September 15, 2012. Together with my Taiwanese friend Randy we made our way on car from Sierra Vista to Eloy, Arizona. It was around a 3 hour drive, but made shorter through constant conversation, typically on what we were going to go through by the end of the day. For the both of us, it was going to be our first sky diving experience.
It starts off with registration in a small room, together with a couple of other people in our time slot. After signing our lives away on a stack of documents that declares they are not responsible for any accidents as well as us giving up our rights to sue in the event of any accident, we were ready for our training. Which actually wasn't anything much.
We paid additional money for digital stills and videos, and thus a dedicated camera man accompanied me for the jump. He was first to greet and introduced himself, and began our conversation by saying he has good news and bad news for me. Good news was that Kim, my instructor, was a lady. Bad news, he added, that she wasn't very good. You can imagine my reaction when he told me that. But of course he broke out in laughter and said he was only kidding. I managed to force a smile back.
A truck took us to the plane and the runway. I wasn't too excited nor nervous at this point in time really. But the trip up changed everything. As we rose, the buildings and cars began getting smaller and at this point I wasn't even joking around with Randy anymore. Somehow, the lack of instructions from Kim wasn't too assuring. She had only given me basic instructions back on land and I wasn't even strapped on to her yet. Till 3 minutes before we jumped out of the plane, that is. She told me to turn around, and began to strap my harness onto hers. Then we edged to the exit and this was the moment when the million dollar question popped into my head:
But there was no room for regrets. Nor hesitation. Before I knew it, Kim pushed me off and I was falling from 13,000 feet above ground level. To be honest, the feeling of free falling didn't last too long and I overcome the initial shock pretty quickly. I felt Kim tap my shoulders, which was the cue to let go of the harness, lift my chin up, and stretch my arms.
The free falling lasted about 1 full minute. I was trying my best to maintain a straight face, motivated by the camera man staring right in my face. I didn't really have the luxury of time to look around much and to enjoy the scenery nor feel the sensation of air rushing up my nostrils and mouth though. The camera man was too much a distraction.
However, I do remember the minute being extraordinary. The fear had completely left me, and I didn't even think or remember that Kim had full control over my life at that point in time. I was joking with Randy earlier that maybe they have this protocol to release the customers first in the event of an accident. That was a real question by the way. I just didn't have anyone to ask.
One funny thing was that I felt my shoes shaking because I didn't wear them too tight. I was afraid that they might fly off and that someone would see a pair of Adidas dropping from the sky.
I also remember my lips becoming very dry and I had to keep them moisturised because they were starting to crack. Breathing wasn't much of a problem. It's the air that keeps pushing against your face that makes it slightly uncomfortable. But that's not a problem when feel like you're on the top of the world.
After Kim pulled the chute and our speed came to a refreshing halt, I finally found time to enjoy the view that the jump offered. She was nice enough to narrate everything she was doing and we also had a very enjoyable chat on the way down. She's had over 8000 jumps, though I'm not too sure in the world of sky diving how experienced that would mean.
The descent took a lot longer than the free fall but I wasn't complaining. In fact, I found it very relaxing. It was slow, and I could make out the landing zone and all the people that were running around in the facility. She also including a few spins that brought me almost parallel to the ground. It was pretty fun.
She instructed me to lift up my legs as high as possible once we were about to land, and I did as told. So in the end I landed on my butt, and we slided along on the grass patch. She should have told me to keep my mouth shut as well. I was all smiles and didn't know that I would be eating grass as all the pieces of grass came flying. Had to spit them out while releasing my harness.
For my efforts, Kim presented me with my First Jump Certificate and a commemorative T-shirt. Pretty cool stuff. It was a mere 10 minute wait for the DVDs of the photos and video (uploaded and linked via youtube below), which I thought was worth every penny.
On the whole, I thought it was a magnificent experience. I thank the opportunity that was presented to me, and otherwise I would never have gotten a chance to try this out back home or in Asia. Would I do it again? Definitely, but perhaps not with the camera man this time round. :)