Reflections on Skydiving, Part 1

The most intense and rewarding journey I've taken yet

July 22, 20235 min readThoughts

I have recently decided to take on the task of getting my Skydiving "A" License. This involves, among other requirements, a 3 hour training class followed by 25 jumps out of an aircraft (with a parachute of course)! The United States Parachute Association (USPA) license is recognized internationally, so it makes the process of skydiving around the world smoother and cheaper than going tandem jumping (jumping while strapped in to an instructor).

This has been something I knew I wanted to do ever since I went on my first tandem jump several years ago. I've always been one for seeking thrills and adventure, and in college I decided to sign up for a tandem skydive. I remember sitting in the plane while strapped to the instructor, waiting for the plane to gain altitude before it was our turn to jump. With about 20 minutes of time to sit with my thoughts before jumping out of an airplane, I remember being surprised that I wasn't scared - just excited. My turn came at last, and all I could do was scream with pure joy all the way down. Those 60 seconds of free fall were the most fun I've ever had, and I knew from that moment I needed to go skydiving again.

Fast forward to a few months ago when I signed up for the class you have to take to start the journey of getting the USPA A License. We were taught all about controlling your body while in the air, deploying the parachute, and how to land. Just a few hours later and once again I was in the airplane with two instructors, only this time I wasn't strapped to anyone. The instructors would jump with me, but it was up to me to deploy the parachute at the proper altitude and safely land on the ground.

As you can imagine, this time I was a little more scared than when I went on my tandem jump! This time, it was all up to me to land safely. Of course, the instructors were there to help in case I panicked, but it was still an eerie feeling knowing that I was in charge of pulling my parachute and landing.

At last, I jumped out of the plane with the two instructors and went through the practice sequence they had taught me. I arched my body to become stable in the air, checked my altimeter, and practiced touching my parachute deployment handle three times. During the whole fall, I checked the altimeter and finally pulled the parachute at 5500 feet above the ground.

As soon as I felt the parachute open, I let out a huge "WHOOOOO" just as loud as my triumphant scream from when I did my tandem jump. The view from above the ground was incredible - green trees and lakes as far as I could see with the mountains in the distance. I got to enjoy this beautiful scene while serenely floating in a parachute thousands of feet above the ground while breathing in the cool air. There truly is no other experience quite like it.

So what have I learned from this skydiving experience and the jumps that I've done since? Above all, skydiving was far more intense than I was anticipating. I know, kinda weird to think I'd be surprised by the intensity of jumping out of a moving plane thousands of feet above the ground, right? Well, it turns out there's a lot more to skydiving than just falling and opening the parachute. With the wind moving past your body at 120 mph (193 km/h), even the tiniest movements of your body can send you spinning out of control. It took several jumps for me to get used to arching my body such that I stayed stable, and it's still a skill that I have yet to perfect.

I thought about how surprised I was by the intensity of the sport and realized that this isn't unique to skydiving. Whether it's starting to learn a language or lift weights or cook delicious meals, there are always going to be challenges associated with the skill that you weren't initially anticipating. But it's ok! It's all part of the process and it doesn't mean that you should give up. Believe me, there have been multiple jumps where I had a pit in my stomach on the plane, wondering why I decided to get myself into this. But as soon as I was in the air, feeling the air rush around my body and then subsequently enjoying the view from the parachute descent, I remembered just how indescribably awesome it was.

It's important to not lose sight of what made you start to learn a new skill. What is it about the skill that made you fall in love with it? If it's learning a foreign language, is it the thrill of seeing a native speaker's face light up when you address them in their mother tongue? If it's learning to cook meals, is it the delight of your guests when you serve them a tasty dinner? Think about why you started learning your skill in the first place.

Yes, skydiving or learning any new skill takes patience and a lot of hard work. You're going to wonder why you're pursuing your skill sometimes. But that feeling of floating down from the sky is worth it every single time. Keep on jumping and don't forget to enjoy the view!