Skydiving for Dummies

As mentioned already on Twitter and Facebook, I jumped out of an airplane yesterday. Yes, intentionally! I’m quite afraid of heights, but that didn’t stop me from jumping (pun unintended) at the opportunity to skydive with the Golden Knights.

It was a terrifying – and awesome – experience. Be sure to check out my other skydiving photos.

Keep in mind, I had difficulties climbing a narrow ladder to a platform to swing on a trapeze at last week’s final Gnomedex party – and, even while doing THAT, I thought about backing out from the skydive. Even this couldn’t prepare me for what was going to happen:

Seriously. A few weeks ago, Cali Lewis reached out to me and asked if I wanted to jump with the Golden Knights – given that this is what they do “for a living.” These are the same people who jump with former presidents and other various dignitaries. So… why were they asking bloggers to do this with them?!

It’s easy: the United States Army (like every other organization on planet Earth) is trying to grok social media and embrace it to build community and foster two-way communication. That’s kinda what I do.

Cali invited me to participate in OpenCamp a few months ago, and I was more than willing to do so. She’s one of the most genuine people working in this industry (which is saying A LOT). Both she and John reassured me that these guys (and gals) knew what they were doing. That’s what gave me enough assurance to agree in the first place.

I’m glad I went through with it.

I was more nervous on those rungs last week than I was 15,000 feet above the ground. Michael Elliott has over 9,000 – OVER 9,000 – jumps under his belt, and that’s the guy I was strapped to:

Every step of the way, he was reassuring me – and long before we left the runway, I yielded control to the Golden Knights and trusted that they would keep me safe from harm. I granted them more confidence than I’ve ever given a single amusement park roller coaster – and that faith paid off.

It was surreal.

Minutes before the jump, I wasn’t thinking about anything in particular. My mind was blank. I didn’t want to second guess my decision to do this; I wanted to live in the moment. Still, I couldn’t focus too much on the moment without risking the possibility of abandonment.

As the straps were tightened, I remember thinking that I was nothing more than a passenger. The Knight knew what he was doing, and I was ready to trust him with my life.

And with that, all nervousness disappeared – believe it or not.

I only needed to follow a small set of directions: (a) resting my head against Mike’s left shoulder during the exit; (b) arching my back and grasping the straps tightly to help Mike gain stability before we let our arms float freely; and (c) lifting and holding my legs during our landing in the LZ (Landing Zone). I didn’t have to do ANYTHING other than enjoy the ride.

I am absolutely not a daredevil, but I’d jump again… with the Golden Knights (and NOBODY else). These men and women are absolute champions, and I hope they opt to allow more civilians to jump with them.

Oh, and I’m happy to report that only a few bugs were sacrificed during this experiment.

So, thanks to Cali and the Golden Knights for enabling me to experience something I never actively sought independently – and for giving me the ride of my life.