Ok, when I did some digging, I found this old reference to my skydiving adventure, and it really sums it up well. Keep in mind, this was written in October of 2001, so I was still married to Jenn in those days. It does give a very accurate reflection of what it was like for me at that time. Enjoy!
Skydiving. It’s not something for everyone that’s for sure. I tried to convince Jenn that she should go with me but that just wasn’t going to happen. Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve always been one for sticking to my guns and doing what I say I’d do. This was just another one of those occasions. However, I did have a little help.
First off let me tell you that skydiving is not something that was on the top of my list of things to do. It was however something that I had always thought about but never got around to. Plus, it’s quite a bit of cash to dish out for a single jump. $184 for the 1st class and then your first jump is not a LOT of money but enough to think long and hard about if it’s really what you wanna do. But, I had come into a bit of money from selling some stuff on Ebay and the thought crossed my mind about doing this. Then of course came the real inspiration. Jenn said I’d never do it.
In one of those conversations that men have with their spouses, Jenn insisted that I did a lot of talk and no action and that I’d never jump out of an airplane. Well, that was simply enough to push me over the edge. I called the Moncton Skydive club, found out what I had to do, and where to be, and I was on my way. Here’s a “log” of events that transpired from then on.
October 20th, 2001
Got up bright and early Saturday morning. I knew I had to be out at McGuen airfield for 8am and I knew it was going to be cold so I was up early. Jenn had a pile of stuff to do that day so she drove me there and then I stayed for the day. There was about 12 people in the class. It ranged from young to old and people were from all over New Brunswick. It was pretty cool.
The day was supposed to be broken down into 3 parts. The first part (the morning) was all about the actual jump and how to jump, how to position your body, how to count, where to look, how to turn, etc. It was all assuming that everything was fine with your canopy (parachute). No “disasters” would happen until the afternoon part of the class.
We learned that we would not in fact be “jumping” out of the airplane. We would in fact be hanging onto the side of the plane, and then letting go. The plane was a small Cessna airplane which had a little strut attached to the wing. That strut had a piece of grey duct tape which is what your left hand was supposed to be over. You basically climb out on this strut, with your feet on one of the landing gears, and hang there. You then let go, do a count, and then check your chute to make sure it opened. It was all quite un-nerving. I had a feeling that the hanging onto the plane part would be the worst. It was!
Lunch came along and Jenn picked me up. We had about an hour before classes would start again so we went down to Greco and had some lunch. My instructor had made it perfectly clear that you should have something to eat before jumping.
The afternoon class consisted of learning about everything that could possibly go wrong when skydiving. We learned all about what to do if you were going to land in water, the trees, power lines, etc. There are specific steps that need to be taken to avoid or handle these situations and Pat (our instructor) was very good at explaining all of these. We also learned how to deploy our emergency chute, how to fix minor problems when first checking your canopy, and how to prevent other problems from happening. It was definitely worth it.
By the time the afternoon came along, we were all quite anxious to go jumping. However, the weather decided to pick on us and we would not be jumping that day. Because of us being first time jumpers, they would not allow us to jump if the winds exceeded 15km/hr. The reason for this is because the winds in the air are multitudes higher than they are on the ground, so as inexperienced jumpers, we would not know how to handle high winds. So, instead, we sat back and watched some of the more experienced jumpers go up and come down. It was very disappointing. We were told that we should be able to jump the next day. Disappointed, I went home and got psyched for the next day.
October 21st, 2001
I was psyched. I was all ready. Me and Jennifer got up to the airfield nice and early and there were only a couple of people ahead of us. As it turns out, it’s first come, first serve when going for jumps, so there were in fact 3 people in front of me so I would have to wait for the 2nd round in order to go. I was fine with that except for the fact that Jennifer had to work at 12. I got suited up, got all my gear on, and waited. Jenn called into work and told them she’d be an hour late as I was getting ready to jump. I waited and waited and watched the other students get their jumps in. As the plane landed, it wasn’t looking good. Jenn had already stuck around as long as she could and had to leave before I would go up. She left, and not too long after that, I was told I would not be able to jump because, once again, the winds had picked up, and it wasn’t safe. There were some other students who had hitchhiked in from Mount A who were quite upset. I was extremely pissed off myself. I had paid a lot of money to go skydiving and all I had done so far was sit around and watch others do it. I was told to sit and wait and see if the winds would die down.
They didn’t. By about 3:30 I had had enough of the waiting. My folks drove me to the mall where I got my car from Jenn, went home pissed off and stayed in a bad mood for awhile. I know that it was no ones fault, but in all honesty, the folks at the skydive club aren’t the most ambitious people in the world. There was a lot of time wasted by them standing around doing nothing. I was also told that the reason why some of them refused to get up earlier was because they were hung over from the night before. Now I have nothing against partying, but don’t do it at the expense of the students. That much I was not impressed with.
So, I would have to wait until the next Saturday to do my jump. Pissed off, angry, and fed up, I almost didn’t want to bother.
