Kid's Impressions of Skydiving
y first skydive was on February 18th, 1984 at Eagle Field, California. I had never wanted to skydive, but was conned into it at the urging of my sister-in-law, Lisa, who had, unknown to her parents, been jumping for a year while attending college. Working at Livermore Airport during high school summer vacations in years past, I had been acquainted with the jumpers of the California Parachute Club and was shocked that my wife's sister would be associated with such "wackos". Her logic was that if I made a jump, this would make things all right with her parents, who had a high opinion of my conservative values. Having seen several members of the Cal Club break various parts of their bodies under old T-10s and PCs, I was not looking forward to fulfilling this favor. This all changed, however, when I saw square canopies with their maneuverability, control, and soft landings. Maybe I wouldn't get killed after all.
Back then there were no tandem training courses and static line seemed too slow a way to go, so I opted for the newly introduced Accelerated Freefall (AFF) course. Without a doubt, I was the largest student my instructors had trained so far with this method, and Don Balch and J.R. Taylor were cautious men. None of us knew what we were in for. Given the full day of personal, one-on-one ground training Don gave me, I suspect he realized that my jump wouldn't be easy. When jump time came, everything did go as planned: I regained awareness of the world around me about three seconds after we left the plane, went through the exercises, deployed the parachute, and guided the big Unit IV to a soft landing. Like every other first jump student, I was jazzed! In the debrief I first heard the term "like band-aids on a bowling ball" describing the harrowing ride my instructors had been on. Thinking this would be a one-shot deal to complete my obligation to my sister-in-law, they hid their dismay well when I told them I would like to continue training.
The aftermath: After 19 jumps, I finally graduated from student status (many do it in only 7). All was well in my wife's family. My sister-in-law now has two children and hasn't jumped in years. My father, a retired airline pilot, begrudgingly accepted my "jumping out of perfectly good airplanes" after about a year. My wife, although not always pleased with my skydiving, has yet to find a comeback to: "But I only took up the sport to help your sister, dear." And those "wackos" from the Cal Club gained another member.
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