Sunday, April 13, 2008

Free Falling at 13,000 feet!

Originally Posted: Dec 31, 2007

"There is an art, or rather a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss." ~ Douglas Adams, Hitch-Hikers Guide to the GalaxyOne of my favourite quotes from the book. I haven't figured out how to miss the ground yet, but I definitely came close to flying yesterday!

I'm not sure how I got convinced to go Sky-Diving, but it was probably the best thing I've done in a long time!

Three of us drove down to San Diego yesterday to "Sky Diving San Diego", located next to the beautiful Otay Lakes. The skies were clear and the weather warm ... Perfect day to jump out of a moving plane!

The very first thing that we were made to do oncec we reached there was sign a bunch of green forms and watch a video of some old attorney explaining the form. The form had 50 places where you had to initial, all saying the same thing - Don't sue us if anything happens to you!

Then we were taken outside for some basic training. Now I was under the impression that the training would take an hour or so, but it just lasted 5 minutes. All the instructor told us about were some basic postures we had to assume while exiting the plane, while in free-fall and finally just before landing.

There were two options for skydiving - In Tandem and in Solo. Tandem would mean that an instructor would come with you and help you out with the parachute and landing. Solo meant that you would be given a series of lessons on skydiving for certification, and finally you would be able to jump off the plane without an instructor. Tandem felt the best option for me, and this is what most first-timers do.

Also jumping wiith us was a videographer who took some amazing snaps and video of the whole experience. Starting from a little interview when I was getting my gear on, the walk to the plane, the flight to 13,000 feet, the jump and finally the landing. I can't imagine what skill it must be taking to stay balanced in mid-air and focus on both getting some good pictures as well as some quality video!

The flight up to the drop zone itself was uneventful, except for an army helicopter which was in the way and delayed our jump for a bit. The surprising thing was that I expected to get loads of equipment and clothing for the jump at such a high altitude (13,000 ft is a little less than half the height of Mt. Everest!). But all we were given was some goggles and gloves! The instructors were mentioning that in summer, people jump out with just shorts and a T-shirt.

I was the first in my group to jump out with my instructor. I though that I might have some hesitation when that door opened and all that air came rushing in. But surprisingly, it just felt very exciting ... like an extreme roller coaster ride! My instructor was a guy called Andre, who had taken over 7000 jumps, and took about 10-15 people for jumps everyday. So I really wasn't nervous about anything going wrong ... these guys were certified by the FAA and knew their job.

The jump out of the plane was quick and before I knew it I was falling, and falling fast. According to Andre, I reached speeds of 120 miles / hour! The freefall lasted for about a minute, and I must have fallen through atleast 8000 ft in that much time. I was expecting to feel the extreme temperature at that height, but what I felt more was the sudden change in air-pressure as I fell the distance. My ears closed so fast I could barely hear anything but the mad rush of air about me. The scene was breath-takingly awesome!

After waving a lot to the cameras it was time to open the parachute and float down the remaining 5000 ft. Andre opened the chute and manouvered it around a lot to show me the view. He even gave me the controls of the parachute for a while. We landed after 5-6 minutes of parachuting down.

Overall, this was an AWESOME experience! I would recommend it to everyone who hasn't tried it yet.


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