June 19th, 2010 – 2 pm appointment
Today was the day I’d be overcoming my fear of jumping out of an airplane. Yay me!
Our original appointment was for noon, but they had called the previous day and asked if they could move us up to 2 pm because they had gotten so busy due to the” Jump of the Cure” event that was going on Saturday. We said that was fine.
So we puttered around the house and headed out at12:30 pm, so that we’d have some time to look at the booths and raffle items. We got there around 1 pm.
The day was hot and humid. We checked in and immediately went into waiver.
Waiver is a video that tells you in detail (but I’ll do it in a nutshell) that in order to go on the dive you have to sign all your legal rights to sue or get damages away, including those of your family and friends. You agree that you and those that are related to you will not sue, no matter what happens, even if it could be proved that Pepperell was at fault. You also agree that you won’t try and get any medical expenses paid for by Pepperell’s liability insurance if there is an accident. It’s serious stuff. But in order to go, you have to sign the legal documents. Without that sign off skydiving would disappear because no insurance company would cover them all because of the perceived notion that it is so dangerous, regardless of the statistics.
They also explain all the checks that the equipment and the tandem divers goes through. There may have been statistical information given as well, such as in North America there are over 2 million jumps (tandem and solo) taken a year and only 20-30 deaths. Pepperell itself has not had any deaths.
Proper body posture is also gone over. I paid a lot of attention. I’m a detail person. The two postures were arms crossed or palms out and close to your sides. We were also told that we’d have time to go over this topic with our tandem dive partner. More on that later.
Once we were done, our names went up on the board. Load 18. And so the waiting game ensued. We checked back every so often. We got moved to Load 19.
Then I realized that I wanted to be first out the door. You may be thinking… why? Basically, I didn’t want to feel anyone else’s anxiety and anticipation except my own and the way I figured it, as people left the craft, the anxiety and anticipation would probably mount. I didn’t want to try and have to sort out what was mine and what belonged to the guy next to me.
I think this request caused us to get moved to Load 20.
Eventually we heard our names called. Just before going over to be suited up, I verbally, mentally and metaphysically placed all my fear in the ground. I didn’t want to be terrified going up so I choose not to be.
They put you in a jumpsuit. It reminded me of the coveralls that my dad wore as a vending mechanic. Then they put you in a harness and because it has to fit everyone, it has lots of buckles that need to be adjusted.
Everyone else on the load was being suited up by their jump master. My jump master, Dalton, was on the previous load and hadn’t landed yet. So one of the woman who helped organize the loads was helping me get suited up. She said Dalton would make the final adjustments.
The plane landed, everyone else headed over. I was still waiting for Dalton. My fear tried to come back, but I refused it entry. They notified him over the loud speaker that he was turning (which means he was going right back up). I saw him start running in from the landing field.
He got there and we said a brief hello while he was looking around for his parachute. He wasn’t seeing it. My fear tried once again unsuccessfully to come back, but I said no, you’re stating here! And I know that this will be fine. I accept and trust that it will be so and that was that!
One of the riggers told Dalton that it was over by him. Dalton picked it up, told me he’d adjust me in the plane and out we headed to the plane. I did manage to ask him to take me down slow (turns can make you nauseous… more on that in another post). He agreed he’d take it slow.
I never really got a chance to ask about other hand positions. It was too noisy in the craft for long conversations and we were up to altitude in 5-10 minutes. During that time Dalton had me stand up and he adjusted my harness, back and front. Then he had me sit down and he latched me to him. I felt like an Oreo cookie that the filling had just been squeezed out of, we were that close!
I had a moment when I asked how we would exit. He said arms crossed, then palms out. We didn’t have time for a more detailed explanation, so I just went with what I remembered from the video.
The door was opened. We waddled over to the door. The wind was fierce. Dalton was holding the sides of the door opening. We went a bit up and out (I took a deep yogic breathe), we went back and a bit down (I breathed it all out) and then we went out (I wondered in that brief moment before we encountered the open air and there was no going back, what it would be like. I never thought I’d die and I wasn’t scared.). Then we were riding the wind and my first thought was OMG! This is awesome! It was the most amazing experience and much to my surprise I loved the feeling of being in freefall. I also confirmed that you don’t get nauseous in freefall and you don’t feel like your falling. Riding the air in is truly indescribable.
As we fell I saw the river and some mountains off in the far distance and the curvature of the planet we live on. It was breath taking. I felt so connected and was in a state of pure wonderment. But I realize my memory is like a series of still photos taken seconds apart. There is a lot of detail, but a lot was missed due to the flood of data.
After 35 seconds of freefall (we figured it out from the video), Dalton pulled the ripcord. I quickly found out that being under canopy with someone else steering made my tummy feel queasy whenever he had to turn. It was beautiful, but I dreaded the turns. He only made those that were absolutely necessary to get us down safely. Due to the nausea, this part also is like a series of beautiful still photos. One thing that stands out is the moment when I closed my eyes as we turned to face the sun and I felt the warmth of it on my skin and realized I was feeling that warmth up where the birds flew so gracefully.
We landed and my first remark was that I thought I had to throw up. As I opened my legs so I wouldn’t mess up the jumpsuit, I realized my head was too hot, so I quickly stripped off the helmet you have to wear. My head started to immediately cool and I think that is why I only had one dry heave, but for the next few hours I was woozy.
As I looked back on it, I quickly realized that I really liked free fall. That was the opposite of what I had initially thought. Also being under canopy was not as pleasant as I had thought due to the unexpected nausea – more on that in another post.
I also realized that I’ve always wanted to do what is called Relative Work. You know, where the skydivers make beautiful patterns in the sky? And I’d love to do aerobatics too and fly like a bird in a bird suit. But I had dismissed ever doing that because I had convinced myself that I could never exit the aircraft.
All of a sudden a new door was open and if I could get rid of the nausea while under canopy I was willing to walk through it and start AFF training.
So I decided to do more research and ask the other skydivers if the nausea ever went away. I was told that you don’t get nauseous if you’re steering. So I scheduled another dive for the following weekend to test that theory out.
On a side note: We won a very nice basket of goodies for the kitties in the raffle.
If you’re my friend on FB, you can see the video and still pics of this dive.