Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Skydiving the Ranch or: Holy Crap, I Jumped Out of a Plane

I try to keep this blog focused on specific things (namely movies, the theater, and cake), and not let it delve into a personal blog, because I know nobody really cares about my personal life. Occasional exceptions are made, usually to promote a friend or colleague’s project or to let you know that the movie trailer site I work for now has apps available for your mobile devices. But I’m making a big exception today, because I went skydiving for the first time over the weekend, and attention must be paid.

I’m not sure at what point in life a “Things I Want to Do” list becomes a “Bucket” list, but whichever term you prefer, skydiving was on mine. After a few years of hemming and hawing over it, I finally decided it was time to go for it, and settled on going for it at Skydive the Ranch in Gardiner, NY (a small town in the Hudson Valley, not too far from where I grew up). I somehow even managed to talk my best friend into going with me, which clearly indicates that I need to make smarter friends.

As the day for our jump drew closer, I started to feel a weird blend of nervousness and excitement, coupled with a serious questioning of my sanity. Then two days before our jump date, the weather forecast was looking for thunderstorms that day, and I began to panic that if we had to reschedule I may lose the nerve I had spent the past three weeks building up. The morning of jump day was cloudy with sun, and no rain clouds in sight, so we decided to risk it and headed up north, hoping the 90 mile drive from NYC to Gardiner wouldn’t result in the heavens opening on us the instant we got out of our cars.

And for quite possibly the first time ever, Mother Nature was on my side, as the cloudy skies cleared up while we drove and by the time we reached the Ranch, it was a warm, sunny, and slightly humid day. We had watched the required safety videos at home and filled out all the necessary paperwork, which in the end was probably the scariest part of the whole experience, since you are essentially acknowledging that you could possibly die at any point during your jump, and if you do, it’s your own damn fault. Terrific!

After turning in our paperwork and paying the fees, everything went by in a blur. We were told our plane was taking off in 15 minutes and introduced to our instructors, two guys who liked to joke that this was their first day on the job and that not opening the parachute was a great way to get out of paying off debts (we were tandem jumping, so these were the guys who would be strapped to our backs for the duration of our “flight”). We were given jumpsuits to wear over our clothes, which came in either blue or a putrid neon yellow, and for some reason, we both got yellow. Then, after a quick walkthrough of how the jump would go (feet together, arched back, head up), we were boarding the plane with roughly six other jumpers, their instructors, and our videographers (because if you’re going to skydive, you need proof that you did it).

At 13,000 feet it was go time. One by one, the tandem pairs leaped from the plane and I began to question some of my life decisions. My friend jumped before me and then my instructor and I were standing in the open doorway, staring out at nothing but blue sky and clouds. On the count of three, he launched us out the door, and my first thought was, “Jesus Christ, it’s cold up here!” My second thought was, “Aughohmigodwheeaughwoohoo!” We proceeded to freefall until we hit 6,000 feet, which probably only took about a minute, but felt much longer. Then he signaled me to pull the cord, the parachute opened (thankfully), and with a sudden jolt we were gently floating back down to earth. My instructor pointed out various local landmarks that we were flying over, but I was too high over the whole experience to really pay attention. After a few minutes of floating down (and some nauseating spins in the air) we came in for a gentle landing right in the field we were supposed to land in (how one manages to steer a parachute to the proper location, I have no idea).

Though we were told to plan on being at the Ranch for 3-4 hours, we were only there for about 40 minutes from start to finish (I guess they factor in things like weather delays and overcrowded planes when taking reservations). The main question everyone seemed to ask afterward was, “Would you do it again?” And yes, I probably would, just not for a while. It’s kind of an expensive hobby to have, and I’m not sure my mind/body could take that kind of turmoil and exhilaration too often. And if I ever do it again, I’ll find someone else to be my “in case of emergency” contact, since I think I aged my mother an additional 10 years when I told her about my big Memorial Day Weekend plans.

You can see my complete photo collection at my flickr page, and I’m hoping to get my video posted online soon.

Skydiving 006





  1. That picture of you midair might be the best advertisement for skydiving I've ever seen: "You will have THIS much fun on this ride."

  2. Haha. That's probably the most animated most people have (or will) ever see me be.

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