First tandem jump story by: Caroline Clark
7 A.M on a Sunday morning, at the first ring of my alarm clock, I flew out of bed and threw on my clothes. As any college student will tell you, there aren’t very many things that can motivate me to get out of bed before 9 am on the weekends, much less be happy about it. Today, however, I had found one of the rare exceptions; I was going skydiving.
When my friend Abbey told me that our school’s Outdoors Club was going skydiving, my friends and I laughed at the idea, agreeing that while it would be amazing, we couldn’t possibly do it. Though only a few hours later, I found myself skimming the email with the information, asking myself why exactly it was that I couldn’t do it.
I had always been a little bit of a playing-it-safe kind of girl. However, over the past year I had been challenging myself to take risks, and to avoid the easy way out. While the old me would have blow off the invitation, the new me wasn’t so sure. What better way to prove to myself that I was brave, courageous and bold than to jump out of an airplane? It would be terrifying, sure, but I also imagined it would be liberating, thrilling, and exciting.
I don’t know exactly what went through my friends’ minds, but when I saw them again that night, our attitudes had changed. Our minds had been made up. We were going skydiving.
Our date was set for Friday at 1 p.m. I put down my deposit and knew that there was no going back now. However, on Friday morning there was heavy rainfall, and in the afternoon the cloud cover was still too low to skydive. Our adventure was postponed to Sunday morning. I was so disappointed. But the weekend flew by, and before I knew it, I was in the car on my way to Skydive Orange. At that point, it didn’t even hit me yet. It’s hard to grasp the idea that in a few hours, I would be jumping out of a moving airplane.
When we got there, the whole area was buzzing with activity. People were rolling up parachutes and getting into skydiving suits, the airplane was taking off on the runway and solo divers were landing in the field one by one.
We were then taken to a classroom, watched a video, and then signed waivers acknowledging that we knew the risks. And we did. But everything great involves risks, and in the end, we figured it would be worth it.
The four of us suited up and got ready to board the plane. Once the door shut and we took off, there was nothing I could do but sit there in nervous, excited anticipation. It wasn’t until I was in the plane, watching the trees and buildings shrink below me, that the nerves hit me. All the things that could go wrong flashed before my eyes. I watched the device on my wrist, which measured how high in the air we were, climb up and up until it approached the desired 13,500 feet.
“Remember, watch your head when you are on the ledge, and when we jump, kick your feet back. Then, at 6,000 ft., you can deploy the parachute if you want.” Mario, the guide I was attached to, informed me. I could barely bring myself to nod in response. I was nearly paralyzed with fear. Then we reached our desired height. One by one the people in front of me disappeared through the open door, seemingly sucked out of the plane, sent flying toward the ground below. I watched my friend Abbey, who was sitting in front of me, fly out of the plane, and I realized it was my turn.
It was really beautiful looking out at the farmland and the patches of greens and browns. It looked almost like a gigantic quilt. But I only had a moment to appreciate it. Because one moment I was staring out and the vast skies in front of me, and the next I was plummeting 200 feet per second down out of the airplane.
When I try to explain the feeling to my friends, I always start by asking them to imagine the stomach-dropping feeling when going down a roller-coaster. Then I tell them it is nothing like that feeling. In fact, I tell them it is nothing like any feeling they have ever felt before.
When the wind is rushing against you, you don’t even notice you are falling. It is just like flying. You feel more alive than you ever thought possible. Down, down you go, losing track of everything except the wonderful, indescribable sensation of free-fall. Never in my life have I ever felt so alive and in the moment.
However, after what felt both like hours and seconds at the same time, I felt Mario grab my hand and put it on the lever that would activate the parachute. I pulled it at once and felt my free-fall come to a comfortable halt. I had survived.
The ride down was almost as enjoyable as the fall. When I finally regained control of myself, the words “Thank you” flew from my lips. I was thankful to Mario for being in control, thankful my parachute worked, thankful that I had been given this wonderful opportunity, and thankful I had not been afraid to take a chance and make the jump.
Mario was in complete control of the parachute. He made it twist around, and stop in mid-air, then fly down. The landing was smooth, and it felt strange to be on firm ground again.
Once on the ground, I was detached and ran to my friends, hugging them. We all exploded into excited chatter, recounting how we felt and agreeing that that was hands down one of the greatest experiences of our lives.
The next couple hours were spent retelling the story to my family and friends, over and over again. To me, it never got old.
As cheesy and cliché as it sounds, I took a lot away from that skydiving adventure. Things are going to be scary. You are going to wonder what you are doing. You are going to want to go back. But if you don’t do it, you will never know. And life is just too short to miss out. Sometimes you just got to close your eyes, take a deep breath, and jump.
I can’t wait to do it again.
Hundreds of people from the UVA Outdoors club in Charlottesville, VA choose to do their first time tandem skydive at Skydive Orange. Do you want to feel more alive than ever before? Or take a risk, that you won’t regret? Book your tandem today or call: 703-759-3483
The largest tandem skydiving center near Northern Virginia, Washington D.C. and Maryland.