Skydiving: starting to learn something

The look as I tell people I went skydiving again is something to behold.  But why? Didn’t you just go? Why would you want to do that again?

Most people can understand one jump, in a cross-it-off-your-bucket-list way, but doing it again seriously baffles people.  I think, although more extreme, it really is no different than learning to horseback ride in adulthood or taking up a new hobby.

My goal is to get to assisted solo dives and eventually my license.  With fall approaching, most of this will occur next summer, but I am squeezing it in while I can. So, Tandem skydive number 2 has officially been completed!

I am not sure what I expected of this jump, but it was not the sudden amount of responsibility. I was still strapped to the instructor, but I was supposed to be “in control.”

In I went for my T2 training. This mostly involved lying on the ground in the “boxman” position (if you have weak abs, this sucks) and practicing the movement for turns and forward movement during freefall.  I was pleasantly surprised to find my previous tandem instructor teaching ground school, so I hoped to be with him again.

I went to wait in the sunny heat of the picnic tables for my warning call from manifest. I saw a few licensed skydivers camped out in lawn chairs, and waiting for spaces to come available on the plane. They made notes on the previous day’s jumps in a log book and were anticipating a day full of skydiving — really not so unlike crazy horse show people.

Not long after I was called back into the training room. A guy on his first tandem said “so you’re back here in just two weeks, huh?”  Well, I guess everyone finds my desire to jump surprising.

Today’s tandem instructor was new to me and while I walked in he threw me the altimeter. I caught it as he said, “so what’s wrong with that?”

“Well, it appears to be reading below ground.”

“Good, now fix it.”

I fiddled with it and had it reading 0.  He seemed pleased that I wasn’t a complete dunderhead and we moved on.

After takeoff, he had me visualize my freefall; two 360 degree turns — one left and one right. This would be followed by arms and legs straight back for 5 seconds of forward motion.  He reminded me that completing this in 60 seconds was less important than awareness and knowing when to pull the parachute. He pointed out some emergency procedures for the plane ride and described the drogue parachute and rip cord in further detail.

I heard the door rattling open, while cool air blew in and the solo jumpers flew out.  We shimmied to the door and I got into position.  This time I was allowed to use the door to take on correct exit position.  Apparently, the first jump proves you’re not going to have second thoughts and try to stay in the plane.  I did my “ready, set, arch” and out we flew.

The wind was crisp this time and I immediately looked to the lake to get my barring. I would use it as a marker for my turns.  I also was pleasantly surprised to find that I could breath this time. Practice makes perfect!

I got the thumbs up to start working on my turns. I started my right turn, but found I was not moving at all!  Hmm… I tried again, but finally my instructor grabbed my arm to show me how. I had dropped my right arm, when I should have used my whole body from the shoulder — similar to a airplane banking.  Finally, I started turning! I did a 360 and was back looking at the lake. I checked my altimeter and had time for a second turn.

Once that was completed, I found myself nearing 7,500 feet and knew I would not be able to complete my 5 seconds of forward motion.  I watched the dial tick down at impressive speed and just after 6,000 I did the arm wave to indicate my intention to pull the parachute.  At 5,500 and a few fumbles later, I pulled the cord and the parachute flew open.

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Making a turn under canopy.

There is something very satisfying about the upwards motion of the parachute coming out — probably knowing you are no longer plummeting to the ground.

My instructor wanted to adjust one of my straps, as I was not evenly hanging. He asked me to stand on his feet to brace myself and pull down hard on the strap. After this was out of the way, he pointed out the risers and showed me how to pull the brakes into position.

From here he finessed my turns. I learned how to make a sharp turn, but he explained they lose altitude fast.  He then taught a turn with my opposing brake half down, which slows the drop in altitude. I like this type of turn because it also makes me less nauseous!

We practiced a few more turns and he asked if I could see the dropzone. I pointed it out and he went over the landing information, such as watching the wind sock and ensuring you land facing the wind. I checked our ground speed and he reminded me to slow down a bit.

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And land!

I did and, as we neared landing, he instructed me to let up entirely on the breaks and pull down hard when it was time to land. I had my eyes up (apparently applicable to more sports than horseback riding), breaks up, and pulled down for landing. We lightly landed, but I was almost pulled over by his height! We stayed upright though!

“Fucking awesome”

“Yes, that was fucking awesome,” I said.  I don’t know if he was impressed we landed on our feet — something not many tandems manage (I have twice!).

Or maybe with a so much passion for skydiving, every jump is still fucking awesome.


Check out my first skydive:

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