Why did you decide to jump from a plane?

me exit
Me – Tandem Jump

We all have a story of how we got to that first jump.  For me it started in my last year of High school. My physical education teacher had arranged for experts from different recreational clubs to come into class to explain their sports.  One day a fellow from the Comox Skydiving Club came with his parachute in tow to inform us about the splendours of skydiving.

As he described what it is like to free fall and hook up with other people in flight, I stared  awe-struck at the posters of skydivers, my eyes glazed over in wonder. After class, I raced to find my friends who would surely be thrilled to join me in connecting with this club.  I started with my most adventuresome friend.

“Are you out of your cotton-picking mind?” she declared. “I’m not jumping out of any plane!”

“But we jump our horses off the side of the gravel pit,” I countered. “And we used to fall from bough to bough on the old balsam tree.”

Her answer to that was too ripe to be mentioned here and after my attempts to convince other friends provoked similar reactions, I realized I was on my own with this one.

me fall
Me, Abbotsford, BC

This was a big decision for me since I was extremely shy and had never done anything on my own before. Desire won over my fear of interacting with strangers and I was soon speaking to a member of the club and making arrangements for my first jump.

One fine Sunday with wind speeds of 6mph or less, I rode to Comox with a couple of seasoned skydivers. Preparation for the first jump took a good part of the day as I needed to learn how to cut away a malfunctioning chute and activate the spare, learn how to steer to the drop zone and learn how to exit the plane properly. Late in the afternoon, I was ready to head up with a couple of other novices and our jump master.

We trudged to the plane feeling quite heavy in our jumpsuits, boots and two parachutes. As the Cessna lifted off the ground, I felt a rush of excitement. I watched the fields grow smaller as we circled our way up to 3000 feet.  Tension mounted when the door opened and the wind rushed past. The jump master tossed out the wind drift ribbon and watched it descend.  As it fell we circled back to the same spot and then it was time.

One of the things that fascinated me most about the first jump was the sensation of stepping out of the plane onto the wheel and hanging on to the strut.  I felt like Snoopy standing out there with my googles and feeling the wind whip past.  Then the jump master tapped my shoulder and I pushed back hard from the strut and went into my arch position.  As this was a static-line jump, my chute opened right away.

I noticed two things immediately; the sudden silence instead of the drone of the plane’s engine and my weightlessness.  The boots and the chutes were no longer heavy.  Suspended in silence, removed from the world below, I drifted blissfully toward the ground below.  I needed to pull the toggles of the chute according to the directions of my guide walking back and forth across the pea gravel of the drop zone, but I still had plenty of time to relish the descent.  After a safe landing in the target area, my immediate thoughts were, “That was fantastic!” and “When can I do this again?”

take-off
Plane taking off, Abbotsford, BC

Over the next couple of years I did nine more jumps, graduating quickly to dummy rip-cord practices and getting cleared for free fall.  Unfortunately, every time I got cleared for free fall, it had been too long since my last jump to free fall and I was required to repeat yet another dummy rip-cord jump.  I abandoned the sport for many years due to lack of sufficient funds, but never forgot the thrill of leaping out of a plane.

Then the movie Bucket List came out and I watched the tandem skydiving part with great interest.  This could be a way to skydive from 10,000 feet with a sixty second free fall without doing all the steps in between.  I immediately put a trip to Australia to tandem skydive on my subconscious bucket list.

A few years later, I happened upon an advertisement for Skydive Vancouver and noticed they offered tandem skydiving.  This company has an office in Vancouver, but they do their jumping out of Abbotsford, an hour’s drive up the Fraser river valley from Vancouver.

I began to plan for my jump and chose a day with a decent weather forecast.  I didn’t tell anybody, but arranged to go hiking with my son up one of the local mountains.  After fifteen minutes driving, I told him, “You’ve probably guessed that we’re not going in the direction of the mountain.”

Then I explained what I was about to do and invited him to come along if he felt like it.  I told him not to feel pressured and that he could grab a snack and drink if he wanted and wait for a bit for my jump to be over.  He didn’t have the same opportunity I had had of advance planning, but he decided to go ahead and try out the adventure.

Don exit
My son and tandem partner leaping out of the plane.
Don freefall
My son, free fall

It doesn’t take long to train for a tandem jump as an expert jumper controls everything on the jump for you so we were soon on our way with some other tandem jumpers.  This was quite different from my previous jumps as we each had a tandem jumper to jump with us plus a cameraman who would photograph our jump. This was going to be a group affair, almost like the posters I remembered of joining hands while falling.

My son was first out of the plane and I guiltily whispered a prayer for his safety as he and his tandem partner disappeared into space.  Then it was my turn. My tandem partner and I dove out with the cameraman following a second or two later.  The cameramen are experts who go into a dive to catch up with you for photographing then they wait a few seconds later to open their chutes so they can land ahead and be ready to photograph the landing as well.

10,000 feet is amazing!  It provides sixty seconds of glorious free fall followed by a couple of minutes under the parachute.  The day was perfect with some scattered clouds around the 5000 foot level.  It was an amazing feeling to look at the clouds down below, watch them get closer and finally fall right through them.  Jumping with other people and chatting on way down was a totally different experience from my previous jumps, but equally thrilling.

Don-freefall
My son, Abbotsford, BC

For me, my jumps will always be treasured as the most amazing moments of my life.  My son, I’m relieved to say, has no regrets of taking the plunge.  I hope that your experiences in flight have been as much fun.  If you haven’t tried this yet, you might want to check out Skydive Vancouver in Abbotsford, BC.

Please excuse the poor photos as I took them from our jump videos and I don’t have the necessary equipment to do this properly.

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