An Adventure – Learning to Skydive


Today’s Music: 38 Special – Hold On Loosely

To get a Class C skydive license, you need a whole bunch of jumps. In New York, because of the vagaries of the weather, it can take a while to amass them.
So far I’ve done two.
This is the story of the first…

It's easy. Just let gravity do the work...


I was going to take a friend of mine for his birthday. Turns out he was over the weight limit, but I still wanted to go, so I signed myself up.
Before the first jump, the diver has to take a class. The class goes over what a correctly opened parachute looks like, how to correct an incorrectly opened chute, and how to land. For the chute opening, we looked at pictures. For how to land, we jumped off a picnic table 20 or 30 times, and rolled into the grass.
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All of that training was useless, as you’ll see.
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Today, the governing body of Parachuting, the USPA, will let accredited training schools only do tandem jumps for their first jump.
A tandem is where the new jumper is strapped to the front of the experienced jumper.
It is much safer, much more controlled, and lots of fun.
But not near as much fun as possible.

Does this guy on my back make me look fat?


When I did it, Static Lines were still allowed for first jumps.
That means that the parachute is strapped to the jumper, and the chute release is strapped to the plane. When the jumper goes out, the line stretches to its full length, then pulls the chute open. The jumper doesn’t have to pull the rip cord, but does control the rest of the jump.
Much scarier. Much more fun!

I'M AT THE END OF MY ROPE!!!


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The class (pictures and picnic table) are what you’re paying for for the first static line. They throw in the jump for free.
“Oh cool”, I can hear you say. No, not so much. Here’s why:
Anyone can sit through a class, look at pictures, and then shuffle off a picnic table two dozen times.
Many people get up to 3000 feet, look out the window,and scream to be put on the ground immediately.
No problem. But the jump was free. So no refund.
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That didn’t happen to me. Nor was I phased by the fact the wind needed to be perfect (15 knots or less) for us to go. Which it wasn’t. So, we all sat around for a couple of hours after the class waiting for the wind to come down.
It didn’t.
I went back up the next week.
Still didn’t.
The next week?
Too windy.
Six weeks this went on. I drove up about 60 miles, the wind didn’t come down, I drove home.
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Then one day, it was perfect.
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Many people say they don’t understand why someone would jump out of a perfectly good airplane. This one wasn’t.
The pilot was sitting on a milk crate, and he was wearing two parachutes.
The engine, when it started, sounds like I do when I wake up, and I’m a pack a day smoker. Lots of coughing.
2 other brave souls made it out that day too.
The three of us got suited up, strapped on our parachutes, and climbed into the plane.
And up we went.
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Here’s what happened…
The first guy got into jump position. Out he went. His chute opened.
Then he panicked. And opened his emergency chute. Without releasing his main chute.
So he has his rectangular air foil chute opened over his round emergency chute.
Which means? Anyone?
Exactly. No control.
He landed in a tree.

Not in the sky, not quite on the ground...


The plane circles the tree to guide the truck in to recover him. He walked away with some cuts and scratches, not even stitches were needed.
So now it’s me and tree-boy’s friend. Jumpmaster looks at us.
“Still want to go?”
The other guy looks nervous. His friend just had a serious problem and happened to get lucky. He was concerned. I understand that. He shook his head and declined.
It made perfect sense. I mean, skydiving is inherently suicidal dangerous.
But I’d been driving 120 miles a week to get here, this is the closest I’d been yet, and dammit, I really wanted to go.
“Yeah!” I said.
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The Jumpmaster gave me instructions and I followed them.
“Turn around and slide up to the front of the plane”
Sitting on my butt, I pushed myself to the front until my back was against the dashboard. (Where I could see that the pilot’s milk crate seat wasn’t even bolted down!)
Jumpmaster grabbed my static line and secured it to the floor.
“Tug the line to make sure it’s secure”.
I gave it a yank. Yeah, secure, sure. What the hell do I know?
“Okay. Reach out of the door, put your hand on left hand on the wing strut and your feet on the step above the wheel”
I rotate half out of the plane. don’tlookdowndon’tlookdowndon’tlookdown.
“Grab the strut with your other hand, stand up and step off”
don’tlookdowndon’tlookdowndon’tlookdown. I grab on stand up and…step…off…
Now I’m flapping alongside the plane at 80 or so miles an hour. My arms are wide apart and have the strut in a deathgrip.
“Look up and let go”
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The proper body shape for an exiting skydiver is an X, arms and legs out, back arched. This position catches the wind and keeps the jumper from being flipped over. The “look up” instruction is for the diver to look at the dot painted on the bottom of the wing, thereby getting the back arched prior to departure.
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I look up. And start an internal dialogue with myself.
“Okay Guap. On three, let go. One, Two,Three”

