Take a Bet on Skydiving

Years ago, I backed out of a skydiving adventure. However, a friend of mine did not. Here is his tale.

Jump out of a plane–if you dare.

BY MATTHEW ANDRADE

A girl and I made a bet. If one of us had an unpleasant experience in our pants while skydiving, we would give the other five dollars.

I normally think about the cost when it comes to any major expenses especially skydiving; however, I had already told myself that I would spend some money on a trip somewhere or do something that was out of the ordinary. This was out of the extraordinary.

My friend and her buddy arrived at noon that Saturday in late September, and we headed to Niagara Falls, in Ontario, Canada. We reached our destination a couple of hours later and filled out a form that said, “We are not liable should the parachute or back up parachute fail to deploy.” Just lovely.

It turns out that this is not an industry built on high levels of customer service. In addition to the little disclaimer, my friends had booked our flight and we waited over three long hours to get suited up. This is normal, I’m told.

There were five of us diving to our uncertain doom. We talked. Most of us heard that 20 percent of the people who jumped for the first time literally crap themselves. We were definitely worried now. This girl in our group and I made a friendly bet as a way to ease some of our worries. Shortly afterwards, we arrived at the Skydiving Center.

We had a long wait outside our car, but while we waited our turn to jump, we watched the other crazies land on the grass runway–their descending speed was fast.

Eventually, we saw an ambulance pass by. It appears that someone had been badly hurt. We watched the paramedics put the injured man on to a spinal board. We heard later that the diver became nervous and pulled the cord too soon, stalling his descent and free-falling from 30 feet. A diver’s landings should come in fast on a 20 to 30 degree angle. When the diver is a few feet from the ground, then he or she hits the “air brakes.” I really felt safer now.

Finally, we headed into our skydiving lesson. The instructor taught us how to free fall and pull the shoot at the right time. We already knew the consequences.

It was time to board the plane. We picked the type of “jumps” we wanted and ascended 13,500 feet into the air. We would have a skydiving instructor attached to our backs during 55 seconds of the free fall.

The plane passes some clouds. I knew we were pretty high and would be jumping soon. The plane flew higher. Any time now, but it continued to go higher. We were going up fast, too–the pitch of the plane was about 45 degrees. I look at the tiny objects below and my stomach sunk. How high were we going? The plane finally levelled off and they opened the door quickly. In a matter of seconds, the six people in front of me were gone. I know what I had to do. One diver was strapped to my back as I looked at the world below. Could I really jump and live? We jumped.

My speed picked up as gravity brought us both down. The diver and I tumbled as we fell faster. I realized we were sideways–not in the right position. I was able to fix my arms and level out. I was feeling sick and dizzy. My mouth opened and the 120 km/h wind cleaned out my sinuses. How disgusting. My poor instructor. I wish I could tell him I was sorry.

I breathed in deep. I can do this. I saw a layer of clouds below me. My body belly-flopped through them and finally, land came into view.

Whomph!

The parachute grabs. The whomph lasted two to three seconds. My instructor told me it took over 1,000 feet for the parachute to deploy. We were going down fast.

The instructor let me steer the chute. My body was cold and my arms were numb. I let him steer as the objects below us regained their original size.

We landed on our butts. It took me a few seconds to stand up. I was slightly dizzy but happy to be grounded. I will have to jump again. Hours later the reality hit me. “I jumped out of a plane.” I really, really jumped out of a plane. Ha! I also got to keep my five bucks. This euphoric experience cost me $300 Canadian. Here’s my advice—take a leap. iT!

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