This past weekend I completed my first ever Tandem Sky Dive!
I’m not going to lie and say it was the most amazing experience of my life – although it was one of them – because it was also completely terrifying!
There were parts that I loved and didn’t love equally!
Still, I’m pretty proud that I put my feet outside of the plane and allowed my body to be propelled from the vessel into the air with nothing but faith that the guy strapped to me knew what he was doing and that the parachute would open!
A good reminder to me that the unknown is uncomfortable, but sometimes if you just stick it out for another few seconds the unknown can unfold into the memorable and even the incredible.
Putting my faith in someone I’ve just met, and trusting them with my life was easy enough (I thought), until half of my body was outside of a plane, 10,000 feet in the air.
I have to admit that staring into the landscape below, knowing that any second this man behind me would hurl us from our safe capsule – was one of the most terrifying moments of my life. That flash of recognition that “we’re going to jump,” was unexpected.
Even though I knew that my purpose in the plane was to jump, my mind had not really registered that it meant out of the plane, into the air, 10,000 feet above the ground.
Until that moment I’d felt incredibly calm, comfortable even. Hanging out in the company’s hangar was fun and interesting, the ride in the plane – though a little uncomfortable sitting on the floor – was fun and the scenery breathtaking. I didn’t feel nervous, I felt content and in awe of the beauty around me.
Plus, I do love flying.
It was only when the hatch opened and the wind, a cold, forceful wind, rushed into the cramped space that I started to become alert.
Alert. But still strangely calm.
I watched my friend go first with his tandem jump, then we scooched backward toward the open door.
“Put your feet out,” Charlie said to me.
Like a robot I obeyed.
At my first attempt to get my left foot out of the door the wind caught my shoe and tried to lift it from my foot, when I gasped and jerked retreat, the wind pushed my leg back inside.
I felt stung. Confused…
The ferocity of the air, its determination to push and pull me in directions unknown, sparked the first light of fear.
Still I pressed on, this guy was waiting. So I used my hands to push my feet out of the doorway, onto the step, and I looked at the landscape around us.
The enormity of what I was about to have done to me, (because it no longer felt like something I had a choice over – only the man behind me knew when we would push off into the air), hit me like a power surge.
A part of my computer shut down. I felt it happen. I steeled myself from the inevitable and I tried to close off my emotions, to thwart the mounting alarm.
Then he pushed off.
The harness pulled tight around me like a vice. The wind was forced from my lungs.
I saw the ground, and then the plane, and then the ground again.
We completed a full somersault in the air.
This was unexpected.
My stomach tightened, fear gripped me. The cries coming out of me sounded animal and barbaric to my ears – and yet I’m not even certain if I made an audible sound or if it was just the screams in my head.
The wind was so powerful, that I struggled to take a breath – it was moving too fast, we were moving too fast. I was winded and couldn’t get the oxygen I needed. This was also unexpected.
I gulped air and told myself “you’re Ok” over and over.
I tried to remember all the things he’d told me: cross my arms over my chest, head back into his shoulder, back arched, knees bent, feet up.
When I finally managed to bend my knees up, he tapped me on the shoulder.
What did it mean? The tapping?
I had to reach into my addled mind to recall what it meant.
“Open your arms,” my brain said.
I did. I opened them.
He put his thumb out with a thumbs up sign so I could see it. I returned the gesture.
He did it again, and again I returned the gesture.
It felt like we did this five or six times, and I wondered why? Nothing made sense.
I started to get the hang of breathing, opening my nose and throat to allow the air to rush in unassisted. Not exactly comfortable but the panic of asphyxiation was subsiding.
All of this happened in about 25 seconds.
For the next 20 seconds I started to enjoy the feeling of the air, the feeling of my arms outstretched, the feeling of release from the shackles of normalcy.
He looked at his watch, checking the altitude.
Anticipation of the next step kicked in and I wondered if this would be as uncomfortable a change as the jump itself.
My muscles tensed.
He pulled the chute.
My body whipped down and then up, my stomach hitting my toes. The already cage-like harness now forced my…urm…chest into my neck (!) – this was also entirely unexpected.
The howling wind subsided. My racing heart slowed its pace. I took deep breaths as though I’d been running for the finish line and had just crossed the mark.
Deep, deep breaths.
He asked me, “So, how was that?”
I tried to slow my mind, catch a thought, to find coherence.
At least I think I did. Honestly, if I didn’t have the video I may not remember at all what I said in response.
But I do have a video and my reply was: “That was so F@*#ing terrifying!” then I laughed.
He laughed too, a hearty laugh.
Then I told him how I was being choked by my boobs, and that there was so much cleavage happening in the front right now!