“You didn’t let go”
“I know”
“Lets try again”
“Ok”
“One, two, three”

“You didn’t let go again”
“I know”
“Why didn’t you let go?”
“I don’t know”
“Lets talk about this”
“Ok”
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As I’m having this pleasant conversation, I feel something on my left hand. So I look over.
And this motherf****r is leaning out of the plane, peeling my fingers off, one by one.
And I think to myself that if my left hand lets go and my right one doesn’t, I am well and truly screwed.
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So I let go….

To be continued…

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129 responses to “An Adventure – Learning to Skydive

  1. Fantastic. I’ve always at least thought about jumping, and probably lean closer to the do-it side. I think your story, in spite of itself so far, has tipped the scale to the positive. Great scribing…

    Like

  2. I know you survived because you lived to tell the tale. If you ever want to leap out of a plane in sunny Florida, Skydive City is not far from where I live. I’ll come watch you jump out of a plane and then buy you a beer!

    Like

  3. Love it! As for me – not in a million years – although the milk crate would offer a degree of comfort.

    Like

  4. I am on the edge of my seat! Fantastic read and I will never think of skydiving the same way again! (like it’s run by professionals who are trained in safety procedure and whose first priority is the safety of their customers). Can’t wait to read part two!!!

    PS I’m so glad you survived!

    Like

  5. I want to gooooo!!! I thik I want to do a tandem though. See if I puke or not, plus save myself from broken fingers.

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  6. Sheesh.

    Good thing you’ve got no plans to put on a squirrel suit and grind the crack.

    Like

  7. Carrie - Cannibalistic Nerd

    At least he wasn’t biting your hand?

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  8. LOL! Love those pics! Glad tree-boy came out ok eventually. What a fantastic, if inherently suicidal, experience you grabbed! Can’t wait for part-deux!

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  9. Good for you. But I’m with GFB…..Ain’t enough beer in the keg.

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  10. Wonderful! I am with the group who would never jump, ever. Not in one million years. In fact I might not be able to jump if the plane were going down. Can’t wait to read your next installment!

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  11. I feel nauseous πŸ™‚

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  12. That’s awesome! Man I can’t wait to see what happens next…I hope you survive! Haa I don’t think I could do single skydiving. Scary stuff!

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  13. Fantastic post! You did such an excellent job of painting the picture that I could actually feel my adrenaline rising as I got toward the end. I *might* be up for the tandem jump, but there is no way that I would do it solo. Brave (or crazy) man. πŸ˜‰

    Like

  14. savorthefolly

    I have always wanted to try skydiving. I think my only hesitation is a fear that something would go wrong and my children would lose me. I think I’d need to hear some safety stats first before I’d be willing to do while my children are still young.

    Like

    • I cannot encourage going enough,Savor. Or checking on the safety records of individual jump groups. The USPA (linked in the post) is a great resource.
      If it’s something your kids might enjoy, It could be a wonderful bonding experience! (and they’d have bragging rights at school!)

      Like

  15. savorthefolly

    Also, good song.

    Like

  16. I have never wanted to try skydiving. Pschologists would say I’m not a risk taker. Whatever. I just would rather be a tree – firmly root to the ground AT ALL TIMES.

    Like

    • There’s a lot to be said for trees, Stacy. At least one jumper I’ve heard of swears by them! hehehe
      And I’ve seen your blog -are you sure you’re not a risk taker? πŸ˜‰

      Like

  17. But – hooray for you and your foolishness – Friday or otherwise. ❀

    Like

  18. Although I can somewhat guess how this ended, I am still in suspense! Great tale! I am eager for the next installment!

    Like

  19. OMG! This is a very exciting read. I feel like I’m right there with you except that I’m safe in my home office and you’re about to commit suicide! haha Other than that small difference… I’m with you. : )

    Like

  20. I’ve done static line jumps military style, and I’d love to try it this way sometime, but without some dude strapped to me. Kinda disturbing.

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  21. Fantastic,Guap! I’m nervous for the rest. Not sure I can take all the excitement!

