Years ago, I was over the weight limit to even think about jumping out of a plane, with or without a parachute attached. I was also quite terrified of a lot of things and didn’t think myself capable – my confidence levels were certainly NOT what they are today. My initial desire to skydive was all about reckless abandon – a daredevil, not-fully-thought-out plan to defy gravity and look fear straight in the eye. Being unable to jump back then, the idea of skydiving joined the list of the many things I would do…someday.
Well, that day arrived on December 15, 2016, and this time, I took on the challenge from a completely different perspective.
I am more aware than ever how fleeting life can be, and that while I am capable of doing incredible things, I am a mere mortal. I also value my life completely, especially being able to land on solid ground unscathed. However, I needed to reset my mind, and so I jumped.
I had been waiting nearly four days to do the jump. With each passing day, I wondered if the winds and rain that delayed my jump were signs…but that glorious Thursday burst forth beautifully, and any qualms I had were to be squashed completely:
My husband will kill me…wait, no…he loves me…he totally put a ring on it…
Should I write my will? Stop being such a pessimist…you’ll be fine…
Maybe it will start raining before you have to jump…
Yeah, no, it’s hot as heck…and winds are dying down…now or never baby…
2PM arrived and I made my way to the Skydive San Pedro dock, anxious to meet company owner Abby Nawrocki. She and I had communicated for over a week, trying to set me up for the thrill of a lifetime. I finally was able to put face to name, and in the process, met Max Lesziak, my tandem instructor, and Rich SirVato, videographer and photographer extraordinaire. I was accompanied by co-worker Chelsea, who had a case of the butterflies too…especially when I had to fill in the release form!
After signing my life away and giving them the all-clear, it was time to get on the golf cart to the hangar, where a plane awaited (with a whole side panel missing OH MY GOD!).
Max strapped me in, making sure all safety harnesses were on perfectly snug.
As he did so, he explained a few things, giving me some instructions, but not going too far ahead – smart move.
Do not. Overwhelm. The jumper.
After the requisite pose by the plane, answering questions for video, Pilot Rocky Rivero got in, and it was time for us to go up…and up…and up…a total of 12,000 feet high.
We were heading two-plus miles in the air, where according to Rich and Max, the temperatures would be cooler and the air thinner.
I remember the release form asking about shortness of breath…eek!
We crammed into the plane, six people total, including two daring solo jumpers, Max, Rich, Rocky and myself.
After buckling in for safety – you know, since the plane was kind of open air – we began the ascent.
We hit the glorious spot over the water, where the magnificent reef lay resplendent.
Catamarans and boats dotted the blue seas, waves crashed against the coral reef barrier, and slowly, the island’s outline began to show. We were getting higher for sure…
Max gave me a few more instructions, and that is where I learned that I would be the first one out of the plane, basically carrying him with me. Gulp.
He told me what position to be in at the jump, and what would be the next couple of steps once in the air…a few more brief moments of respite and then it was time to put up or shut up.
I watched the solo jumpers make their way out and tumble with ease into the abyss below. I took a few calming breaths (didn’t work) and then it was my turn.
Rich, the amazing acrobat that he is, dangled from one hand and leg sideways from the plane catching my moment of…triumph?…sure…let’s go with triumph.
My legs swung over the side of the plane and almost immediately, my limbs were fluttering about like they weren’t attached to me. One more big breath, crossing my arms across my chest like Max asked, and it was go time.
And then I jumped.
There are not enough words to accurately describe that feeling of complete and utter incredulousness and heightened sense of self-awareness. Was it terrifying? Absolutely – for about 20 seconds after I left the relative safety of a seatbelt and the plane, hurtling down towards the ground, there was a moment of, “what if?” I can guarantee my eyes were tightly closed for that free-fall!
But then I felt the tug of the parachute, and before I could even brace myself, the safety harnesses kicked in and I was jolted back to reality by the tightly secured harness – phew!
From then on, it was pure adrenaline-fueled yelps of delight. As the parachute fluttered in the hard breeze, and cold wind whipped my cheeks back, I marveled at the sight below. Hues of blue not found in the crayon box made up the Caribbean Sea. In the distance I could see the white crest of the waves breaking over the reef, and directly below, development, mangroves, patches of wooded land, and more blues and greens of the water that surrounds us.
Next to us, Rich was cool as a cucumber, taking more pictures and videos like the talented daredevil he was. That’s not to take away from Max, who had to deal with my shrieks (of both terror and delight).
Together, we played with the ‘chute, turning and twirling as we descended. He was brilliant at breaking down instructions a little at a time, giving me a chance to enjoy the airtime before we had to float back down to land.
It was a classic landing, perfect in every way, and when my heart stopped racing, I could finally soak it in. That jump was worth the wait, and I absolutely would do it again!
To book your very own jump, call 226 5302, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or just stop by their office located on the dock across from Sandbar Hostel.