The Anatomy of a Skydive

Is this what it's like to fly?

Is this what it’s like to fly?

Not to be overly dramatic, but there’s something harrowing about watching your loved ones plunge to the depths of the earth from 13,500 feet in the air. One second they are next to you, the next they’re diving into a seemingly never-ending abyss. For the sensible ones, you’d never put yourself in that situation. But for the lunatics (i.e, my friends, family members and me), well, why be sensible?

Last Sunday four of us jumped. And four of us landed. (Though one of us vowed never to skydive again). We did tandem jumps out of a small prop plane run out of Skydive Sebastian. The plane ride to 13,500 feet was, well, the longest trip of my life. As a rookie skydiver, I just wanted to get it all over with. During the eight-minute-ish ride you’ve got a lot of time to think. And as someone who doesn’t think a lot about the consequences of her actions, that was the last thing I really wanted to do.

Unlucky for him, my tandem partner, Uwe, was affixed to my back the entire time. He was so close to me that I’m sure he could feel my heart throbbing through my back as we inched closer to 13,500. Uwe, a Namibian with Germany roots (go figure, eh?), told me that while he stopped counting long ago, he’s logged more than 18,000 jumps. Not only did he have the ever-so important role of deploying the parachute, but he had the unofficial job of calming my nerves during the flight. He held my hand, patted my shoulders, and gave me reassuring looks whenever I needed them.

As adventurous as I claim I am (I’ve ziplined through the Costa Rican rainforest, gone on a zero-gravity flight), nothing could prepare me for skydiving. It can be said having absolutely no control and “going with the flow” is a liberating feeling. Whoever said that never went plummeting to earth at terminal velocity with no available aircraft controls. Great theory, eh?

So how’d I do? Check out the video below, and read my play-by-play analysis of the jump:

[0:05] Thanks to Skydive Sebastian for filming me at my most vulnerable moment.

[0:15] C’est moi! This is what I look like when I have two feet on the ground.

[0:21] My answer of “I’m pretty excited” is translation for “What the hell have I gotten myself into?!”

[0:26] That’s my husband! Out of our group of four, he was probably the most lukewarm about skydiving. Still, he did it because he wanted to experience this thrill and do it with the group.

[0:28] The guy on the left (wearing cutoff jhorts… yes, apparently a grown man wearing jean shorts does exist) is my brother-in-law. He’s not as anti-social as he looks at this moment. The guy on the right is our best friend, the Trinidadian sensation.

[0:42] Ah, so begins the point of no return: the climb into the aircraft.

[1:00] We’re systematically packed like sardines. The guys toward the rear of the plane (but closest to the hatch door of which we’ll jump out] are part of Invasion Boogie, an event of sorts that brings together skydive addicts. These are the guys who do those crazy formations you see on posters.

[1:03] My smile belies my inner nervousness. I think I’m smiling so big to overcompensate for my nerves.

Believe me, I'm not as happy as I look while on this ascent.

Believe me, I’m not as happy as I look while on this ascent.

[1:18] I am NOT “fine” as I tell the camera. That is a straight-up lie. My stomach has fluttering butterflies on steriods, and a fleeting thought of “should I do this” just entered my conscience.

[1:24] Eek! Did I just hear my husband say he’s “getting a little nervous”?!

[1:29] I have no idea what I’m doing with my hands. This would not be an appropriate moment to show jazz fingers, but for some reason I feel the need to show the camera my palms.

[1:33] That is the sound my husband makes when he is getting tickled. But sadly, I don’t think he’s being tickled right now.

[1:34] Oh, lord. My husband is really not happy right now.

[1:35] I have no idea how to make my husband feel my comfortable, so I blurt out, “I love you.” Like, he would even hear that as he’s about to drop out of the air.

[1:36] Au revoir! There he goes!! Nearly headfirst to the earth, my husband dives to what looks like Indian River Lagoon.

[1:37] There are no words to describe how it feels to watch your husband shoot to the ground like this. In my deranged and poorly formed vision of what skydiving must be, I imagined jumpers gracefully leaping out of the plane and perhaps gently careen toward earth. Boy, was I wrong. I literally saw my husband drop from the sky like a lightening bolt hurled by Zeus.

[1:40] Oh, crap. I’m next.

[1:45] Do you know that the face of fear looks like? This is it.

[1:46] Here’s to channeling my inner Felix Bumgartner!

[1:47] We rock a couple of reps before…

[1:48] … Ah!!!! I’m falling!!!

[1:52] Dude, why am I going headfirst?!

Is this what Coldplay means when it said "A Rush of Blood to the Head"?

Is this what Coldplay means when it said “A Rush of Blood to the Head”?

[1:53] Uwe deploys a small parachute to allow free fall to linger a bit longer. Oh, joy.

[2:12] Dude, this is awesome. I’m so glad I’m doing this. What an exhilarating feeling to fly through the air and experience this free fall. I’ve literally thrown myself into the deep end of something so new to me. There’s no book, no amount of research I could have done to prepare me for such a thrilling feeling.

"And I'm free ... I'm free falling." – Tom Petty and Nila Do

“And I’m free … I’m free falling.” – Tom Petty and Nila Do

[2:38] The big parachute comes out, and we very rapidly start to glide.

I've never been happier to see a parachute in my entire life.

I’ve never been happier to see a parachute in my entire life.

[2:52] What a great view of Florida. As my friend Brian says, “You can’t get this view from Google Earth.”

[2:59] Watch out! Crazy Asian and Namibian-German about to land!

[3:05] And we’ve landed. Right before Uwe instructs me to pick up my knees so he takes the full impact of the land. What a nice guy.

[3:11] This time I’m being truthful with my answer. It was freakin’ awesome.

Thanks to Uwe from Skydive Sebastian for putting up with me and my antics. But more importantly, thanks to Uwe for deploying the parachute.

Thanks to Uwe from Skydive Sebastian for putting up with me and my antics. But more importantly, thanks to Uwe for deploying the parachute.

Afterward, my friend Brian mentioned we could tick skydiving off our bucket list. I’m not sure skydiving was ever on my bucket list (truthfully, I’m not sure I even have a list), but considered skydiving crossed off.

The calm before the storm. My friend, Brian, and brother-in-law, Jeff, mug for the camera pre-jump.

The calm before the storm. My friend, Brian, and brother-in-law, Jeff, mug for the camera pre-jump.

Some good pieces of advice...

Some good pieces of advice…

Brian gets strapped into his harness.

Brian gets strapped into his harness.

What a view of Florida we had.

What a view of Florida we had.

I had the pleasure of visiting my instructor Uwe's office, some 9,000 feet in the air.

I had the pleasure of visiting my instructor Uwe’s office, some 9,000 feet in the air.

This is the look of survival (and happiness).

This is the look of survival (and happiness).

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