Falling With Style

For my 30th birthday, I knew I wanted to do something grand. I love adventure. I love travel. I love to experience new things, so why not indulge a little…? I remember making the discovery years prior that my 30th birthday fell on a Saturday and decided informally that I had to take advantage. Originally I gave the responsibility to Fella to plan something in my honor, but as I tend to do, I began fantasizing all the wonderful possibilities and eventually opted to plan my own celebration (with Fella’s permission agreeance).

As a self-confessed thrill seeker I decided that the only way to celebrate ‘me’ was by jumping out of an airplane with a stranger strapped to my back whose sole responsibility was maintaining my aliveness. Sure, it’s not for everyone, but it has been something I’ve always wanted to do. The only issue with skydiving on my birthday was my location. Living almost smackdab in the middle of the eastern seaboard of the US in the beginning of Spring means cold temperatures. So like any millennial with a social media account, I reached out to my childhood best friend (with whom I’ve not spoken with for 12 years) who lives in Florida and asked: a) if she knew of any skydive places in Florida that would be offering jumps on my actual birthday and b) did she want to jump with me? She instantly said yes and YES! and linked me to a skydiving company that was only a few miles away from where she lived. It was kismet!

Due to the nature of Fella’s job, we were only able to get away for a weekend, so we flew out on a Friday night and returned Sunday evening/Monday morning. After a short layover in Atlanta, we arrived in Daytona just after midnight where my friend picked us up and whisked us to her house for a quick catch up then promptly went to sleep. We woke up Saturday morning and began my birthday shenanigans.

We grabbed a quick breakfast [read: caffeine boost] on our way to the airfield and upon turning down the final roadway, we saw neon parachutes littering the sky. We checked in, watched a safety video, and were sent away to wait for our names to get called on the loud speakers. There was an event happening with dozens of people milling about outside, so we grabbed a couple of seats in the on-site restaurant to wait with the husbands (who really just came along for the day drinking).

After hearing our names ring out for everyone to hear, we made our way to the tandem building to get suited up and meet our tandem instructors. After a few awkward prep poses and equipped with a new harness, it was time to catch a plane. My friend and I were the first ones on (which meant we were the last to jump). As we were taxiing up the runway I asked my friend if she had ever been in such a small aircraft and she shook her head. I could already see the panic in her eye, but wasn’t certain if it was from the size of the plane or the fact that she was getting ready to jump out of said plane. Turns out it was a combination of the two.

I spent most of my time cruising to jumping altitude by comforting my friend while tuning into the instructions my tandem partner was conveying. Once we reached 13,500ft, the door opened and people started exiting the plane. It really is an odd experience watching the fuselage of the airplane lose it’s passengers one terrified participant at a time. After waddling down the empty body of the plane, I was hung outside of the aircraft with my feet dangling in the wind while the jumper taking video got into position.

I don’t remember all that much about the freefall; it happened so fast! I remember trying to take in the scenery. I remember screaming from excitement. I remember thinking that I would experience the same stomach-in-the-throat feeling that riding a rollercoaster gives you, but never having one. But most of all, I remember the inconceivable way the videographer was practically teleporting all around me. He would be in front of me, then shoot straight up outside of my peripheral vision, then appear again from below. He would circle us like a vertical shark in fast forward, then get really close then fall out of sight. It was wild!

The next thing I knew, the parachute deployed and we were abruptly halted from freefall and began our “peaceful” decent. I included quotes because I was hanging from a stranger with all of my weight localized to my armpits and inner thighs; not comfortable in any way, but I was alive, so I guess it was worth it… For a few moments my tandem partner let me ‘fly’ the canopy by pulling on the handles. I told him I didn’t feel qualified to fly in any capacity and promptly relinquished control.

As the ground grew near, I asked my lifeline if there was a possibility of me landing on my feet; what can I say, I like a challenge. He said if that’s what I wanted, then he would instruct me throughout the landing. The first challenge was to grab my knees and hold my feet straight out in front of me. I laughed out loud and exclaimed: “I can’t bend that way!” Sure, I can touch my toes in a standing position, but I was strapped to another human being, so my mobility was quite limited. I did my best though and it ended up being enough. Just before we touched down he told me to start running. Well ya see, I’m a shorter-than-average female, so while my tandem partner was running on the ground, I ending up doing the equivalent of a dog paddling in the air while being held above a body of water. But in the end it paid off because I made the ever-so-graceful touchdown on my feet.

Would I do it again? 1,000% yes. If I had a skydive school locally, I would for sure get my license, but maybe it’s for the best I don’t get involved in such a daring, probably expensive hobby…

Have you gone skydiving? Would you take the leap?

6 thoughts on “Falling With Style

  1. Okay, you are SO brave!!! I am deathly afraid of heights, so I’m pretty sure I’d have a heart attack. That’s definitely a birthday experience you’ll remember forever!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Condo Chronicles: One Year in my Condo – Strikeouts + Sprinkles

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