By: Lisa Thompson
I recently completed my first death-defying skydive held in honor of successfully being alive for 50 years. This is my story. It’s a story about a woman skydiving and loving every minute of it! I hope someday it will be your story as well.
I’ve always wondered what it’s like to fly without the aid of an aircraft. Growing up, one of my favorite movies had a great Skydiving Scene, I knew one day I would have to try it.
Many of my friends knew, that making a skydive was a life long dream. Some of them encouraged me to take the plunge, while others begged me to keep my feet on the ground. It’s okay, I told myself. I’d done the research and found that people were 4 times more likely to be hurt falling off a chair then by making a tandem skydive. The very least, I would have a better story then “I got hurt falling out of a chair” I’m turning 50 and have not had the most adventurous life, so it was now or never, to get out of the chair!
Where Did I Skydive?
I convinced another adventurer to come make the jump with me. Early in the morning we made our way to the small town of West Point. West Point is located close to Williamsburg, in Virginia. I have lived in Virginia most of my life but had never been to West Point before. It really is a nice town, situated beside 3 rivers. I found myself thinking I needed more time to look around, maybe go shopping on a day I was not jumping from perfectly good airplane.
We’d dragged a couple of other friends with us who who wanted to see a woman skydiving at 50. They were skeptical that I’d actually do it. During the drive the more we talked about making a skydive the more excited we got. I was so excited I wanted to be the first jump. I wanted to wave to my friend as I jumped out first. I was hoping that we could wave to each other in free fall. Neither of us was sure what would happen when we jumped but we had all kinds of fun ideas.
Waiting To Skydive
We made it to No Limits Skydiving offices a little ahead of schedule. Their offices are located right beside Middle peninsula Regional Airport in West Point. We had to be in the office first to fill out paperwork and get ready for our tandem skydive.
As soon as we arrived we were greeted by a girl called “manifest person”. I’m sure that’s not her real name but it was kind of a running joke that we could only call her that. That’s all anyone called her all day so we joined right in, and pretty soon we felt like we belonged. She made us feel very much at ease as we filled out paperwork signing 40 or 50 forms. I’m not even kidding, it seems like I filled out paperwork for a hour. Okay, maybe I’m kidding a little but I thought I was buying a house! Once our forms were finished it was time to pay. I thought this has to be a crazy way to make a living, jumping from a plane all day. Much less paying someone to push you out of the plane. I was just glad that I knew that I was going to be attached to an instructor.
The price for our skydive was $215. A lot of money to part with, but at turning 50 I have learned that time is going by faster and faster. $215 seemed like such a small amount for a life experience. I paid another $60 for the video. Hey, if I’m jumping from a plane, you know I have to video the skydive. I’m probably not going to do this again, so I want proof! Most of my friends would never believe I had actually made the jump, the video was a must.
The payment was all completed and now it was time for the training session. Our teacher was the school owner, Matt Wilson. Any nervous feelings I felt about my skydive disappeared after meeting Matt. We told us about a few of his 9,000 jumps including some into NASCAR races. He immediately made us feel at ease. I’m sure the jokes he was telling have been used a thousand times but they still made us laugh and relaxed. By the end of the lesson we were flipping a coin over who got to jump with Matt. I won the coin toss so I got to have Matt as my Tandem Instructor.
We were told about the jump and what would happen but I really did not remember much of what was said. Matt finally told me to keep my eyes open, hang on, and have fun. He would take care of everything else. That was reassuring.
We had to wait for a hour before it was our turn to suit up for the jump. The office itself is a fun place. They have a couple of video games in the room so we busied ourselves playing old school Space Invaders. Remember when that was the height of technology? It seemed to take both our minds off what we were getting ready to do.
Woman Skydiving: the Skydive Is On!
Matt and another Tandem Instructor came into the room smiling and clapping their hands. Saying loudly “its time to skydive”! I was calm on the outside but in my mind I was saying “I cant believe I’m getting ready to do this”.
