Skydiving over Superior: The rush is loudWhat do you do when you’re two miles high and strapped to a stranger? Jump.
By: Sarah Chapman, Budgeteer News
If not for any other reason, do it for the view of Lake Superior, the view of the St. Louis River, the view of the bright-green trees, the view of the scenery looking over the hill or maybe an aerial view of your house.
Even if you’re nervous, the amazing sights are enough to make you want to soar like a bird.
If you haven’t figured out my new love yet, it’s skydiving. And even a novice like me is capable of, at a minimum, being strapped to an experienced skydiver and thrown out of a plane.
The beautiful part of tandem skydiving is that it takes very little prep time to get started — just a few minutes to practice a good freefall position, a couple minutes to get into your jumpsuit and harness and a few more minutes to practice departing the plane … and then you’re off.
You should wear comfortable clothing — nothing too loose or flapping, along with some good shoes that can be tied tightly. I say that because one of my shoes came loose on the jump (luckily it didn’t fall off) and, if you lose a shoe, consider it gone forever.
Once aboard the plane, you’ll be tightly strapped to your experienced freefall buddy shortly before you get up to your jumping altitude, which is usually around 11,000 feet, or two miles high.
Just a fair warning: Once the door opens, it gets a little intense with the noise from the wind outside the plane … not to mention that the plane is going about 80 mph. The other semi-scary part is that there’s a footstep outside the plane that you have to step out onto in order to clear the plane safely when you depart.
Not to worry. Although it seems you might just be sucked into oblivion, you’re strapped to the licensed instructor who is in control of the whole experience.
And then the magic happens: freefalling.
Expect to scream a lot on the way down … or be too in awe to make any noise at all. All said, you will probably freefall for 45 to 60 seconds at approximately 120 mph — but don’t be scared. Rather, open your eyes and take in the view, because unless you get the picture/video combo offered by Skydive Superior, all you will have are memories of the awesomeness. Surprisingly, the fall is nothing like the stomach drop one gets on a rollercoaster.
So, now that you’ve screamed yourself hoarse, possibly wet yourself and for sure snotted up your Skydive Superior’s goggles, it’s time to deploy the parachute. Most people expect a heart-stopping jolt when the canopy deploys, but while the force isn’t feather-light, it’s really a gentle feeling.
At this point, you are free to remove your goggles and possibly even help steer the canopy — though the ride down takes less than 10 minutes.
“The best part of being a tandem instructor,” said Skydive Superior’s Eric Hong, “is getting to talk to people about their first freefall while they are still under the canopy. The students are always so excited. I have heard ‘That is the best/most exciting thing I have ever done in my life’ on many occasions. It’s kind of cool to be there for something they will remember forever.”
Now comes the part people seem to worry about the most: the landing. As long as your ride has been uneventful (as in trouble-free) — and, obviously, awesome — the landing should be equally as uneventful and awesome.
The real trick to it is to get yourself into a pseudo-seated position with your legs straight out in front of you, and then you and your instructor will land gently on your behinds. This translates into not trying to run or walk when you land because you both may fall down and end up getting tangled in the canopy lines.
After landing, your instructor will unhook from you and, while you are crying tears of joy, give you the onceover to make sure you didn’t soil your borrowed jumpsuit.
So you ask yourself … why would I want to be strapped to someone like a baby kangaroo and thrown out of a plane with them? If you’d rather go solo, the answer is a class called “accelerated freefall,” or AFF.
After a hard day of learning skydiving techniques, you too can go solo like the pros do — with certain restrictions. When the time comes to jump, you will don your own parachute and two instructors will hold on to you as you leave the plane, similar to training wheels. They will then instruct you with hand signals to help ensure that you are able to pull the ripcord and deploy your canopy. This is the course to take if you want to become a certified skydiver. Obviously there is more training to become certified, but this is the best way to start.
Once certified to skydive, many new jumping opportunities become available.
Hong was specific when detailing his favorite part of skydiving. “Jumping with my closest friends, learning how to move around in the sky precisely and take light docks on people in any orientation really feels like flying, at least for a minute at a time.”
The closest place to go skydiving in the region is at the airport in Superior at Hangar A-7, otherwise known as Skydive Superior. It’s celebrating 50 years of operation this year.
A tandem jump will set you back $220; while an “accelerated freefall,” or AFF, class with first jump costs $325 — or more if you continue on through the different levels. You can commemorate the event with a DVD with your choice of song and 100-plus still pictures for $100. Give them a call at (218) 391-7936 or e-mail email@example.com to set up a time. (They are also on Facebook: Search for “Skydive Superior.”)
So, instead of celebrating your birthday, anniversary or family get-together by doing something tame and lame, take a chance and enjoy the time of your life by taking the plunge and going skydiving — you won’t regret it.
This is Superior freelance writer Sarah Chapman’s first article for the Budgeteer. She can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.