Back when I was 14 years old, I decided I wanted to go skydiving, but was too young. At 16, I was technically old enough but for some reason I didn't go. 18... 20... The years went by. Finally, the day arrived today, and what a sweet ride!
First, some context is useful. Alie (who took all the pretty photos below) and Marcin (who's in some of those photos) have been dating for... Uhh... A number of years (Six? Seven?). Alie decided to surprise Marcin with a gift of skydiving. Some might say that asking your significant other to jump out of a plane at 13,500 feet on your anniversary isn't sending the right message, but hey, we like to think it's Love, with a capital "L". And plus, it's way cooler than a gift certificate.
Skydiving is an interesting experience... Unfortunately, it's extremely difficult to describe the emotions. While some people are afraid, Marcin and I (or other hardy Polish people like us :) ) felt a bit indifferent. Or maybe we were so scared we were numb... Nah, we think we were just extremely brave. We wouldn't back down from the jump, so thinking of fear wasn't really an option.
The day sarted off a bit cloudy and we waited a while before it was clear enough to jump. The little plane we were in was packed with a dozen people, and was constantly climbing at about 45 degrees -- well, I didn't bring my protractor on this flight, but it was steeper than any other climb I've ever done. At 6,000 feet a few guys jumped out, making faces as they left. Clearly this wasn't their first jump. A few hundred more feet and we were in the cloud cover, unable to see a thing.
... And then we broke the ceiling. Err, the cloud ceiling, that is. Now we were maybe 9,000 feet above Ontario, staring at clouds in all directions. This is a typical view out of a jumbo jet, with rolling clouds any direction you look. Only difference this time was that we knew we'd be falling through them. I wish I had pictures, as this was one of the most beautiful feelings I've had (in a plane, and in general!), knowing you won't only be seeing a beautiful, artistic, natural formation -- but you'll be falling through it and screaming your butt off at over 150 km per hour, as well.
Yes, our first jump was such that we actually fell through the clouds. Though, you're falling so fast the clouds just zoom past as you try to breathe and look around you. And how does freefall actually feel? Somehow, it feels like nothing at all. The initial "hop" off the plane is the slowest and fastest thing I've ever experienced -- you think very little, and it's over in about a second... This is when your speed is slowest (think back to high school physics and it makes perfect sense), and you're just floating there, weightless and confused at the fact that you're completely alone (or with an instructor named Kevin) 4 kilometers up in the sky.
Before you know it, you're hurtling towards the ground and Kevin is tapping you. Ah, you can now spread your arms and breathe. The realization that you're falling has hit you, but you're still senselessly dumbfounded at the horror and glory of freefall. You can move your arms around to twist and turn in the air, taking in the beauty of the ground below you and clouds coming right at you.
Another tap on the back, and you know the parachute is about to open. Slam, rip, zoop, and now your speed has been reduced significantly. You expect your body to keep falling, and in fact, your mind does keep going -- this part almost feels like an out-of-body experience for me, where my brain keeps falling and look back up at the rest of my body. Those harnesses work, dude!
And so you float to the ground in your parachute. While this doesn't quite compare to the surprising and confusing experience of freefall, looking around at the ground, at the clouds, at the horizon, and anything else you can discern is still a surreal experience.
Plop! and you're on the ground, butt-first, muddied pants and all. It's over, less than ten minutes later... And you want to get right back in the plane and do it all over again.