He laughed again, hard.
I do remember repeating “wow” over and over.
My mind told me to relax, take it all in, and told me I was safe.
Floating was nice.
I did really enjoy the floating part and would have been happy to just enjoy the ride.
He had other ideas and made some hard turns, right – I screamed.
Then left – I screamed some more.
Then I laughed, and pretended that I loved his antics. I didn’t.
I asked him if it was hard to steer, I figured he might get lost talking and stop freaking me out with unexpected moves.
“Would you like to try and see?”
Really? Uh… no… yes… I don’t know… OK.
“Are you sure?”
“Of course, here put your hands through here.”
I took the controls, and that did feel nice.
We did a gentle turn to the left and a gentle turn to the right, I pulled down to feel how we slow when I do that, and then he said “how about another right?”
I pulled gently, enjoying the gentle movements – he yanked the cord and we tilted what felt like sideways… I screamed for my life!
Then covered it with a laugh… hahaha… that was fun!
Inside I was screaming “STOP! DOING! THAT!”
I had controls for a little while longer and then he said he’d take them back. I panicked during the transition worried he didn’t have them and what would happen if I let go too soon.
“You can let go,” he said.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, you can let go.”
But I didn’t feel his hands in the loops, I repeated, “Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’ve got it…, I’ve got you.”
The thoughts that went through my mind, the need to know how we would regain the control if I let go and he didn’t have it, was intense for me. I felt enormous anxiety at letting go.
Inside I said, “OK, if this is it, this is it.”
And I let go.
He had me.
My body relaxed. We were safe. I took in the view and commented on how beautiful and peaceful it was, how much I was enjoying this part.
(…hint hint, no more surprises please…)
He didn’t get the hint, and pulled a few more twists and turns on me. I screamed some more.
Then we rounded the corner to see the landing place.
He had me lift my legs as though I was sitting as a test run. I did so.
“Perfect, now we’re going to land. Get ready.”
That was the moment I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to go back up and have the ride all over again, without the twists and turns, without the surprises, and with full awareness of what to expect. I wanted to enjoy the first rush of excitement and then the peaceful and floaty.
“OK, now lift your legs, hold your knees with your hands.”
And the ground met my underside.
The landing was surprisingly gentle.
Would I do it again?
If you’d asked me immediately after, I might have said no, the scary parts were definitely outweighing the wonderful parts.
Now, days later, I would like to do it again.
Knowing what I know and being able to prepare for the somersault out of the plane, the winded feeling, the difficulty in breathing, the bust in my face! I know what to expect and I’d like to see if I could enjoy it more the next time, if being prepared would allow my brain to take in some of the amazingness of the jump rather than hitting survival-panic mode and shutting down.
I would also love to try the parachuting again, without the tricks and vertical turns.
I’m the kind of person who likes to build up to those kinds of things, once trust is established.
What I took from this experience is that when your brain is in survival mode, when the unexpected is happening that is life-threatening (in my brain), then it is hard for me to enjoy what is happening. Or to even accept that there is no danger.
Like life I guess… when you can relax and soothe your mind into letting go, into trusting that you are safe, then you can take in the sights, sensations, and sounds, and allow yourself to truly enjoy an incredible event.
It makes me wonder, who first decided to jump out of a plane for pleasure, and then to develop the ability to have two people – one inexperienced – jump together? Amazing really, what we do as humans for thrills and excitement!
My tandem guy had jumped from a plane 1721 times so far, according to the little ticker on his altimeter watch.
I asked him if he gets bored taking people up over and over (he said sometimes he does 12 jumps in a day with tandem customers), “No way, I love it – and I get paid for it – and every jump is different.”
Different for sure. The crazy things that come out of his customers mouths as they recover from the shock of launching from a plane, somersaulting into the air, and trying to catch their breath! I’m sure he laughs all day long at the crazy stuff he hears!
Once again I felt inspired by someone doing what they love for a living.
It’s something I wish for all humans, most of all for myself.
All told it was an amazing day with so many incredible experiences shared with some great friends – old and new.
Thank you so much to the folks at the sky dive location in BC, Canada for making an amazing day possible.
Thank you to my tandem guy who made me feel calm, comfortable, and safe on the ground before we went up, and then again in sometimes harrowing circumstances on the way down! I appreciate you!
Thank you to my dear friend for organising the day, and to the new friends who also came along.
And a big thank you to me for braving the unknown and putting my life in the hands of others!
How about you… have you ever jumped from a plane, or done something equally as daredevilish that made your life flash before your eyes?
I would love to hear about it, please leave me your comments!
Warm smiles and Love,
Ali Jayne 🙂