a fear for me as falling is. Roller coasters have always been tough for me too, that gut feeling caused by acceleration is always thrilling but off-putting when you do it over and over again. I also have a tough time not being in control of my fate. Maybe it’s having to trust the pilot and the plane, who knows. When you factor that handful of gripes into my opportunity to jump out of a plane, you can imagine how conflicted I must have felt. My anxiety was through the roof the day of the jump.
And for what?
Nothing. I worked myself up for nothing at all. Skydiving is the single coolest thing I have ever done in my life, as well as the most dangerous. Nothing compares to the rush and the incredible feeling of soaring through the air at 120 mph with only an instructor and a parachute strapped to your back. The roar of the wind, the feeling of free fall. Free fall, probably the coolest thing I have ever felt. Weightless, soaring like a bird, feeling gravity work to pull you back to the ground where you belong. My fear left me right after I was pushed through that doorway, it stayed right there on that plane 10,000 feet in the air.
And now you are probably wondering a lot of the things I was. Does your stomach drop or do flips? How long do you fall? Were you scared? Would you do it again?
My biggest fear, next to my chute not deploying, was that feeling your stomach gets on a roller coaster. That feeling like your guts are just lifting up and up. We’ve all felt it at one point or another. Thankfully, there is none of that in skydiving. If anything there is just a fraction of a fraction a second where your body just goes “whoa” before free fall sets in. This is just you quickly speeding up to terminal velocity, as I understand it. And that feeling in your stomach is caused by acceleration on the body, not falling.
After you leave the threshold, you fall for about 30 seconds. That feeling is amazing. You just fall, an object being attracted to Earth by gravity. It is beautiful and intense. My best advice: scream. You will be able to breathe when you do. After that, you parachute for 2 minutes and that is a different kind of awesome, seeing the world from so high up.
Was I scared? Yes, from strapping in on the ground, to taking off to the second they opened the door at 10,000 ft. “Scared shitless” is what I told the instructor, he told me it was natural but there is nothing to worry about. Right about the time I put my legs outside that plane and was given the final push out, my fear was gone. There was no going back, that was just it. Only way back down was jumping and it was time to fly.
As for whether I would do it again or not: Hell yes I will. I am proud to say that I am addicted to jumping out of planes now.