Why did I want to do it? People keep asking. Mostly as a 25th birthday present to myself. But, that doesn’t really answer it. I have dreaded this birthday for a long time. I feel like I should have my shit together by now. Recently though, I have been gripped with this incredible desire to just enjoy life. I guess I realized most people don’t have it together yet, so why should I? I decided to grasp opportunities and see where they lead.
I could not find anyone to accompany me, so a Friday afternoon I called Skydive Burnaby and asked for their next available tandem appointment. They told me to come that Sunday.
For a September afternoon it was surprisingly warm and sunny. Not too hot, just perfect. As we drove up Burnaby Road, which was surprisingly residential, I wondered where the facility was. As houses morphed into fields of gold, we came upon an airplane hanger. We had arrived!
The facility has a wonderful atmosphere and a sense of excitement in the air. From my seat at a sunny picnic table; I took in kids playing on a slack line while skydivers landed in a rainbow of parachutes. There is a constant stream of instructors and skydivers buzzing around. Even the experienced jumpers have families snapping photos and cheering them along.
I went to the training room to learn the basics. On tandem 1, there is not much to worry about; hold your harness on the way out the door, arch your back on exit, and don’t touch your instructors hands! After getting suited up, we used a practice door for a final reminder on how to exit the plane. I have to commend these instructors for their positive attitudes and humour, they certainly were a part in making this day so fun.
I walked to the plane with a group of instructors, cameramen, and skydivers, as I began to wonder when my nerves would set in! After packing inside, we departed into the fluffy clouds above. Eagerly, I watched the yellowing fields turn into postage stamps before my eyes. My instructor asked me how high I thought we were, and after some contemplation I said 10,000 feet. He pointed to the watch on the young guy beside me, and I saw only 4,000 feet. How wrong I was! I asked if we would jump through clouds. My instructor said they would, but as luck had it, there was clear skies over the facility.
Suddenly the plane became cold, I saw fluffy whiteness out the window, and tasted moisture in the air. In this plane, I got a firsthand experience of a flight through the clouds! The guy beside me was watching my expression and asked if I was going to try the care bear count down. Haha
A few minutes later, there was the whine of the door opening and in a blink of an eye the solo jumpers had gone. They had no apparent fear or hesitation. I had agreed to jump first of the tandems, so we did the awkward shimmy of two people strapped tightly together towards the door. Now high above the clouds, the sun glinted off the metal exterior of the plane. I squinted in the light, while wondering if the fear would come now. I gave the camerawoman one final thumbs up and out we tumbled.
We went end over end, flipped over, and opened our arms. Here was the flying feeling that is so addictive. We dropped fast (200km/h) and the rushing wind grabbed my breathe away. I was warned of this, so lifted my head to breath deeply through my nose and out my mouth. That was better. I saw the reflection of the sun on the dark blue lake below. I wondered, if I was high enough to actually see the circular reflection of the sun? During 60 seconds of free fall this was my contemplation…well and how to breathe. My instructor tapped my shoulder, encouraging me to look at the camerawomen. When I lost focus again, he grabbed my arm reminding me of a spin he wanted me to try. I took the camerawomen’s hand and the force of free fall took us for a spin.
She started to ease up and taking the cue I let go. We flung apart and I looked out over the shimmering water again. As puffy white clouds came to eye level, I felt the parachute open. We jerked upwards and the camerawoman became a blur of colour, as the world abruptly slowed down. Needing to land first, she looked like a black dot plummeting to the ground. Had we really been going that fast just moments ago?
“So how did you like that?”
“Well, I think I like this better.”
There is something magical about being suspend in crisp air. Now, I could really enjoy the scenery. The height never really registered, just the wonder of floating high above the tiny properties below. We chatted a little and he asked if I would like to try steering. I took the toggles and practiced doing slight turns right and left.
He seemed satisfied and asked if I would like to try spinning. Of course I did! “ Okay, this is how you do it, pull left hard!” I pulled hard left and watched the world turn sideways, as we made a sharp turn. What I saw was; blurring sky, blurring earth, some more sky, and some more earth before the world righted. It was fun! He pointed out the other two tandem jumpers almost at the ground although we jumped first. I guess it pays to be relatively small and light (well he was small and light anyways).
The earth came into sharp focus and the cars looked less like tiny toys. The field appeared and I saw our plane landing. The instructor went over our landing one more time. He steered us in a left hand turn around the field, so my mom could get a good photo. The grass started to blur under us and several feet off the ground he told me to pull down on the toggles hard (he did have a hold on top in case I screwed up). We lightly landed in a standing position. Almost perfect! What an adrenaline rush. The beauty found within the sky is certainly something to behold.
At the beginning of the day, I told my photographer that I couldn’t convince anyone to come with me, so I would participate alone. She said that is okay because the people who try skydiving alone are the people that come back! How right she was.
Check out my first post on Skydiving: http://adventureboundblog.com/2014/09/15/skydiving-i-think-i-am-addicted/