The day of my 18th birthday, we had fun and a friend of ours drove my friend and I to London, ON. The next day (Saturday) we were going to drive 30 minutes over to Grand Bend to go skydiving.
We get going, somewhat on time, after a little bit of a round about we find the “airport” and the skydiving “school”. It’s a nondescript building, no one is around. There are some camper trailers out in the field, couple of tents. We sit at a picnic table on a concrete pad outside, noticing all the bottle caps, roaches and cigarette butts littered about. Eventually some people start to rustle about and the people that run the school come and open up.
The groups in the campers and tents, are just skydivers that come in on the weekends, hangout, party and jump from planes all weekend. And when they are done jumping for the day, they relax, before crashing for the night to get up and do it all again.
The school was quite thorough with the details, emphasizing the safety and making sure we knew what was going to happen, what to do, what to do “what if” and making sure we were clear of the risks. Training was from what I can remember was about 6 hours, then it was time to suit up.
Finding a pair of overalls of the row of hooks on the wall, is tricky for a man of my size. Let’s say room in the crotch is luxury that I didn’t have. The harness for the chutes are like a climbing harness, the straps go around the top of each of your legs and attach to the pack on your back. You pull the strap ends up from your groin to tighten them, the instructor said to pull them tight, that’s where you want them.
We waited for everyone to get ready, and then you wait for the plane. Then you wait some more.
I loosened my straps a bit, i didn’t have any room down there between the straps and the overalls. I need some room.
We loaded into the plane. I being the biggest, was the last to get in. While everyone was sitting on the floor of an old small cessna, facing the front of the plane, I was sitting on the floor beside the pilot facing the back. There was I, the two I came with, two others, the instructor and the pilot. Things were removed from the plane that were not needed, like seats and I’m sure some other luxuries, it just makes it easier to shuffle in and out of the plane with your chute on.
The duct tape on the inside of the plane, makes you think WTF is this plane being held together with DUCT TAPE! I’m flying in a plane held together with duct tape! I’m going to jump out of a plane held
together with duct tape! The case really was, or at least I’m re-encouraging myself that the tape was just there to cover a sharp edge or a catch point that could pull your rip cord or cut something on your pack.
Slowly the planes climbs to 6000′ feet. We’re just doing a simple first jump, nothing fancy, nothing expensive. Cheap and out there. It’s also a style called Instructor Aided Deployment (IAD), the method is a way to move to getting towards being a licensed skydiver quickly. How skydiving works, you jump out of the plane, you throw whats called a belly chute, it’s about 3 feet round, trails behind you and pulls out your main chute. In the IAD when you go out of the plane, the instructor has your belly chute in his hand and he throws it away as you fall, opening up your main chute. You get 3-5 seconds of freefall and a nice 5-10 minute parachute ride.
I’m first up, I’m the biggest, I’m blocking the door, if I don’t jump, no one jumps. They couldn’t get by me. The instructor tells me to open the door, I push the handle, push the door a little and hang on as it is pulled up to wing above. The best way to describe this, go sit on your kitchen counter or table and lean out, now in stead of you being 3 feet from your floor, you are 6000 feet from the ground. It’s scary, exhilarating, exciting and fantastic!
All the time listening and keeping my eyes on the instructor, I climb out on to the step and hang on to the strut that supports the wing. Watching the instructor for my sign to let go and fall way from the plane.
He turns to me, gets right in my face, flips me the bird and yells “It’s time for you to get the fuck off my plane!” I guess that was my sign, I let go and don’t remember much else.
I land on the ground, heart beating, so excited. I realize why my leg straps should have been tight, because my nuts had shifted to a spot under the strap and for the 10 minutes coming down, let’s just say they weren’t situated the best and I couldn’t get myself sorted.
It was awesome. The instructor planned to send me off like that, I didn’t miss any queue or freeze up. The others all had great first times as well. My friend and I ended up going about 9-10 times, then we went of to University and just drifted away from it. I eventually found my way back into the air, now paragliding, it’s like old man skydiving, but I’ll save that story for another day.