I have dabbled in many different hobbies and activities over my years… some more successful than others. Some I stuck with and others I lost interest in and moved on from. I can’t say I was a superstar at any of them, but for the most part I was decently competent or average at most. Skydiving would change that. For some reason it just wouldn’t come easy and saying I was far from a natural would be an understatement. Pretty much I sucked.
In the fall of 2020 I got a chance to do a tandem jump to cross one of the items of my “Bucket List”. I had no intention of doing any more than that one jump, but as I’ve learned from speaking to other skydivers, that is the common gateway drug. I began my AFF shortly thereafter, but combined with starting late in the year, poor weather more often than not, and having difficulties in passing my “C” jump after multiple attempts, it was a frustrating start. I hit the tunnel quite a bit that winter, and although I was again far from a natural at that, I definitely picked up some great skills and fixed some of my issues. The plan was to hit it hard when spring came and hammer out my A License. Well hit it hard I did. On my first jump I came in a bit hot and the combination of some mud and not PLF’ing resulted in my left foot pointing nearly 180 degrees in the wrong direction.
Once I decide I am going to succeed at something I usually do… and I don’t quit out of a mix of stubbornness and pride. But I couldn’t help but think that maybe skydiving just wasn’t the thing for me and gravity just wasn’t my friend.
After spending 10-weeks on crutches, 4-weeks in a boot, and having a titanium plate and 11 screws become part of me, I was almost back to normal. Despite that less than ideal start to the season and sporting a cast all summer, I couldn’t wait until I was healed back up to go give it another shot. There was a bit of the stubbornness and pride at play and not wanting to surrender or quit, but I just really wanted to skydive badly. At that point I had only had seven jumps, but I felt my life would be incomplete if my skydiving story ended there. My co-workers, friends, and family who watched me hobble around for those summer months thought I was crazy for wanting to do it again. But they knew what I was about. In 2009 I sustained an on-the-job injury that caused one of the major arteries that supplies blood to the brain to be torn. This led to me having a stroke and needing to relearn to walk and talk. In less than six months, and thanks to a good dose of my stubbornness and pride, I was almost back to “normal”. Interestingly this injury was also fall related.. so perhaps gravity was trying to tell me something even then.
Although I wasn’t able heal up from the broken ankle in enough time to have a return to the 2021 skydiving d to take me under his wing while I was down there. He came strongly recommended by several people I spoke to… and the glowing recommendations were well deserved as I discovered.
Despite a couple days of high winds, Noah was able to get me 13 jumps over 3-days. This brought my grand total of jumps to 20… close enough to hopefully reach the magical 25 jumps for my A license when things opened up for the season at SNE. Notably, my jump #13 will forever be memorable as my first reserve ride and earning me the nickname of “BagLock”. Jump #14 introduced me to my first case of line twists.. although admittedly minor after the adrenaline rush of a high speed malfunction.
So between a struggle with stability in freefall, a severely broken ankle, and the need to go to emergency procedures all within my first 20 jumps, I think I have a least a good start in lessons in things to do and not-to-do when skydiving. The two biggest would be to PLF and practice your emergency procedures!
I want to thank Noah for the awesome instruction which I can say not only allowed me to have one of the best times of my life while I was down in ZHills, but histraining on emergency procedures helped save my life. I also have to include the instructors at SNE for this as the hammering of emergency procedures into my head started there. When it came time to actually use them, I was surprisingly calm and robotic, falling back on my training. And of course, my many thanks (and a bottle) went to Pete at ZHills for his expert reserve pack job which my life depended on.
Hopefully I have got a lot of the bad ju-ju out of the way in my brief but spicy and eventful entry into the world of skydiving. I have met a lot of great people thus far that I am looking forward to jumping with and learning from as I continue in the sport.