Taking a Leap at Skydive Elsinore [First Time Tandem Skydiving & What to Expect]

Skydiving
I went Skydiving with my Mamma and our friend Tena in celebration of my 29th! Woohooo last year of my 20’s. You ladies are troopers and I’m so grateful you said yes. And thanks to my Hub for pushing me to fulfill my life-to-do’s… I had many sleepless nights before this day and you never stopped encouraging me. You’re the best babe. I know jumping out of a plane is not your idea of fun, but you knew it was mine and you gave me endless support and I love you for that and so much more. Here’s to stepping outside of my comfort zone, trying new things and living life to the fullest. Love you guys.

Here’s how my day went and what to expect on your first tandem jump.

Anticipation is the worst part. I’d suggest making your appointment a few days before you go…no need to make it weeks before like I did. There were too many days filled with watching YouTube videos of skydiving gone wrong. Don’t do that! Check the weekly weather report for your drop zone and pick a day that is sunny with low wind.

Morning of, we drove out to Skydive Elsinore and checked-in at the office. We watched a funny outdated video – an older guy with a majestic beard discussing the dangers of skydiving. Brilliant, they already have me laughing…I can’t take ZZ Top-in-a-suit seriously, so I’m just going to sign these release forms. We signed about 10 different papers stating that we wouldn’t sue anyone if we ended up hurt or dead. And then we were filmed as we read a short statement out loud and signed one last document.  Done and done. Try not to let this deter you from the experience – it’s merely protocol. Tandem jumps are preformed by professionals that have hundreds, if not thousands of jumps under their belts. Sign away and it’s time to get stoked!

We were some of the first tandem jumpers that day so we didn’t have to wait long. I heard if you pick a later time slot that you might have to wait around the drop zone longer, because earlier jumps are postponed for whatever reason (weather, plane maintenance, late arrivals etc). Plan on being at the drop zone for 3-4 hours. Bring some items to help you pass the time or just hangout and watch other skydivers land. It’s pretty fascinating watching them zip down so quickly.

We had about 45 minutes of downtime. I walked out to the Skylark and watched a military plane takeoff with a bunch of camouflaged divers packed in like sardines. Training maybe? I sat on log near the runway by the old Airstream trailer and Winnebago and called my friend Julia who had jumped a few months before.

“So Jul’s I jump in just a few minutes…any tips?”

“Just smile and enjoy it.”

“Oh God, OK. I can do this!”

I was the first to meet my instructor – Marcelo Zoni, who came up to greet me with a smile and the tandem harness in hand. I got suited up and he made sure everything fit correctly. I remember feeling that the harness wasn’t tight enough… “don’t worry I’ll tighten it later in the plane.” He gave me the lowdown on what I needed to do – “keep your arms in close to your body and hold onto your shoulder straps. Keep your head up and tilted back while we jump out. Once we’re out I’ll tap to signal when you can put your arms out to the side. Don’t forget to arch your back while we fall.” So I listened and replayed his instructions over and over in my head…and then my thoughts turned to how I would frantically attempt to save both of us if something happened to him because of all those damn youtube videos that I had watched days before. I bet I would qualify for an AFF 1 jump, with the amount of skydiving research I read over the past weeks. Oh Lord. Think happy thoughts Britt. You can do this. You’ve always wanted to do this. Everything will be fine. This is an exciting, happy day…

I found myself asking stupid questions like, “so how many times have you jumped (which I’m sure every instructor gets asked multiple times a day)? How old are you? Do you have a family? Children? You need to be there for someone right?  Just checking.”

Uggghhh.

Sorry for the mild interrogation Marcelo, but that’s what comes out of my mouth when I’m terrified. Check, check and check. OK, I’m feeling better. I also discovered that it was his birthday that week as well, so that was neat.

My videographer interviewed me on the ground and in the plane… he asked several questions about whether I was nervous and if it was my first jump etc. I said something like…”oh I hope we make it, I love you family. Send my love to my hub.”
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Before I knew it, it was time to go. I’m sure every plane is different, but ours held 14 people with two benches and a few floor spots. The plane took off and we climbed higher and higher until we reached about 12,500 ft. It was cold and loud inside our tiny plane. I was the closest to the door when the single jumpers rolled it back. My heart raced and I grabbed my shoulder straps while looking out the door. Wow this is really happening! And then the first team of 3 singles jumped out. They just fell out door in a cute little party pack and disappeared. Weird. My mind seemed to disconnect at this point. This is all so funny. People jumping out of planes…how is this OK? Then the next guy literally swan dived out the door. I remember watching him get smaller and smaller. Well, I’m up.
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We scooted up to the door. I knelt down on one knee looked out and saw the curve of the horizon.  Amazing! My photographer put his hand on my shoulder (I’d like to think he was praying for us), I think it was just a technique to stay level with us when we jumped. Haha. I smiled at him, but couldn’t see his face clearly under his helmet. I hoped he was smiling back. And then I felt a hand on my forehead – a reminder to keep my head back before he threw me out of the plane.  I was definitely in shock of what was about to happen…just grinning from ear to ear and feeling out-of-body. It felt like a dream. Then he gave two swings and pushed away from the door.
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Oh my God…

Those first 3 seconds took my breath away in the best possible way. It’s wasn’t scary or painful. I didn’t panic.

It’s pure magic.

It’s out of this world one of the most amazing feelings. You’re falling but you don’t feel like falling. You feel like you’re flying on a windy day. It’s very odd, peaceful, thrilling, happy and freeing all at once. There was no anxiety, no tension, no worry about plummeting towards the ground. I know this description is eye-roll-worthy but it felt comforting in a spiritual way. What was I afraid of? This is beautiful. (side note…I bet a solo dive is completely different. The best part about a tandem is you get to sit back and relax).
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^^^A message to my Love at home who took over my work shift and told me to jump out of a plane…so sweet of him. I think 😉 Love you babe.
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Then there was a quick jerk up and a moment of heaviness. Our chute had opened and the wind had stopped. Back to reality. I think I yelled “It opened!” and he said “Of course it opened!” He showed me how to direct the parachute, pull left for left turns and right for right. Pull both to slow down and let loose for full speed. It was surprisingly easy. Happy Birthday Brittany! Thanks, Marcelo! Happy Birthday to you too! Then we just cruised and enjoyed the view. Still slightly in shock, I must have said thank you a thousand times.

The landing was fairly easy. He pulled a few quick S turns to position ourselves for the drop zone. At the last moment he flared the chute and we landed graceful on our bums! Not even a grass stain on my jeans. Nice job! Very impressed. Thank you, thank you, thank you for such a fun experience.
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My mom and Tena landed right after me. All three of us had an amazing time, one that I will never forget.

Later that night after googling more jumps I stumbled across the Fresh Prince himself who had some wise words to share and I quote, “at the point of maximum danger [that first second you jump out] is the point of minimum fear. God places the best things in life on the other side of fear.” I couldn’t agree more. Anything worthwhile in this life will make you nervous – all those big decisions and moments. The rewards are so spectacular once you have the courage to commit. Sometimes you just need to trust your gut (or in this case a complete stranger) and take that leap. I’m so glad I did and you will be too. It’s fun to see what we are capable of. Life is good. Everyone needs to experience this at least once in their life – or maybe more. Sign me up again!