My brother and I agreed to take my father skydiving a few months ago. We booked Saturday, Sept 17th at Skydance in Davis, and the day seemed to sneak up on me. Around 48 hours ahead, I started realizing that I would soon be jumping out of an airplane. My first mistake was googling "skydance deaths", which caused me to seriously contemplate whether my affairs were in order. While statistically, I had read skydiving risk of fatality is roughly equivalent to driving 1000 miles in a car... it's still insane to jump out of a plane.
I felt relieved when arriving at Skydance, and seeing they had an established operation. Of course, they immediately have you sign two pages and signature 20 places saying you release all liability from your death. We waited a bit, then geared up. We were doing a 13,000 foot tandem jump (meaning with an instructor strapped to your back). My instructor seemed sober and experienced, but it unnerved me a bit when he was looking for a parachute pack... then went into a back room and seemed to grab whatever was lying around. Now, I'm sure they are organized and safe.... but I sure as hell would want to know exactly who packed my parachute if I hadn't done it myself!
We boarded the plane, and ascended fairly quickly. My father ended up towards the front, and my brother beside me. My brother's instructor had some fun with him, saying that my brothers straps were coming loose. I remember watching my father scoot to the edge of the plane, then off he went over the side and I thought "Damn, my dad is crazy!". The rest of them went one by one, then came our turn. My instructor rocked us back and off we went. Freefall.
My biggest misconception about skydiving was that it's just windy, based on the skydiving movie scenes I've watched like this and this. The entire freefall is intense, even after the initial acceleration. The ground is far below, but you can still see that it's speeding towards you. The cold air blasting your face and ears reminds you of your high velocity downward. Adrenaline surges through you. The 60 seconds feels like 10 seconds. The only two thoughts racing through your mind are 1) I am falling and 2) I hope the parachute works.
Around 5000 feet, I reached back and pulled the parachute release. It jerked us so our legs fell beneath us, and I looked up to my relief to see the stretched out nylon and yelled a "whoo hoo!". My instructor said "Wait, I have to fix something" and I felt him tugging and jerking at something. Then I realized we were still falling pretty fast and I heard a flapping sound from the parachute. Needless to say, I thought we were going to die and adrenaline surge #2 kicks in. After a few seconds of more jerking, I hear the instructor say "There we go." and suddenly we spin around as something unravels above us and we slow down to what feels like a normal pace. Wow.
I spent the next few moments catching my breath and was relieved when my instructor pointed down to a parachutes and said "There's your brother and your dad." We landed and what can I say... feels good to be alive!