My favorite jump to date was this weekend and I have no photo or video to commemorate it. Hell, I don’t even have a single picture of me from this weekend at all. Which is kind of humorous because I just finished working on the social media for the WVS and I think I took somewhere around 800 photos that I weened down to two albums of over a hundred pictures each.
I went into this weekend with the stresses of life heavy on my shoulders, with financial worries making the load even heavier and with feeling defeated by my last jump. My last jump had just plain spooked me. As I manifested Saturday, in my head I went through the various things I love about skydiving. The way looking down at Earth with the wind on my face offers me the greatest sense of freedom I have ever felt in my life. The feeling of my body’s center of gravity readjusting as the ascending plane makes its final bank and heads to my exit destination. The thrill of being packed inside the Cessna with my friends and knowing that I am a part of something most people will never understand. Even the crappiest of jumps has offered me some bit of happiness. It’s the breeze between your knees – it is a cure-all. But that last jump kept haunting the outer fringe of my happy thoughts.
The day was hot and the tandems were many. I loaded the jumpers into the plane and watched them come to a landing – full of giggles and happy. I thought to myself, I am just going to ask Boster to take me on a tandem. It could have dual purpose – he could take me through the rigors/offer tips in the sky AND the feel of the fall would kick my ass back into gear. I had made the decision to ask when Garrido came around the corner and with a look of seriousness said, “What are you doing?” “Manifesting.” “You manifest yourself on a jump?” “Not yet, was thinking about doing a tandem.” “Oh, HELL no you aren’t doing a tandem. You’re a fucking skydiver.” Sigh. Yeah. I’m a fucking skydiver. Next load, I was on it. So was Crusty Rodriguez, Garrido, Rocky and Lil John. All of them very experienced, crazy skydivers, all of them wanting to see me get beyond my funk. And there I sat, a bit nervous but ready to break the ice and get beyond it. We climbed to close to 5k (due in part to my forgetting to have my goggles on). There were a handful of differences already in place for this jump… Firstly, I would be able to hear my radio because I had an earbud in instead of trying to struggle with being partially deaf and wind current and not being able to make out my audible. Secondly, I had on my Chucks again (forgot them at home on the previous jump). No blue jeans – loose cargo pants that were not restrictive. Those were the three things that aided in my previous demise. During my assent I went through the rigors – “look red, look silver, pull red, pull silver”, “look up, look up, look up, arch, arch, arch”, “flare to the middle, not the side”. This jump my thoughts were less hectic and more centered on the things I knew I had to work on. Then the moment came when that engine cut and Rocky screamed, “ARE YOU READY TO SKYDIVE?!?” “YES!!!” And I meant it. I was so ready. Out I went, looking at the wing of the plane and all of the happiness rushing into my very core, reminding me that THIS…this right here folks is where I am meant to be, body hurdling towards Earth (if even for just a brief few seconds) at 120 mph ((happy spot)) and becoming the pilot of my own canopy.
As I exited the plane, I looked down and realized that my Chucks were untied. I looked at Garrido who gave a half chuckle and shook his head. Then out the door I went and the worry of loosing my favorite shoes in mid-flight left my mind. My canopy was a bit larger than before. 280. As it deployed there was a line twist. I grabbed my risers with confidence because this was not my first line twist. This one, however, was under a larger canopy and took a little while longer to clear. Once it was open, my toggles in hand, I then heard Ralph’s voice come over the radio – nice clear audible – “Get out of your line twist, do a controlability test and then have some fun. You won’t hear from me too much, just enjoy yourself.” And that is exactly what I did. I made turns, I did a 180, I worked on my flares – all with the occasional encouragement from Ralph down on the airstrip. That earbud in my ear made the biggest difference of all my jumps. My previous jumps saw me so worried about not being able to hear that the inability to make out the audible “took over” my jumps. But not this time. I was able to bring myself into my landing formation and began my descent. Because of the larger canopy I was unable to completely flare which was frustrating because on this jump I really felt confident enough to have walked it in. But the partial flare, the untied shoes and the feeling of my heel sliding all played into my lifting my feet and riding my seat in.
Was it perfect? No. But it was a huge step in a good direction for me. I received kudos from both Rocky and Garrido on improvement. I was ribbed for my facial expressions as I tried to flare on my landing. And at the end of the day, I found my wings again. Next weekend has three days of jumping. I am asking for Monday off from my regular nine-to-fiver. I am ready to push into my next level.
Things I have to work on: upper body strength, arch, getting out of the modified puppy and preparing to level up to my fake pulls. Bring it!
Camper update – in addition to an air conditioner, Andy “raised the roof woot woot” and sealed her up. Next weekend I will be taking either a rollaway bed or a futon and putting it in the trailer!! My first weekend actually in the camper… (the camper blog is a work in progress that will bot be adequate unless provided in totality – be patient.)