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My Skydiving Adventure

It started out with a co-worker and I deciding to go skydiving, and quickly became a company picnic with ten of us, including the president of Puget Systems, going skydiving. For each of us, it was our first time actually jumping out of an airplane. Albeit, we all jumped in tandem, with instructors strapped to our backs, it was still the most thrilling event I have ever partaken in.

July 13, 2007

Blue Sky Skydiving, Bremerton Washington

We chose Blue Sky Skydiving because of its location and reputation. Bremerton provides an excellent view of the Puget Sound at 13,500 feet. Just 911 feet short of the top of Mount Rainier, the view is breath-taking.

July 13, 2007 was a cloudy morning, which threatened our plans to skydive. You need to have a ceiling of at least 10,000 feet of clear sky to skydive. We kept watch on a radio tower on a nearby hilltop. When we could see the top of that tower clearly, we had 10,000 feet.

While we waited for the skies to clear, we all went through the tandem class, which basically was a safety lecture and video, and signing the legal release that put all responsibility of injury or death upon ourselves, a standard practice.

Twenty or so people from Puget Systems came out to the event. The ten of us that signed up to jump focused on preparing for the jump by asking questions of the experienced jumpers and instructors, and observing how the parachutes were packed and how the harnesses were rigged, the rest of us worked on preparing the picnic and enjoying the festivities.

Finally, the sky cleared, and we were given the go ahead to suit-up and get ready to jump. Daniel Brown and I were the first to go up, which was fitting since Daniel and I were the original instigators of this adventure. Our instructors strapped us securely into our tandem harnesses and explained how the process of getting into position and jumping from the airplane was going to work. The instructor’s harness has 4 or 5 heavy clasps that fasted to the back of the tandem harness, but that connection is not made until you board the plane. Let me tell you about the harness; there is no way that a human being is going to break out of that harness. You are in there very snug and it makes you walk like a Sumo wrestler.

As we got ready to board the plane, I turned to my instructor and told him that there are two things I did not want to hear him say. The first was anything that sounded like “Oh shit!”. the second was “nice ass”, I have an odd sense of humor. My instructor had a great sense of humor, and he just laughed and promised me a good ride. He came through on that promise.

We boarded the plane, a turbo propeller something-or-other, with four other experienced jumpers. We waved goodbye to our fellow employees on the ground, hoping quietly that we would be seeing them soon, and then the plane took off. At about 10,000 feet, the air started feeling a bit thin. No problem, you just breathe slow and deep. When we reached 13,500 feet, we leveled off and circled around to the drop zone. The excitement was mounting with each passing minute, until finally, the pilot declared that we were over the drop zone.

Two of the experienced skydivers jumped first. Let me tell you, it was strange and yet interesting to see people sitting outside the airplane with their clothes and hair flapping furiously in the wind, and then just suddenly disappear from sight without a sound. Daniel and I just looked at each other, gauging each other’s reaction, secretly wondering if the other was going to chicken out. I knew I was going to jump, and Daniel showed no signs of backing out either.

I was next, so shuffled my way to the open side door, with my instructor securely fastened to my harness. I hope I never forget the view and sensation of sitting with my body completely outside of the airplane as we sped along at 13,500 feet. Looking down, I had no clue where the drop zone was. It was just a tiny little dot somewhere on the ground that seemed too far away to fathom. Looking out, I could see the curvature of the earth and Mount Rainier’s majestic presence in the horizon. The Navy’s aircraft carriers and battleships  in Bremerton looked smaller than the pieces of a Battleship game.

Finally, my instructor gave me the signal to tuck and get ready to roll. He tapped my shoulder three times, and we were gone, airborne, free-falling. The first thing I saw as I rolled upside down, was the airplane about twenty feet from me, leaving me quickly behind as my horizontal speed decreased and my vertical drop increased. A moment later, he had us flipped facing the earth, and that was when I knew that this was the most thrilling  experience of my life.

With my arms extended, it was easy to point myself north, east, west, or south simply by using my hands like airplane rudders. The wind roared in my ears and pressed my goggles hard into my face. I could feel my cheeks rippling in the wind, and sure enough, when I opened my mouth, my cheeks filled up like an old-time horn player. It was amazing to watch the earth slowly rise up to meet me. As we got closer to the earth, I could start to make out details, and I found the drop zone.

Another tap on my shoulder told me to get ready for the chute to be deployed. This was a moment that I was not looking forward too. The harness I wore already had my legs feeling like they might never fit quite right in my pelvic sockets, I didn’t want to imaging what it was going to feel like when I suddenly stopped free-falling. I heard the rustling sounds behind me as the chute started to deploy, and a few moments later, I felt the inertia as my free fall suddenly became a resistive force against the open canopy some sixty feet above my head, and my body was suddenly pulled from a horizontal free fall to suddenly being vertical. The jolt really wasn’t that bad, it was actually kind of smooth.

Suddenly it was very quiet. The wind no longer tore through my clothes, or distorted my face, and I could clearly hear my instructor talking to me. He told me to get ready as he pulled one of the lines he had in his hands to control our decent. As he pulled the line, our parachute started doing circles, and so did we. If you have ever seen a parachutist spinning gently under his shoot, let me tell you, there is nothing gentle about it. The G-force pulled me so hard into my harness, I was sure my legs were going to pop out of their sockets. I didn’t say anything about it to my instructor though, I just hung on for the ride.

We circled around as we approached the landing zone, and as we got within a few hundred feet, I started to feel like we were approaching the ground a little too fast. But, I was wrong, we came into a slide landing as smooth as you could ever want. I was suddenly sad to see my great adventure come to an end. I knew that from that moment on, my perspective on life would never be quite the same. I had just jumped out of an airplane at 13,500 feet, and survived without injury, minus the slight soreness in my hips, which was quickly forgotten. What could possibly top that?

Ten of us signed up to jump that day, and ten of us did jump. It was the greatest company picnic I have ever experienced, and it is now a fond memory. Thank you for letting me share it with you. If you haven’t ever skydived, you should. Put your fears aside and just do it. I promise you that you will not be disappointed.

Pictures are available here

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