I’m not sure where it came from, but I have a bit of an adventurous streak in me. At some point along the way, I obtained a, “Screw it, let’s do it,” attitude about risky activities.
I skydived again. Yes, that’s surprising to people who know me or think they do. I told someone I was going to skydive again (after telling them I skydived previously) and they responded, “You continue to surprise me.”
In August 2012, I skydived for the first time, spurred on by razzing my brother, thinking he wouldn’t do it with me, and also, because I had my first ever break-up, and I was ready to do something big. Honestly, the “big” to me was, if I skydive, this will be life-changing, and chart a new path for me. I genuinely thought something as bucket list item (or so it seemed) as skydiving would have that power. Spoiler: It didn’t then and didn’t now, but it’s still one of the most memorable things I’ve ever done.
Let me back up though. So I live in Ohio, home of the largest amusement park in the Midwest (or so they claim, I haven’t verified) Kings Island. When I was a kid, roller coasters and the famed Drop Zone, although I think they renamed it the Drop Tower (it’s exactly what it sounds like, folks) scared me. I didn’t want to do them. I didn’t like heights, particularly, and I didn’t like the intensity.
This is the Drop Zone, a 315-foot drop from the sky at 67 miles per hour:
As a young teenager, I stood in line with my twin sister and her friend (who I had a major crush on) for this ride. The friend was too scared and got out of the line. Now, I like to think I was being chivalrous when I followed her out of the line and left my sister to drop alone, but I was scared, too. Sorry, twin. She was more brave than I was on that day.
Fast-forward a little less than 10 years later to when I was 21-years-old, and I willingly went up 10,000 feet in a small plane — the first time I had ever been up in a plane, mind you! — and jumped out in a tandem jump and fell at more than 100 miles per hour. That was in Middletown, Ohio near where I live.
I’m still afraid of heights, too. If you make me climb a ladder or go to the top of a tower and look down, I’m going to get sweaty palms. I’m getting sweaty palms even typing that, thinking about the visual!
So yeah, I don’t know how I did it that first time. I was also nursing an awful hangover, so maybe that helped quell my nerves. As you can see from the video, though, not entirely, as I gave a bit of a scared face upon flinging out of the plane:
My First Skydiving Adventure
I don’t want to describe what it’s like because, as I mentioned, I did it again, and I want to save the description for later.
My friend from Florida wanted to do it for his first time, so we met in the half-way point between Ohio and Florida in Atlanta, Georgia, and then went to a place called Skydive Georgia about an hour away near the Alabama border.
I wasn’t nervous at all this time. Part of me was mildly concerned because only nine months previously I had major surgery to remove a kidney (I promise that story is coming), so that’s always going to be in the back of my mind whenever I do something crazy. Doctors OK’ed it, though, saying as long as I didn’t land in any trees, I should be OK. I think if I landed in trees, I’d have a much bigger problem on my hands than that of a kidney.
I’m also nine years older than last time, 30-years-old now, and I did this on my 30th birthday. I mean, 30 is still young, but hey, I’m getting older, maybe my body wouldn’t react the same to skydiving.
On top of all of that, we are still amid a global pandemic with COVID-19. I will be up front about this: The video I’m sharing is not the whole video. I’m too guilt-ridden to share the full video since it shows me in the small plane without a mask on. I did wear a mask at every moment up until that point. It was dangerous and reckless admittedly. If anything, I was putting myself more at risk to a disease than I was to the risks inherent in skydiving.
But a week later, god-willing, I still feel fine, so hopefully that particular bout of recklessness won’t come back to haunt me.
That said, this was an entirely different experience than last time. For starters, we jumped from 14,500 feet instead of 10,000 feet, and the free fall was at 120 miles per hour for between 70 to 75 seconds. On top of that, my tandem instructor asked if I wanted to do a back-flip out of the plane, which of course I said yes to.
And then once we did the free fall and the parachute was released, he let me control the parachute for about 15 seconds. That was fun! I could steer it left and right. Let’s just say though, I have no plans to ever do this solo. Tandem jumps are the way to go because I don’t have to think too much: Tuck my legs behind me when we jump, keep my hands on my straps until he tells me to let go, and then listen to his advice upon landing. For example, last time we came in our butts, and the instructor took the brunt (if there even is a brunt) of the landing, and it was a smooth landing. As you can see from the video, I was concerned that the landing would be rough. It was anything but.
This time around, at the last second, we came in our feet.
Here’s the video (unfortunately, through Twitter since I’m struggling with embedding the video.
My Second Skydiving Adventure
Even though it’s called free falling, it doesn’t feel like it. It’s not like the Drop Zone or a roller coaster or a mild hill when driving where you feel that dip and lunging feeling in your stomach. There is so much air pressure that it’s more like float falling. Because of that air pressure, it’s an intense float falling, but nothing you can’t handle for 70 seconds.
It’s hard to describe the sensation. Words fail me. I called it surreal the first time in that video and it still holds true. The most surreal moment is when we reached out designated point of 14,500 feet, and there’s no hesitation. As with last time, I’m sitting in the back of the plane, and you look out the window and see bodies diving out of the plane. It’s insanity! Absolute insanity!
When you approach that open door on a plane — which goes against all of our built-in instincts — particularly this time, I felt like the world’s biggest bad-ass. That adrenaline rush is unlike anything I can compare it to. You feel so powerful. It’s perhaps the closest I’ll ever get to feeling like Superman.
The reason people seem opposed to the idea of skydiving is that they can’t get past the visual of standing at the open door of a plane and jumping out of it. That visual is a mental blocker. But if you can get past it, as I said, the fall itself is nothing you can’t handle, and it may surprise you how relatively “easy” it is.
But while it’s easy, that feeling of intense air pressure and plunging to the earth is also hard to describe. It’s hard to even think; you’re focused on breathing and trying to find the photographer to smile and give a thumbs up. It’s a rush of not just air pressure, but sensation. I’m trying to think of an analogy, but I don’t know anything like it.
Then the parachute opens, and you rocket up to the sky. That’s when you get the most serene feeling in the world, juxtaposed to having gone through one of the most intense feelings in the world. You just did that! You’re a boss. And now you’re chilling, sitting there in the sky 4,000 feet up in the air or whatever it is, looking out over our beautiful earth for miles.
Standing at the open door of the plane and the rush of the free fall are potent and something I want to go back to again and again, but the truly addictive part of skydiving — and the part I’ve held on to for eight years since last doing it — is that peaceful feeling after the parachute opens. Nothing matters, but that beautiful earth. If I could stay like that for hours (maybe a little bit more comfortably without straps), that seems like a great life to me.
Even more than the first time, I can’t wait to go a third time after doing it a second time. That serenity feeling is addictive. Mastering your fears is addictive. Seeing others do it for the first time is addictive. My instructor this time said that the second time is even better. That’s because the first time, you’re so focused and nervous on the act of doing it, that you almost quasi-blackout everything. I can echo that: I wanted to do it a second time to be able to better remember everything. And he’s right. The second time was better than the first time. It helped to be thousands of feet higher, too.
Skydiving is safe. Deaths are rare, but still, even a that minor ability to spit in the face of death by doing something inherently risky like skydiving — after all, every single time, every single aspect of the jump has to go perfect — is addictive.
Not today, death.
I will recommend anyone to do it. It may surprise you, and you may surprise yourself with what you’re capable of. I know I have.
Would you go skydiving? If so, what are questions you have for me to help make your experience better? Or lessen your nerves, if possible?
In the meantime, here are some more photos: