Saturday, April 01, 2006


Skydiving, Day 1


I've decided to try skydiving. No, this is not an April Fool's post. (Mom, you may want to have a glass of wine before reading further.)

I'd never seriously considered skydiving until recently. I'd heard about tandem jumps, where a non-skydiver gets attached to an instructor who takes care of doing everything. That didn't appeal to me. I didn't want to just be a passive passenger on what was essentially a very expensive and possibly fatal rollercoaster ride. I wasn't interested in jumping out of a plane just to be a thrillseeker; I wanted to learn something about skydiving.

Recently, I started investigating soaring (gliders), which somehow turned into an interest in hang gliding, which somehow got me looking at skydiving again. I learned that a tandem jump is not the only option for someone who wants to try skydiving—there is also the Accelerated Free Fall (AFF) program, where the first-time jumper has a couple of instructors holding on during freefall, but then the student takes full control after pulling the parachute. On subsequent jumps, the student gets more control, and by the fourth jump, the student does everything with no hands-on help. This is the kind of challenge that appeals to me.

I signed up with Skydive Monroe for the AFF Level 1 course. Unfortunately, Monroe is about 90 minutes away from home, but it's the closest dropzone I could find. I've flown over and done touch-and-goes at that airport a few times, so I had some familiarity with it.

There was one other person taking the AFF Level 1 class with me today. Scott took the class and made his first jump about a year ago. He loved the experience, but he didn't have the money to continue. Now he is planning to take all the lessons within a span of a few weeks. He asked me if this was my first jump, and when I answered yes, he said, "Cool. You're going to shit a brick."

The weather was cloudy this morning, so we didn't expect to get to jump today, but we went through the ground school course with our coach, Doug. This was a few hours of learning how a parachute works, how to achieve stability in freefall, how to open the chute, how to land, and how to handle lots of different emergencies. It felt a lot like pilot training.

After class ended, the sky was starting to clear, so we thought we might actually get to jump. Unfortunately, high winds and turbulence caused the jumpmaster to keep us AFF students grounded. It was frustrating to watch load after load of tandem jumpers and experienced skydivers do their thing. There was a slim hope that the winds would die down as evening approached, but an hour before sunset, things were still bad, so we gave up.

I'm going to call tomorrow morning to find out if I might get to make my first jump then. As of now, the forecast calls for cloudy skies and a 40% chance of thunderstorms, so I'm not hopeful.

I need to find a pastime that is not so dependent on the weather.

Hey Kris,

Your certainly getting some things checked off your life's "to do" checklist.

If I could get rid of the wife and kids I'd have the money to do the same... as it is, I should have my first one checked off (Pilot's Licence) by this fall...

Keep up the good work and keep telling us all about it.
So far, you've been doing everything I want to do but haven't. I want to get my rotor private (you only did the intro flight on that one), water and sky diving, and paragliding (with option fan on my back).

Until I can find the time and money to do it, I'm living vicariously through you. So please keep it up and don't forget to blog about it.
Hey Kris! I'm a Monroe jumper and remember seeing you at the DZ that weekend. Skydiving will teach you patience, something I didn't have prior to starting this sport a year ago, but do now. It's a lot of hurry up and wait, but the people that you wait with are the best! Since learning to skydive, I have met the best friends I've ever known. Skydiving has brought so much to my life that I now can't breathe without it! Hopefully we'll see you back at the DZ soon!
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