After a brief, intense scuffle, Bond manages to throw the pilot, with parachute, out of the plane. Looking down at him from the opened portal, Bond is then suddenly pushed out, free falling to a certain death! His only chance, to catch the unsuspected pilot and take his parachute from him. He puts his hands behind his back and a high speed aerial chase begins, the iconic James Bond theme kicks into high gear! This is the pre-title sequence from Moonraker, and one of the most spectacular aerial stunts sequences ever captured in cinema history. When I watched this scene in a movie theater as a little kid back in 1979, I was absolutely enthralled and captivated by these heroic stuntmen doing what looked like an impossible and death defying, aerial acrobatic ballet. Ever since then I wanted to try, at least once, what it was like to freefall in a skydive. Well, after many, many, many years, I finally got my chance this winter, when I visited my family down in Florida. Originally I was supposed to go on a scuba dive to hone my skills as a newly PADI certified Diver but the dive was canceled due to weather. A freak, cold front had moved on to the Florida coast, causing extremely high waves that were too strong to safely take a boat full of hopeful scuba divers out into the open ocean. So I thought to myself, if I can’t go low, I’ll go high and it turned out that one of the highest rated skydive centers was just a mere 20 minutes away at Cape, Canaveral. Yes, that cape Canaveral where the rockets are launched into space. Skydive Space Center locatedin Titusville, FL, and boasts the highest tandem skydive in the country at 18,000 feet; they also have a 15,000 feet and 11,000 foot skydive, each one having a slightly shorter freefall interval. Being Buddhist, I usually go for the middle path, so I chose the 15,000 foot drop. My family was a mixture of shocked, excited, and worried as nobody has ever done skydiving in my family before. Both my parents were certified scuba divers, that was the extent of their extreme sports experience. Having done a few extreme sports before, this was no different. I was just as scared as I was with all the others. I’ve been diagnosed with general anxiety disorder, so I generally worry (freakout) more than most and this experience and this was no different. The night before I had some troubling thoughts, moments of fear and quite a few worries, but I managed to sleep fine, the next morning I was less fearful and so with each step, getting in the car, driving down the road, arriving at the airport, walking into the facility, my fears seem to drift away bit by bit. Upon arrival you first start off by signing a 15 page document, basically saying that whether you’re hurt, maimed or killed, you will not sue the company or any of its members or manufacturers of the products they use. They do a really good job of covering their ass legally, as skydiving is extremely dangerous but you don’t wear a helmet because it’s kind of useless. If the parachute doesn’t open, the helmet is wearing you for protection! However, statistically, it is actually one of the safer extreme sports. Skydiving has a 1 in 100,000 fatality rate, that means you’re more likely to die getting into your car right now than you are skydiving at any given time.
Then they guide you to get your gear on, your harness. You meet your skydive master and he straps you in, makes a few harmless, sarcastic comments about how you can end up at a greasy spot on the ground but all in all, you can tell that these guys are extremely good at what they do and extremely safe and confident in their abilities, so much so that their confidence rubs off on you. The more you engage with them, the more confident you become, the more self-assured and reassured to the point where your fear diminishes with every procedure. Finally they give you a few quick instructions on how to approach the door and how to jump out but mostly how to have fun and enjoy the experience. We then proceed to the plane and I could see all the other people getting on are both scared and excited. Funny enough, for what seems to be such a macho sport, every single other person I was jumping with was a 20 something year-old girl, with one exception. One 20 something year old girl had her mom with her who was my age. I didn’t feel so macho at that moment. As my fear diminished, my excitement grew. The plane takes off to see the ground shrink below and as we get to a certain level the light turns green and I suddenly realize I’ve never been in a plane with the door open before. The first young girl jumps out and that’s the last I saw of her, then another and then another and then another and then another and then it’s my turn. My skydive master straps the harness extremely tight to the point where breathing almost becomes impossible. He pushes me towards the edge of the open door, just like James Bond I’m pushed out into the open air!
Free falling is an exhilarating experience! You have no sensation of falling whatsoever and in fact you feel like you’re flying. Have you ever had a dream where you’re flying? That’s it! That’s the feeling you feel, like you’re flying like Superman. The air rushing in your face, up your nostrils and into your mouth is so strong it makes breathing difficult but you can see everything! It was brilliantly clear that day and I could see the rockets on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, I could see the ocean, I could see everything! The feeling of absolute freedom and joy is intense! I let go of everything, including all my fear and worry because the rush of adrenalin is so fierce! After about a minute and a half of this wonderfully mad bliss, the parachute is pulled and I’m violently yanked up into the air. There’s a mixture of pain, shock, and of course relief that the chute is open and I’m gently floating down to the ground. This is where the actual sightseeing takes place because you have time, you have time to talk, you can hear your skydive master, whereas before the wind was so loud you couldn’t hear anything else but wind. You have time to float around like a hang glider, which I’ve done as well, you have time to take in the sights and after about another few minutes the instructor tells you to lift your knees because we’re coming in for landing and we’re coming in fast! I brought my knees to my chest, stuck my heels out, and before I knew it, my butt was sliding across the ground. I was done, down on the ground with one of the most exciting experiences of my life! I don’t intend to become a master skydiver, nor do I intend to do it again anytime soon, mostly because of financial reasons. I’m in love with scuba diving, so I would rather put those funds and resources towards that. Both endeavours cost about the same and over time it can get pricey. Also, the more you do it that 1 and 100,000 ratio starts to shrink a bit, but not really, not enough to make it any more dangerous than anything else. If you’ve never gone skydiving and you have just the remote infinitesimal desire to want to know what it feels like, then I highly, highly, highly encourage you to try it at least once in your life. Anyone can do it, there are a few restrictions, like extreme health conditions or weight but you don’t have to be very fit and most people don’t exceed the weight limit anyway, so anyone can have this amazing experience. All it takes is the willingness to try. And remember, ‘Always say YES to Adventure!’
Last modified: 3 January 2024