I stared at the horizon through the window. Just as the plane started to bank, making the earth look off kilter, the sunshine came through and warmed my face. I smiled. My heart and brain aligned and all was right with my world. Five minutes later I was hurtling towards that same earth at astronomical speeds and reaching for a rip cord with an orange golf ball attached to the end of it.
Welcome to my first day of skydive training.
It all started last summer when I had the privilege of doing a tandem, set up by West Virginia Skydivers, for our offices at AOTG. They wanted us to experience what it was like to fall from the sky in hopes of our being able to encourage our guests to take the plunge for themselves. It is true, unless you have done it, you cannot really describe it. And even now, after a couple of jumps, I still have a hard time describing it without using a dirty word or two.
John Garrido was my tandem master for that first experience. He looked like the boy-next-door all-American football player type. He is quick with his humor and an all around good sport. I say good sport because my friend Kim and I were pretty rough on him while prepping for our tandem. We were foul and offensive and other than the exception of his ears turning red from embarrassment, he never broke. Later that week, I befriended him on Facebook so I could tag him in our pictures from that day and to thank him for giving me the experience of a lifetime. I told him that, if ever the occasion arose, I would love to be able to work for them, with them or whatever. You see…I “got the bug”.
Recently John asked me if I was serious about working for WV Skydivers. Um…yeah! We threw around some details and I agreed to come onboard as “The Manifest Bitch”. Yes, that is my title. I plan on having business cards made up with that exact wording. How fun that will be to see the expression on peoples faces as I hand those out!
My first day at the hanger was March 10th which happened to be Safety Day for skydivers associated with USPA (U.S. Parachute Association). Safety Day is when all jumpers come together to discuss the safety issues which occurred in the previous year and to strengthen their understanding of protocols and procedures which are necessary in our sport. On my first day, in my first few hours, I learned that I should steer toward the center of the tree where the “meat” is, if ever I have the occasion of needing to run into one. I was told that if you accidentally deploy your chute while still inside the aircraft, the word you scream is “Reserve!” When jumpers hear this, they all try to scramble out of the way because, at that point, you are leaving the plane a little quicker than anticipated. Also, if the pilot screams for you to get out of the plane, that means it is safer in the sky than inside the aircraft (which a similar command “all out” is given on the river if it is safer in the water than in the boat). For those of you who work in an environment where your only safety issues is the possibility of carpal tunnel syndrome or picking up a box while bending instead of squatting – you don’t know what you are missing!
After the course came to a close, the fun began. It was time for the crew to work on recerts for certain things. It was time for me to learn how to scream things at them like, “If the plane is on the ground, I ain’t making no money!! Move your asses!!” (That was a lot of fun, if I must say so myself!) In between learning how to manifest, shouting curse words at the crew and becoming familiar with my new family – I was able to throw on a chute (in case of emergency) and into the plane I went hoping to catch some pictures for our social media. Even though I was not jumping out of the plane with the guys, it was still a thrill to be in the air and watching from high above.
The day came to a close and, well…one day was just not enough. So, I decided to crash in the hanger and give it a go on Sunday too. After a little flip cup, some serious political debate and getting to know the guys a little better – my bunkmate Rocky and I crashed on some pallets in front of the wood burning stove. Let me go on record now and say that I am going to do a little research on a “Go Girl” for those long nights when the bathroom is a distance away. I am not a comfortable squatter… lol
Sunday, oh Sunday. It is a day that will be marked down in my personal history book as the day my world changed. Sunday was the day of my first lesson. It was a slow start to the day. Rocky made an amazing breakfast and a handful of us waited well past noon – but once the crew started to roll in the excitement (for me) started to build. I was able to jump on the plane for a fuel run (coupled with a hop and pop) and catch some more pics. And then the time came for me, for my moment (literally) in the sun. John went through the various things I needed to remember: move all body parts in unison, look up and with a smile, ripcord on the right side/upper thigh, arch as much as possible. In my head as I waited in the plane for my chance to fall from the sky, I kept going through all of the things he taught me. And then it was time. Ralph did me a solid by running video and pictures of the jump. When the jump was over, the adrenaline coursing through my veins and I was screaming excitedly (mostly dirty words) – I started rolling through all the pictures that Ralph was able to capture. There was one…
That picture there folks – it is a money shot. That picture is breathtaking to me because I will always remember how thrilling that fall was. Not every picture you see captures the exact emotion of its subject. However, this one – it embodies all that I felt as I made that jump.
The day came to an end, I drove home (now pitted after such an adrenaline high) and I thought about the week to come. Then I started looking forward to the next time and smiling, realizing that this addition to my life – (sigh) – this insanity I was stepping into… it was what was missing in my life.
So, this is the first of a series of blogs that you can expect from me. I plan on putting the experience down for posterity’s sake. I want to look back at my pictures, at my thoughts and savor this moment in my life. I hope you enjoy my ponderances on the subject. And remember, if you want to mark skydiving off your bucket list, we are the people you need to see. So, hit us up! Visit our webpage: skydivewv.com, like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/skydivewv or give us a call and set up a jump date.
I will look for you at the hanger and, if someone asks you “Why would you jump out of a perfectly good airplane?” just tell ’em “Because the door was open.”
(Below are some of the pics from above and some extra ones to boot – enjoy!)