By Jim Cathcart (See also the full action video link at the end of this post)
It seems that the “rites of passage” experiences have all found their way to my path.
Though I never had the “Middle-Age Crazy” phase I have nonetheless done all the ethical things that go along with that process. My regular readers already know that I’m into motorcycles, cars, rock and roll, and mountain hiking. Well, on a recent birthday I added sky diving to the list.
What a day! After a brisk mountain hike with my usual crew (36:03 to the top), I joined my friends Neil & Louise Paton in their private plane, a beautiful Cirrus, and flew to Lompoc, CA for the sky diving.
The sky remained overcast for almost two hours (we flew in on instruments) but finally cleared enough for the jump. Louise got the tandem jump as a birthday present from Neil and they invited me to go along. So I called in and quickly reserved my own tandem jump with SkydiveSantaBarbara.com. In a tandem jump you just follow the instructions of your jump master (the guy directly behind you.) He pulls the rip cord and makes all the life or death decisions. (And believe me, you are aware that they are life or death decisions!)
We flew for about 25 minutes before the jump. Our jump started at 13,000 feet (the towns were microscopic from up there.) And we opened the chute at 5,500 feet. I jumped first and Louise and her partner soon followed.
My jump master was Victor and I was strapped and hooked to his chest. He wore the chute and reserve chute and he would be pulling the rip cord. My job was to keep my back arched against him and legs together and feet back…and pray. All of which I did with fervor. When they opened the side door on our little plane he said, “put your legs out the door and keep your feet back”. The next thing I knew we were airborne! There was no decision point with the fateful query, “Are you ready?” We just jumped. And boy did we jump!
I kept my eyes closed as we exited but then forced them open once we were somewhat leveled off. The 120 miles per hour descent is truly forceful but there’s no ordinary sense of falling. However, check out the cheeks (and the hair) in this photo! We flew for about a full minute and then opened the chute. As it jerked us to a slower descent I could see our cameraman below us, on his back falling toward the Earth still filming us! Then he opened his smaller chute and quickly landed and resumed filming us from the ground. I saw my friend Neil on the ground about 4,000 feet below us and shouted hello to him. He later said he heard me clearly.
Then my temporary best friend Victor guided us to the landing where we came to a cold stop just as smoothly as standing up from a chair.
Wow, no exertion, no impact, just standing up. I was impressed. The thrill was fabulous, the experience memorable for a lifetime, and the lesson?
Heck, I don’t know. It was just a great thrill ride. I’ve wanted to do this all my life and now my bucket list is one item shorter, but then, they do have more jumps available….hmmmm.
I’ll reflect on all of this later and share my thoughts with you. For now, please enjoy the story and photos. I’ll see you soon.
There’s a YouTube video of my Tandem jump from 13,000 feet at Lompoc, CA with Skydivesantabarbara.com. The first minute shows me before the flight and as we ascend. The second minute is me free falling at 120 mph. The third minute is the cameraman opening his chute and landing, then it switches to his footage of me landing. 4:42 total time.
P.S. If you would like to see all 88 of my photos from the jump I’ll be happy to send you a link to my Shutterfly account. Just drop me an email request.