Sunday morning, my friend Miraj and I went skydiving at Skydive Philadelphia using a Living Social coupon I purchased back in August. The airfield was located about a hour west west of Philadelphia in a small town of Perkasie.
We woke up at 8am after a long night of revelry. At the airfield, there were a bunch of people waiting around. Most of them seemed to be more advanced students doing their own solo jumps. I guess the airfield is only used by private pilots and the skydiving company because I only saw two planes the entire time. I got to say everything was extremely informal. We filled out a ton of waivers that made me a bit scared. Then we proceeded to watch a short five minute video again explaining that we were wavering all our rights as well as a short video montage of skydiving.
Miraj and I felt a little discontented. There was absolutely no instruction. I would later learn this was for the best.
Eventually, we were outfitted with a harness and stepped into the tiny two propeller plane. There were about 5 tandem jumpers attached with their instructors and one videographer. We sat in each others’ laps basically. Interesting to note they used GoPro HD Hero Sports Cameras:
Obviously not me, but it says much more than I could possibly put into words
Flying up, I was suprised they left the door open. We were also flying really high. Someone told me that we were 3 miles up! Then one by one we jumped out the plane. Although jump isn’t the right word. It’s more like fell out the plane. I was the last one out. The most terrifying moment I think was seeing Miraj at the doorway and then suddenly he was gone. I knew that skydiving was safe. But, at that moment, I thought to myself, “Miraj no longer exists.”
Freefalling is an amazing experience. We speed to the ground going over 100 mph. It’s a strange feeling falling from a height higher than I’ve ever been with absolutely nothing around you. You can’t even tell that the instructor is attached to you. It felt like I was just falling. The sheer impact of wind pressure is terrifying. I hate to say it, but I was paralyzed. My instructor tapped me on the shoulder, the sigh for me to spread out my hands and arms. But, I couldn’t process anything. Eventually, he just grabbed my arms and broke me out of my trance. My mouth agape, I didn’t turn my head at all while freefalling. My eyes looking directly below me. My thoughts focused only on the absurd worry that I might not be doing something right and wondering when the hell the parachute would come out.
Once the parachute opened, we descended at a gentle pace. I finally felt safe and could talk to my instructor. In fact, the parachute experience compared to freefalling is kind of boring. Sort of like a hot air balloon. The instructor handed over the two hand ropes, and we did some dizzing 720 degree spins. After a while, we landed at the airstrip, and it was over.
Afterward, Miraj and I both talked about how disconcerning it is that we spent so much time waiting to skydive and then it finally happened and lasted only a few minutes at most and then there’s no follow up. Just pay them, get in your car, and go home. I felt like there should be some sort of celebration or something. Of course, the instructors have jumped over a thousand times probably. I don’t even think I said bye to my New Zealand instructor.
Years ago, I dismissed skydiving as an expensive thrill ride not worth its short high. Things change when I graduated from college. I felt a need to challenge my fears as well as a lack of exciting adventures. I also had more disposable income. But, I’ve been wanting to go now for at least two years now, and I’m happy I went. In a way, skydiving is not all that special. I mean I had a bunch of friends that’ve already gone. And you do absolutely nothing, it’s a completely passive experience. Nevertheless, it’s a great high. It feels like a victory for whatever reason.
I’m not sure why but on the ride home the sunlight and motion was giving me nausea. Luckily, Miraj drove, and I felt better after napping in the car.
It’s funny too that so many of my friends could not be convinced to go. I don’t know if it was the cash or the fear or both. Everyone asked me beforehand if I was scared. And a part of me was. But, not really. It’s hard to fathom what jumping out of a plane is like. There’s just no frame of reference to be afraid of. Also, I knew for a fact that it’s safe, and any fears I did have were completely irrational. Nevertheless, I did momentarily think about not going Sunday morning. But, once I saw people landing on the ground at a slow, gentle speed, my fears were mostly gone. I have a contrarian streak in me. The best reason to go is exactly because you’re so afraid of doing it. It’s the least dangerous way to challenge an irrational fear.
At my incessant suggestion, two of my old friends in Washington DC are also going skydiving this weekend. I definitely recommend the experience. I want to go at least once more so I can enjoy the freefall without feeling terrified.
Kind of regretting that I didn’t get a video myself, but it cost $100. And I was pretty sure I would just look like an idiot with my mouth open in shock. We also forgot to bring any cameras, but I’m sure I’ll go again eventually.