We both were given green flight suits to wear like we were fighter pilots. Now its hard to be cool at 50, but I must say that I felt like I belonged in the movie Top Gun. I was looking very very cool wearing my flight suit and tandem skydiving Harness. I didn’t even want to jump now. I just wanted to walk around and look super cool, let everyone take pictures of me. Now we are both suited up and its time to head to the airport. The airport is about 200 yards from the office so we all climb in the van for the 2 minute ride to meet the plane. On the ride there they had the theme music from Top Gun playing. Now I feel like a really super hero. I’m ready to do this!
We are met at the airplane by the pilot who’s name is “Skippy” I’m not sure if that was his nickname or his real name but everyone called him that so we went with it. He let us know there would be no drinks or peanuts on this flight. (read: Skydiving from a Pilot’s Perspective)
We were told where to sit and seat belts were put on. I’m not really sure why seat belts are used when we are going to jump but at this point I’m just doing whatever they tell me to do. The plane takes off and as soon as we leave the ground we are over the water. What a view! At this point I’m not even think about the skydive, but having a great time just watching the view. You could see the Chesapeake Bay, the Yorktown River and miles and miles of water. Me and my friend looked at each other and gave each other a high five. Yes a high five. 50 year old women wearing flight suits, in a airplane, getting ready to make a tandem skydive and high fiving…how cool is that.
At 9,000ft Matt told me to turn around so we could get hooked up. He attached me with 4 connection points. After each connection he showed me we were hooked up. Trust me, we were so tight I knew I was safe and not going anywhere. It did make me feel better when he showed me where and how we were attached, I was told to put my helmet on, next it was my goggles. At this point I was told to not move as he was going to open the door. We are hooked up and he assured me we would not fall out, even if we did he said we have a parachute. He kind of laughed as he said this but at this point I did not think it was to funny. As soon as the door was opened the noise was unreal. The wind was louder than I expected. Me and Matt were jumping first so we are right near the door. Matt kept looking out the door, sticking his head out and look at the ground. When he leans out to look I have to kind of lean also, since we are hooked up so tight. It seemed like 30 minutes waiting to jump when the door was open, but it was probably 10 seconds. At this time, Matt tells me to put my feet outside the plane on a small step. The wind is crazy so I had a hard time to keep my feet on the step. I don’t think I really even had my feet on the step when I felt Matt rocking..ready….set…go…ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh we are free falling!!! I didn’t really have time to think but if I did I’m sure I would have thought that I can’t believe I am actually skydiving. There is no way to explain to you how I felt at this time. I can’t believe I waited 50 years to do this!!! I LOVED IT. I didn’t want the free falling to stop. It felt like 10 seconds but before I knew it the parachute is open. I’m laughing, and cheering, and yelling, and so happy. Matt is laughing behind me and reaches around to give me a high five. He tells me “Welcome to skydiving”
We float down for around five minutes, I guess. Not really sure. You kind of lose your sense of time. The view at West Point is so pretty. Matt let me steer the parachute as he told me exactly what to do. I didn’t think I’d actually be able to fly a parachute but I did. That was cool. His hands were in the controls also but it felt great to turn the parachute in the direction I wanted.
After what seemed like to short of a time, its time to land. As we get ready to land Matt tells me to lift my legs up. He wants his feet to touch the ground first. The landing was so gentle. I was surprised at how easy it was. If you’ve seen old World War II movies, it’s nothing like that. After we land Matt unhooked me from the Harness. He tells me I’m free. I get up and can’t contain my excitement. A 50 year old woman jumping up and down like a 13 years old girl. My friend lands right behind us and I’m there grabbing her as soon as she is on the ground. We are both laughing and screaming with excitement about our jump. Both of us trying to talk at the same time and just can’t contain ourselves. Our instructors come over to us and give us a high five and thanking us for jumping with them. They welcomed us into the small universe of skydivers. We are skydivers now. I never thought I’d be able to say that. I’m a skydiver!
The Skydiving Buzz
I have watched the video at least 99 times. I have showed my friends and anyone else who would watch it. I now feel like I need more adventures. I have raised 2 kids, worked my whole life, and followed all the rules. Now I feel like its my time. I’m going for another tandem skydive this year. Hopefully, this time my son will go with me. I loved my jump and I have asked to go with Matt again on my next jump. This time we are going to flip coming out the plane. Now that this “woman skydiving” adventure is over, I can’t wait until the next time!