How Skydiving Changed My Life

Jen Sharp

When I was a child, I thought that I could fly. In my dreams, I hovered in the living room and floated out the door into the street. I hovered like a dragonfly in slow motion as I examined the trees and architecture of my neighborhood up close. I didn’t realize that it was a dream; it was so intense, I believed it really happened. I blame this weird dream for my delusions of flying.

When I was 8, I made my first sophisticated attempt to fly. I strapped lumber to my arms and ran off of the roof of my house flapping like a bird. I had played the scene in my mind. I knew that I was going to drift gently into the yard and maybe hook a few sweet turns on the way. But gravity had other plans. I flew like a rock and slammed into the ground so hard that I ate my knees and saw stars. I survived without major injury. It was a good idea that just needed some more research.

Encouraged by the lack of death, I launched into a lifelong pursuit of negotiating deals with gravity. I used what I had: skates, motorcycles, skis, trampolines. I thought of it as flying. There is a takeoff, a brief sense of weightless floating through the air and occasionally a graceful landing. Despite the constant pounding that my body was taking, it was a fun occupation that never seemed to grow old.

My “flying career” lasted two decades. Thousands of landings left me bent over and walking with a crooked limp. Then, I had children, and my wife wanted me to be responsible and made me swear off doing anything fun. I went through a 25-year dry spell where the riskiest thing that I did was order a chimichanga at Chi Chi’s. I became the old geezer who talks about the glory days and how much he misses the action. A has-been.

Then one day while surfing the net, I discovered the devil himself, also known as YouTube. What kind of crazy conspiracy had kept this from me? It is a gold mine of human-projectile experiments. For those of us with an aspiration for soaring and an ignorance of video editing, it is inspirational. It opened my eyes to a whole world of fun ways to fly, and the coolest tended to involve parachutes. I started thinking and talking about sky sports until my daughter Brigitte got sick of hearing it and recommended that I get off of my fat, busted-up ass and do something. The next thing I knew, I was poised in the door of a King Air looking at 12,000 feet of space.

People are not intended to skydive. It is unnatural. Every instinct in our million-year-old DNA screams that it is a bad idea. But damn, it gives me a feeling that I have always dreamed about. It is as close as we can get to flight, and it is amazing. It took me 60 years to discover it, and now I want to learn to do everything that I can with a parachute. This is just more fun than anyone deserves to have. Did I mention that I can fly?

I now have my C license, and I can’t get enough. I am at the DZ every weekend. Whenever I travel, my rig goes with me. I am so excited about skydiving that I find it hard to concentrate on anything else. I was going to sit here and write a catchy ending, but I hear the 182 warming up, so you’re going to have to make up your own.

Richard dePerrot | C-46544
Manheim, Pennsylvania

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