Another item checked off the bucket list! I wanted to do something big to celebrate the big 3-0, so I chose skydiving! I researched extensively online before picking a place to go. I found Canton Air Sports in nearby Alliance, OH and decided that was the place. They were competitively priced for both the tandem jump and the video, and weren’t too far from home, only an hour out.
We decided Mother’s Day was the day to go, since I’m on vacation this week and Tony doesn’t work on Sundays. We piled into the van and off we went!
I got strapped into the harness about 45 minutes before my jump, it made for a quicker switch-off, since the jump trainers were going on back-to-back jumps, so I got to hang out in this delightful device for about an hour and a half. This adorable little plane would eventually carry myself and my tandem jump master, Mark Katich, along with two other first time jumpers and their tandem jump masters to an altitude of 12,000 feet. Good times!
The flight up was a lot of fun. I’ve been on a lot of small airplanes before, but this was the smallest by far! We were sitting on a padded mat in the back of an airplane that had about as much floor space as a minivan. There was no room for shyness as I was sitting between his legs up until it was time to hook the harnesses, then I was sitting on his lap. Honestly, getting ready to jump, I wanted to be as securely fastened as possible! Since I signed up for the video, Mark, or the Flying Kat as he is sometimes known, was using a GoPro to film our ascent. I had the biggest and goofiest smile on my face the whole time. When we reached our jump altitude the first jumper in our group, while tightly attached to her partner, got to open the door and from a kneeling position, was flung out into open air.
The time had arrived for me to fly! We scooted to the now open door, sliding across the padded floor on our butts until our legs were dangling out the door. One, two, three, WHOOSH! Mark had given us a quick run through, while on the ground, of how this would go. Arms crossed over our chest, head back against his shoulder, legs folded up between his, hips pushed out. First shoulder tap, spread your arms to fly. Second shoulder tap, prepare for chute deployment. I barely remembered the steps while facing terminal velocity of 120 mph, but Mark has been jumping since he was 16, so he made it work. We had 45 seconds of free fall, being pelted by a light spring rain, but the rush is worth it!
When the chute deployed there was a slight jostling, and then gliding. There were some pretty strong winds so it wasn’t a quiet ride, but it was so exhilarating! I was able to steer us for a little while, Mark even showed me how to do one of those tight spinning circles around. My heart was racing the whole time! When Mark took the toggles back, he was steering us in some wide circles, giving me an amazing view and steering us back to the landing zone. I had given up on ‘the kind of quiet only jumpers know’ as described by the amazing Nora Roberts in Chasing Fire, a book about smoke jumpers. As we circled around the final time before landing, Mark pulled back on the toggles and there was the quiet. The wind didn’t even make a sound as we drifted the last 50 feet, even though the camera picked up wind. Between that 10 seconds of silence and the incredible rush of the free fall, I don’t know which was the best part.
Remember the pelting rain I talked about? That left these delightful pink dots all along my arms, both sides. They’ve almost completely faded now, so no permanent damage done.
All jumpers received this certificate, showing them leaving the plane, so it’s a nice shot of your feet. It states the altitude you jumped from, the time spent in free fall and who you jumped with. It’s a nice reminder of an adrenaline rush, especially when said rush can make you hazy on the details!
This was an amazing experience that I definitely want to repeat. I just have to be nice and let Tony go before I go again!