Blake jumped out of a plane over Lake Taupo. I drank orange Fanta and ate Tim Tams firmly on the ground. We’re different people, it makes for a healthy marriage. While I had no desire to go skydiving, I did have all the questions. Here are some things I wanted to know about her experience and what she had to say. -MacKenzie
Q: Were you scared?
A: I could tell from the skydivers around me that this wasn’t the case for everyone, but the most scared that I felt was standing at the desk, deciding whether to commit to jumping. Once I said yes and was going through the pre-jump steps (reviewing the safety video—yes, Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin'” was utilized—getting suited up, talking to my instructor, watching people on the previous plane fall from the sky like army man toys), I kept expecting to feel the fear, but it never quite came full-on.
Q: You are a brave human. What’s going through your mind when the plane is ascending to jump height?
A: When there’s so much going on in your gut, there’s not a ton of space for activity in the mind. I was excited, but oddly calm. I felt physically secure even though I was with a dozen people in a space about the size of a tiny galley kitchen with four foot ceilings. I think it helped a whole lot that I didn’t know anyone in my jump group, which forced me to be within myself and be present. The two jumpers that went first and second (I was third and there were three more after me) were a young couple and I could tell that her fear was just feeding his and vice versa.
Q: What does the moment when you fall from the plan feel like?
A: Wildly unnatural and thrilling like nothing else. When you prepare to “jump” (it’s really more of a drop), your instructor scoots you to the edge of the plane with the retractable door already open. For about three seconds, you are 12,000 feet in the air with your legs dangling out into the sky. For the first few moments of freefall, my eyes were closed—I think it was just a weird instinctive reaction. The strangest and most interesting part of the whole experience, for me, was just how quickly I adjusted to plummeting downward through space. My pre-chute freefall was about 45 seconds. When I was on the ground preparing to jump, cerebrally that seemed like a really, really long time. But about 10 seconds in, once I took my first breath, I felt oddly adjusted to the situation. (DEEP THOUGHT WARNING!) So adaptable, we humans are, even in the most extreme of circumstances.
Q: So for a 12,000 foot jump, your freefall was 45 seconds, but how long did it feel like?
A: Less. A lot less. Not enough. 15,000 feet is also an option and the guy up-selling everyone on a higher jump and GoPros and photos said that people who do 12,000 almost always wish they had done 15,000 and, in my case at least, he was right. Jumpers who go up to 15,000 feet have to wear oxygen in the plane, and the idea of that freaked me out a bit. But I would have loved another twenty seconds in freefall.
Q: Do you feel a weird intimacy with your partner/instructor?
A: In so far as “If Shane fucks this up, I could die,” sure, yeah. You know they’re trained, you know they’re pros, but you really are putting your life in someone else’s hands, and that’s an intense thing. Homey was so relaxed though. On the way up, I asked him how skydiving changes as you do it more and more. “You still get a little rush each time, but you sort of just get used to it, dontcha?” A little rush. Psh.
Q: Was safety a concern?
A: Not really. If you’re leaving the house, ever, safety is a concern. Of course, you can opt not to jump from a plane, but what the hell. To me, it’s a scarier prospect to never do things that shove you clear out of your comfort zone. You cross the street, you hope to not get hit by a bus. You swim in the ocean, you hope to not get eaten by a shark. You travel by train and you hope that it stays on the rails. Also, one of Skydive Taupo’s planes went down like two weeks before I jumped*, so the odds of another one going down had to be miniscule, right? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (*Everyone on board got out with their parachutes and the pilot aimed the plane at the giant lake. The wreckage was recovered and no one was hurt. Good job, team.)
Q: Would you do it again?
A: No question. I don’t feel at all like “Bucket list, check!” I want to go higher.