Skydiving. It was the morning after, and when I looked at the sky I smiled as the memories of what happened midair replayed in my head.
A few buddies, my boyfriend and I decided to “voluntarily jump out of a perfectly good airplane” months ago. We waited a while to do it because we wanted to make sure that the five of us were available to jump on the same day. Not was this the first time any of us had ever skydived, but it was also my first time in an airplane. Regardless, the skydive tandem jump was set for Sunday, May 22, 2016 at 9am. We opted for a 13,000ft jump that features 60 seconds of free fall! We figured we’d eventually do the higher jump of 18,000ft, which is the maximum height for skydiving in the US. Another thing that is noteworthy is that student discounts are available. Our otherwise useless student IDs saved us $20 per person.
We left LA at 6am for Skydive Santa Barbara, which is located in Lompoc, near the UCSB campus. Before we arrived, just 14 miles away from our destination, we got a speeding ticket for going 20 over the limit. The limit was 55, but we never saw the sign telling us that. The officer didn’t care and cited us anyway. That was the only buzzkill we experienced on an otherwise scenic and beautiful drive. The anger from the ticket nearly rivaled the nerves and disbelief of what we were about to do.
After we finally arrived, we signed our lives away on liability waivers in case our chutes didn’t deploy while simultaneously watching a tutorial video. The website suggested that we prepare ourselves to wait half-a-day to jump because of the crowds, but when I asked how long it would take I was told we’d only wait about 20 minutes. This change in the plan made my heart drop before I even saw the plane. The wait was sped up by the fact that we booked an early morning jump, which was scheduled right before a party of 15 UCSB students on summer break. They wanted our small group of five out quickly to make room for the ensuing crowd.
The waiting area was fun! There was a foosball table which we used to kill time, and our nerves. There was also a couch to lounge on, water, a restroom, and a T-shirt stand. The waiting area is also where the harnesses are strapped to skydivers and where the chutes are packed into the packs that the instructors wear on jumps. After we got bored with the foosball table, I remember obsessively looking at the chute packers, hoping like hell our chutes were properly packed.
Sense of humor is a great thing, but as someone who never boarded a plane before, I had trouble connecting to my funny bone. I was filtering out jokes the guy who strapped us in was telling and only focused on the instructions. We were told to tip our heads back, push our hips forward, kick our legs back to tap our instructors’ butts as we jumped off the plane, and to wait for the instructor to tap our shoulders so we could let our arms free in the free fall. Simple enough, yet I greatly feared I’d screw it up by blanking out when the moment finally arrived.
The night before the jump, our party planned the order in which we would take the leap. The day of, we realized that was a cute and pointless gesture. We jumped in the order we boarded the plane, which violated my wishes to go first. Before I go any further, let me just clarify that the aircraft itself is a well engineered, efficient, and smooth ride, but I was not pleased. I ended up going second to last, which was traumatizing. I saw my friends and boyfriend go before me, which only intensified my nerves. Not only do your friends drop quickly, but by the time you’re up you can’t see them anymore! I saw the land beneath us and the Santa Barbara coastline, and that was it. I also realized I hate the feeling of being in an airplane, so right before my instructor and I jumped I swore I’d only travel by ship, train, or car.
So we’re up on the edge of the plane and my instructor says “Okay, Treasure, don’t forget to kick your legs up to my butt,” he holds my head back and we jumped out of the plane with my hands clutching my harness. Thoughts running through my head were “Oh hell no! I hate that feeling of that first drop on a roller coaster.” That feeling only lasted a second and the rest was just shock and awe and the haunting feeling of “oh, crap, what have I done???” I was traveling downward with such velocity that the drop itself produced a loud sound—I wanted ear plugs. All of a sudden the instructor tapped my shoulder, so I let go of the harness while still in free fall, which felt even freakier while staring at the earth from above. When the chute was finally deployed I felt an instant sense of calm and excitement. We were finally floating along in midair: this must be what a bird feels. It was amazingly graceful, surreal, and freeing. My instructor was very easygoing, so I felt safe and happy to be paired up with him. So to you, Casey, once again: thank you so much for an incredibly unforgettable experience!
My overall thoughts are I am a complaining brat and there’s only one way to atone for this. I must jump again. 18,000 feet, we’re coming for you!