Saturday, August 1, 2009

It's a bird, it's a plane, NO it's Carolyn skydiving!!!

As promised my adventure in skydiving took place on August 1st, and let me tell you it did not disappoint. Really, it was way more exhilarating than bungee jumping and at least I got to stay dry, unlike white water rafting. However, I suppose that I should start at the beginning for those of you that are reading about my adventure for the first time.

I
started blogging a little over a year ago, but the real fun of it cam about when I decided that my blog needed more direction and so in that year, the last of my 20’s, I set to work on a list of things to accomplish before I turned 30, and it all started with my expressed desire to go skydiving. My friends, and more of you out there in the blogosphere, started getting on board and followed my exploits, and although progress was being made, the expensive dream seemed unattainable (I don’t know why I like the expensive pastimes? Chalk it up to fine taste). Then, as fate would have it, my wonderful circle of friends got on board and collected the money for me to take my trip, or jump, out of the airplane and bestowed it upon me for my 30th birthday on May 1st. However, the full circle of accomplishment was not completed until Saturday afternoon, when I took my body and flung it out of an airplane at 14,000ft. Ahhh, victory is mine, with a little help from my friends.

I suppose my infatuation with jumping has been with me since I was a child. I always loved going as high as I could in the swings at the playground. Sometimes the air would catch me just right and my bum would loose contact with the seat, causing me to feel a sensation of weightlessness (that I wish I could still attain), but no matter how it felt going up it would always result in a monstrous jump into the sand before me. It was a challenge to see how high and how far I could launch myself into the warm tingly grains below my soaring legs. It wasn’t usually a land that would place me flat on my feet, the few times that happened stings of pain coursed through my legs. Proper landing etiquette for this feat usually involves a bent knee dismount, but I digress. A few times I attempted this same glee in the bark box on the school playground, but splinters always make the landing unpleasant, as well as the fear of getting caught by the yard duty personnel. To many times I found myself planted on the bench for a recess or two do to my disobedient spirit. My friends were often not the encouragers of such behavior, although they always did seem to enjoy the show, punishment and all. The only time I did not enjoy having to jump was when a 6 year old stuck on a chair lift at a ski resort up in Northern, CA. Why the people down below thought that was a good idea for me to jump from that high, with skis on, is beyond my level of comprehension. Suffice it to say that my poor Dad became the subject of his daughters over dramatic wrath (just for the record Dad, I don’t hate you). But those events, as well as my bungee jumping and whitewater adventures, don’t come close to living up to Saturday’s experience. NOT EVEN CLOSE!

This is gonna be another monster post, but it’s so worth it, hang in there with me and the videos at the end will be well worth it.

Let’s start at the beginning. . .

I was super tired having stayed up quite late over at Kali’s while a group of us talked on the phone with Amy discussing her impending wedding and subsequent details. I had planned to go to bed early, but 4 girls on a conference call doesn’t bode well for an early evening, besides it’s not like we get to see her every day. As usual though for Whidbey Island the day started out gloomy with a marine layer that had set in over the cove that evening.
A Beautiful Whidbey Morning
Then after arriving at Nicki’s and fueling up on coffee and gas, we set out on I-5 to Skydive Snohomish, out at Harvey Field. Leaving the Island I knew that the weather would improve and I couldn’t have been more pleased with the 80 degrees and clear sky’s that we were blessed with, a great day for extra altitude! Nere a cloud was to be found.
Now me being the ever, or over, punctual person that I am we arrived at the field about an hour and a half early, that includes Nicki taking a wrong turn into a corn field. The gift of direction something that should not be taken for granted. It’s a good thing that gravity was working in her favor during the dive, I would have hated for her to take a wrong turn going down LOL. In any case we arrived safely and in high humor.

We opened up a door w/a class taking place:P

While Nicki, Kali, Maggie, and myself were waiting for our cheer team to show up (Team Kiesel, Sherri, and Vickie) we sat around watching other skydive videos. Some were of other weekend warriors, like me, but most of them looked like they were made up of the licensed instructors. Neither were disappointing though. In fact it only charged me up even more. I supposed that’s part of the marketing of the experience itself. Our crew finally showed up, just a little after noon, and Bro. Kiesel was totally in his element.
Making new friends

It was cool to see how excited he was for us, probably reliving some of his own jumps vicariously through the conversations that he was having with some of the other divers that were nearby. Filling out the paper work was of course an obligation, lest we find ourselves in less than ideal conditions post jump, i.e. splat.

Do we really look scared? I don't think so

Naturally Nicki and I were well aware of the risks involved (her Dad is a jump master after all) and that we were pretty much risking our lives. However, we did have a little chuckle over how detailed the waiver was. Really though, if you consider the days that we live in, the owners really do have to watch out for their own interests. Law suits happen over way less risky life experiences and if that were to happen it would really ruin the outlook for other prospective divers and instructors alike. Total bummer! So for all you future divers our there, here is a little of what you can expect to sign away…

1. Your right to sue should something go wrong, no longer exists.
2. You are acknowledging that in no way have the divers exploited the fact that this is a safe sport. It’s quite the contrary.
3. Hopefully you also have insurance that will cover any injury that will happen, because you’re outta luck if you don’t.

