How Skydiving Changed My Life | Feeling of Freedom

Mason Blaty

Above: Photo by Zach Cole.

On June 25, 2002, a healthy child was born. Seven months later, he suffered a stroke, resulting in Hemiplegic Cerebral Palsy. And though he hadn’t been dealt the best hand in life, that little guy never stopped dreaming. Twenty-one years later, he achieved something he could never have imagined: He became a licensed skydiver.

In 2020, right after I turned 18, I went on my first tandem skydive and fell in love in an instant. I wanted nothing more than to become a student and get my license. But, for the first time in years, I told myself no. There was no way I’d be able to pull this one off, and I let that dream die—or so I thought.

A couple years later, while visiting family, I went on a second tandem at Skydive Elsinore in California. Upon landing, my tandem instructor asked me if I wanted to pursue my license. I looked at him, slightly puzzled, and said I didn’t think it was possible. His response: “Why not?”

For the next couple of weeks, that phrase stuck with me. I kept asking myself, “Why not?” And while I did have some ideas as to why not, I had no actual proof. So, in May 2023, I called Skydive Fayetteville in Arkansas to set up a first-jump course. I was terrified on the way there, not because I was planning to jump out of a plane on my own for the first time, but because I could simply be told “no” when I arrived, just as I had told myself three years earlier.

I soon found out that while they had their concerns, the instructors were willing to try as long as they could guarantee that my mobility would not pose any unnecessary risk. After finishing the course, it was time for me to make my first static-line jump. I can’t say I wasn’t scared, but I trusted myself and my instructor.

What I felt after leaving the plane was incomparable to any other feeling in my life up until that point—true freedom. I wasn’t bound by any limitations at that moment; I was simply free.

Photo by Holly Moore.

I made a few more jumps there before moving drop zones to Paradise Valley Skydiving in Clarksville, Arkansas. The same doubts crossed my mind driving up to PVS. I had already proven myself to others, but that “no” still lived in the back of my mind. When I walked in, I saw that I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was instantly welcomed with open arms. The weather wasn’t great that day, but we were still able to get one IAD jump in.

The next weekend, I started the AFF program. Up to this point, I had never experienced freefall outside of a tandem. I remember shaking while climbing out onto the step, but I knew that I trusted them with my life. When I left the plane, that feeling of freedom I had before was amplified tenfold. I continued through AFF progression and eventually graduated to solo/coach status. It wasn’t always easy, but I kept pushing myself.

After 24 jumps, it was finally time to make my check dive. As I rode up in the plane, I went through all the jumps and memories that had led up to this point. I was finally about to achieve what had once, in my mind, been unachievable.

As we got out onto the step, I gave my instructor one big smile before leaving.

Out … in … out …

A moment of silence came over my mind as I rode the hill to relax into the skydive. I completed my back loop and turns, then went to drive in for my dock. As I came in, I smiled bigger than I ever had before. In that moment I felt nothing but pure joy. I tracked away, everything quiet again, with only one thought left in my head.

After standing up the landing, I was greeted by my newfound family. I’ll never forget the feeling when that stamp was pressed firmly into my forehead. In that moment, I hadn’t just proven to others that what I did was possible. I had proven to myself that nothing is impossible.

Mason Blaty | A-113039
Bella Vista, Arkansas

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