Story by by Ronnie Juhans
With all of the bucket list things to do in our lives skydiving is rated amongst the top 10. Many reasons include the adrenaline rush, adventure, a dare, bragging rights or to be like the Jones.’ However, when reality sets in many people opt out for something they consider less insane and safer to do.
This is one of my favorite outdoor adventures that will not only accomplish the above reasons to jump from a small plane, but can also be very addictive.
My first jump was over Interlaken, Switzerland, several years ago while on a pick-your-adventure weekend camping trip. Our small group sat around the fire until the wee hours of the morning discussing other options such as white water rafting, canyoning and a few more. The consensus was to go big and not go home without checking skydiving off the list with the added bonus of flying over the Swiss Alps.
After signing up at the campground adventure center there were a couple of folks suffering from buyer’s remorse but the group as a whole kept everyone’s spirits uplifted until it was time to board the van and head for the airfield. Once we arrived we were met by the tandem instructors who kept us motivated by talking about the safety of the sport, safety and equipment instructions, what to expect and what it really feels like to skydive.
After we boarded the plane and settled in there was feeling of uneasiness with everyone that quickly switched to excitement as we looked out the windows and took in the scenery of snow-capped alpine peaks in every direction as well as lakes, rivers, farmland and villages below.
Once the plane leveled off and our instructors started double-checking equipment and moving the first jumper to the door, the mood again became a bit somber knowing that you would be next. “Time to fly, ready mate,” was the last thing you heard at the door before spilling out of the plane with your instructor and freefalling at over 100mph.
Hearing the ‘yeehaw’ in the distance cranked everyone up in the group to jump next and fly like an eagle at 14,000 feet. Contrary to what you would anticipate, the free fall was not a sick feeling of falling uncontrollably but was a very exhilarating feeling like floating on water with your hand stretched out in front of you which is beyond fun and feels very safe. The view was crazy amazing and the instructors took us on a couple of spins allowing an amazing real-life 360-degree view of the Swiss Alps that you can only get while skydiving.
Just before the end of the free fall your instructor taps your outstretched hands and lets you know that the chute is going to be deployed. Once the chute is deployed you have an even better view of the Alps and surroundings because you are descending at a slower speed while gliding back to the landing zone.
Another great experience was my tandem instructor allowing me to take the toggles and get the feeling of steering the chute before taking over again and guiding us onto the landing zone. The landing was excellent and required us to trot a few meters before the chute dropped behind us and we came to a stop.
Once we were all back on the ground and gathered as a group with our instructors for a quick reflection of the experience, we turned in our gear and headed back to the campground for a bucket list party and barbeque that lasted so long that we had to forgo anything other the next day besides making a very unhealthy breakfast, sleeping in hammocks till the later afternoon and another barbeque while showing our pics and videos of this epic outdoor adventure. Do not put this one off, get out there and do it.
What to consider
Going as a small group:
In my experience going with a small group that you get to know instead of booking for yourself increases your level of confidence and decreases your fear and apprehensions. This is a great team-building bucket list adventure that will not only allow you to be motivated by others but will also give you peace of mind. Skydiving with a group that you know or get to know during an adventure trip will decrease your doubts and fears.
Anticipating that sick stomach- drop feeling is one of the major fears of this sport. The reality is that you are in an airplane flying at approximately 100mph so that when you jump, there is a quick transition from flying to dropping at 120mph which alleviates that sickening feeling because you are riding on air molecules which feels like floating in water or flying.
Of course, the question of how safe skydiving is in comparison to other outdoor activities, will cross your mind. Do your research ahead of time, and you will find that skydiving can be safer than everyday activities such as driving a car, riding a motorcycle, or even crossing a busy street while walking to work during rush hour. There is always an element of risk when it comes to high-adventure activities. However, it is vital to check an organization’s safety records, certifications, training programs, as well as reviews from former participants.
Health, level of fitness and age:
As with any outdoor activity these are issues that haunt so many adventurous people and stop them in their tracks without knowing what they are actually capable of doing. When in doubt consult with your doctor in order to get a green light to take that jump. These days skydivers upwards of 90 years jump out of airplanes around the world while laughing at Millennials who are hyperventilating before their jump and stressing out all the way to the drop zone. Body weight can also be an issue. Make sure that you discuss this with the skydiving company prior to booking. Most issues can be addressed and corrected based on conditions and available equipment.
Skydiving like many other adventures is seasonal because of weather conditions. End of March through October is prime season.
What to bring:
Food, water and snacks or you can eat at the bistro.
All equipment will be provided on-site.
Test yourself first:
Indoor skydiving in a wind tunnel is an excellent way to try out how skydiving feels beforehand and get yourself ready for this sport. The wind tunnel airflow simulates the realistic freefall portion of a skydive as well as allowing you to do turns, go forward, backward, slow down and speed up your fall rate all of which build your precision levels and confidence. The indoor flights are actually longer than outdoor flights. Not only was it fun and gave me that adrenalin junky fix, it is also very safe and can be done with a group of friends or the whole family at one time.
Featured image by Sky Antonio