Weekend In Santa Barbara Part 4

Now it was my turn to be authorized personnel. They called my name and was introduced to my instructor, Paul, who would be hurling me out of the airplane. Of course he would be attached to me, so it would be a controlled hurl. He asked if I wanted to wear a jump suit. Although it was cool that morning, he had nothing but a long sleeve shirt. If that was good enough for him…

A nice young lady helped me into my harness, which went over the shoulders and down and around each side of the groin area. They did say that when securing on a tandem jump there could be some inadvertent touching that would normally be off limits between strangers. It wasn’t like that at all, and she hooked me up in a professional way. A little loose though. This was going to keep me attached? Well, they knew what they were doing, or at least that’s what it seemed up to that point. The thought left my mind as Paul aimed a Go-Pro at me that he had attached to his wrist. After some light are you ready banter, it was time to board the plane.

There were maybe ten of us going up at that time, most of them experienced divers. It didn’t appear they were going to be attached to anyone. Just me and the couple I had seen earlier. The plane was a single engine propeller style, adorned with the Sky Dive Santa Barbara logo. No seats on the inside though. Just rails on either side that we would straddle. It would make sense in a few minutes. Paul got in before me, because he needed to be behind me. He would strap us in on the way up. It would have been a little awkward to be attached to him at ground level.

The plane taxied down the single runway and lifted off. Not having been on a plane that small, it became an experience unto itself. What wind there was rocked the plane, and apparently air pockets caused it to suddenly dip. This was normal? None of the experienced guys-and gals seemed to notice. We headed straight up, and as we did, the apprehension started to set in. Oh, it was going to happen, but there was still some apprehension. Of course, they told us that we could opt out at any time. They would never force anyone to jump. Everyone on board looked ready to go. Now it was my time to get ready. Paul had me move back into his lap so he could strap us together. Now the loose harness made sense. It was Paul who would tighten it, which he did. We were cinched together like the proverbial two peas in a pod. Almost there.

As we neared the jump altitude, there was an announcement. The couple on board were having a little more than an exciting Saturday. The guy proposed to his girl. Cheers all around. Of course she said yes. And now it was time to celebrate. The plane leveled out and slowed down. It was at 13,000 feet. The door opened and a guy stuck his hand out to apparently test the conditions outside. Good to go. This was it, and now the rails made sense. We would just slide up to the door and tumble out. Apparently when over the jump site time is of the essence, so Paul was aggressively pushing me forward as the divers in front of us exited the plane. He wasn’t pushing in a bad way, just in a do it now kind of way. All I had to do was grab each side of the harness, lean back into him and keep my legs close to me when we exited the plane. The rest was on him. Now it was my turn. Off the rail and a little frog walk to the door. If somebody wanted to back out now, nobody would hear them. Too noisy. There was no backing out for me. Man, we were pretty high up there-Suddenly we were out of the plane. There was no ready-set-go. We did a tumble which immediately disoriented me and started descending at a high rate of speed. Paul would say later that it was maybe 120-130 miles per hour. I felt like I was hyperventilating, but there wasn’t that roller coaster feeling that you would expect. Fast, cold and shocking. Paul said before we jumped to enjoy the view out there, don’t just look straight down. Straight down. Paul was supposed to tap my shoulder and I was supposed to let go of the harness and put my arms out shortly after leaving the plane. Being a little preoccupied he had to kind of pull my hands off the harness. I’m sure that happens to many people. Procedure wasn’t foremost in my mind at that moment. My face was very cold, much colder that the rest of me and-man we were falling fast. Paul had the camera rolling and caught all the action.

The first time that the camera even crossed my mind is when Paul gave the thumb/pinky hang loose hand gesture in front of my face. I gave a thumbs up out of reflex, something for the camera but there wasn’t too much thought behind it. The thought was freefalling at 100+ miles per hour and nothing to hang on to but my wits. Finally Paul waved his hand in front of me, indicating that he was going to pull the chute. That immediately stopped the freefall. It kind of jerked me upwards, but the way I was strapped in, it really wasn’t an unpleasant experience. There was a feeling of relief after the chute opened and we started our comparatively slow descent down. There was relief, but at the same time were still about 8000 feet up in the air. At least there was now the harness to hold on to. It was scary, but so awesome. I was doing it-skydiving. Paul handed me the reins and helped me execute some turns. The turns were a little unnerving, but then the whole experience was, but it did give me a chance to take that look around that Paul had suggested before we went up. It was quite a sight too. You know that view looking out the window of an airplane. Well, that was the view, but there was no plane in sight. Just blue sky, with the ocean on one side and Lompoc on the other.

Paul retook control as we neared the ground. It turned out that we were landing in an old riverbed covered with gravel. It was right next to the airport. Yes, straight up and straight down. It was amazing that Paul touched us down in the riverbed so softly that we could have gone in standing up, but we landed on our butts because I didn’t get my feet down in time. My legs kind of stayed bent and under me the entire time. No reason, they just were. What a ride though. Safely on the ground, the awesomeness of the experience was apparent. Heck yes I’ll do it again. There was some concern about my hearing though. The jump had blocked my ears up and it was hard to hear. Jackie was up later that night and my hearing needed to be there. Paul assured me that it was just a temporary thing. Hope so. We could have walked back to the hangar if we had to, but there was a truck waiting to take us back. It was stuck in the mud outside the riverbed though, and there was the possibility that we might have to walk. I would have helped push the van out if need be, but they finally got it loose and we all piled in, open parachutes and all.

We got back to the hangar after a few minutes and I waited for my video, which I was able to watch on the monitor in the hangar. Hm, captured the moment pretty well. I say pretty well, because you just can’t capture all of that on camera. And that was it. Time to head back to Santa Barbara, get some lunch, a little nap, and head to the show. The hearing thing was bothering me, but the show was several hours away, so it was more of a back of my mind concern at that moment. So far, so good. A spectacular start to the weekend.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>