This will be fun! Skydiving is not just falling; it’s flying! You’ll feel so free.”–Hein Geldenbuys
This is one of the first things Hein, my tandem instructor, said to me and I totally agree! Skydiving is one of the most liberating things someone may ever experience. July 29 marked the big day! Friends and I drove to Sturtevant, WI, to perform a 14,500 ft. jump with the skymasters of Skydive Midwest. The idea sprung from my boyfriend’s cousin, Rob, only months ago when he had plans to do something extreme to recognize a significant accident, which happened only a year ago. So I figured, hey, if Rob has the courage to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, well then, so do I.
First of all, I was very nervous! I’ve only known or heard about skydiving in the movies or on TV. So, I did some research and learned more about skydiving on the Web.
My [all of us] first jump was a tandem skydive, where you jump with a highly-skilled, very experienced skydiver. Not too much training was needed for this kind of skydive, which was fine with me.
We arrived at the jump site at 10 am. After signing our lives away [the contract was about 10 pages], we headed to the training center for a quick 20-minute training session. The session included instruction on basic parachute equipment, free falling, emergency procedures, parachute opening, canopy control and landing information.
Then came the gear-up part! As you can see, the group was large so we had to jump in waves. I was in the last wave. Hein strapped me up in the initial diving gear. They were all professional skydivers, so they were giving us a hard time with some traditional skydiving jokes.
It was time for the third wave! My heart really started to pound. Hein grabbed our parachute, altimeter, which is used to watch the altitude during the skydive, goggles and then shouted to me to follow him in to the aircraft. I swallowed hard and followed.
We used a smaller aircraft; only 8 skydivers could get on that plane. I didn’t realize until the plane took off that I was sitting in the front of the plane! I was jumping out first! At that very moment, I remember feeling extreme excitement [mixed with a heavy panic-feeling]. As Hein buckled us tightly together for the big jump, he talked about what to expect, how to position myself and asked questions about my feelings, etc. He kept telling me to take deep breaths. As the plane took off, all I could think was, “wow” there really is no turning back. This is it!
The jumpmasters were so relaxed. I was clearly the most frightened person on board. I looked back at Ron. His hands were flailing in the air with a strong two-thumbs-up. Seeing him so happy and ready to rock, made me feel better! I was anxiously-excited. In short, the guys were flippin’ crazy!
Time to JUMP
When we reached altitude after about 7 minutes, one jumper opened the door. That’s when it got cold and very loud. I was terrified! The first and only solo jumper takes off. Then… my turn. These next seconds were the most real seconds that I have ever experienced in my life. I have never been so aware of my surroundings.
Hein tells me to stand up and walk toward the door. I could hardly walk. Hein pretty much carried me to the door. As we take baby steps to the door, I felt numb. With my feet at the edge of the drop point, my hair flying crazy in the wind, Hein extends his hand in front of me and we softly rock back-and-forth … one, two
Panic or velocity?
For a few seconds, I had a sense of falling. Then, we fell faster and faster. After a while, about the first ten seconds, I could see the ground. It felt like a blast of cold air, like a massive air conditioner. There was no longer any sense of falling and speed. I felt like I was floating. It was so loud. We were dropping at about 125 MPH.
This is where things got interesting. Imagine taking a deep breath and not being able to fully exhale. I could hardly breathe. The wind was rushing against my body and face so strongly that I couldn’t even feel Hein behind me. In fact, I was slobbering! Spit was flying out of my mouth so fast. I think some of it hit Hein, poor guy. Good thing he wore a helmet and big goggles.
After 40 seconds of free falling, Hein pulled the ripcord. My legs jolted forward and I finally could breathe again! That was extremely enjoyable. Our parachute opened fast. Once the canopy opened, I felt completely OK. This is where I started to scream. A happy scream! The canopy flight, of course, was much slower than the free fall. As I looked left, I could see the Chicago skyline and then to the right, the Milwaukee skyline. Beautiful! I honestly remember feeling very uplifted, like I could do anything. As I write this, my heart beats so fast. It truly was the highlight of my life.
Landing was easy. Hein was a true professional. I’ll remember him always.
We all had a great experience! We celebrated the adventure at a nearby bar and grill with good food, drinks and lots of laughs!
Skydiving is by far the best adrenaline rush I have ever felt! I encourage everyone to do it at least once. It’s an experience that will always remind you to just live life. After all, isn’t that what life is really about?