What is Skydiving Like?
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.
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.
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:
- Watch for your plane and be ready to board when it arrives.
- When you jump, hold onto the straps until you’re tapped on the shoulder… then you can open your arms.
- Keep your head up and don’t look down (more on that later).
- Pinch your nose and blow when the parachute opens.
- Remember to always look at the camera and smile.
Waiting to Jump
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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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.