by Kayla Sosa
One of the best experiences of my life was going skydiving last summer. If someone were to tell me right now, that I could gear up and jump out of the plane again, I would do it in a heartbeat. No questions asked.
Some may say I’m a thrill-seeker, and I would agree with that statement. All my life, I’ve loved to go on adventures and step off the beaten path. Sure, I have fears like everyone. But that’s part of the thrill — overcoming your fears and feeling so great about it afterward.
I’ve always thought about the activity of skydiving as a once in a lifetime experience and something I would one day be brave enough to do. Every year for probably the last five years, I’ve mentioned it to my husband, Ariel, that we should do it sometime, and then nothing would happen. We just didn’t make it a priority. We had many adventures, like climbing through the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, Mammoth Caves in Kentucky and exploring the Dominican Republic, but this was something on our bucket list we had yet to check off.
Last spring, we were talking to my brother-in-law about how he wanted to go skydiving, and I finally said, “What are we waiting for? Let’s just do it. Let’s pick a date and go skydiving.”
June came around, I turned 23, we celebrated six years of being together, and it was just a few days before our first wedding anniversary. It was a time of celebration. On the morning of Sunday, June 23, 2018, we drove to Skydive Grand Haven to jump out of a plane. It was a nerve-racking but exciting feeling.
We didn’t eat any breakfast or drink any coffee — our nerves were too high — but we made sure to hydrate with water. We chose Skydive Grand Haven because we had a mutual friend who worked there and who we’d seen a post about jumping on an almost daily basis, so we had a good feeling she and her coworkers knew what they were doing. We later learned that her dad is the owner and she has been jumping since she was a teenager.
The grounds were like a miniature airport. The building was open on one side, like a giant garage. The outside open area was where the planes landed and took off. There was equipment and gear all over the building, some couches in the corner and a receptionist desk area. When we got there, we checked in with our IDs and signed the waivers stating that we knew all the risks involved with jumping out of the plane.
We brushed off our jitters and shook hands with the two guys that were going to jump with us. They seemed pretty casual, so we felt we could be, too. My guy even closed his eyes and took a nap on the way up, mentioning that this was his third jump of the day and it was still the morning.
We climbed into this small plane and sat down, taking up the entire space of the aircraft. Our jumping partners had GoPro recording the entire experience, which was additional fee but worth it to see photos and videos afterward. They asked us who wanted to go first, and we both didn’t care, so we played rock paper scissors and after three tries, Ariel won and got to go first.
It took what felt like 30 minutes to get up to about 10,000 feet. It was a quiet ride, and personally the scariest part of the entire experience for me. The build-up put a knot in my stomach, and I kept taking deep breaths and telling myself how everything was going to be fine, and how I excited I was to be doing this.
When we got to the right elevation, our jumping partners began to pull out the GoPros again and filmed us, asking how we were feeling and giving us thumbs up. We smiled nervously, looking out the windows, awaiting what was next.
Then, one of the trained jumpers told Ariel to bang open the side door. He did, using the side of his fist, and the door flew open fast, banging against the top of the aircraft and sending a fast gust of air in the plane. Ariel smiled nervously as he and his partner slowly edged out of the door and onto the side wing of the plane. I watched Ariel instantly drop off the plane and into the sky. It was a crazy but exciting thing to see, and I couldn’t wait to follow him and jump next.
I was at the edge of the door, the open, clear sky all around me. My legs shaking, I forced them out of the plane door and onto the ledge outside. My partner reminded me to put my arms up to my chest and counted to three before jumping forward into a few somersaults through the sky.
My instant reaction was to scream but it quickly turned into a joyful cheer as all my worries flew off me, and I free fell through the sky. I felt a tiny jolt when the first parachute was pulled. My partner grabbed my arms so I could spread them out, and I was flying like a bird. I tried to slow my thoughts down and take in what I was seeing, as if I had a photographic memory, taking snapshots to save for later when I wanted to relive the memory. The wind was blowing against my face and I smiled, looking at the sun shining down on nature, people, life happening all over, the beautiful reflections on Lake Michigan.
The next parachute was a harder jolt, and I felt it hard on my chest and waist, but I didn’t mind because it felt safe. Once we had that heftier parachute above us, my partner let me hold the yellow ropes that basically could steer us side to side in the sky, and that was fun to feel the control of our movements. After a couple of minutes, he steered us toward an open area where we would land. After a couple more circles around the sky like vultures moving in on prey, we deescalated down to the ground and stuck our feet straight out like we were sitting and landed on our butts on the ground.
Ariel landed a little bit after me, even though he got to jump first, he was in the sky longer than me. (Yes, I was a little jealous he got to jump longer!) I was filled with adrenaline and pure joy, feeling the ground more firm than usual. Once Ariel landed, we high fived and hugged, smiling and full of unmatched energy. I felt light as we walked back to the hangar and stripped off our gear. The workers came over and asked how it was and we gasped and blurted out how amazing we felt and how much fun we had, and how we wanted to go again.