By Preston Young
What do most 18-year-old kids want for their birthday? As you become an older teenager, wanting specific gifts becomes more difficult. When I was a kid, I would get a Toys-"R"-Us or Walmart catalog, go through it and circle the toys I thought were cool. As I got older, I would ask for certain electronics, clothes, shoes, and money! For my 18th birthday I decided I wanted to do something different, something not many people get to (or want to) experience. I have always loved thrill, speed, and rollercoasters. So, I figured, what is the most thrilling experience I can think of. Let’s go skydiving!
It was a beautiful spring day, mid 60’s, and no breeze. My mom, stepdad, brother, girlfriend, and I took the hour drive to Connecticut Parachutists in Ellington Connecticut to make my first tandem jump and it was absolutely the most exhilarating experience of my life.
After about an hour of video watching, a quick course on what to do and what not to do, the next step is basically signing your life away where you waive the Tandem of any liability in the event that a mishap occurs (injury or death). I remember sitting at a picnic table bench, looking up and watching what turned out to be a university skydiving team, where they created shapes and figures of their bodies while free falling!
So, we get dressed in our suits, put on our goggles, and ready to go! Behind me is a little bridge over a creek that leads out to a runway. The plane pulls up, pulls out a little 3 step ladder and we board, unable to hear anyone and anything as this plane is super loud. Once we get on, there are two benches, one on each side of the plane, we sit down next to our given instructor and he straps himself to me and reassures I don’t have any last doubt. The door closes and we’re off!
After a couple minutes of flying, now that we’re at full altitude of about 15,000 feet, we are ready to jump. I still remember the moment like it was yesterday, the door opened, cool air rushed in, we sat down, and I looked down from the door of a flying airplane. As you can imagine, this sight is scary, my mouth got dry, I took a deep breath, my instructor counted down from 3… and we jumped!
Now a common misconception is that I didn’t “jump” out of a plane. As mentioned as part of my process before “jumping”, we sat down. We sat and scooted so that our legs were dangling out of the plane, we leaned forward until we were no longer sitting. I am not sure if this was because It was my first time or maybe every place does it differently but stating that I “jumped” out of a plane sounds much cooler than I “scooted” out of a plane, so we’ll stick with that.
I looked down onto the beautiful earth and felt complete peace within myself. In that moment, I owned the world. I was able to feel the amazing sensation of soaring through the sky, my face felt the cool air, my mouth opened wide, and we were flying at speeds greater than 200mph. The first minute is a straight free fall, no parachutes. This feeling humbled me to the expanse of the world, I was able to see the land we live on from a new, different perspective. After the free fall, we deployed the parachute which felt as if we were just floating on a cloud, overlooking the world. My instructor asked me if I wanted to do some spins on parachute, of course I said yes! Then he spun our parachute 3-4 times in circles. He then gave me the ropes that were able to steer us and let me go left and right as I pleased which was really cool. The ride down took about 10 minutes, and the landing was surprisingly soft and easy.
This experience was nothing like I imagined, it was the best moment of my life which I cannot express in words. While I understand skydiving is not for everyone, if you’re contemplating it, do it!