You feel your tandem jumper on your back as you both shuffle to the wide-open door of the tiny airplane. The wind is deafening, but you can still hear your instructor telling you that they’ll tap your shoulders when they pull the chute.
“What!?” you say. Forget about the chute, you don’t need the chute if you are staying in the plane.
You feel your feet involuntarily moving toward that gaping hole in the plane. You can’t hear the instructor anymore as you grip your straps, tightly. Next thing you know, the air around the plane sucks you out, and you are falling. For the brief moment before you start flipping, you see the plane above you as though it was a boat, and you were under the water. Then you look down at your feet. There is nothing but blue sky beneath you. This is confusing. Then you flip around again, and the ground is right where you left it (more menacing than ever though).
When spies skydive in the movies, they control their fall, they speak to others, and they have extreme accuracy with where they are landing. Not only is this incredibly difficult, but inaccurate. Skydiving is so much harder than that. I am a very inexperienced skydiver, but seriously, the movies set me up for some unrealistic expectations on my first time jumping. Spys, soldiers who are trained jumpers, and professional skydivers are basically superhuman and should be treated with the upmost respect at all times.
Something that fascinated me about skydiving was the horizon. The ground looks so far away and tiny. It almost doesn’t seem real. When you finally level out with your belly toward the ground, you notice that from way up at 15,000 feet, the horizon bends differently. It looks like the edges of the visible horizon bend up, instead of down like you were expecting. This almost distracted me from the patchwork quilt directly below me. It’s beautiful.
This may depend on the person, but you don’t get those butterflies in your stomach, like when you’re on a rollercoaster. It’s like all the adrenaline in your body commits to plummeting to the ground at sixty meters per second. It’s easier to calm down a little when you’re in the air, because you don’t have that butterfly feeling. Your anxiety is left in the plane and replaced with pure adrenaline and curiosity.
Just for the record, you don’t hear a thing when you are falling. All you can hear is the wind rushing around you. It’s like you have earplugs in the whole time. You can’t even hear yourself scream. The deafening wind swallows you and you’re at the mercy of your parachute to slow down and hear anything. When spys communicate in movies while falling I am SO HEATED BECAUSE THAT’S NOT A THING. But it does make a great film I guess. Writers and directors have my blessing to continue giving lines while skydiving only if it truly enhances the film.
This IS A SPORT. It is not a common sport, nor does it seem like a sport. It is an extreme sport though. Much like cliff diving and hang gliding, there are categories and scores for jumpers who do tricks and have skills in the air. team-based jumps are more commonly for contests, they’re not just doing it for the ‘gram.
Statistically speaking, it is more dangerous to go up in a plane than to jump out of one. Who knew? (Don’t be an idiot though, your odds of survival fall drastically if you don’t have a properly maintained parachute)
One thing about spy movies: YOU NEVER SEE THE LANDING. You know why? IT’S SCARIER THAN THE JUMP. You feel relatively safe in the air when you have about 15-10,000 feet between you and the ground. It’s peaceful. Then you get closer, and you realize that even though your parachute is deployed you are still falling pretty darn fast. If you don’t pull your legs up at the last second, you will break them and faceplant into the dirt. Parachutes slow you down, but not by much. If you land wrong or pull the chute too late you will still do some serious damage to your body.
If you think you’re ready to try this extreme sport, check out these articles about skydiving: