Sachin and I recently went skydiving and the experience was really out-of-this-world (pun intended). Surprisingly, I did not feel scared at all … until it all became real!
While driving to Skydive Orange (VA, US), I put Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin” on the stereo. We looked at each other and smiled. We could only imagine how it would feel to free fall from 13000 ft! Our experienced friends had told us that skydiving doesn’t give you that funny-in-the-tummy feeling that a roller coaster can. They had their own explanations for what they felt while they did it. We couldn’t help stop imagining what our experience would be like. Hardly did we know that the real deal would be far from anything we could imagine.
The place was very simple and ordinary. Nothing glamorous (so much for my first figment of imagination). We signed some paperwork and then waited under a shed with another adventure seeking couple for a mini training session. Yeah, right! How in the world do you train for skydiving in a few minutes? It was more like a making-you-more-comfortable session. The instructor told us how we would be tied in tandem with a licensed jumper, how to keep breathing, how to arch the body while falling, and why not to panic. ‘It would be over in a few minutes after all!’, he said, ‘It meaning the dive’, he clarified.
The couple that we were waiting with went first and we saw them land (with smiling faces). By now we were so not scared and geared up (literally) to go that we could hardly wait for our turn. We boarded the plane. There were no seats. We sat on the surface and at 10000 ft our instructors started the tying process. 11000, 11500 …. 12500, 13000. Shit just got real. They opened the door. It was our turn.
Sachin went first. Kevin (my tandem guy) took me to the edge of the opening and asked me if I was ready. I didn’t utter a word. I couldn’t. I could feel the wind and hear the engine roar. I could see the land below, which seemed (and was) very far, btw. I could see some scattered clouds floating by; we were in the clouds, damn it. How could I say yes, and he knew that I never would. ‘I take that as a yes’, I heard. I took a deep breath and we jumped, or rather he jumped.
My first thought was, ‘WHAT THE @#$! WHY AM I DOING THIS? I’M CRAZY’. My head spun. We spun. Though I completely trusted Kevin (I would have never boarded the plane if I didn’t) still, I almost panicked. All I wanted to do was shout. I tried. I opened my mouth but the gush of air was so intense that I couldn’t. My mouth instantly went dry and I felt as if it would detach from my face. I tried to shut it but now I couldn’t. My ears started to pop. I was still thinking, ‘I’M SO CRAZY!’. Eventually, things settled down. LOL, I say this as if it took ages. All this took maybe two seconds, maybe less; sure felt like ages though. Adrenaline rush!
Now we were falling at a constant speed and I could muster the courage to open my eyes. (We were wearing eye gear so we could open our eyes without air gushing into them.) Kevin tapped my shoulders suggesting that I could now open up my arms. And I did. I then realized that I had lost the sense of perspective. I could clearly see the land below but it didn’t seem like coming any closer to me; we were so up high! I felt small (well, we all are small). All I can say is that it didn’t feel like falling, it felt like flying, and it felt AMAAAAAAAZING!
An eternity later … err, a minute later, Kevin opened up the parachute, and boom, as if time just stopped. We were now floating in the air, calmness all around, and below us a beautiful rock swimming in a vacuum. Perspective, I thought, perspective!
‘This was great’, I said. ‘It’s not over yet’, he responded, and asked me if he could do some spinning. ‘Of course’, I said, and oh dear! By golly, did I almost faint, as if the whole world had spun (well, duh). I quickly asked him to stop and said, ‘I think that’s all the adventure I can take for five minutes’. We laughed and in a few minutes we landed on a green patch outside the shed. It felt great to touch the earth again. I was back home.
With adrenaline jitters Sachin and I hugged each other and thanked the staff for a great experience. While driving back, I replayed the entire sequence – right from the jump to the landing – in my head over and over again (I still do) and I just sat still, with numb thoughts, frozen. Sachin was in a repeat mode of saying, ‘Did we just jump from a flying plane?’ Tandem, I know, but still 😀
I was lost in thoughts when the station played ‘I believe I can fly’ (R. Kelly). I almost cried.