Skydiving is a bit of an adrenaline rush. Your heart might feel, um, jumpy, after parachuting out of a plane at 13,500 feet, followed by a 60-second freefall at 120-plus miles per hour.
These variables, understandably, are not in everyone’s wheelhouse. There is risk involved, including death. Bill Booth, who invented the concept of tandem jumping, tells you as much – several times – during the pre-jump video. But a quick disclaimer to calm the nerves: The U.S. Parachute Association says there is a 0.0007% chance of fatality when skydiving, making it statistically less risky than driving a car.
So, off I went, trying to break out of the COVID-19 slumber while commemorating a milestone birthday.
At 65, I jumped out of a plane to celebrate life. Mine.
I hit the sweet spot: I’m eligible for Medicare, the COVID vaccine, and skydiving. Trifecta!
Frankly, I needed an emotional uptick. It’s been a bumpy ride lately for me, with the stress of COVID piling on to other personal dynamics. Skydiving took me out of my comfort zone, but in a good way.
My brain kept saying, “You can do this,” even as other filters kicked in and screamed, “Why are you doing this?”
Fortunately, I had somebody hold my hand. Art Shaffer runs Skydive Palatka. Not only is he a good friend, but he’s also a veteran of more than 14,000 jumps – with many coming after he acquired Skydive Palatka in 2005.
Count me as No. 14,001 and someone who has no regrets. I am used to taking the plunge going the other way. I’ve been a scuba diver for decades and have gone as deep as 120 feet to marvel at the beauty of our oceans.
Slow and steady is the operative way to move when you dive. Crazy fast is the operative way to move while skydiving.
They call it “terminal velocity,” the constant speed that a freely falling object eventually reaches when the resistance of the medium through which it is falling prevents further acceleration.
Explanation: Although I was falling at 120 mph, it felt considerably less because the plane was going at 100 mph, so the freefall wasn’t so jarring. The first minute was still a thrill ride, with the feel of being in a giant wind tunnel.
But since this was a tandem jump, all I had to do was smile pretty for another parachutist taking video and stills while Art took control of deploying the chutes.
The whole experience took only a few minutes, most of which were spent gazing down at the expansive terrain along Palatka.
After Art glided us down to safe landing, and we were untethered, I took a few moments to reflect. And here’s what I took away from the experience: Embrace new opportunities. Find the courage to take steps that take you out of your comfort zone.
Skydiving may not be your ticket to self-fulfilling contentment. But there are so many other paths you can chose to travel.
As for me, skydiving was the perfect adrenaline-rush elevator. It pushed all the right buttons.
Now onto differentiating between the benefits of Medicare Part A and Part B.