I hit 50 alone and depressed. My life was not what I expected or wanted. There were some big issues, and I realized I needed to step outside my comfort zone. As someone who always wanted a foot on the ground and needed to know where the next foot went, I thought a skydive might shake up my world. And it certainly did!
I arrived at the drop zone alone, watched the “you might die” disclaimer video and in auto-mode ended up in an airplane. Sitting on the lap of my tandem instructor, I was tied closer to him than I have ever been to anyone in my life. Watching my jump video now, I see myself open-mouthed through the whole jump. At pull altitude, I was whacked repeatedly as a reminder to pull (to no avail). On the ground, the whole thing seemed like a dream … but not a bad one. I had faced a fear, let go, and I was alive. To my surprise, on being asked if I wanted to go again, I said, “Yes!”
I loved it, and I became a tandem junkie for the next nine years. Then, as 60 loomed, it was time to shake up my world again, and I decided to go through the AFF course. It had all seemed so easy while doing tandems: Just enjoy the view, wave at the nice camera person and do anything and still stay stable. Now I was to discover the reality. I would experience the power of the wind—when every move has a consequence—for the first time. Suddenly it was going to be just me up there, because the two nice people who held on to me would let go of me after I pulled. I was going to be alone up there in the sky, and if there was a problem on opening, I would have to sort it out myself.
I pulled. They let go. There are no words to express my feelings of pride and wonder at being alone floating under an open parachute under my control. The fear was suddenly gone. On approach, my radio wasn’t working, and all I could hear was static rather than steering guidance. But good training kicked in, and I had a good approach and flare … and a stand-up landing!
The idea was to make a solo jump just once, but I was hooked and went on to get my A and B licenses. On the way, I had to conquer another fear: having my head under water. But I was told I needed to complete water training to get my B license, so in a borrowed wetsuit on a cold January day,
I went into a pool fully geared up. I couldn’t believe I was doing it. I knew then that I must really love the sport. With the parachute draped over me, I removed my gear underwater as taught, cleared all the lines and swam out, emerging a B-license holder!
That was eight years ago, and I have since shared the sky hundreds of times with the most wonderful people, many of whom have become friends. Every time I go to the drop zone, it feels like coming home. I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today without this in my life. Due to a back and shoulder injury, I have recently had a timeout from solo jumping. But having just hit 70, I need to shake up my world again. I look forward to leaning out the plane door with my parachute on my back and embracing the sky.
Without the help and support of some special people, I would never have gotten over my self-doubts and the roadblocks in learning evolving techniques to become the skydiver and person I am today. Skydiving has enabled me to discover self-belief and share the skies with and learn from amazing yet modest people. Thanks for helping me make this special journey.
David Garvin | B-32172
London, United Kingdom