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  22. Hi,
    Oh Wow, how exciting for you, your adrenaline must of pumping at 100 miles per hour, my adrenaline is pumping just thinking about it all. πŸ˜†
    Good on you for driving all that time to get your shot, I am so happy for you that you were finally able to do the jump, and how it must of been to actually let go, I can’t wait to hear more of this magical adventure. πŸ™‚

    Like

  23. You had me at “does this guy on my back make me look fat?”
    Hilarious!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

    Like

  24. You da man! At one time I had the urge to do this, but now, I know that motion sickness would put be out of commission (and that can be horrible). I look forward for the rest of the story!

    Like

  25. I can’t wait to read the next installment. I hope you survived the landing!

    Like

  26. I always say, the best stories are true stories. You kept me at the edge of my seat with this one…Can’t wait for part two. Will this be like the TV shows, where the second part of the show is pre-empted every time there is a football game on? Hope not!

    Like

    • Tahnks, SnB! Fortunately, the Ice Dancing championships aired last week, so nothing will stand in the way of the next installment. (Except me being slow in writing it!)

      Like

  27. You know – I love these adventure stories… feel like I am there…want to try it myself …and I have to say…omg I have to say…. I can;t even say it I am laughing so. freaking. hard….yes I feel there…no I don’t want to try it…I am living it through you… and I would die from laughter if I was actually in that damn plane…forget the jump and splat! I laughed so hard I had to wait 5 minutes to even be able to comment and then … I can;t even get through this…you didn’t let go…I LOVE THIS POST!!! thanks for the enormous belly laugh today… Im annoyed you put to be continued but dammit I think if you had continued I would have peed my pants…so thanks for that anyhow…. πŸ˜€ wow.. phew… love it.. LMGAO.. you so ROCK!!!!

    Like

    • Glad you enjoyed it, LizzieC! I couldn’t laugh about it until I was on the ground, and back at my local bar.

      Like

      • ah but the beauty is that you can laugh about it now and even more so that you can make it laughable for all of us… the way you write makes us part of the adventure – told you that before so I put myself in that plane watching this ridiculously polite conversation and the realization he was trying to pry your fingers loose…I literally Laughed out loud.. chuckled and giggled to the point of Lauren asking if I was ok… . and omg here I go again…. this is one of the funniest posts I have read of yours..and I always smile, chuckle, guffaw (pick one or all of the above depends) at your posts… .the pics and the captions and the dialogue ..its just you… too cool..very Dude.. cool . ass. beans !!!!

        Like

  28. btw- its on my bucket list.. but I plan on being around a while so … someday.. just not soon lol

    Like

  29. Don’t do it! Oh, you already did it? Well, don’t do it again! Skydiving is for people in their nineties who want to go out with a thrill they can’t get through sex any more.

    Like

  30. i can understand jumping out of a plane easy…but smoking a pack a day???EG dude…don’t continue. continue…

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  31. Wow! Guap, greeeeat writing! I was there, and still am due to your well timed ‘to be continued’ πŸ˜‰

    Like

  32. Loved this, but was terribly disappointed when I saw the to be continued. Can’t wait for the next post! Don’t worry about any competition from me on skydiving trips though, I have vertigo so bad I have trouble walking down 2 steps without help.

    Like

  33. whiteladyinthehood

    Guapo, This was great…it was so funny! The milk crate (Holy Smokes!) and the peeling your little fingers off – that really made me laugh….and your internal dialogue…funny.funny… (I could not do it!)

    Like

  34. Can’t wait for part 2! I think the peeling of the fingers is the creepiest part of your story. Who does that?! FYI if you’re interested, I’m reading a great book right now called Young Men and Fire (Norman Maclean) about the fate of 15 Smokejumpers who were dropped near a massive wildfire in Montana in 1949. The first bit about the character of those who chose to jump out of planes, let a lone to fight fires, and how they did it, is really interesting.

    Like

    • Thanks Laura – I’ll check out that book.
      Apparently, once you’re dragging behind the airplane, there’s no way to safely get you back in, so they have to shake you loose. They told me I was not the first with that problem either…

      Like

  35. Oh that was such a good read! I laughed I snorted and I cried, well I teared up. That was such a good play by play. I love that you were still holding on and didn’t know why. :+) Still smiling very cool that you didn’t give up that you kept showing up and even when someone else landed in a try you still went for it. I enjoyed the music choice as well, very danceable song.