October 27th, 2001
Now knowing that it was first come first serve, I was going to make damn sure that I was the first jumper. Me and Jenn showed up nice and early and sure enough, we were the first people there. Arriving at 9:40AM, we waited until we could get inside. Once inside, we proceeded to sit around doing nothing for about an hour. This included talking to a couple of other people, waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more. Jennifer had to work that day and we had hoped I would jump before 12, but the plane wasn’t even there. The only thing Jenn saw me do was put on some overalls and teach my mom how to use the video camera. By 11:30, it was quite obvious that it was going to be after 12 before I jumped. Jenn went to work and I became increasingly frustrated by the lack of enthusiasm from the skydive club.
Finally, it was decided that we would drive to the airport (where the plane was), and then fly over to the airfield, and jump then. I got all of my gear ready, got in the car, and got to the airport. It looked as if this time things were going to actually happen.
At the airport, my gear got checked and I went through a run of what exactly I would do when I got in the plane, and how I would climb out, etc. Once everything was all set, we all got in the plane and it was time to be airborne.
The plane was quite small, and there were 5 jumpers, the jump master, plus the pilot. There are no seats in the plane except the one for the pilot. Everyone in the plane has to sit on their knees with their hands across their chest to protect their gear. While we climbed in altitude, the jump master was getting me to look out and see what it was like at 300 feet. It was a lot higher than I thought. We eventually climbed to 2000 feet where he threw out this large streamer. It was used to determine the wind direction and speed. I didn’t expect the force of the wind to be so strong when he opened the door but it was pretty insane.
We continued to ascend to 3000 feet which is where I would make my jump from. When I looked outside, you could barely see anything on the ground. The roads were like little lines and I could see the entire trailer park and the golf course. It was an amazing view. It was however about go get insanely frightening. Also, I had been sitting on my knees the whole time and my feet had fallen asleep. I was becoming increasingly worried that I would not be able to stand up or even move my feet when it came time to go.
The door opened and my jump master told me to “put your right leg out”. This is the signal to grab the door jam, and slide your right foot along the landing gear until you hit just above the wheel. He then told me to “climb out and hang”. I do believe that moment was the most scary for me. When I tried to put my left hand out onto the strut, the force of the wind was so strong that I had to push myself very hard to get a hold of it. Once I had my hand on there I was convinced that I would not be able to do this. I did not think I would have the physical strength to be able to hold onto that strut long enough. I slowly tried to get to the edge and I did but it was probably the most physically demanding thing I have ever done. I’m not that big of a person and I have very little physical strength so it was very hard for me. But, I did get out there. At one point, I almost had my entire arm wrapped around the strut as I did not think my hands would be enough to hold me on there. I was scared of letting go but in retrospect, I shouldn’t have. I had a parachute on and would have been fine, just a little early.
By the time I got out to the piece of tape and was hanging there, legs flailing in the wind, I couldn’t hear anything. I saw the jump master look at me and I never heard him say “ARCH” or “GO”. Both of which I was trained to listen for. Eventually I just saw him nod his head and I assumed that was his cue for me to let go. Wondering if I was doing the right thing, I opened my hands and allowed myself to fall.
Now, for all intents and purposes, I have no recollection of my freefall. I kind of remember doing my count but I did not look down or look anywhere. It’s all just a blur now. I do remember hitting my “check 1000”, which is basically 6 seconds after letting go. I also vaguely remember feeling the chute pull me up. See, with this jump, you don’t open your chute yourself. It opens on it’s own. So, by the time the chute opened, I looked down, saw the ground, and realized that biggest part was all over with. Wow! I did it!
I immediately proceeded to check my canopy to make sure all was well. When I looked up, I noticed that my lines were all twisted. This was not a big deal as I just twisted my body in the opposite direction of the twisted wires, and everything came untwisted no problem. I then reached up and grabbed onto my steering toggles, pulled them all the way down, and then slowly let them up. The rest was easy.
It was an amazing view from up there. No words can describe how it felt to just be hanging in the middle of the air looking down. It was awesome. I got instructions on my radio when to make turns and things to look for. I got a “fun zone” which is where you can do whatever you want. I did this spiral thing that made me spin real fast and shot my legs out in front of me. It was pretty cool.
I slowly made my way down to the landing area, turned my chute around, and landed, not quite as gracefully as I would have liked, but none the less, I was alive. I collected my chute up, and walked back towards the office. It was awesome. I had finally done it. I got my gear off, and my mom had video taped the whole thing. My instructor asked me a few things and one of the other jumpers there asked if I had any words for my wife. I stared into the camera and said, “I told you so!”.
The entire experience was absolutely amazing. I haven’t decided if I am going to do it again. It was a lot more demanding on my little body than I thought it would be. I was so exhausted by the time I got back to the office area, and even today, my body is aching. But for anyone who’s ever thought about doing it, I say go for it! You won’t regret it!