Sunday, July 8, 2012


   just about one year since my surgery, stuck at 230, so I'm down about 120 pounds...

    I drove up to Lumberton to hang out at the drop zone,  at Gold Coast Skydiving. I was just going to hang around, take a snapshot or 2, talk to the folks, and just be a spectator...until the lady behind the counter asked, "Are you ready to go skydiving?" and I said, "Sure!", which was kinda stupid, because I wasn't actually planning on going today...I was just gonna watch, right? Ten minutes later, I'm buckling into a harness and getting a safety briefing from the staff (great folks, by the way). I met the instructor who was going to jump me, a sharp young guy named Jesse. He explained it all again, we boarded the plane, and just as the plane started flying, the jokes started flying. I said something about the fall isn't what kills you, it's the sudden stop at the bottom, and the guy next to me said, "no, no, no...the sudden stop simply breaks all of your bones, it's the bounce that shoves all of the broken pieces into your vital organs, so if you do go splat, make sure you grab 2 handfuls of grass the first time you hit, that way you won't bounce, and you'll probably survive!" For some reason, this gallows humor was some of the funniest shit I've heard in a long time...

   The first guy to jump rolled up the door (they roll like a garage door), shook hands with those of us in the front of the line (a small palm slap and a knuckle bump) and simply stepped out the door like he was popping outside for a smoke. It was the coolest thing I had ever seen! I mean, the dude just smiled and hopped out of a plane at about 7,000 feet! He was quickly followed by another cool, casual dude...slap, bump, smile and wave, and the dude just falls sideways out the door! Awesome! The third guy was at least 75 years old, and looked as relaxed as a retired stock broker at the Clubhouse sipping a fine single malt scotch. He asked me, "How does my hair look? Does it look OK?" I said, "No, it looks awful!" Then I laughed and told him he was beautiful...palm slap, knuckle bump, smile and wave, and out he goes...

   The guys to my right did their thing, then it was our turn...when you are doing a tandem jump, you have an experienced instructor strapped tightly to your back - he does all the work, and you just do a couple of small things to make his job easier, like pull your feet in tight, and try not to pee on him in catatonic fear. He will take care of the rest...what's odd though is, you jump from a kneeling position. You actually walk towards the door on your knees, with your instructor right behind you (naturally, he is strapped to you at four points). You walk up to the door on your knees, grab your harness at chest level (so you won't grab the door frame on your way out), and the instructor asks, "are you ready to skydive?" Only a total douchbag says "no" at this point, so you yell something brave-sounding like, "Hell yeah, let's rock!" (I'm sure my eyes were the size of silver dollars at this point)  and the instructor rocks forward, rocks back, and out you both go...this is what is known as a triple oh-shit moment. You think, "Oh shit! I'm about to fall out of a plane at 14,000 feet!"... "Oh shit! I'm falling through the sky from 14,000 feet!" As you do a slow roll forward, you find yourself looking straight up... "Oh shit! There goes the plane I just fell out of!" That's three "Oh shit"s in about 3 seconds...then the instructor deploys the drogue chute, and you stabilize in the face-down position, and you think, "WOW! What a view!"

   Here is something very important about freefall - when you are in a stable, face-down position at terminal velocity (120 MPH straight down),  you do not have a sensation of falling. You simply feel like you are in an incredibly windy situation. It is not stomach-churning, you don't panic, and you don't feel the need to grab is, however, incredibly LOUD! You fall for about 60 seconds, feeling the skin on your face quivering in the wind, looking around at the awesome view, feeling the instructor kicking your feet back into the proper position (almost everybody forgets about proper foot position), and then suddenly, you feel a tugging sensation, and your shoulders are pulled upright - the boss has just pulled the ripcord, allowing the chute to deploy, and you go from 120 MPH to about 20 MPH, and you are no longer falling, you are flying! Seriously, you are soaring through the air like a big-assed bird, the noise is gone, and the boss will ask, "You OK? How do you feel?" I told him I was great, that was awesome (that word keeps popping up, cuz it fits), and then he asks me if I want to do some spins? Well, hell yeah, I want to do spins! I have no idea what he means, but I'm game for it...and he pulls the right steering toggle, and we go on a wild-ass roller coaster ride, cork-screwing to the right for 2 or 3 circles. He asks if I want to go the other way..."Yeah, bro, that was awesome!" (there's that word again...) We rip 3 or 4 tight turns to the left, then we settle down, and he tells me about the landing.

    Honestly, the only part that actually had me worried was the landing. Flight is optional, but landing is mandatory, and with my bum knee, I was a little worried about a hard landing doing some damage. No need for such concerns! The passenger in a tandem has one job on landing; don't let your feet hit the ground. Seriously, pull your feet up and don't let them hit first...I slid on the grass on my butt, he slid on the grass on his knees, and it was completely painless, exciting, thrilling, and safe...and awesome! I hooted and yelled, slapped the ground, laughed like a maniac, and cheered like a drunken soccer fan. I shook Jesse's hand about four times, slapped him on the back, told him, "I luv ya, bro!" and hooted at the sky some more...I'm sure the word "awesome" was shouted several times, by myself, and by others doing their first jump...what a fantastic day!

   The change in my life is so dramatic, so profound, that I simply cannot find words to describe it...I went from being a fat cripple, barely capable of walking, to a running, weight-lifting, skydiving, living being...I am so grateful, and so humbled, by the second chance I have been given, that again, words fail me...

I do have a problem am I going to pay for free-fall lessons? They don't give that stuff away, ya know?

Blue Skies!

1 comment:

  1. Great post! I enjoyed reading about something I'm thinking, I could never ever do!