    Like

    • thanks, Starla! If I hadn’t spent so much time going back and forth, I might very well have passed after the tree landing.
      but maybe not – I have very little restraint when it comes to opportunities like this.

      Like

  36. tree shoot typo I need a comment editor.

    Like

  37. What?! Wait!!! When is this story going to continue? I felt like I was there. One day, Guap. One day, I really want to do this. πŸ™‚

    Like

  38. Great story, could feel every word.Good tune choice as well. Although have ‘Learning to Fly by the foo fighters on my ‘Ski’ playlist -grin-.
    Gave up on skydiving after 4 jumps in college. Became more frightened with each jump.
    WTF.
    Good on ‘ya mate!!!

    Like

    • Thanks Miss B. I’m surprised. Why were you more frightened?

      Like

      • For some reason each jump exacerbated my innate fear of heights. First jump was the best. Tried bungee jumping 25 years later. Not the thrill of skydiving but more fear because… what if that damned rope breaks or some 300 pounder stretched the hell out of it on a prior jump?

        Am SO looking forward to the next installment EG. Your stories and writing are hysterical. Now you have led an interesting life my dear πŸ˜‰

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        • I know what you mean, Rachael, but the anticipation of the thrill is still enough to hold down the fear for me.
          Hoping to get my bungee on this summer…

          Like

  39. This is amazing! When I clicked ‘Like’ I wanted to click it again and again and again….
    And fuck you for the ‘to be continued’! The pics are fantastic…and your writing had me right there with you. I was laughing my ass off, but I was RIGHT THERE!!
    Woohoo! Now I’m all excited and stuff!

    Like

  40. OMG please put this story in your book. I laughed and laughed… and then got to the end and almost died at the cliffhanger. No fair!!

    I’d been wondering how this went ever since you mentioned going but I hadn’t heard the followup. LAUGHING at the dialogue with you & deathgripped hands. ha!

    BTW, can I use this? “Does this guy on my back make me look fat?” <–snerk!

    Like

  41. Eric Murtaugh

    Rule 12, Section 2, Jumpmaster’s Guidebook: “If a diver will not release his/her hold from the strut, peel that motherf****r off.”

    Like

    • Pretty close, Eric. The guy told me after that once someone is out, there’s no safe way to get him back in, so he has to get off completely, no matter what it takes.
      Apparently, I was not the first to get that far before freezing!

      Like

  42. I’m glad you finally got to go!!!! Great, isn’t it? Scary as f*&k until you’re off the plane and free-falling! Glad there wasn’t any blood involved (like my last jump,ever, which I told you about.) Very funny, dude, and it mirrored the way I felt, thanks for bringing back the memories!

    Like

  43. Glad you liked, it Zen! To this day, it’s one of my favorite stories.

    Like

  44. El Guapo at terminal velocity. Which is what?…like 120 mph faster than I’m comfortable with. Very cool.

    Like

  45. I used to wished for going sky dive once in my life time. I wanted to know what it feels like in the middle of the air and watching myself going down on earth. But now… I’m scared… πŸ˜€

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    • Oh no, you should still definitely go, ristinw! Do a tandem, and you can even keep your eyes closed at those two terrifying moments of jumping and landing.

      Like

  46. Pingback: An Adventure – Learning to Skydive Part 2 | Guapola

  47. Pure awesomeness!! Skydiving is on my bucket list πŸ˜‰ Moving on to part two …

    Like

  48. Pingback: …things I LOVED! Week April 16th through April 22nd « …things I LOVE!

  49. They peeled your fingers off? Good gawd! I’m surprised they didn’t just push you out of the plane! Meanwhile, your plane sounds just as “safe” as the rickety little thing we jumped out of…

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    • I think they use the junk planes to encourage you to not back out, L&L.
      Although The Ranch in Ellenville NY had a decent plane. (that was a tandem jump for me)

      Like

  50. Oh gosh!! You brought my first jumping memory to me – I actually felt the gut panic as you’re describing getting out of the plane!! (luckily I was tandem, so when I would have freaked out my instructor threw us out of the plane – no choices by me! haha)

    Like

  51. Ack! Now I’m absolutely sure that I will never ever ever jump out of a perfectly good airplane……..lol

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  52. I felt scared just reading your experience! You have way more guts than I!

    Like

  53. Pingback: Feature Friday: Guapola | Stuphblog

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