In spite of knowing all that we were still committed. After all the first rule of diving is to HAVE FUN! Not that we really needed that fact enforced, we were already psyched up, but some people can get really sober and serious when it comes to doing extreme and so it’s extreme and so it’s always a good reminder whenever reiterating why it is that someone chooses to do this. I mean no one that I know of chooses to do this to be a dud about the whole experience. It’s supposed to be fun so embrace it!

Manifest Operations
Signing our lives away

Diving Equipment

Let the games begin
Landing practice

After a “How to video” and a short physical lesson on how to execute the jump and landing Nicki and I suited up and met our instructors and the other ladies that we would be riding up with, Ginger, and Tannis (who was jumping in celebration of her 60th birthday…who knows maybe that will be me again in 30 years;))
Jump Suiting Up
Two wild & crazy gals
My instructor was Vlad, a German man that was so cool he didn’t even bother to put on a jump suit. Khaki’s, a white T-shirt, and a parachute were all he needed on that day. Awesome! I, being a person with a creative vision as well, also enjoyed his motivation behind the camera. He was very efficient with his time and manner, but always keeping the fun and energy up.
No...that's not a proposal......
Vlad'sgetting the gear ready
Hi 5in Vlad
Right before we headed onto the plane he asked me who I wanted to have jump first, me or Nicki? Hmmm. . . People who know me would probably think it odd for me to actually have to think about this since I’m usually first in line with things, a natural leader like that, but not having any idea of what I was really going to experience I decided that Nicki could go before me, the sacrificial lamb so to speak. But I knew she wouldn’t mind either way, and so that’s how our jump order worked out the way that it did. Honestly I’m glad because it was really cool watching her fall out of the plane. One minute she was there and the next…poof…she was gone.

Bye Bye
Nicki loads up
Here we go....
I don’t know what I imagined, but the plane was smaller than my minds eye came up with in previous imaginations of the day. However, with only 8 of us in there it didn’t seem like it was that cramped at all.

DISCLAIMER: The 6 inch rule does not apply in this situation. So if you have issues with being that close to someone, I highly advise that you request for someone of the same sex (if they’re available). I didn’t think that far ahead, but it also didn’t bother me. They were very professional. I just wanted to make sure that whoever was assigned to me knew what he was doing. And he did; obviously, I’m alive and typing right now.

Butterflies started turning in my stomach the second that the plane started down the runway. Exhilarating butterflies, coupled with moments of tranquility, knowing that there was no way out now. . .not that I would want one. Nicki was just as cool and cerebral as she always is, very even keel. On the way up Vlad was asking me how high I thought we were, I was way off, what felt like only the possibility of a few hundred feet in the air was actually about 3,000, altitude was gaining on us fast. So all the way up he kept letting me know how high we were. With each inclining altitude new butterflies were added. I wasn’t psyched out, but rather psyched up:). I was also able to see an aerial view of Whidbey Island from the air craft. Amazing, is the only word that comes to my mind as I relive the memory in my mind. From the air it doesn’t look like it’s an hour and a half away, but merely a hop, skip, & a jump away (pun intended).

Vlad made the final adjustments to our harnesses, checking their attachments, and then the door opened…

A
gust of wind came flowing into the air craft and all that I could hear was Vlad’s voice and instructions that were nearly muffled by the wind blowing in.

Scootching towards the door, the other divers in front of me started disappearing…poof they were gone. The butterflies intensified. Even Nicki, who is usually calm and collected, got serious at the last minute.

As I approached the door, wrapping my leg around the under belly of the aircraft like the video said to, I looked out on the horizon…it was just blue as far as I could see, and then Vlad told me to wave to the camera, where shortly after he pushed us out of the plane. Unlike with bungee jumping there is no lurch in your stomach, due to the fact that when you jump you’re jumping from a moving object, unlike with base jumping where it’s stationary. I’m sure there’s a physics person out there who can explain it in more detail (Isaiah, Noah, Steve. . .any takers), but that’s the jist of it in lay mans terms.

Man O Man, it did not disappoint!!! Freefall was about a minute in long. I lost my breath pretty soon after exiting the plane due to whooping it up as much as I did on the way down. I was trying to remember everything that I had been instructed on, like making sure my body arched and that I was looking out at the horizon. The smile on my face would not go away, which made for some pretty interesting, and funny, facial distortions. But catching my breath because of it all was a little harder. I was very happy that I had not had breakfast that morning.

It was the longest minute of my life…seriously. It even beat the minute I was stuck in the gas chamber at boot camp. But just when I thought I wasn’t going to be able to finally catch my breath Vlad opened up the canopy and with a jerk or air, back up we went. That didn’t hurt, like I thought it would either, just a little tension around the hips and chest, which Vlad actually loosened up on a little bit, before handing the reigns of the parachute over to me.

