22 May Holy F#*K I jumped out of a plane!
I jumped out of a plane. No, wait a second, you’re listening, but you’re not hearing. I jumped out of a plane! I climbed through the door at ten thousand feet, and dropped off into open air.
You may know someone who has skydived, or you may have done it yourself. If the latter then in a way you know what I’m talking about (in a way because with three of us jumping we had three very different reactions). If the former then you have no idea. I and many others have jumped out of a plane. Not because it was going down, not because it was full of snakes, but because we wanted an experience. And Little Baby Hayzoos do you get one.
I’m sure you have read about people jumping, you may even have commented on a post or two, but it is hard to convey the otherworldly “Holy Fuckness” of stepping off the tiny ledge and tumbling into nothing. I was not sure how it was going to feel when we were setting up for the jump, and I am not a hundred percent sure how I feel now that the jump is comfortably in the past. But I will try to enlighten those of you who want to do it, those of you who don’t, and those of you who think you know what it would be like (hint: you don’t.).
We booked in for the skydive a few days before its actual taking place. We had loose plans to do it when my sister got here and it became a reality only a day after she arrived. A few emails back and forwards with Skydive Playa (thanks guys, you did a great job), and they offered us a jump the following afternoon.
“What! Tomorrow? OK lets do it, no point hanging around.”
We woke up on the 21st of May 2013, ten days before my 32nd birthday (the loosely based reason for jumping now), and tried to prepare ourselves for what would be happening at one o’clock that sunny afternoon. Sarah didn’t sleep much, Taunee and I were up early, and the whole morning carried with it a low murmur of constant anxiety. We walked on the beach, Sarah went to Yoga hoping it might calm the flaring fear inside, and we waited.
The morning dragged by. “Can’t we just go already?”
Eventually the time passed, many nervous toilet breaks and anxious looks later we were walking down the main street in Playa, baking under an intense sun yet almost floating on nervous chatter and sweaty dread. At the same time, we all really wanted to face this thing called fear. And (spoiler alert) we did.
Sarah was first up to jump, nervous to go, but then surprisingly loved it! Landing on the beach with the biggest smile I have ever seen and reassurances of how amazing it was. (I’ll let her tell her story.).
Then my sister, Taunee was supposed to follow but there was an issue with the plane and we had to wait a couple hours (much to her nerves fraying disdain). Eventually though they sorted the plane and up she went. She came down and landed with agony in the ear from not being able to equalize and a look which said she may just have had the worst experience of her life. The comments which followed confirmed the look.
“At least you faced your fears mate.” We whispered into her popped ears (which healed up just fine. She still thinks it was the most terrifyingly horrible thing she has ever done, but in a good to overcome sort of way).
Then it was my turn. I had been a bit anxious coming up to the event, but was worried that the girls might need a little bravado so had been jesting and pasting on my big brave boy face for most of the day. In truth I didn’t feel too scared and was chuffed at finally facing something I had yet to push myself to do. After Taunee landed on the beach, they bundled me into the van and drove me out to the airport. I sat in the back listening to them chatter in Spanish in a sweaty sort of detachment, only barely thinking about what was coming next.
At the nearby airport we climbed out of the van and headed to security. The camera man occasionally pointing the video camera at me and saying “Say hi to the camera.” Which is a hard thing to do without feeling ridiculous, but I obeyed. A quick toilet break, a scan from security and I was standing on the runway, barefoot (by choice, I wanted to feel the wind between my toes, looking back I never even noticed I had toes while falling). The tarmac started to singe my soles while Hermil (the dude I was going to be strapped to) strapped me into my harness, but I didn’t want to request picking up the pace, deciding hot feet were better than falling to my death.
He showed me how we would be jumping, repeating what had been explained to us at the office, and then said “Climb in.” I dragged myself into position behind the pilot facing the back of the plane, the camera man and Hermil climbed in after and up we went.
I felt strangely calm as we were going up. Only barely aware that at a point which would be thought of as halfway for most plane rides, I would be exiting. The ground grew further away as I stared out the window. The occasional glance at Hermil’s altimeter showed us climbing steadily. “1000, 2000…7000, 8000.” During the twenty five minutes or so journey up, everyone seemed fantastically chilled. Hermil picked his nails, chewing gum was offered and taken, and the occasional questioning thumbs up were shown by all. It was great! The seeming nonchalance of my skydiving protectors made me feel comfortable in what was about to happen. Like if they ain’t stressed, I obviously shouldn’t be either. And for the most part I wasn’t.
10 000 feet, and everyone starts moving. I had been enjoying the amazing view of the Caribbean coast almost in denial of the thing that was about to take place. Hermil tightens his straps and turns around to face me. He beckons me to move in front of him and face the front of the little plane. Then starts maneuvering and directing me into position.
