Skydiving

I’d been trying to go skydiving for some time, especially after a friend told me she had gone for her birthday. I tried organizing it before I left on vacation to Asia, with disastrous results: a bunch of people signed on, but when push came to shove, well… nobody wanted to be shoved out of an airplane.

I had given up, but when I came back from vacation the subject came up one day at work. A friend there was going to go that weekend, and I asked if I could join in. Voilà! A lot easier and faster than my first attempt, that’s for sure. So, on August 11, 2007 we headed of to Pepperell, MA to take a step into the void.

The jump itself takes 3 or 4 minutes. The foreplay, however, took over an hour. It starts when we’re shepherded into a room with a TV, on which a lawyer lady happily fires off a whole bunch of lawyer goobledy-gook. In short, we’re here because we want, and they’re not responsible for anything, even if they screw up. Of course, we have to sign and initial a wad of papers so they have it in writing. In all, somewhat intimidating and terribly boring, but at least the other jumpers saw the humor in it becuase we were all cracking jokes.

After this cheerful introduction to the sport, we were off to put on our equipment. Nothing more than an overall and a harness with which they latch you on to your partner (it’s a tandem jump, they won’t let you jump on your own on the first try… can’t seem to disagree with that choice). The goofiest thing we get in the hat we get to wear, look like the end of a fat banana.

We first got on the plane and there we latched on to our partner. We flew up to 11,000 feet (3350 meters for those using normal units). In the interim, the instructors spent their time joking around trying to make us uneasy: one guy learned not to slam into the ground, the other one remembered to use all the latches and so on. Eventually we reached jumping altitude and we headed for the door. The guy with the camera got out first, clung to the side of the plane and then jumped. Immediately after we did and… the jump itself isn’t as brutal as it might appear; it’s actually quite a gentle affair. The first fall on a rollercoaster gives you much more of a freefall feeling. You don’t really have the feeling that you’re rushing downwards, despite seeing that the ground is way down there. You do feel the rush of the air, which is an incredible rush.

The toughest part of the jump is when the parachute is actually opened; that’s quite an upwards jerk. Once it’s open, however, it’s a very calm and relaxed descent. And what a view! There’s nothing like seeing for miles towards the horizon, with Boston’s outline superimposed on the ocean in one direction, the White Mountains in New Hampshire in the other, and nothing in between.

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and a video is like getting them read to you out loud. So, without further ado, here are the and the pictures (sorry, not working right now) and the video. Of course, there’s really no substitute for actually jumping (hint, hint…).

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