At one time, not so long ago, even thought it sometimes seems a lifetime ago, I was a skydiver. Yes, I actually jumped out of perfectly good planes. It all began when I was about 13 years old. I can’t remember if I saw it on TV or in a movie, but I knew skydiving was something I had to try. I buried the thoughts of such an adventure deep in the corners of my mind and forgot about it. Then, one day, when I was much older, the possibility presented itself and the excitement of that type of extreme adventure took hold of my heart. I tossed the idea around for a while until, when on vacation in Monterey, California, I decided to try it. Nestled in the lovely farm land known as the Salinas Valley there is a tiny airport that boasts a skydiving operation called Skydive Monterey Bay. I figured, what the heck, I’m on vacation … you only live once, right? I’m going for it. So, I took a ride out to the location and signed up to do a tandem skydive.
What’s a tandem skydive? This is when you are attached to the front of a professional skydiver. I had to watch a safety video and sign all sorts of waivers because let’s face it, this could have the possibility of grave consequences. Still, the excitement of the adventure was greater than my fear so I got suited up in a spandex type jump suit and harness. Starting to feel the nerves, I immediately felt as if I had to run to the ladies room. Back out in the hanger now, with my nerves in check, it was time to go. I followed my instructor out on the tarmac to the plane with my nerves surfacing once again. Climbing into the plane, I took my place sitting in front of my tandem master and soon the plane was taxing down the runway and climbing to altitude. Now I have to tell you, I was really starting to have second thoughts.
At altitude a green light in the rear of the plane began to flash and the experienced jumpers on board pulled opened a hatch door in the side of the plane and began jumping out. At this point, I started to have more than second thoughts.
Finally it was my turn. My instructor had gotten me all attached and we inched toward the door. Man, I was shaking in my shoes. As we crept toward that open door my heart began to thunder, my mouth went dry, my palms began to sweat and I had this nearly uncontrollable urge to empty my bladder … again. When we got to the door and I glanced out, the ground 3 miles below looked like tiny little colored squares … and I froze with fear. “I don’t think I can do this,” I yelled to my instructor over the raging sound of the wind rushing past the opened door. He was kind, but he was determined. “Sure you can,” he yelled back and leaning down, he placed his knee behind my knee and asserted a little pressure. My knees buckled and I literally fell out of the plane.
As soon as I was out that door, all the anxiety fled. I was in awe of the vista below. I must confess right here and now … it was one of the most amazing encounters one could ever experience. You are falling at approximately 120 miles
per hour and the wind rushing past you is intense, and totally surreal. The view was amazing. Monterey Bay was to my right and the Sierra Nevada’s to my left. It was the most incredible view of a truly beautiful landscape.
We didn’t stay in what they call “free fall” for very long before the instructor
pulled the rip cord. The parachute opened (Thank God) and I got that feeling of being yanked upward, but in actuality it is just that the parachute has slowed the fall. This is one of the greatest feelings and probably over the course of my skydiving career, my favorite part of the sky dive. I remember looking up at that huge multi-colored parachute flying above my head and thinking it was the most beautiful thing I could imagine ever seeing. I found myself in a silent world being guided through the air in a portion of the skydiving experience referred to as “under canopy” and I can tell you the wonder of this experience gives me some insight as to the joy and freedom birds feel as they glide overhead. I now know why birds sing.
We landed in the center of the “drop zone” (the area designated specifically for skydivers to land) with the ease of merely taking a step. The entire experience was a complete adrenaline rush that I cannot even begin to explain. I couldn’t stop smiling for about two weeks! It was amazing and I was hooked. If you have always wanted to try skydiving, I highly recommend it. It is not for the faint of heart, but for those with an adventurous spirit. What does this have to do with writing? You have written a wonderful story … much like creeping toward the open door in the side of a perfectly good plane and then your fear takes over … but once you take the leap … and get out there you will have the best experience of your life. So, remember you can’t enjoy the experience unless you get out of the plane.