I checked an item off my bucket list. I jumped out of a plane that was 12,000 feet in the air. I went skydiving. It was terrifying and exhilarating.
As I turned on the dirt road toward Out of the Blue Skydiving in Calhan, CO, I peered up from my car windshield and spotted a plethora of colorful parachutes in the sky. My heart started racing as adrenaline pumped through my body. That would soon be me!
I parked the car and found the main office, where there was an instructional video to watch and a stack of of liability paperwork to review. I signed my life away and initialed 47 times that I was aware of the risks of jumping out of a small aircraft. Then I handed over $259 and walked outside to watch the next planeful of jumpers parachute to the ground.
A few minutes later, I met my tandem skydive instructor, Dave, a red-headed guy with a friendly smile and a strong handshake. He showed me the jumpsuit closet and my eyes immediately went to the hot pink suit. Not only was I going to fly in the sky but I could do it in hot pink!
Once I zipped up my suit, Dave helped me step into the harness and gave the first set of instructions, “You are going to grab these side straps and NOT the side of the plane as you jump out, cool?” “Cool,” I replied, with butterflies in my stomach.
Once our plane was ready for boarding, I was instructed to board first. I learned I was going to be the LAST one to jump out.
I got in the plane and slid all the way to the back so I was next to the pilot but facing the back of the plane. The pilot wore an oxygen mask which I learned is required if you fly above 10,000 feet, plus add 6,500 feet of Calhan, Colorado elevation.
Dave got in behind me and put me at ease with his relaxed demeanor and simple instructions. I watched as other jumpers, ages 25 – 65, climbed aboard the plane. They were all men with the exception of one other woman. I was the only tandem jumper.
I had no idea skydiving was a recreational sport but all these people owned their own parachutes, had their solo skydiving certificates, and jumped out of planes for fun on the weekends. I was in the midst of hardcore adrenaline junkies.
I couldn’t fully turn to face Dave, but I had some questions.
“How many times have you jumped?” I asked.
“Wow, that’s a lot. What’s the most you’ve done in a day? ”
“That’s crazy, weren’t you tired?”
“Yep, that was a long day…I started at 7am and jumped until 9pm.”
“Do I need goggles?”
“Yep, I’ve got them for you. Haha, everybody always asks about goggles.”
“Do I need to do anything while we’re in the air?”
“Nope, just relax and have fun.”
“Okay,” I gulped.
The other jumpers were laughing and doing safety checks on each other’s packs to make sure everything was in place. As the plane continued to rise, we hit turbulence and my stomach flipped…I was grateful to have only eaten a banana and a handful of almonds earlier. I was determined NOT to throw up on the other jumpers, Dave, or myself.
I noticed a No Farting sign next to the pilot and it made me crack up – skydivers have a sense of humor. As we approached the drop zone at 12,000 feet, everyone started high-fiving each other. I joined in, and felt grateful for the reassurance and camaraderie.
Then came time to make the leap. A jumper at the back of the plane lifted the door and one by one people started disappearing out of the plane in rapid succession.
Dave told me to start inching forward and before I knew it we were at THE DOOR.
In a relaxed, instructional voice he said “Okay, we’re going to walk up and don’t grab the side of the plane, hold on to your straps.” I nodded and shouted, “Okay!” The wind was super loud and it became impossible to carry on a conversation without shouting.
I had meant to thank the pilot for our safe flight, but it was too late…there was literally no turning back.
With fear and adrenaline at an all-time high, I took small steps toward the door.
I got to the edge, looked down, and terror hit. I was speechless and had no time to think. Next thing I knew we were out of the plane and falling….
I gasped but couldn’t catch my breath, the wind was hitting my face at 120 miles an hour.
Now I realized why they call it skydiving….you literally dive toward the earth!
After about 10 seconds I felt a tap on my arm and which was the signal to release my arms. That’s when I started to breathe and I was flying, not falling.
It was unlike anything I’d ever felt; flying through the air with the greatest of ease. It was the ultimate natural high. Dave was right, I could relax and have fun.
There was so much SKY. The wind was carrying me and my body felt weightless. I couldn’t stop smiling and there was a permanent wind-eating grin on my face.
After the 45 second free fall, Dave instructed me to put my hands back on the shoulder straps and BOOM, the parachute ejected. The abrupt tug from above slowed our speed from flying to hanging.
I was hanging comfortably in my harness with my feet dangling 7,000 feet above the ground. Wow, what a view—similar to the views looking out of a plane but there was no plane, just open air.
My hands were cold as ice but I wasn’t ready to come down just yet. After about three minutes of soaring with the parachute, we began to steer toward the landing.
I had no idea where our landing spot was but luckily Dave did. He instructed me bring my knees up the closer we got to landing and said we might land on our rear ends.
As we rapidly approached the ground, two other guys ran up to assist. Turns out we didn’t need their help as Dave expertly guided the parachute and I landed on my feet!
He immediately untied me from him, then gave me a high-five and said “Great job!” I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face. What do you say to a stranger who just kept you safe as you fell 12,000 feet out of the air strapped to each other? All I could say was “thank you.”
Skydiving gave my courage muscle a huge workout and I felt strong and confident about facing other fears in my life. What I know for sure is the only way to overcome our fears is to face them….skydiving is great practice for feeling fear and making the leap anyway!
Whether it’s changing careers, speaking up for yourself, or jumping out of a plane, each time you face your fear, your confidence grows and you become less afraid and more alive.
“If I can stand in an open airplane doorway two-and-a-half miles above the ground and will myself to step into empty space, then I can do anything.” – Dave Stein
Take the leap, you’ll be glad you did.