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What is Skydiving Like?

 What is Skydiving Like?
Photo used with permission from Skydive Space Center

It was time.

In honor of turning 30, I decided to conquer my fears and celebrate in a way that true adventures would – skydiving. But unlike Bungee Jumping, I didn’t go at it alone. I convinced my dad, brother and Brian to jump with me. If you’re a first-time jumper (like I was), curious to discover what Skydiving is like or simply want to relive your own skydiving adventure, here’s a primer on what to expect (and my play-by-play reaction) from my jump with Skydive Space Center* in Titusville, Florida.

But first… you may want to watch the video of my skydiving adventure. I’ve included some time marks of interest, in case you don’t want to watch all six minutes in it’s entirety.

  •  0:42 - I remind the videographer to ensure the batteries are charged and the memory card is in the camera.
  • 1:36 - I’m on the edge of the plane about to jump and my face just shows the fear I was feeling. There’s no turning back…
  • 1:51 - The first parachute opens. This one helps to stabilize the jumper. It’s called a drogue.
  • 2:32 - A great view of the Atlantic coast.
  • 2:43 - I try to make a funny face.
  • 3:07 - The parachute opens and I laugh uncontrollably
  • 3:59 - I steer the parachute. Watch the angle, I’m almost horizontal to the earth!
  • 4:51 - I make my landing approach and laugh all the way down.
  • 5:40 - Celebratory hug with the family.

The Night Before

So the night before, we went out for a fancy-schmancy dinner to celebrate my 30th Birthday. I knew when I booked it, that it would be a slightly bad idea. Nerves kept me from truly enjoying the meal. All I could think about was how high 18,000 feet is, and how fast I would be falling.

TIP: Don’t plan anything important the night before your jump. Your mind won’t be able to focus on it if you’re nervous. But as you’ll soon see, there’s nothing to worry about.

Arrival

 What is Skydiving Like?

Skydive Space Center is located only 50 minutes from Orlando. It’s a quick drive out to the coast. Once you step inside your adventure will unfold very quickly.

Getting Prepped

 

 What is Skydiving Like?

I’ve signed many a release before, but this one tops the list – 12 pages of initials, signatures and even a transposition of a paragraph of text reminding me of the dangers of skydiving! It’s all pretty standard for adventure sports. Nonetheless, it is a vivid reminder of the seriousness of your adventure. So practice your best John Hancock and sign away with gusto!

After getting strapped in, we attended “ground school”. And by ground school, I mean we learned the only five things a first-timer needs to know in order to skydive:

  1. Watch for your plane and be ready to board when it arrives.
  2. When you jump, hold onto the straps until you’re tapped on the shoulder… then you can open your arms.
  3. Keep your head up and don’t look down (more on that later).
  4. Pinch your nose and blow when the parachute opens.
  5. Remember to always look at the camera and smile.
The rest, the instructor will handle.
Sounds easy enough, although smiling was the last thing on my mind at this point.
TIP: You have the option of wearing a jumpsuit, but I didn’t find it necessary. Empty your pockets and dress warm (it can get chilly at altitude). You’ll be provided with goggles to protect your eyes from the wind.

Waiting to Jump

 

 What is Skydiving Like?

Waiting to jump both increased my anxiety and calmed me down at the same time. I was on the last plane that morning, plane number four. So I had the benefit of watching others jump first. When you’re standing on the ground watching the jumpers before you leap out of the plane, you can’t help but say to yourself, f**k.

That little white spec in the photo above, is a jumper (the plane is underneath it). 15,000 feet is high. 18,000 feet would be even higher. What was I thinking?

But each little spec slowly grew into a real person and landed safely. Seeing others reach the ground with nary a grass stain on their knees provided the calming sensation that even a vial of valium couldn’t provide.

If they could do it, so could I!

TIP: Bring friends to take photos of you taking off and landing. They also make great company while you wait for your turn. Then again, why aren’t your friends jumping with you?

Onboard the Plane

 What is Skydiving Like?

The plane, specially modified for skydiving, lifted off in a matter of seconds. There were five jumpers, five instructors, two videographers and the flight crew.

Ten minutes and you’re at 18,000 feet. During the ride we saw the two NASA Shuttle Launchpads, the Shuttle Landing Runway and New Smyrna Beach.

I tried to make small talk to calm myself down. The capabilities of my instructor, Chris, were confirmed with over 12,000 jumps under his belt. I reminded him to double check my clips and straps (if only for my own peace of mind).

As we neared the drop zone, the side door opened up, revealing an empty sky below – beckoning your name. There’s no turning back now.

TIP: If you board first, you’ll be sitting towards the back of the line, so if you want to jump early, sit closest to the door.

The Jump

 What is Skydiving Like?
Photo used with permission from Skydive Space Center

I was not the first to jump. Another passenger, not a part of my group, went first. And when I saw him fall (really fast I might add), and disappear beneath the plane, I felt the lump in my throat.

F**k

I just love the expression on my face in the video. Wide-eyed, opened jawed and uncertain about what will happen in the next 5 seconds. I’m so glad I didn’t have to do anything. My instructor ushered us over to the door, and in the blink of an eye (before I could reconsider this decision) he nodded to the videographer and away we went. I’m glad I didn’t have to jump and that he made the decision.

I didn’t look back at the plane.

TIP: Enjoy this moment. It’s pure magic.

Freefalling

 What is Skydiving Like?
Photo used with permission from Skydive Space Center

The next minute and a half was a complete blur. It was a combination of sheer excitement, personal satisfaction and amazement at viewing the world from this perspective.

It doesn’t feel like you’re falling. It’s not what you’d expect and definitely different from bungee jumping.

I loved it.

We tumbled a bit until the stabilizing chute opened. Since you’re so high up, your mind can’t notice the difference in altitude you’re experiencing. It doesn’t feel like you’re falling. It sounds tough to imagine, but it’s so true. There’s no sensation of speed, gravity or dropping. It’s windy, but that’s it.

It feels like you’re floating on a very windy day.

Aside from the wind, it’s a moment that’s unlike anything else. I could totally see how people get addicted to skydiving. The rational side of you knows that you’re hurtling towards the earth at 120 mph, but what you’re feeling is the complete opposite.

It’s plain awesome.

TIP: Video packages include a $69 option (wrist-held video camera only), $99 option (third-person video & still camera) and $169 option (all three). Consider getting one of them. You’ll want to share this moment with your friends and more importantly, since this moment goes by so fast, it’s fun to look back and remember the moment when you have time to focus on it.

Parachute Deployment

 What is Skydiving Like?
Photo used with permission from Skydive Space Center

I had no idea when it was time to open the parachute. I just suddenly felt things slow down. But I will admit, I was glad when it did open. I knew at that moment that everything would be okay.

Due to the change in pressure, you’ll need to pinch your nose and blow to release the pressure. It’s similar to the feeling of flying in an airplane. From this point on, it’s smooth sailing.

My instructor loosened the harness a bit in order for us to be more comfortable, (you’re still secure, so don’t worry). He also shared what I needed to know to land (which was very basic).

From our elevation of 2,000 feet (still pretty high), we had a great view of the coast and landing zone. We had the opportunity to steer the parachute around and soak it all in.

TIP: The adreaneline rush is over at this point, so relax and enjoy the view. You did it! You rock!

Landing

 

 What is Skydiving Like?

When you land, as soft as a pillow, you’ll wonder why you were so worked up in the first place. You’ll be sorry that it went by so fast. You’ll want to run back to the registration desk and sign up again and again and again.

I can’t wait to go back again. It was that fantastic.

Landing is easy. The ground never felt so good, but the fact that you conquered the most ultimate of extreme sports is ever better. You are a skydiver!

TIP: Listen carefully to your instructor so you don’t fall over when you land.

Celebration

 

 What is Skydiving Like?

 At the conclusion of our jump we were provided with certificates of achievement, one of the proudest certificates in my collection. We gathered in the reviewing room and watched our videos. We laughed, cheered and smiled endlessly. We did it. After we said goodbye to Skydive Space Center, we toasted with a bottle of expensive Champagne.

TIP: After achieving something as adventurous as this, you deserve to celebrate. So many people are afraid to even consider skydiving, so spoil yourself. Drink a fancy drink, buy yourself something nice at the mall or brag to everyone you know. You deserve it.

 What is Skydiving Like?
A family that skydives together...

It’s okay to be nervous. I certainly was. But taking (smart) risks, living life to the fullest and challenging yourself is what life is all about. I’d skydive again in a heartbeat. It was that good. I’m so glad I went. I wish I would have gone sooner. I know you’ll feel the same way.

Go Skydiving… at least once!

Follow Skydive Space Center

 What is Skydiving Like?

If you’re visiting Central Florida I would highly recommend you visit Skydive Space Center in Titusville, Florida (a 50-minute drive from Orlando). You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Do you have any tips for first-time skydivers? Share by commenting?

I’ll see you out there…!

*Skydive Space Center provided me with a complimentary jump with the purchase of a video package.

 

Comments

Andy Hamilton

Hey awesome post :)

It’s made me feel a lot better about doing it! I’m jumping on Saturday as a present for my 18th birthday and now thanks to this can’t wait!

adventureswithben

Good luck on your jump. You’ll love it!

adventureswithben

So, sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and say “screw it” (although I think I used more colorful language). It’s totally worth the anxiety. You’ll have a blast if you just relax. Let me know when you jump!

Supreet

I agree Ben as both me and my sis just jumped from 18,000 feet and it was just awesome…. for all those who say you cant do it, my advice would be to just go and leave it to the instructor as they are trained and its a once in a life time but yes it is addictive…. Cheers !!!!!

adventureswithben

Thanks for your insight. Where’d you jump from?

Cris

Hi Ben, this is Cris your skydiving instructor, I happened to find your blog while surfing the web and I loved it, thank you for sharing your experience and I hope to see you soon.

adventureswithben

Ha, wow! That’s awesome man. Thanks for commenting and thanks for a fantastic flight, er drop.

adventureswithben

I say go for it! It’s totally hot!

adventureswithben

Ridiculous is just the beginning!

adventureswithben

And why would that be Cam? I would figure a world traveler like you would have that adventurous spirit!

adventureswithben

Oh, 2012 – the year of the FreeFall. Sounds fantastic.

Rob

Ooo, no thanks. Why would you jump out of a perfectly good aircraft ;-)
Rob recently posted something special..My 10 Top Travel Photos of 2011

adventureswithben

Well one reason, is because it’s quicker getting to the ground than flying down!

adventureswithben

You must. But be prepared, once you do it once, you’ll want to go again and again.

Cathy Sweeney

Congratulations on your incredible skydiving experience. Very cool and inspirational. I’m afraid, however, that skydiving is probably not in my future — not that brave. But —- you never know. Well done video!

adventureswithben

Too bad Cathy, you’re missing out on one incredible experience! Thanks though.

adventureswithben

Nerves are the worst part, but when you’re done, you’ll wonder why it was such a big deal.

Michael Figueiredo

Wow! It looks like you had an amazing time! I am freaked out by heights but want to try skydiving someday…. but while traveling somewhere (not here at home in California.)
Michael Figueiredo recently posted something special..Where in the world am I? (#20)

adventureswithben

Come to Florida! If you’re going to go skydiving, make sure your drop zone has something interesting to look at.

Annie-FootTracker

I would love to go skydiving, but I wonder how does people who wear glasses would do it? (take their glasses off?)

Btw love your video XD definitely saw that nervous smile (hehehe)
Annie-FootTracker recently posted something special..My Random Travel Addiction – Japan Issue

adventureswithben

You are provided with a little mask (you’ll see it in my video).