I've wanted to try skydiving since my teens. I love adventures and trying new things, and I also love flying and airplanes. Over the years I've met several skydivers; they all just increased my desire to try taking the plunge (literally). When my girlfriend (later fiancee, later wife, later ex-wife) mentioned that she and her girlfriends planned to try it, I jumped at the chance to join them. Here's the story of that first jump; it was written about a year after that jump.
Tandem Jump #1
On August 9, 1997, CN and I made a 90 mile drive to a strange and wonderful place, called Skydive Hutchinson. Little did we realize then that this would change our lives forever! Since then, we've made that drive many more times, and have come to love the place called "Hutch". But back then, it was all very new and strange.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted warmly by Rose Eakins, co-owner of Hutch. First, we watched a video about Tandem skydiving. The video warns you in no uncertain terms that skydiving is DANGEROUS! It has been made as safe as possible, but make no mistake, there is some risk.
About Tandem Skydiving: The idea is that you're strapped to a specially-trained, very experienced skydiver who does all the work and is responsible for saving your (and their) ass. (Skydivers have a saying, "When you exit the aircraft, you're dead. It's up to you to save your own life.")
After the video, we signed a waiver that stated that we understood and accepted the risk. For what it's worth, Skydive Hutchinson has an outstanding safety record. They are extremely safety conscious and incredibly professional! I have never had the least reservation about jumping there, and you couldn't find a greater bunch of folks.
With the formalities out of the way, we were fitted into jump suits and given the small amount of necessary training: how to hold our body, how to sit in the door of the plane and a few other important things we needed to know. It's actually quite simple; anyone can do it...if you've got the right stuff!
And finally we boarded the small plane [see image #1] and flew to altitude. Then, they opened the door and.....
[Image #2] There I go! My very first jump out of a perfectly good airplane. But I'm securely attached to Larry, one of the Tandem Masters at Hutch. You'll see a better picture of him once we make it back to the ground. (Circled in red, you can see the drop zone, which is about two miles below us.... we were at 10,000 feet altitude.)
It's difficult to explain the experience of jumping out of a plane. The first time it really hits you is when they open the door! Not many of us, normally, are in a flying airplane with a door open.
Actually, the very first time it hits you is when you're in the plane and it first lifts off the runway. That's when you think to yourself, "My God! I'm going to jump out of this thing!!" But when they actually open the door "at altitude" then it really hits you
[Image #3] And here comes CN right behind. She's strapped to Shawn, an outstanding skydiver we've gotten to know in the past year. He's helped us learn a lot during our training. He was my coach on my first two-way jumps.
One thing I love about that picture is the plane in the background. On the later pictures, you can see it getting further and further away. "Hey, there goes our ride! Oh, well, guess we'll just have to get down on our own."
[Image #4] Here she is in the classic "boxman" position falling through the air with the greatest of ease! Looks like she's having fun, eh? On the video, you can read her lips as she screams, "This is GREAT!"
[Image #5] And all too soon, the freefall fun is over, and the chute opens. But then comes several minutes of a whole different (much calmer) kind of flying: Flying under canopy. This is almost as much fun as freefalling. It's almost like being a bird.
[Image #6] You have time to look around and enjoy the scenery from up on high.
They knew we were a couple, so our two TMs flew us in close formation and even did a few spirals around each other. It looks great on the video; the two of us (and our pilots) just flying around without a care.
[Image #7] But ultimately gravity wins (modern sport parachutes are just gliders), and you return to earth's firm embrace. That's me and Larry in the lead with CN and Shawn following.
[Image #8] Do we look stoked? We were!! The long wait was well worth it. Our lives changed forever this day. We originally thought this skydive would be a once in a lifetime thing; an event to check off our list of things to do. Little did we know we'd be taking up skydiving as our favorite sport!
[Image #9] Here we are back on terra firma with our Tandem Masters, Larry and Shawn. What an incredible, unforgettable experience. We liked it so much, we immediately signed up to do it again in a week. And Larry must have guessed we were totally hooked, because every time he walked past me, he whispered, "AFF, AFF, AFF."
What is this "AFF" you ask? It stands for Accelerated Free Fall (instruction), and it (at the time) was one way you learn to skydive on your own. CN and I both took the training and earned our "baby skydiver" licenses.
But that's another story (coming soon to a Newsvine near you). The next tale in the story is our second (tandem) skydive, so stay tuned.
I close with my favorite skydiver saying:
If riding in an airplane is "flying,"
then riding in a boat is "swimming."
To experience the element, get out of the vehicle!
© 2008 Chris from MN