Hanging loose at 14000 feet!

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Altitude: about 14,000 feet

Place: a small airplane above North Shore Oahu, Hawaii

Time: Nov 2013

It was time, the only way down was out the door of the airplane.

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As soon as I began planning my trip to visit my friend in Hawaii I knew there were some things off my bucket list that I wanted to cross off. Skydiving was definitely among the top ten. So a couple of days before my birthday we headed to the Pacific Skydive Center and signed me up. There was an 8,000 ft. jump and an extreme 14,000 ft. jump. Well if I was going to jump out of an airplane anyway what was the difference between 6,000 ft? So of course I picked the extreme option which had a longer free falling time, which is the time between jumping out of the plane and opening the chute. Another option was to either jump with or without a camera guy. Honestly I recommend the camera guy. You won’t have your phone and with the camera guy you get pictures and a video. That way you can look back like whoa that was me. I did that. He’s useful for another reason too but I will get to that later.

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So I waited there pretty calmly taking in all the people who were jumping ahead of me. Most of them were frightened and really nervous. I was just chilling. That’s who I am though. Not that I don’t have any fear but my moment of fear just hadn’t hit me yet. I might be the best person to have with in an emergency because during the chaos I’m cool as a cucumber. As Ernest Hemmingway said, “Courage is grace under pressure”. That being said, after the disaster is when I deal with all those feelings and you might need to comfort or help me cope. Anyways finally it was my turn to begin to get suited up into my harness and strapped up tightly. You have to wear safety glasses or sunglasses because the wind will be whipping by pretty fast and you will want to have some protection for your eyes. You will not want things in your pockets or not securely fastened to you, because you may never get them back.

I watched the plane pull in for my group. I had met my tandem jumper who was an older ex-military guy who had already jumped about 15 times that day. What a life that must be! He says it’s all pretty much the same once you have done it so many times. We walk out to the plane and I meet my camera guy. He was this pretty cool Italian guy who definitely looked like he had a love for life. Seriously, he might have one of the coolest photography jobs ever. In real life. We pile on to the plane with the people who are going higher in the back of the plane and the people getting out lower in the front. I was in the way back and one of the last to get out so I had the joy of watching everyone go first.

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The little plane took off and I looked anxiously out of the window. Watching us climb higher and higher into the atmosphere. Soon the landing strip because nearly invisible from my little window as we soared higher into the clouds. The water looked so blue and I could see straight to the bottom of the ocean. In the months when the whales come by you can see them from the above like great big ocean liners swimming around in their pods. I missed the whales by a couple of weeks. Sigh. This was still awesome though. If there was anywhere I would ever want to skydive looking down on, Hawaii was definitely top 3. Nice white sandy beaches, lush tropical rain forest, and wide beautiful cerulean waters, this was definitely paradise.

At about 8,000 feet I thought we were pretty high. This is the great moment when my adrenaline and excitement started to wane a bit. People begin to hop off, they were looking obviously scared. I had a brave face on but I was starting to falter in my bravery. My thoughts going about a million miles per hour . . . there was no turning back. The only way down was out that door and we weren’t even at my stop yet on our journey up! With most of the plane empty, we continued our ascent up. Now my team began to coach me with what we were about to do. I had been coached on the ground but this right here was the moment it was all going to boil down to. My photographer was going to exit the plane first, and position himself to get me coming out of the plane. My tandem instructor and I were going to follow. I was to ball up until he tapped me on the shoulder. When he tapped I was supposed to open my arms in a T, put my legs together and bend them back between my instructor’s legs and arch my back. Okay so that was my focus. Cool. Got it.

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There was one girl in front of me at 14,000 feet. She looked scared but she and her instructor jumped out of the door and that was the last I saw of them. She didn’t look like she struggled or anything. Inhale deeply and then exhale. Alright it was my turn. Like I said before, camera guy in my face definitely was an advantage. He began to record me and we made our way to the door. I couldn’t look scared on film! I’m a Scorpio! Not to mention I was also born in the year of the Tiger so I got pride for days! So we get to the door and pause for a second. My instructor is holding on to the rails and I’m precariously hanging out of the airplane. We are tightly bound together but as far as I’m concerned I felt like I was dangling. I surveyed the scene beneath me. Clouds, clouds, blue ocean, green land, white beach and some farms nearby which appeared to be patches upon the quilt of the land.

That second felt like a minute but before you know it we are out of the plane free falling for around a minute or so. Talk about exhilaration! The hardest part of falling is the letting go. The wind whipped around me and my awesome camera man was zooming in and out with his free fall wing suit. Having me wave and blow kisses at the camera. Mind you in my head I’m also focused on keeping my body in that T position with my back arched. So much fun though! The ground came closer and closer until it was time to pull the chute. When the chute was pulled we went up a bit as the wind began to rapidly fill it. My cameraman waved goodbye and descended to the ground where he would record me land and take more pictures. Awesome job . . . The descent down took a bit so my instructor and I chatted about life and what not. Now that we had shared this experience and for me the fear stage had passed, I was a lot chattier.

I noticed in my descent at the skydiving place there was an ambulance and I was thinking to myself that I was glad not to have seen that before I went up because it would’ve been so much more strenuous to keep my brave face! We got closer to the ground and he reminded me to start running as soon as we hit the ground to cushion our fall. We touched down and I was immediately ready to go back up again! I took more pictures and then waited to get my video and pictures burned onto a CD. While waiting I found out that the ambulance had come for a girl who was solo diving and pulled her chute wrong in her descent which made her land wrong and she had broken her ankle. Ouch! Nothing that will keep me from every jumping again though! Doing something like that has the effect on your life that makes you braver in situations that before you might’ve been hesitant about. After jumping out of a plane that high something like public speaking is nothing to fret about at all!

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For more information about skydiving in Oahu visit:

http://www.pacificskydivinghonolulu.com/

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