Growing up, the very thought of skydiving used to instill a feeling of excitement and euphoria in my being. I remember watching adventure shows on AXN TV that showcased skydiving and vowed to try it someday. The idea of jumping out of an airplane from 12,500 feet had a certain radical appeal – it symbolized freedom and adventure and allowed one to experience human flight. As I grew older, the desire to skydive remained strong, but I was too chicken to turn my childhood dream into reality. Fast-forward to 2011. One evening while checking out my Facebook newsfeed, I saw a picture of a friend doing a tandem skydive. “This is not possible,” I thought to myself. My friend is not into extreme sports and he did what? Not to be outdone, I decided to finally take the plunge and go for a tandem skydive.
I decided to skydive at Skydive Perris on Memorial Day. Skydive Perris is one of the largest drop zones on the west coast. Furthermore, their website has a video of Mandy Moore doing a tandem skydive with one of their instructors – can we say “sold,” boys and girls? I booked my skydive via their website and spent the night before my dive, tossing and turning, doubting my decision to actually go through with it. Come Memorial Day morning and the drive to Perris was accompanied with apprehension, nervousness and a lot of questions. What if I screamed like a little girl during the free-fall? What if my parachute did not open? What if we hit the ground hard? Would 'The Maury Show' still exist if there was no DNA testing? Does Simon Cowell really buy his t-shirts at Baby Gap? Well at least no one would be able to hear me as we hurtled towards the earth at 120 mph.
Upon arrival at Skydive Perris, I checked in at the reception. Paperwork completed, where basically you sign your life away and waive the DZ of any liability in the event of a mishap (injury or death), I was led to meet my instructor, Piya. Piya suited me up in an overall and a harness and walked me through the procedure. In essence, I would be harnessed to Piya and at 12,500 feet, he would push the two of us out of the plane and into free-fall. We would fall approximately 7,000 feet at the rate of 120 mph – a descent that would take around 45 seconds. Piya would then release the parachute and we would (un)happily descend to the earth, at a rate of 10 mph. Easy Peasy!
As the plane took off and climbed higher towards our jumping altitude, my fellow tandem jumpers and I started to get really nervous. Watching the houses and trees become smaller and smaller and knowing that we would, in a few minutes, be jumping from the safety of the plane, was unnerving. At 12,500 feet, Piya nudged me towards the now open door. Standing at the edge of the door and looking out at the vast openness below, I questioned my sanity. Was I crazy for doing this? And then before you could say "Jerry Springer," we fell! The first few seconds seemed to be a blur due to the sensory overload. But once we achieved terminal velocity, it was incredible. There was no falling sensation, the kind that one experiences in a rollercoaster. Rather it was almost as if we were floating on a cushion of air. Suffice to say, that it was exhilarating. 45 seconds later, Piya launched the parachute and I found myself peacefully floating towards the drop zone. The parachute ride down took around 5 minutes and the landing was incredibly soft. Wow, this experience was nothing like I had imagined. I would actually do this again!
A few weeks later, I decided to go in for another skydive. This time though, I did not want to be harnessed to an instructor and thus opted for an AFF skydive via the First Jump Course. The First Jump Course consists of ground school for around 6 hours followed by the student jumping wearing their own parachute system. Two instructors accompany the student and will test the student’s knowledge during the skydive. The student will free-fall for around 45 seconds, during which time he/ she will complete certain tasks assigned for the jump and then pull their parachute at around 5,000 feet. The student is responsible for steering and landing their parachute. The ground school was pretty intense, but great. Upon completion of the written test, I was introduced to my two jump instructors, Bret Townley and Benjamin Summers – two very cool guys. Although nervous about jumping solo, without the safety of being harnessed to an experienced skydiver, the jump went off well. Below is the video of my AFF jump (skip to 3:00 to avoid the chit chat).
If you haven’t tried skydiving, I strongly urge you to try it once. It is definitely an experience you will not forget.