“Put your knees between the camera guys. Move forward slowly.” Straps tighten and I feel Hermil tight up against my back. Breathing in at the same time makes everything tight so I try and get into rhythm with him.
“Now pull your feet out and get on your haunches. When the door opens, hold your straps with both hands. Put your right leg on the step, then your left leg. I will pull your head back then count to three, and then we go. OK?”
“Uhhh, yeah, OK.”
Suddenly the door bangs open and the wind zips into the small compartment, roaring passed my ears. Holy shit I am actually about to jump out of a fucking plane! I can see without obstruction ten thousand feet below. Sea, beach and jungle stretching out forever. Blue, white, green and blue with every shade between. Tiny boats and rooftops like brightly colored cartoon scribblings, and the roaring in my ears. I briefly think it’s like looking down at a giant print out of Google maps, like my mind cannot comprehend this view anywhere else but in a picture. Then camera guy climbs onto the step in front of me.
“Right leg out.” My body does what Hermil tells it and the wind grabs my leg, a couple try’s and my naked foot finds the step.
Oh. My. God. This is happening.
“Left leg out.” Out goes my left leg and I feel my body pushed up against the door frame as the screaming wind pins it there.
Suddenly it feels like all control is blissfully taken from me. I am just hanging there, attached to someone who knows what he is doing. I am not scared of him making a mistake, I am not scared of hitting the ground. In fact I don’t really know what it is I am scared of, but Jesus Christ this is the craziest most insane thing my mind has ever felt. I am looking down at the world in a way I have never seen before and it feels like I have jumped into another reality, one where I can exist ten thousand feet above the Earth.
“One, Two, Three.”
My mind does a crazy lurch, as though it were trying to imitate my stomachs reaction to a roller coaster. I had already told myself I wouldn’t close my eyes and now as my body becomes weightless I watch the ground enter my vision fully, then upside down clouds roll past, then the underside of an airplane I was just sitting in, and then the ground is back again. The wind screams passed my ears and the air pries my mouth open and creeps beneath my eyelids. We stabilize and the ground becomes a fixed feature. A tap on my shoulder lets me know I can let go of the straps. I do and now I am floating above the Earth, looking down at it unencumbered by glass or steel.
Insane colors and an impossible world stretches out below and before me. Tiny bright things. Jungle, multi-hued sea, towns, roads, islands, boats. My brain just barely recognizes the beauty of the moment as it tries to deal with the awe of flying. It is doing the impossible and floating above a world that has no pull on any part of it. Aside from the roaring in my ears and the pulling at my skin, I have no sensation of falling. The fear is mixed with awe and disbelief.
I’m falling ten thousand feet above the ground!
A sensation I can only describe as “Whoa” takes over and the moments are almost overwhelming. Emotion pushes to the surface stronger in this small time frame than anything I have felt before. I am exhilarated and terrified at the same time. The camera guy floats in front of me and I come back to reality, pushing out a forced thumbs up and a forever unheard and shaky”Wahoo.” I look at him, then look passed him. I look down at the ground which doesn’t seem to have moved at all. It is amazing, I am just beginning to come to terms with what an incredible thing this is, and then the camera guy drops away. I hear a flappy sound and my descent slows quickly. The straps between my legs pull tight and I wince a little at the pain from where they bite into me (I have sensitive skin, it’s a beautiful curse).
And we are floating.
We have fallen about five thousand feet in thirty to forty seconds. My mind is still trying to catch up with what has just happened. I stare down at the tiny things below as my naked feet flutter around below me, barely peeking out from my huffing for breath belly.
We float down towards the ground, occasional swings as we descend pulling at my body like a merry go round at full tilt. The straps are digging in tight making it hard to think about the growing world below. But the reality and magnitude of the moment are still with me. Things get slowly bigger and over the course of about six minutes I begin to come to grips with what an incredible thing just happened.
I jumped/fell out of a plane at ten thousand feet. I defied gravity for forty seconds. I floated through the air and looked down at the world without glass and steel to keep us apart. Sarah and Taunee become more than spots on the beach as we quickly drop in height, pulling inland briefly and then swooping towards our target.
“Lift your legs high.”
I raise my legs, we touch down, and it is over. I have jumped from a plane, floated on air, and touched down on the beach safely. I have skydived, and it was insanely, terrifyingly magnificent. I don’t understand why people aren’t more expressive about the magnitude of what you feel and experience when Skydiving. Love it or hate it, terrified or ecstatic. There is very little in life which compares to the intense emotions you feel when throwing yourself from a plane. If you have the opportunity. Do it!
We go and pick up our videos today, so next post there should be laughs galore for all who enjoy the look of terror in their fellow man. See you then… (check out the video here)