By Leah Bredemeyer
It takes a lot of courage to take that first step. That one step that could change your life forever. It takes a lot of nerve to strap yourself into a harness and throw yourself out of a completely good working plane. Nerve… or stupidity?
I’ve always wanted to go skydiving. It may have become apparent from my previous articles that I am a slight adrenaline junkie, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that this was next on my list. So not to give my parents any opportunity to stop me, I made my appointment and withheld the date of the jump. It only took me 20-odd years to figure it out, but sometimes for my parents not knowing is better.
It truly didn’t hit me that I would be putting my fate in someone else’s hands until I put on the jump suit. (By the way – those things are not flattering). All the way up to the appointment and the drive I was as calm as could be. When I walked through the building doors, I was giddier than anything. As I signed my life away on all the proper documents, my hands started shaking. I don’t know if that was because of the beginning of nerves, or the excitement of it all, but you could just barely make my name out.
I found out quite quickly that the jump instructors must get a kick out of torturing people before jumps.
I don’t speak much Spanish. Right before I was supposed to board the plane, I was asked if I knew any Spanish curse words. I innocently shook my head no and asked, why? He continued, “Because if you start hearing Chicho (my jump instructor that I would be tethered to while skydiving) curse in Spanish you know something is wrong.” This is not what I needed to hear right before I jumped out of that plane.
I am not always the most patient person, so to me the worst part of it all was the waiting. Three groups went up and came back down before it was my turn. Finally, after a quick safety speech and the final strapping into the harness, I was loaded last onto the plane – backwards. I am used to flying in commercial aircraft, but this little plane was an experience. Although my nerves of steel were still holding strong, that short plane ride was quite scary and loud. It also didn’t help that the guy across from me made faces the entire time.
When we finally reached altitude, I realized being the last on the plane meant I would be the first one off. This was probably a good thing; it didn’t give me much of a chance to chicken out watching others jump before me. Scooting to the edge with my legs dangling free the first jolt of panic hit. But just as fast as it came, it was gone. With three quick rocks back and forth we were out of the plane and in free fall. With my heart up in my throat and the wind roaring in my ears, we dropped…fast. I was glad I had the camera guy distracting me, because I probably would have started hyperventilating watching the ground get closer and closer.
Before I knew it, Chicho let me know it was time to deploy the parachute with a tap on my shoulder, which was the most painful part of the whole trip. When the chute catches and opens up, you are jerked to a stop and those harnesses are not made for comfort. With the parachute fully open, then came the fun part; you can see so many things when you’re so high in the air. Cars look like worker ants going to and from the colony. The separation of land and houses, both beautiful and sad, because it showed just how dry Texas summers can be. So much browns and tans with just a few patches of green.
While we slowly made our way back down to the ground, Chicho let me take the hand grips and let me steer. Since I don’t have much upper body strength, this didn’t go over very well. To turn, you have to pull the strap down on one side with one arm. Needless to say, I didn’t turn us very well. With a little help from Chicho, we went into a spiral. I don’t know if I squealed from the uncertainty of straightening back out or from the thrill of falling faster; but there I was giggling like a little girl.
Eventually we finally made it back to the landing. With my knees bent and my feet lifted up we made it back to the ground. I’m glad there was a system where two guys took the straps and deflated the chute before it jerked us back, because this day was quite breezy. Looking around at the other jumpers, I was surprised to see that we were the last duo down. How could it be that we were the first out of the plane, but last to make it back to the ground? Oh well, I was in the air longer.
It was hard not to smile the rest of the day. Even when we hit Austin rush hour traffic, I knew that I had flown that day. With a leap of faith, I got as close as I could get to really flying. And luckily, I didn’t learn any Spanish curse words.