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As someone who has a major fear of flying, the idea of skydiving never appealed to me. Though I’ve taken hundreds of flights over the years, I still get nervous each and every time there’s turbulence, so the thought of hurling myself out of a plane made my palms sweat. If I had given myself time to think about it, I definitely would have backed out, but last year I planned an impromptu birthday trip to the Virginia Skydiving Center for my husband, Gabe. I figured I’d share my experience for those of you who are considering skydiving for the first time. Many people have this on their adrenaline junky bucket list with no fear and only excitement, but I was not one of those people.
Gabe had skydived once before, but I knew he was hoping to go again and wanted me to experience it with him. I booked our jump about 5 days out and just told him we were heading to Virginia for the weekend but didn’t tell him why. After many incorrect guesses as to what we were about to do, he was rather hyper when we arrived at the small airport and he realized what was going down. All the while I was trying not to think about what we were about to do and act brave (it didn’t work). We got to the large hangar and signed waivers while deciding if we wanted photos/video of our jumps. I opted to get video since I was positive this would be a once in a lifetime occurrence, but he had a video of his first jump from a few years back, so he didn’t need it this time. After signing our lives away, we waited probably 3-4 hours for others to finish their skydives, get the equipment set up and get instructions on what we would need to do once in the air. While we waited, I sat there googling “how many people have died from skydiving” and various other dumb things that didn’t help my state of mind. Eventually, it was our turn to go and we got suited up, grabbed our helmets and headed out to the plane. My tandem instructor was actually the owner of VSC. He was cracking jokes to help me calm down as we boarded the plane and I felt good knowing I had someone with so many years of experience as my guide. I had initially wanted to go on one of the airplanes where you jump out the rear like you see in all the movies. Apparently, those are pretty rare and they only bring them out on special occasions, so we ended up on one of the tiny side exit planes instead.
When you board, there are two benches and you get packed in like sardines, facing the back of the plane. That was probably the worst part for me, feeling claustrophobic on this tiny plane as we got up to jumping altitude (about 12,000 feet). We went up with a group of semi-pro skydivers who all jumped out first in one of those fancy formations. I was in awe as they all headed out the side door and was wishing they hadn’t left so quickly. Far too soon, it was my time to go and I waddled over to the edge and popped a squat by the door. The videographer headed out first and he was crouched outside the plane, holding onto the edge and waiting for me to exit. I think my adrenaline kept from me completely losing my mind at that point. My instructor said we’d go on 3, and we rocked back and forth to get some momentum…1…2…..3333333333333…ahhhhhhh
The next sensation was VERY cold air that felt like it was spinning me way too fast in circles, and I felt disoriented. I didn’t remember when it was time to uncross my arms from my chest and into the flying squirrel position, but thankfully my instructor tapped my shoulder to get me to change! Gabe had told me that it wouldn’t feel like falling, and I guess that was true, but it sure didn’t feel like floating either. It was like a rough cyclone of frozen air tossing me around. I could barely breathe and was just hoping the freefall would end soon and that he would pull the cord. It felt like forever, but I know it was less than a minute in freefall. I suddenly became aware of the videographer and slightly regretted getting the video since it was so hard to smile when I was that scared, not knowing up from down. I think I briefly managed to look like I was enjoying myself before my instructor pulled the chute, and then FINALLY I was able to relax. It was a gorgeous view as we floated down toward the ground and ultimately I was glad that I had gone through with it and not chickened out. It was definitely a rush and facing one of my biggest fears gave me a sense of strength. Feel free to laugh at my video down below – my portion starts around the 1:07 mark.
Have you skydived before or is it something you’re thinking about for the future? I’d definitely recommend Virginia Skydiving Center if you’re looking for a place to jump in the Southeast. They were accommodating and answered my many questions when I was going through the booking process. We were both very pleased with our instructors and how they ensured everything was safe and secure for our jump.
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