Most sports need only one ball, but this one takes both. Welcome to the world of SkyDiving.
Skydiving has always been an area of interest to me, something I wanted to do but never made a serious attempt for. But this is going to change soon. I was in Montreal, getting bored in my hotel room as it was raining heavy outside and I could not move out of the hotel. I was flipping the pages of travel magazine and came across this very captivating article on Sky Diving. There was also a mention about this company Parachutisme Nouvel Air (PNA) in Montreal. Before I could finish the article, I was already dialling PNA and the time was fixed for next morning.
I was not sure if I will go for this extreme activity next day and hence had a nice sleep in the night.
“When once you have tasted the flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return”. – Leonardo da Vinci
Yeah…that’s Leonardo da Vinci, not me, but Mr. Vinci inspired me today.
The drop zone is in Farnham, about 65 kms. from Montreal. I took a bus to reach there in about 60 mins. And in all those 60 mins. I was going through the emotions of nervousness and excitement together.
We started up signing a waiver, each and every clause was signed. This means, in a highly unlikely event of parachute not opening, or something of same magnitude happening – it’s your own business, we stay indemnified. But as somebody has said – “If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster”.
I was given the harness and helped into it. My engineer’s mind started working overtime, studying the stitching, clamps, straps, buckles and wondering what kind of quality assurance program these things go through. I know for all the technology of plane which will take me up and the skills of the jump master, it will be these buckles my life will be hanging to.
Now don’t be afraid of falling out of plane, you are dressed for the occasion.
Jump Master, Eric, makes sure that every thing is OK with my harness.
But where is my parachute?
Eric – “You don’t have a parachute. I have a parachute. You are connected to me”.
Eric again – “You don’r really require a parachute to sky dive. You only need a parachute to sky dive twice.”
Tom is the videographer for the day, and he is not doing a bad job. He is to shoot me right from the time I am getting into the harness to the time I touch down, and in between he has to follow and shoot me during my free fall. I don’t know how these guys are able to click awesome photos during free fall.
The plane which will take us to 13500 ft is a single engine, cargo type plane. Inside the plane, the jump masters were trying to keep the atmosphere light. Everyone, was having the smile on the face, but I can tell you some of the newbies had butterfly in the stomach.
You swallow hard, thinking to yourself,’it must be alright, thousands of people have done it before.’ Then…’But this time it’s me – that’s the difference!’
In no time we were at 5000 ft. and Eric started clamping my harness to his. Eric told me that this is the height (5000 ft) at which the parachute will be deployed. I asked him how he will know that we are at 5000 ft from the ground.
Eric showed me the altimeter on his wrist which was reassuring.
Perched on the edge of the aircraft, 13,500 ft in the air, ready to make my first skydive
Finally the moment has come. We are at the door of the aircraft. At 13500 ft nothing else matters.
Eric told me earlier – “Don’t hold on to my hands. I need my hands to deploy the parachute. If you hold my hands I will bite your ear off”. I want to reach safe to the ground, hence folded my hands on my chest.
He ordered “Bend your knees and smile for the camera”. I obeyed.
OhMyGosh! We are out of the air craft.
Free fall begins, hurtling down towards the ground at 200 kmph
Wow! somersaulting at 200 kmph! Hey! What’s this coming towards me very fast? Very very fast. So big and flat and round, it needs a big wide sounding word like…ow…ound…round…ground! That’s it! That’s a good name – ground! I wonder it will be friends with me?
Tom had already jumped ahead of us and was busy with what he does best –
F-PH-ART …… Freefall Photographic Art
The wind resistance picks up fast. The wind was gushing past past my face and giving it all type of shapes. It doesn’t feel like falling. It is more like floating in the updraft of huge blowers. (This is what they do in Indoor Sky Diving – but they should give it some other name, indoor cannot be sky diving).
Prior to the jump Eric gave me lot of instructions – I have to look skyward, keep my feet up above his arse, blah blah… I forgot every single thing he told me. Now nothing mattered, except the present moment. There was no fear whatsoever, total bliss. You’re barely even aware that you are falling. The only evidence that you are moving at all is the rush and noise of the air in the ears.
Meanwhile, Eric has started looking at the altimeter on his wrist. He has to pull the chord.
It takes about 50 odd seconds to cover the first 9000 ft. And at this point it is time to deploy the parachute.
The rapidity with which I was falling finally got hammered home when the parachute opened, in an instant and in an almighty jolt, we go from 200 kmph to 80 kmph.
The world is calm again as we gently spiral down towards the ground. At this point I can sit upright and enjoy the view at a more leisurely pace.
After a few minutes of taking in the breathtaking view, it was time to land. They say that it is the last half inch that hurts the most. But, thanks to Eric touch down could not have been more smoother.
Are you motivated enough for your first SkyDiving?
People skydive for all sort of reasons – some for adrenalin rush, some to overcome their inner fears and some just to earn the bragging rights that they have done it. Whatever your motive for taking a big leap, I strongly encourage you to stop dilly dallying, throw down the gauntlet, and relish what will easily be one of the most amazing experiences of your life. The rush is truly enormous and don’t be surprised if you find yourself swaggering around in your town feeling a foot taller, indestructible and equipped like an untamed stallion. It has been quite some time, and I have still not been able to wipe away that smile from my face!
If riding in an airplane is flying, then riding in a boat is swimming. C’mon, if you want to experience the element, then get out of the vehicle.
Seriously, when you are tandem jumping with the master who is a pro with thousands of jump under his belt, the risk is minimal. Probably, driving up to the drop zone and back is the most riskier part of this whole skydiving experience.
Thank you for reading…I hope I inspired you to make your first sky dive soon.
If you happen to travel to Thailand,Thai Sky Adventures in Pattaya is a good place for Skydiving. Why in Thailand? The best part is you can go sky diving, paramotoring, flying in microlight air craft and indoor sky diving all within 2-3 kms. of each other. If you are absolute adventure junkie – there is scuba diving, snorkelling, fly boarding, bungy jumping, zip lining, kite boarding etc. etc. Where else will you get so much adrenalin rush at one place. You will hear of my experience about all these soon. Stay put till then….
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