The pure thrill of flying!
A rush of cold air presses against my body as the door of the small airplane opens. I try to hang my legs outside and step onto the wing support as instructed—so I can fling myself into the nothingness of wispy clouds. But, at 10,000 feet altitude, the force of the wind is stronger than anticipated, and I have trouble getting my body out the door.
Exhilaration kicks in
as I realize this is it! I’ve jumped
out of a perfectly good airplane for the thrill of freefalling up to 130 mph
straight down to earth.
I’m on a tandem flight
with Matt, jumpmaster at Texas Skydiving Center near Lexington, Texas (about 50
miles east of Austin). This is my first skydive, but it’s free fall number 1,601
for him. Despite almost total coverage in body art--which puts Matt in a very
different generation from mine--he is personable, professional, and reassuring.
|We are airborne!
Before arriving, I had
been instructed on what to eat and wear—for my comfort. At the skydiving center
Matt gave instructions on land about what to expect as he carefully explained
procedures for the jump. In the air, he keeps me informed of each step in the
process—all of which is being recorded by a videographer. He wears the
parachute, and it’s his job to steer during our soaring descent. I’m just along
for the ride.
The pure thrill of flying
Once out of the plane,
I’m surprisingly calm. The sensation I feel is of floating, not falling. I let
go of all anxieties and trust Matt with my life. It’s his life, too, so I feel
We flow through the
air, above the clouds at first, and I wave to the videographer who is filming
us from a camera attached to his helmet. The videographer is having one heck of
a ride, much friskier than ours, as he maneuvers into positions for the best
shots of Matt and me, the disappearing plane, and the approaching ground below.
The air is cold and
eerily quiet. My mouth is dry because I’m
gasping from pure enjoyment and trying to smile for the camera (Note to self:
Keep your mouth closed next time).
Matt, my tandem partner, plays
hide and seek for the photographer.
We plunge 5,000 feet
in 40 seconds, although there’s little awareness of downward movement. I wave to the videographer. Only later will I
realize how comical I look--hair and facial skin stretched back tightly from
the forceful wind.
Too soon, I feel a slight tug when Matt deploys the rainbow-hued, rectangular parachute that slows our downward descent. It’s now okay to remove the tight goggles necessary during the free fall.
Now there’s time to appreciate the scenery--views of
lakes and farmland in the rural landscape below. In about five or six minutes we
zoom in for an upright landing exactly on the drop zone-- the perfect ending to
my first skydive experience.
We're soaring above the clouds!
Tandem jumping is
ideal for anyone with an adventurous spirit who doesn’t want to take the time
to learn the technicalities of a full solo jump—at least the first time out.
You get all the thrills of skydiving without the responsibility of remembering
when and how to deploy the parachute.
Skydiving has gone mainstream
Judging from multiple offers found on group discount buying websites like Living Social and Groupon, more people are stepping out (literally) and taking the plunge. Has the public become more daring, or is the attraction of a large discount luring participants to this thrilling adventure? When I first took advantage of such an offer, I thought it was a novelty and a one-time splurge. But then a year later I did it again—and my husband joined me—using such vouchers.
A perfect landing in nearby field.
Perhaps—like me—people are marking things off their bucket lists. Each year I find myself becoming braver and more willing to tackle activities that once seemed too crazy—and discovered that skydiving is not nearly as scary as I thought it might be. I decided to take the leap for no other reason than Why not?
Some skydiving centers take only one or two people up at a time for tandem jumps; others take a plane load of participants who jump in rapid succession. Of course, they will teach you how to jump on your own, if you’re so inclined. Videos and still images are an extra charge, but you’ll want this excellent remembrance of your brave adventure—and it gives you undisputable bragging rights.