Skydiving my new passion
Some people will tell you that parachuting is an extreme sport, a dangerous practice; the truth is, that after having done it myself all I can say it is that skydiving is the most fantastic experience one can have and despite the perception of danger, fatalities are rare in this sport, certainly worth the unbeatable feeling of freedom and the adrenalin rush that cannot compare to anything in the world. Once you have experienced the excitement of jumping out of an aeroplane at 4,000 meters (around 13,000 feet) altitude, and free-fall for almost a minute before activating a parachute, once you have glided the sky and admired the world under you from an entirely different perspective you will only want to repeat the experience again and again and again!
I can honestly say that after a year of admiring skydivers from the safety of my lounge chair and after my first jump, I am hooked to it. I can only dream about going back and jump again.
Different ways to learn Skydiving
The easiest way to get initiated is through a tandem jump. This means that you do your skydiving jump attached to an experienced monitor who is in charge of operating the parachute and assuring you a safe and smooth landing. During the tandem jump the jumpmaster is responsible for a stable exit from the plane, maintaining a proper stable freefall position, and activating and controlling the parachute. This is the best and safest way for novices to experience the thrill of the sport without having to worry.
The staff at Royan's skydiving school
My Experience Skydiving
Last year while visiting the resort town of Royan on the French Atlantic coast I made several friends from Royan’s school of parachuting. They invited me to see them skydiving and it was great to see them performing all sorts of acrobatics in the air. Since then I have been back several times just for the pleasure of seeing my friends jumping and enjoying the parties afterwards. I loved the environment; it is like a big family where everybody knows each other. They all get dressed and undressed in the same open hangar which also serves as a living room, parachute folding area, bicycle garage and nursery for their children. My children too loved the place, running around the aeroplanes, seeing the skydivers land with their colourful parachutes, playing around while waiting for their parents to jump, barbeques at the fall of dawn and much more. Skydivers come here from all over France and Europe, some to experience the thrill of their first jump while others come to improve their skills.
That is how for more than a year I faced the temptation to skydive. I had attempted to do it a couple of times before but I always got “cold feet” at the last minute. But finally my time came and I did it. Much to my surprise all my fears had disappeared and I was very reassured about the jump as my Tandem “jumpmaster” Francis Joinville, is the best at the sport. With more than 22000 jumps under his belt, an experienced Army man, and the experience of having captained the French Skydiving team for several years I gathered that I had nothing to fear with him.
Once I had decided to do my first tandem Jump everything went fast and smooth. I was briefed 30 minutes before the jump and felt ready for it.
Briefing is done a few minutes before the jump. One of the monitors explains to you the basics which more or less are:
1) The planes are very small so once you go in, you sit straddled on a bench with your back touching the chest of the person behind you.
2) You are asked to wear a harness before you go in the plane.
3) Once the plane has reached 4000m, the monitor/jumpmaster attaches himself to you and your harness. Quickly he reminds you the instructions to follow during the jump.
4) Preparing to jump, you sit at the edge of the plane with your legs bent under the plane and your head resting on the monitor’s shoulder. Your hands should be out of the way preferably holding the straps of your harness.
5) Take a deep breath and jump, continue breathing as normally as possible.
6) Once the monitor taps you on the shoulder after a few seconds free fall you must stretch out your arms. Your legs should be between the monitor’s legs and bent pointing upwards. Your position is belly down during the free fall.
7) Once the parachute is open you are allowed to straighten your legs. In my case the monitor put his legs around mine to keep my legs straight pointing down.
8) When the parachute opens you will feel a slight pull and then it stabilizes and you are allowed to hold on to the parachute’s handles to help glide it. You must keep your arms up and relax. Do not pull or you accelerate the fall.
9) For landing you must bend your legs, toes pointing up in front of you so it is the monitor who lands first and then you.
For my first jump everything went as expected. I had to go several times to the toilet before I went on the plane but apart from that I was calm. Once in the plane everything was fantastic. There were two expert skydivers, 2 camera men, and two monitors each with a student.
I was lucky to have known my monitor for more than a year. I had seen him jumping alone and tandem at least 10 times a day and I was reassured to know his credentials are impeccable. I felt very at ease with him not only as monitor but as close friend. The other passengers in the plane were equally relaxed and very jokey. We all enjoyed the flight over the coast. Once we reached the required altitude, the first two skydivers jumped and then it was my turn, just after my camera man. Funnily enough I was so excited that I was not scared. We sat at the edge of the plane I put my head on my monitor’s shoulders, my legs under the plane and we fell out.
The feeling is indescribable; emptiness, freedom, speed, beauty... I thought I would have trouble breathing but much to my surprise I had never breathed so deeply. I was in ecstasy because it was amazing with the world under me so small and the wind in my face. We were falling at around 200km/h and yet I felt secure and cocooned. There was a point when my monitor and the camera man held hands and did a few acrobatics. Just after that my camera man disappeared and my parachute opened, pulling and pressing against my chest. But everything was ok. My monitor was talking to me all the time, reassuring me or playing the tour guide showing me the coast, and the places where we had dined and partied. I was asked to hold my nose with one hand and blow air through my mouth to help decompressing just after the parachute opened. The glide was fantastic and I was not afraid one minute. I could not believe it, me, the one who cannot go in a roller coaster because I cannot breathe; I was parachuting and having the time of my life up there, joking with the monitor, feeling a freedom that I had never before experienced.
The time for landing came up very fast and I was asked to bend and lift my legs in front of me –like sitting on a chair- The landing was very smooth and right on the spot. I couldn’t believe that I had done it and I wanted to do it again and again. Like they say in France, “J’etais accro”.
My Tandem Jump!
My Skydiving experience
Skydiving in Royan, France: Prices
© 2009 Wendy Iturrizaga
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