As a kid, I was overly cautious about everything. I feared even the thought of summer camp—the highlight of many friends’ summer. I could hardly even spend the night in a tent in my own backyard. I hated swimming in lakes, dreaded the idea of camping, and swore I’d never go snorkeling. Thankfully I have outgrown (most) of my irrational fears and will dare to say that I have even become somewhat adventurous.
Even so, skydiving was always out of the question. In fact, the only thought I had ever given skydiving was that I would never do it. Then my boyfriend Teddy “surprised” me with two vouchers to Skydive Midwest in Sturtevant, Wisc. I winced at the thought, knowing that he’d end up convincing me. After chatting with a 70-year-old woman who skydived with her 91-year-old father, I thought, If she can do it, I can do it. And skydive I did.
When I walked in to Skydive Midwest on a sunny and beautiful Saturday morning, about two dozen people sat eagerly waiting their turn to fall from the sky. Their presence was reassuring to me. People do this all the time, I thought. Not to mention the staff that do it over 20 times a day. We checked in, sat through a brief orientation, and waited. About an hour or two into our wait, they postponed all jumps, as wind conditions became too strong. Not wanting to waste our day in the hanger, Teddy and I rescheduled for 7 a.m. Sunday morning. And secretly, I was relieved.
Sunday morning rolled around, and by 7:15 our tandem jumpers—the skydive pros attached to us beginners while we jumped—were strapping us into harnesses. I was calm throughout the process, until we boarded the plane and I was more nervous to take off in such a tiny plane than I was to actually jump out of it! Sensing my nerves, Steve—my tandem—asked me questions about myself to distract me. We reached altitude and there was no going back. I was jumping out of an airplane at 13,000 feet and had accepted my fate, whatever the outcome. (In retrospect, this reaction was a bit dramatic.)
There were about four pairs and a few single jumpers, and so the jumping began. Sitting in the back, I was the last one to jump. Teddy jumped right before me, and he was the first I saw actually drop. He fell at 120 miles per hour, which looked beyond terrifying. My feet reached the edge of the plane. The air was cold, about 20 degrees cooler than the ground temperature. I folded my hands over my heart, and Steve pushed us out.
I closed my eyes, then opened them. I expected to feel a sensation in my stomach like being on a roller coaster, as if my stomach was dropping out of my body. I expected that I wouldn’t be able to breathe during our one-minute free fall. But I didn’t experience either sensation. The free fall was so surreal, indescribable, as if I wasn’t really falling from the sky. I was breathing regular, deep breaths, and screaming—not out of fear, but excitement.
After falling for a short time I thought, Well, the parachute should deploy any second now, and it did, the resistance pulling me upward slightly. We were soaring and spinning. It was amazing to me the control that Steve had over the parachute, guiding us to our landing spot outside the hanger. After about five minutes of floating downward, I picked up my legs and we landed. Incredible.
As a onetime scaredy cat and still slightly cautious young woman, I would recommend this extreme sport to anyone and everyone. Skydiving is an exhilarating experience of a lifetime, and the adrenaline leaves you feeling entirely rejuvenated. After our big morning, Teddy and I joked, “Forget the coffee! We just need a daily dose of skydiving!”
For skydiving options closer to home, try:
Westside Skydivers – Winsted, Minn.
Skydive Minnesota – Milaca, Minn.
Southern Minnesota Skydiving – Waseca, Minn.
Skydive Superior – Superior, Wisc.
Skydive Twin Cities – Baldwin, Wisc.
Skydive Forest Lake – Forest Lake, Minn.
Cost: Typically $150-$220 per tandem jump.