Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Thursday, July 13, 2017

skydive O'ahu!

When I looked at the calendar back in April, I realized that I would be in Hawaii on vacation over my birthday. That seemed like a perfectly good time to finally fulfill a wish I'd had over the last several years: to skydive! Heck, if old man Bush can do it multiple times, so could I.

Sure enough, there was an outfit on O'ahu called Pacific Skydiving, and it wasn't too far from where we would be staying on the North Shore of O'ahu. CLICK. I signed up for a jump on my birthday. For a first-time jumper, Pacific insists on a tandem jump. That is, you are harnessed to an experienced jumper for your first jump. (And second jump. You can jump solo on your third jump). Your tandem partner pulls the parachute cord and navigates down to the landing zone.

There was no advance paperwork to complete, so on my birthday I arrived at the site for my jump. You have to watch a 15-minute film about all the risks of skydiving and sign papers claiming that, yeah, I acknowledge that I could die or get seriously hurt doing this, and if I DO die or get hurt, neither I nor anyone else in my family would hold Pacific Skydiving responsible, etc, etc.

Yeah, yeah, as expected.

But then I came across a spot on the form where I was supposed to state that I was not currently taking any medications for anything, and if I WAS taking any medications, my doctor had OK'd my skydiving anyway.

I guess I should have realized that they would ask these questions but I hadn't. I wish they had fucking told me about it in advance. I take some meds, and I had not talked to my doctor about skydiving. 

I realized that I could easily lie on the form and say I was either not taking any meds, or I could lie and say my doctor was OK with it. But I didn't want to lie. I do tell little white lies now and then (who doesn't?) but I didn't want to lie about this, and so I postponed the jump until Monday. I'm sure everyone on vacation with me was thinking I was just using this as an excuse not to jump. Fuck 'em.

I tried to reach my doctor while still at the facility but couldn't. Because of the time change between Hawaii and Texas (5 hours - because Hawaii does not observe Daylight Savings Time), the doctors office had just closed. He'd probably say OK anyway, but I didn't want to jump before touching base with him. Come Monday morning, I called my doc again and he OK'd my jump, as long as my blood pressure had been good. And it has been good. Moving to South Padre Island (or retiring in general) has been beneficial to my blood pressure. 

So I finished the pre-jump forms and got the OK to jump. They have a large waiting area where you wait to get called to get suited up with the harness. My tandem-mate was Chrissy, a French-born daredevil. I opted for the videographer, and her name was Kelly. The whole suit-up time takes only about 10 minutes, and before I knew it, we were being herded out onto the runway to meet the plane that would take us up. 

One complaint here. Chrissy had my goggles in her hand and said she would put them on me just before we jumped. Well, ok. Turns out she ended up tightening them so much my glasses were smushed against my face. It was too tight, but it was also too loud to complain about it. If you go, insist that you try on your goggles BEFORE you board the plane. 

And it's a tiny plane. Single engine. Modified for skydiving. We taxied down the runway to the far end, turned around, and the pilot gunned it. Fucking LOUD as shit! And nothing to hold onto!

It took only about 15 minutes to reach our jumping altitude of 14,000 feet. 

This is about as high as you can go before you need an oxygen mask to jump. And it was cold as shit up there. There are no real doors on the sides of the plane, so the cold air was rushing over us. Felt pretty good, actually.

Before I knew it, Chrissy was nudging me towards the door. It's kinda hard to move when you are strapped tight to someone, but we made it.

Hanging on tight, she pushed us out the door, and yikes! 

Immediately we started to tumble, backwards, but just chill out! 

Chrissy quickly released the guide chute, which allows the jumpers to right themselves, to an extent. 

My left eye was pretty smooshed and I can't say I saw a lot of stuff during the freefall. We were promised about 60 seconds of freefall, and Kelly navigated up close to us for some pictures.

At one point, she held out her hand to me and I took it, but we started spinning, so I let that shit go. Fuck you! I ain't ready for spinning!

The freefall was pretty cool. I might get used to that kind of feeling, but soon enough, Chrissy held three fingers in front of me, then two, then one, and then, whoosh, she pulled our main parachute and Kelly continued to plummet on at high speed. She would pull her chute further down and land before us so she could take pictures of our landing.

When the chute opened, it felt great. No more plunging downward, now we were floating.

Chrissy said something about needing to navigate towards the landing zone, and she pulled one of the main chute cords and we went into a fast swirling downward. Wild swings back and forth, feeling totally out of control.

After just a couple more of these maneuvers, I began to feel queasy. I told her I thought I might hurl, but she had to do a few more swings down towards the earth to get to the right spot for landing. After one tight curl, I turned my head to the right and hurled. I wondered about the homes below us that were growing larger and what kinds of things might occasionally rain down upon them. Haha!

We finally landed. I pulled up my legs horizontal to the ground as instructed, came to a non-jarring stop and immediately got on all fours to throw up a couple more times. Kelly didn't bother to record that. I guess I'm glad, but it obscures the truth, and I don't think that's good. I'm not proud of getting sick but as I hear it, I'm certainly not the first.

I loved the thrill of the jump and the freefall. The main chute portion and swinging wildly to navigate was pretty much sheer hell. If I could be guaranteed that the main chute portion of the jump would not be so violent in its swings, I would skydive again. Hey! I see they have an outfit that skydives over South Padre Island!!

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