H
e had me making hard lefts and rights that were sending me into fast spirals towards the ground, but the coolest was when he had me move my arms down simultaneously and I was suspended in mid air. You can’t tell from the video at all because I’m trying to describe it for you all, but once you do that everything goes silent and it gets very still. It was AMAZING to just stay there floating like I that. Vlad was pointing out Nicki to me across the sky from me, “HI Nicki”. . .I was waving and shouting like she could hear me, but naturally she couldn’t, nor, come to find out later, was she reciprocating. But that’s to be expected, we’re both different and the experience, similar as it was, was unique unto ourselves. Even the instructors that we ended up with were right for our personalities. Nicki’s instructor Jordan was just as laid back as she was, while like I said earlier Vlad was very animated and into the process from start to finish.

Alas gravity needed to execute her force on the fun we were having. And handing the reigns back to Vlad he took us down to the ground below, but not before singing me a little ditty of “Happy Birthday” upon our decent (sadly that was edited out of the video, but it’s also kind of nice that I get to keep it for my own memory).

Is that a parachute?
Nicki comes in for a landing
Here I come
Going over to say Hi to Nicki
Normally for a post like this I would wax eloquent with my illustrations, trying to help you all out there to try and understand what an experience like this would be like, however, there just aren’t words. You must do it for yourself if you want to know what it feels like. How it feels to pummel towards the earth for a full minute without anything but the ground underneath you. How the velocity with which you fall will take the very breath out of your lungs and contort your cheeks into mere flaps in the wind. How looking out on the horizon and gazing down upon the earth, that you hover above, can be one of the smallest, and most humbling, feelings in the world (Psalm 8:4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?). Really there’s no rush of adrenaline that can compare, nor words to encapsulate such an experience. Maybe the videos below will do it some justice.






The feed back that I’ve received so far from my You Tube post has been nice, and I’ve posted all of your comments below, but feel free to leave more, now that I have the whole post up.

If you’re considering taking a skydive yourself, and live in WA, I highly recommend the crew down at Skydive Snohomish. The planes all looked like they were in good condition (no duct tape holding anything together) and the instructors were all professional and enthusiastic (who wouldn’t be after getting to jump out of planes for a job). Really, even if you haven’t considered it, or have been a nay sayer for years, you should probably consider it. Nicki and I got Kali from a statement of “I wouldn’t jump out of a plane unless my life depended on it”, to a 90 degree turn of “I’ll consider it” (when we get her in the plane we can cheer over the 180 degree turn). I was never more mellow than I was after jumping out of the aircraft on Saturday. Now if I could bottle that feeling and sell it I’d be rich! But for now I’ll just have to settle for saving for another jump;)

A big thanks again to all my wonderful friends that helped donate their hard earned money to such a fun experience and helping my 30 list come full circle. You are all the best and I don’t know of anyone that has better friends.
Our Cheer Team








14 comments:

Anonymous said...

That was crazy! I felt sick just watching you! I'm glad you had such a good time!!!! Youre braver than me thats for sure!!!

Amy

Anonymous said...

Loved it!

Tim

Cove Girl said...

That was an awesome video! Especially your reaction! Two things though (you are way brave): tha plane was ITTY BITTY! and why was the pilot TEXTING ON HI CELLPHONE while flying?!!?!?

Camille

Anonymous said...

carolyn, that video was priceless. i am SOOOOO excited for you to have had that experience! were you scared? your face looked scared when you were getting ready to jump from the plane...)
love and friends,
shannon

Anonymous said...

Brian and I just watched this together---yes, AWESOME!!! Brian says you are braver than he will ever be--ditto for me. Great 30th B-day present! Thanks for sharing.
Love, Aunt Elaine

Anonymous said...

That video is incredible! I would have been so afraid to leave the plane. Congratulations and happy 30th!
Eliese

Cove Girl said...

Awesome video Carolyn!
Mike

Anonymous said...

Hi Carolyn,
Thanks for the thrill. Ken, Kacina, Jason, and I watched it very comfortably from here on the ground!

Love,
Aunt Nina

joy said...

that was fantastic! thanks for sharing!

Engrafted Lives said...

I am so glad you are a lover of life and are willing to try new and adventureous venues. I don't think I have ever seen anyone enjoy a birthday present as much as you.

I am also very happy that I was able to watch it all happen from the ground and then still, be able to experience it through your eyes in the air. The video footage is awesome.

Lori said...

WOW!!!! I watched this with my son and he said, No way! I have always wanted to do this until I watched this... my stomach moved up by about 6 inches. I'm glad you had fun.

Cove Girl said...

Lori it was so much fun:) I go through all the same emotions each time I watch it. Nervousness and exhilaration all combined. I was amazing! My friends are much happier that it was me and not them.

Rachel said...

Good for you!!! I wouldn't be that brave, but it looks like you had lots of fun! :o)

Anonymous said...

Hi Carolyn, That was so cool. Happy belated 30th. Mrs. Sharon

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