For about three years now, I have had the dream of going skydiving to conquer my fear of heights.
I have been afraid of heights for as long as I remember and I don’t really know how it came to be. I’m afraid of heights because the feeling when I get up somewhere high makes me start to feel physically sick and I have a fear of falling from said height.
I have wanted to go skydiving for about three years prior to this year, so, I put skydiving at the top of my bucket list.
This year, on August 14, I got the chance to go skydiving for the first time.
Because of the risks associated with skydiving, you must be 18 years or older to sign your own waiver or you must get a parent to sign.
The waiver is straightforward, but gets real when you have to acknowledge that you understand that you might die during your jump if there happens to be a parachute failure.
You also have to dress in clothing suitable for the temperature at 13,500 feet because due to Covid, GO Skydive doesn’t allow the clients to wear jumpsuits. We were told it was between 0 – -5°.
We went in to the reception area to pay for our jump and then made our way to the harness area where we got put into our harnesses. From this point, I was starting to feel the nerves growing as it was starting to settle in that I would be jumping out of an airplane in less than an hour and in the back of my mind, I was dreading a parachute failure happening.
Following that, the tandem instructors that were assigned to us came over and gave us a little debrief of what we should expect during our jump.
At around 9:30 am, we got onto the trailer that would take us to the plane.
When I saw how small the plane was, a plane that only seats 16 people, nerves started setting in, and by the time the plane lifted off from the ground, I was starting to feel nauseous due to knowing I’d be leaving the plane from the air. My palms were also starting to sweat, I was a little short of breath due to how nervous I was, and I was starting to have thoughts of backing out of the jump.
In total, a jump takes about half an hour. Allowing 15-20 minutes for the plane to reach 13,500 feet, one minute of freefall and five to six minutes floating under the parachute.
My tandem instructor, Hari Ganapathy, also took the time to make me feel safe on the plane ride up to altitude. Every few minutes, he would show me the altimeter around his wrist and tell me what was going to happen at each altitude.
A huge part of me was feeling very secure in the harness and connected to Hari as I didn’t feel like falling out of the harness in the sky.
Although I was terrified on the plane ride up, Ganapathy’s experience was also a huge factor in making me feel safe. He has jumped over 3000 times and has been skydiving for about 18 years so I felt very safe with him.
When Hari and I got to the door of the plane ready to jump out, standing at the very edge of the door made my nerves heightened. We stood at the edge of the door for about 10 seconds until Ganapathy rolled us out of the plane.
Those 10 seconds felt like forever though as I was staring at the ground from 13,500 feet in the air.
Once we were in freefall, my nerves and fear of heights disappeared.
My mind was just so focused on being in the air and falling toward the ground that I wasn’t scared of heights at that point. I was able to see the ground below us, and to me, it didn’t look like we were so high up. The ground also looked very flat and massive as I could see a vast area. I also didn’t feel the cold of the air as much as I thought I would. The wind was what I felt the most and I had a little trouble breathing in during the whole freefall as my senses were so overwhelmed with what I was doing.
A few seconds after we jumped from the plane, Ganapathy pulled open a drogue, which is a small white parachute used for a tandem. Since heavier objects fall to the earth faster, tandem skydivers fall faster than solo skydivers. So, the drogue slows down the tandem pair enough so that they’re falling at 120mph.
From the time we left the plane at 13,500 feet to the time the parachute got deployed at 5000 feet, it took about a minute of freefall. At the time, the freefall feels like such a long time and in the back of your head you’re sort of hoping the parachute will work, but by the time I got down to the ground, I was like, “that jump was so quick! I want to experience that again!”
Once the parachute was opened, it took about five to six minutes to get back to the ground, and to make it more fun, Ganapathy allowed me to try turning the parachute.
Once I got to the ground, my body was under a high from the adrenaline. I was so excited from my jump and my eyes were so wide and I couldn’t believe that I had just gone skydiving and jumped out of an airplane.
A few weeks later, I booked a second tandem skydive for myself and went skydiving again on September 25 and after my second jump, I have seriously been considering going through the Progressive Free Fall course which is how you become a solo skydiver.
Skydiving is a seasonal activity that is usually available between May and October, and the Ottawa area has two businesses that offer you a chance to feel an adrenaline rush of your own.