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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Falling...Falling...Still Falling...




Skydiving...

Im not sure quite how to explain it...

Thrilling?
Adventuresome?
Terrifying? 

All of the above describe skydiving well enough, but they dont hit the nail quite right on the head. If I had to pick one statement, one term, to describe skydiving it would have to be the following:

LIFE EXPERIENCE

Nothing in the world can match it. The plummeting through the sky above a tear-inducing, beautiful landscape. The feeling of weightlessness. The sensation that you are falling, but never really approaching the ground. It is all part of an event which is indescribable with mere words. 

In the plane ride up
Throughout our trip, our tour guide, Chappy, would "encourage" us when doing the really extreme stuff (bungee, skydive, etc.) by telling us,

"See the great thing about skydiving is that no one ever gets injured." Dramatic pause, "You just die." Realistically, this is true I guess, but to be honest I was never really scared of skydiving. I was far more scared while bungee jumping. Skydiving has always seemed very safe to me (especially with a company that has a 100% safety rating), and honestly if you die skydiving...it is probably just your time to go.

Once you are suited up and you have that SEXY flight cap on (see above picture), you get in a small plane, and you start climbing at a pretty fast rate. And you just keep climbing. And climbing. And climbing. I remember looking out the window thinking we were pretty close to our limit and my tandem instructor leans over and points to his wrist which indicates that we are at 7,000 feet -- not even half of the 15,000 feet that we were jumping. It was at that point where I just accepted fate and relaxed. And just for those of you who havent grasped 15,000 feet yet, let me put it into perspective:

-15000 feet is equal to 50 football fields
-It is approximately 52% of Mount Everest's height
-It is 2.841 miles
-Equal to 5.52 Burj Khalifas (tallest building in the world located in the UAE) stacked end to end

Thats pretty %#$*-ing high! But anyways, as I said, I was relaxed. Sure I was about to jump out of a plane, but by this point on the trip my conscience had taken a hike...sick of trying and failing probably. And then the door opened. The noise of rushing air filled the cabin, instructors were yelling orders, and suddenly skydiving became very very real. The only instant where I ever felt fear during the whole thing was scooting over to the edge of the open door, with my legs dangling over the edge, realizing that I was about to jump out of a damn plane.



Next came a sway forward, a sway back, a second sway forward, a second sway back, and then a strong sway forward. My world was upside down, sideways, inside out, just any which way (I told you that words cant describe it!). I was tumbling through the air, my inner bearings completely obliterated. And for that split second of falling out of the plane and tumbling? Complete silence. Its funny how when you are doing something that you will never forget, your brain eliminates one of your senses. I didnt hear a thing, not even air rushing past, until we were stable and falling in the air.


And then, as the title of this post suggests, we were falling...and falling...and still falling. We were in complete free fall for a total of 1 minute and 5 seconds. I would like everyone reading this right now to sit patiently and count out, or stopwatch, or whatever, 1 minute and 5 seconds. Come back to me once you have done this...

Back? Good. A lot longer than it seems isn't it? And while you are skydiving it seems to take forever. After the fact, it seems like a split second. Looking back as I write this, my free fall time seems like it was a 10 second event. But when you are actually falling, you just feel like you are flying. There is really no perspective as to whether or not you are actually gaining speed or going in any particular direction, you are just weightless in time. Weightless and surrounded by deep valleys, steep, snow-capped mountains, blue sky, white clouds...I wont even try to describe the scenery because that was easily the most breath taking part of the whole thing. Landscape etches a whole new sense of beauty in your mind when you are looking down on it. As corny as it sounds, I have never felt more connected with nature as I was when I was just falling through the air, looking around, and admiring.

You never really approach the ground. It sounds weird, but it feels like you are stationary almost, the concept that you are falling doesnt hit you. That is until you look at someone who is higher than you, they look like they are dropping like a rock. And thats most likely because we were falling at a speed of 200 kph which, for all of you U.S. unit users, is 124.3 mph. Im pretty sure that my Pontiac Grand Am can't even go that fast. Thats more than 20mph greater than some of the fastest baseball pitches...just crazy to think about when I realize that is the speed that I was falling at. But when you look at the pictures of my crazy, distorted face being nature-slammed into a huge smile I guess its not that hard to believe. Now trust me, I was having butt-loads of fun, but that smile? I have tried to recreate it and I cant even get it half as big as the ones in the pictures...I felt like Woody from the original Toy Story when his cheeks are flapping from going so fast on the RC car.


Despite the look of the pictures, my eyes are actually open. The speed of the wind rushing past is just making them look Asian.


Sexy right?




Another fun aspect of skydiving that many people seem to overlook is the parachute ride down, which is actually the bulk of the ride. Since we were so high, our parachute ride was about 7 minutes, just gliding down into the valley between the awe-inspiring mountain ranges. It was very peaceful (despite the harness feeling like it was slicing into a certain area...but hey I guess that means it's tight right?) and was a good way to calm down after the sensory overload from skydiving. It was really exciting when the instructor would pull hard to either direction and we would pretty much go sideways in the air as we turned...I could see paragliding being a fun activity to try as it is pretty much the same thing.


Obviously, since I am writing this, we made a safe and effortless landing. And as soon as we got back to the lodge in the afternoon, I crashed. Despite the fact that you are just falling, and not really exerting your body in any way, skydiving drains you. I think its honestly just the fact that you are in shock after it happens, its such a surreal activity that your body and mind doesnt really know what it just did.

So after writing this, what words could I use to describe skydiving to you?

-LIFE EXPERIENCE
-SENSORY OVERLOAD
-SURREAL
-INSTANT MEMORY


I hope you enjoyed this post, and just like bungee jumping, if you are even contemplating skydiving, you must do it! I only have one more blog about New Zealand left :-(  but it is just as good as the others...albeit in a different way. Let's just say Im thinking of contacting Apple and selling them some of the pictures I got with my iPhone. Anyway, adios!

2 comments:

  1. A fantastic post...we will share/forward with others...one of the best parts of your jump was the photographer who jumped with you to get those pictures! Were your ears popping as you fell?

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  2. Yeah and my sinuses were on fire, but your body compensates for it.

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