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Yes, that’s right. The last thing I crossed off my bucket list was tandem skydiving. Here’s what happened…

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Before, Before…

It all started with my birthday. Actually, it started about five weeks prior to my birthday. I was on a run with my other half and we started talking about making plans for my birthday. He asked me what I wanted – and I said, well instead of something, I instead wanted an experience of some sort. In my head, I’m thinking we will go take a dancing class or maybe do “Painting with a Twist.”  But no… I’m sure you can see where this is going.

A week or so later, I had a nightmare about skydiving. I couldn’t pull the parachute and woke up right as I was about to smash into the ground… I told my other half this and apparently it sparked something…

During our little birthday celebration with family, he handed me a card and in it shared that we would be jumping out of a plane – SKYDIVING! As it was in front of family, I couldn’t not share… my Dad’s face was priceless 😉 I was excited, immediately. The nerves started building and I relatively quickly opened up my phone to look for statistics on likelihood of death while skydiving. (As a side-note, the likelihood of death when tandem skydiving is less than death from a bee or from being struck by lightening…it’s also much safer than driving in a car).

Anyway… I continued to go through stages of panic and excitement for the entire week…

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Before the Dive…

And here I am panicking…literally. Thinking that hey, this hour-long ride to Skydive Kentucky might be my last ride in a car – or my other half’s ride. As they say, the unknown is terrifying.

My other half deserves all the credit for keeping me calm and actually getting me into the building once we arrived. Upon walking into the building, I almost immediately started making nervous jokes. The first thing you do is basically sign off on anything going wrong. If something bad happens, even if it’s the result of gross negligence, it’s not their fault. Skydiving, after all, is REALLY dangerous. Sure, it’s rare for anything bad to happen…and statistics might say it’s pretty safe as a result. But in the grand scheme of things…jumping out of a plane is a heck of a risk.

After signing our life away, someone trained us. Basically, he went through what would happen and what we needed to do to be safe. Here’s the basics…

Tandem skydiving means that as the student, I’m in a harness. My tandem instructor is in another harness and actually wears the parachute. There are four connections between my harness and my instructors. Basically both shoulders and both hips. The parachute, is really three parachutes. There’s the main parachute meant to hold two people. Then there’s a backup parachute that is meant to open up in the case that the main parachute malfunctions. The last parachute is called drogue parachute. This one is a small parachute that is deployed immediately after leaving the plane. It slows down the divers terminal velocity and makes it safer for the parachute to deploy.

In addition to the suite and the parachute, you also wear a pair of eye protection and an altimeter. The altimeter tells us how high we are and makes sure we know when it is the right time to open up the parachute. We signed up for a tandem skydive at 10,000 feet. This means we would release the parachute around 5,500 feet and be in free fall for around 35 seconds.

Next we learned about the positions we would need to place ourselves in for safety during the jump, free fall and while flying down. When you jump out of the plane you are in a back bend – basically. Legs and head both tucked back. At 5,500 feet you pull the parachute on your right side and then just fly down to the ground and hopefully land on your feet!

Everyone was really friendly and made sure we all had our questions answered. Our trainer and our tandem instructors were constantly joking to ease our (my) nerves. At one point, my tandem instructor asked me what his name was, and of course, my nerves had taken his name away from me. I admitted I didn’t know and he gave me a five minute teasing lecture, that you should probably know who your instructor is before you go jumping out of a plane. His name was Mike.

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The Ride Up…

We waddled out to the plane. No joke, the equipment makes it somewhat challenging to walk. Mike and I and then my other half and his instructor practiced what it would be like jumping out of the plane. Like I said before, you’re basically dangling out over the edge and the instructor gives the one, two, three and pushes you both out.

The plane itself is little – no seats, and hardly any room to stuff the four of us, plus the pilot in. The door we climbed into the plane from, was the same door we exited when we jumped out. During the ride up – the only thing preventing us from falling out of the plane, was this piece of cloth velcro-ed over the door. Seriously.

Although the tandem instructors stated that the ride up might take as long as 20 minutes, it felt like about 5 minutes. At about 7,000 feet you actually attach yourself to your instructor and throw your goggles on. You also turn your camera on and start recording.

My instructor asked, at one point, if I was just cold or if I was shaking from nerves. Of course, it was nerves. He literally spent the entire trip trying to get me to root for the Louisville Cardinals instead of my Alma Mater, Michigan State University.

As my instructor and I rolled up the door, I felt my heart in my throat – my chest tightened and I literally squealed. I looked back at my other half and he looked as calm as a clam (I think that’s a saying?). He was just admiring the view – it was calming. My instructor pulled me over to the edge again and I hugged myself and said I couldn’t do it. Mike told me to breathe and that I could do it and before I knew it we were pushing off of the plane.

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The Dive…

I screamed, immediately as we fell. It took me probably 5 seconds to realize that hey, we are falling down, but you need to look forward. When I realized this, I looked forward and could see the line of curvature of the Earth. Holy moly…it was beautiful! Stunning!

And just like that, Mike showed me my altimeter and we were quickly approaching 5,500 feet. It was time to pull the parachute! I reached to my right side and panicked because I couldn’t feel it – so then I looked and pulled the line! The parachute activated and we were pulled up and then gracefully floating down to Earth.

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You might think that you’d have this perception of height when you fly out of the plane. But actually without anything for your peripheral vision to reference you don’t realize – it just feels like wind is blowing in your face. However, when the parachute pops up and you begin to float down – your movement is much more realistic and it’s slightly frightening.  A couple notes for you… if your instructor turns, look into the turn! It’ll make it so your stomach doesn’t do somersaults. In addition, be sure to give turning a try by yourself if your instructor will let you – it’s a lot of fun!

After a couple turns we were approaching 1000 feet and preparing for landing. We blew over the building I signed my papers at and for a moment I thought we might land on it’s roof… of course, there I went worrying again. 😛 We landed right where we were supposed to – right on our feet!

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The Ground…

Hitting the ground produced an amazing feel of elation that just burst out of me in laughter. Literally – “oh, my gosh! The ground!!” I was giddy and excited and felt like nothing could ever get me down again.

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After…

Feelings after continued to be of elation and excitement. Also, realization of what could have went wrong and thankfulness that nothing did! Even the day after the jump, I am still feeling amazing and stress free. I want to go back and do it again! Like right now 😛 Crazy, right?

If you’ve ever thought about skydiving, just do it. Take the time. It’s beyond worth it.

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Watch for Yourself…

Check out the video of my skydiving experiences below! Although they can’t capture what it really feels like, you can certainly see the process and my reactions 😉

 

And here is Max’s video…

 

 

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A big thank you to my other half for the best birthday experience a girl could ever ask for. You, dear, have given me so much and this day will be a day I will never be able to forget!

 

  • Wow! I can totally feel your vibe by the way you’ve expressed it! It must be one hell of an experience. I hope I get to to this some day! 🙂

    • It really was amazing, Aishwarya! I highly recommend you make the time to go some day too!!

  • Oh em gee…. you are SO BRAVE. I worked on a ropes course at a camp one year to try to get over my fear of heights, and it helped a lot, but this is heights AND falling… whoa… Love your description of it though, and the awesome photos!!

    • It was SO much fun! I have literally recommended it to everyone I know 🙂