Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Skydive Part Deux

As I mentioned in my last post, we were slated to go skydiving again on 7 June. I had a group of 7 of us that decided to make the jump. 4 of us were repeats while three were first timers. A few of us met up and carpooled to the drop zone. The rest showed up at the DZ and everyone was there by the scheduled time.  We were split into 2 groups for the lifts, 4 in the first load and 3 in the next. Since we were split into two groups and three of us requested the same tandem master, I guess, since I was a repeat, they decided to let me jump with someone else. I had a deal with “JW” that he would let me use an altimeter and let me do everything there was to do to see if I was capable of doing it, so I was a bit bummed when they slated me with someone else. Remember, I was going to use this jump to see if I could overcome the pure fear that got me last time and to see if I actually had what it took to be able to get certified. He went and talked to “Drew,” my tandem master for this jump, and everything was cool. Drew got me an altimeter to use and he went through all the steps for me just as he would if I was an actual student.  We practiced the moves on the ground; how to hold my hands, how often to check the altimeter, how to grab the ripcord, etc., etc. Then we simulated hooking up and we did a dry run on the ground.  After that, we boarded and I noticed we were going to be the last guys off the plane where we were sitting.  On the way to altitude, we went over the steps and he gave me a couple ways to try to stay calm and keep the mind from racing, which did work, by the way. We kept checking altitude on our altimeters going up and once we got hooked up, we did our final check, the “skydiver handshake” and then the door opened. One by one, actually, two by two, we watched everyone plummet out the door on their 14,000 foot, 120 mph ride to Mother Earth.  Finally, it was our turn. We slid up the bench and got to the end of it where there was nothing between me and that open door. The last time, the fear was almost paralyzing. This time, there was anxiousness, but nothing more than a VERY nervous energy and anticipation running through me.  Although my stomach was turning, it was nothing compared to last time. We got to the door, I looked out at the horizon, took a breath to calm down even more and we were on our way.  The initial drop wasn’t as bad as I remembered it and we were stable under the drogue within seconds.  I got the tap to let go of my “happy handles” and assume the arch. I arched and immediately checked my altimeter.  When I checked, Drew then grabbed my arms and showed me what to do to turn in circles as we were falling. To be completely honest, I don’t remember which hand goes which way to turn which way, but it was a pretty badass feeling to control yourself like that. I checked altitude again. I also had no goggle issues this time. We do some more turns and I check again. Once I look down and see we are at about 6200 feet AGL, I stop looking around and focus on the altimeter as instructed. At 5500 feet, I wave my arms above my head like a Football Ref calling for time out. That lets everyone around you know you are about to pull the chute. After I wave, I reach back with my right hand, I put my left hand out in front of me (to counter act the hand going back) and pull the release for the chute. The chute opens and once we settle down, the first words from Drew’s mouth are, “Dude, you were awesome!! That was fuckin’ textbook!”  That made me feel great!!  He said every time he was about to tap me to remind me to check altitude, I was already doing it.  He gave me the toggles and let me steer towards the airport. At one point, we came into a cloud and he said, since you can’t see other canopies, you should spin down through a cloud, so that’s exactly what we did. My first skydiving IFR flight. It was very cool spinning down through the cloud.  Once we got closer to the airport, he took back over and brought us in for a nice smooth butt-scoot landing.  I was totally jazzed when we got on the ground!! I stared at what was/is one of my most primal phobias and took a major step towards conquering it. To really conquer it is to be able to jump out of that door with no one strapped to me or anyone holding onto me. I have 7 jumps I need to accomplish for that feat to happen.  I’ll write about each one of them.  My first is scheduled for Saturday, 5 July.
  On a side note: If you have ever wanted to try jumping out of a “perfectly good airplane” go do it!! With the chutes they have and the tandem systems, you have nothing to fear except fear itself.  Go see what it’s like to fall without feeling like you are falling and then the graceful glide of a parachute to a gentle landing in the grass. You may not ever do it again, but you will be able to say you did it at least once.  Then again, you may get bitten by the bug and want to learn to do it on your own like me.
Oh, and by the way, all 7 of my group were safe and sound that day and everyone had an AWESOME time!!!

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