• H. Crosby

Extreme Adventures - Part II: Skydiving

Updated: May 22

It was a dark and stormy night. Just kidding. It was a beautifully sunny October day in Las Vegas and I got one of the best birthday gifts ever. Although, debatable for many, I stand firm. This was truly one of the best gifts ever. A pamphlet. For skydiving. As in, reservations to dive out of a perfectly good plane 15,000 feet above the ground. My closest friend of over 20 years had been listening in on all my drunken stupors when I raised the Heineken one last time and slurred, “I wanna pacharute (hiccup) parachute someday.” No, seriously, in all my honest sobriety, I have voiced on more than one occasion to many people that I had an interest in skydiving. So, Happy Birthday to me! And thank you, Laurie for bringing me the best adrenaline rush in the world.

We drove to Boulder City Airport. The only skydiving school that drops you at 15,000 feet. Can I take this opportunity to say that I don’t generally get anxious over anything, except spiders? Spiders are the bane of my existence. But I was truly on the verge of a panic attack. I was so damned excited but equally terrified. If my dear friend had not spent the time and money and been willing to jump also, I don’t know if I could have done this. I distinctly remember going into a room and watching a video that provided ‘tips’ to proper technique like, “keep arms folded across your chest” vs “do not hang onto your tandem instructor.” And then the contract needed signed. The eight-page contract. The eight-page contract that loomed in front of me with the word ‘death’ everywhere. Basically, they weren’t responsible for my death. Um, I beg to differ. I kind of felt like if the parachute didn’t open and I fell to my death, it kind of was their fault. Or if the tandem instructor failed to securely fasten me to his harness. I kind of think that’s his fault. Right? Wrong. Alas, there I sat in the cold fiberglass chair and signed my life away with a $.99 Bic pen and pushed the feeling of panic and death so far into my bowels a gallon of Metamucil wasn’t even going to flush it out. Next, we lined up in the hangar and got ‘fitted’ into our jumpsuits. Fitted is hilarious, since I’m 5’ 2” and the jumpsuit would have ‘fit’ Lebron James. Super glad it wasn’t snug. Super glad I wasn’t going for the fashion statement of sleek and chic. I was wearing the dowdy gunny sack well and thought it might save my life. In the event I became disengaged from the instructor or the chute didn’t open, I was fairly confident I could fashion this immensely large poly-knit fabric into some sort of wind break to slow my descent into peril.

Now that we were all fitted, we strolled out onto the tarmac to board the plane. In that very moment, as the sun hit our faces and the wind blew through our hair, cue up the Kenny Loggins song from Top Gun, “…highway to the danger zone.” Imagine our slow-motion, confident stride as if we’d done this a thousand times before. Fast-forward to sitting on the plane, harnessed to the instructor. Sitting there knowing that my destination isn’t Hawaii or Bora Bora. Nope…my destination is planet Earth because I'm willfully going out the door of a plane that is not on fire. Remember the panic I buried back in the video room? It was trying to climb out and I had to ignore it because here’s the thing: When we give into fear, we don’t try new things. And when we don’t try new things, we don’t grow. I don't know if that pertains to death-defying stunts but nonetheless I stifled my panic as we inched towards the open door. I don’t think I was breathing. I was trying not to black out. I was paralyzed by my excitement battling my fear and swoosh we were sucked out. The next thing I remember, the sky was all around me and I remember thinking, “I’m part of the sky.” I knew this to be true because the plane was growing smaller in the distance and I was wrapped in blue. I was in the sky. Holy s**t, I was in the sky! After what seemed like a few seconds the instructor rolled us over so we were belly down and OMG what a view. A view from the heavens. I could see the curvature of the Earth. But the most remarkable thing about this moment, was although I was plummeting at a rate of 120 mph (give or take), it felt as though I was floating. I didn’t have that stomach drop sensation like rides at the amusement parks. The velocity was so intense that the air rushing against my body felt like it was holding me up. I could see Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, golf courses, highways, endless desert, the city skyline. It was the best, most exhilarating moment for I have no idea how long…and then the parachute deployed. That’s a good thing, but boy does it change everything. The floating sensation disappeared. Now I was dangling. Swaying in the wind, in a very soft, lulling descent. Seems like this is the part where we all take a deep breath and wipe our foreheads exhaling ‘whew’ but honestly, for me, dangling that high in the air without anything solid under my feet gives a whole new meaning to scared of heights. I never felt more unsafe. It’s so true. But my friend will tell you it was her favorite part. So, I guess the thrill depends on your personality. As far as the landing is concerned, well…I can’t remember it. I think that was when I cognitively realized I was safe so the physiological panic that I had been suppressing came out in hysterical laughter. I’m pretty sure I was lying on the sand laughing uncontrollably and my friend had to convince them I was ok. I just needed a minute. Truthfully, I needed more than a minute. That adrenaline high stayed with me for more than a week and it instilled a confidence in me to this day I can stare down fear with an attitude of, “Outta my way, bitch, I’ve been skydiving.”

Please share in the comment section if you’ve ever been skydiving and your experience or if you’re interested contact: www.skydivelasvegas.com or call (702) -SKY-DIVE, (800) -U- SKYDIVE. Stay tuned for my next article in my extreme adventures when I take you to Antarctica!