Throughout the last month, we've been planning a group skydiving trip to celebrate a friend's birthday. I haven't written about it here on Short Story Long, because I didn't want to be held accountable by any of you if I decided to keep my two feet planted on the ground. Yesterday morning came, it was time for us to drive to the jump site (the Parachute Center in Lodi, CA), and I wasn't confident I made the right decision.
Throughout last week, I completely ignored the fact that I would be jumping out of a plane (a mode of transportation I usually work very hard to stay inside). A few people looked up death rates, potential mishaps, and even a practical joke involving a faulty parachute. I stayed far away from each piece of information. The less I knew, the better.
I was completely and utterly anxious the entire drive there. I didn't want to talk to anyone and I wasn't sure how I was actually going to follow through with my commitment. However, once we got there everything changed. Right as we arrived, a group of people were coming in from their jump. I saw about 10 parachutes floating in the air, slowly making their way down. Seeing other people skydive, and the fact that they were actually surviving, made me feel much more at ease.
Once we met our "leaders" (the experienced person holding your life in their hands), I felt even more comfortable. I was lucky because I got the best lead in the whole place. His name is Jordan and he was nice, funny, and professional. He gave me confidence that I would be fine. Most of the leads in our group joked about our chutes not working, it being their first jumps, or just being unsure we would survive. It may sound strange, but this approach brought me the most comfort. Their lighthearted demeanor made me feel as though the jump was a roller coaster and they were simply strapping me in. If they were super serious about everything, then I would have worried that I was going to mess something up and die.
Skydiving was a great experience that I would love to try again. I'm proud to say that I tried something outside of my comfort zone and I love that I have such a great experience I can always share with my friends. Since I ignored the whole thing until yesterday, leading to a lack of research beforehand, I've included a few tips (sans morbid death rates) to consider before your jump. ;)
- Dress warm. You are jumping from about 13,000 feet in the air, free falling at 120mph, so things get cold. I wore a long-sleeve shirt, under a sweatshirt, with jeans and wool socks, and I felt fine. I would also recommend gloves. My lead had an extra pair for me to borrow, but it wouldn't have hurt to bring my own.
- Bring cash for tips. Your lead and camera person earn a modest wage for what they do. Show them some love for keeping you alive.
- Don't be afraid to ask questions. Your leads want to make sure you enjoy yourself and understand that you are nervous.
- Go with friends. This is the kind of experience you don't want to have alone. We spent the rest of the afternoon recounting our experiences and joking about our fears.
(All photos taken for Short Story Long)