Friday, September 05, 2008

Skydiving - 'The Experience'

To say it was incredible is an understatement. A once in a lifetime experience! A must-do for all. This qualifies as the craziest thing I have ever done knowingly and a thrill I will never forget.

Ideally, this was on my not-to-do list but nonetheless it is now scratched off from my to do list.(you shouldn't have friends who coax you into doing such things that you start to believe it won't be that bad) Well, I still can't fathom that I agreed to joined the crazy people who toiled with this idea. The fact of the matter is that I jumped and now have bragging rights for a lifetime.

Destination: Ground :) (Actually, beautiful Maine in New England) If you need to go to the same place you can contact 1-800 UGO-JUMP (That is actually the number)

I never imagined that I would literally adapt the wonderful song:

"I believe I can fly
I believe I can touch the sky
I think about it every night and day
Spread my wings and fly away
I believe I can soar
I see me running through that open door
I believe I can fly
I believe I can fly
I believe I can fly"

Following a splendid camping escapade the previous night I mustered the courage to take the dive. We reached Maine for the booked time slot in the afternoon.

Adrenaline rush had started to build already. I had embarked on the most amazing event of my life.

The safety and training video and instructions took about 20 min and perhaps filling up the legal paperwork another 20 min. They tell you all about the exit techniques from the plane, free-fall stunts, and landing positions. You are attached via a harness to the experienced instructor who is responsible for practically everything.

The dynamic day turned ugly as the wind crossed the speed of 25 mph and all events for the day were put on hold. We soon realized that skydiving is a weather permitting sport. After hours of long wait we were finally given a rain check valid for 2 years. Damn!! Yet, I was so determined to do this that we drove back the very next day.

By this time my confidence level and the urge to go ahead with this had dropped to chance. And on top of all this to add to my anxiety I got a speeding ticket. I was on the lookout for cops who sneak up behind you however these came from nowhere and now were standing right in front of me :). Well, skydiving definitely was a costly affair for me!

Words of wisdom: If you decide to skydive Sunday morning you will perhaps do it earliest by on Sunday afternoon and in some cases on Monday.

Again the next day we had to wait for a long time before our names were called from the manifest. It was nice to see and appreciate the other jumpers coming down though I was in no mood to get my camera out of the car to get any pictures since I knew we were next.

The names were announced and we trudged along to get ready. The jumpsuit and goodbyes took place after a brief video interview where the person inquires about the reason we are here. I could have told him a list of reasons not to be here however ironically here I was all ready to go. The expression on my face said it all.

Reassuring factor: I was jumping with Dan aka "Dirk: Fast as you Can Dan". He was (healthy to carry my weight and) a highly skilled skydiver with thousands of jumps in experience behind him. Besides I got the impression that he knew what he was doing (although I definitely didn't).

I asked him some tips to calm my nerves. The reply: Smile at the videographer and don't forget to breathe.

Hmmm, well that is reassuring!!

My nervousness was increasing in galactic proportions and based on it's magnitude I was guessing either of these three things would eventually happen to me: panic attack, disorientation and passing out.

The quick bus ride to the plane didn't help. By this time I was having a sensory overload. The plane ride lasted about 15 minutes while we climbed in altitude slowly and steadily to 14000 ft. The earth getting farther while the skies getting nearer made my apprehension worse. The beauty of the Maine coastline wasn't as appealing anymore. The fear factor knew no bounds.

Unfortunately, I was the last person in the plane and hence had to watch the door open and all the 23 people jump out one after the other. My heart rate dropped to the bare minimum as my throat gulped. I paused for a moment. What the hell am I doing jumping out of an airplane from 14000 ft? Guess, it was too late for all this now.

The instructor did more of last moment safety checks and tightened some straps. "Okay head back, hips forward, and don't forget the arch. When I tap your arms bring them to the side, I tap them again extend them ahead." These were Dan's last moment instructions. (I never did any of these right though)

We proceeded to the edge of the door as I looked out... then down... back up. "Ready, set... Go" Suddenly there was nothing below my feet as I was thrust into the wild blue yonder. An initial flip somersault in the air got us into the right orientation. For a few seconds, I had absolutely no idea what was happening. A strong gush of wind (120 mph) was greeting me. I suddenly realized it's not bad after all. Wow! I was flying. The Google Earth like collage of color miles below started looking attractive. Maine was again beautiful. It was good to see the videographer midair. I shook hands with him as he drifted away. Some more stunts and superman style flying followed (tracking in skydiving terminology) which I enjoyed a lot. The ground was rushing up to meet me. The ripcord was pulled at 5000 ft to open the life saving piece of cloth and puff!! Suddenly everything went silent. It was a smooth glide to planet earth here on. The exhilarating and exciting freefall was over and hereon it was the peace and tranquility of the parachute ride. I think the anticipation of the event hurts you more since the actual jump is pretty cool.

All good things have to come to an end. In a nutshell, I came, I saw, I fell, I lived to tell (and write) about it.

Words of wisdom: Don't treat it as falling/jumping, think you are flying.

Also, the fact that I jumped has inspired many friends to do it (such are the standards I had set) who would otherwise be frightened off by this extreme sport.

It's simple unbelievable and an unforgettable experience. You have to do it. I am not going to do it again though. I also have the video to relive the moments besides the vividly distinct memory of the jump. I am still coming down off the high of skydiving and for now, the certificate of achievement is framed and adorns my wall of fame :)

1 comment:

Monsieur K said...

i really envy u man!
i'm sure it must have been a fantabulous, out of the world experience!! photos pan ekdam sahi aahet!!