It’s cold. But more surprisingly, it’s peaceful. I’m skydiving for the very first time, falling thousands of feet through the air, and even though I can hear the wind rushing past me, I feel as if I am suspended in the sky. The billowing, white clouds that blocked the lush fields of Louisburg, North Carolina, before I jumped are the only indicator that I’m in motion; they’re above me now.
Completely detached from the rest of the world, I am completely calm.
My desire to skydive began five years ago, so I can hardly contain my excitement when I (finally) set up my appointment. The day of my jump, I walked into the skydiving building, and moments later the rain begins to pound the ceiling. Mentally (and maybe a tad verbally), I curse the storm. But the weather would not win. Although I had to wait three hours, I did to get to skydive. The aftermath of the storm left beautiful, huge clouds to jump through, which turned out to be the perfect icing on the cake.
When I first meet my tandem instructor (who I’m connected to when I jump), he briefs me quickly about the process while zipping up my thick, protective body suit. Selecting a rather dorky-looking helmet and matching goggles, fashion is the last thing on my mind as I approach the plane. Filing in behind a handful of others, I squish in beside my instructor, Stew. Within moments, we’re in the air and quickly climbing to our target altitude of 13,000 feet.
Crisp, cold air soothes my heated face when the clear, garage-like door at the end of the airplane opens. 20 passengers collectively sigh with pleasure, since our voyage so far has been a hot one; not only are we wearing full body suits, but we are also in extremely close company. The raising of the door means we are more than a mile above ground. The door closes after a few moments, and when it reopens, we will be flinging ourselves from the deck.
Our overall mood, which until now has been charged with excitement, has transformed. Being in the air somehow makes the jump more real than it had ever been on the ground, and I feel the group getting nervous. Not wanting to fall prey to my adrenaline-fueled mind, which may have lead me to flirt with panic, I begin causally chatting with my tandem instructor.
I come to find out that not only is he an ex-paratrooper for the military (a truly comforting detail) but also that he, along with some other instructors, have logged over 4,000 jumps individually. (That’s averaging more than one jump per day for the last ten years!) With that in mind, the fear bumping around in my stomach vanishes, and I fully trust Stew to take care of me. We continue exchanging stories to distract me from just how high we actually are.
The frigid wind encompasses me again, and I know it is time to take the literal leap of faith. I am the first tandem jumper in line, and I practically saunter to the opening, confident yet expecting to be overwhelmed with apprehension when standing on the edge. But we stand on the plane’s edge for such a short moment, that I don’t have time to second-guess anything. We leap through the air, and with a mouth wide open with wonder (which is rather embarrassing), I barely notice that my stomach does not drop like I expect it to.
The free-fall, full of spins to take in the full view, lasts a full minute but pleasantly seems longer. My instructor deploys our canopy and the cords tug firmly but gently on us as we slow our descent. No longer falling hundreds of feet a second, the five minute canopy ride is incredibly quiet. Far away from any worries or stress, the world is gentle and inviting.
I didn’t want my skydiving experience to end, but, before I knew it, I was stretching my legs in front of me for a sliding landing. The ground doesn’t hurt as we slide across it for a few yards, completing the journey. I stand up a completely renewed woman, knowing that this will not be my last jump. The anticipation, the fall, the view…everything about skydiving is incredible. The next time I skydive I can jump by myself (if I complete a training course).
After experiencing an amazing tandem jump, I can’t wait to enjoy a solo fall.