Taking flight over Santa Barbara
by Leila Claudio
When my son, Alexander, told me he had gone skydiving, my imagination immediately took flight. I pictured myself taking that leap to conquer my fear of heights. In this time of our lives, I believe we still have to grow, to experience new thoughts and dreams, and put ideas into action. And when Alexander said he’d give me this adventure as a belated birthday present, I quickly jumped at the chance before either of us could change our minds.
Skydive Santa Barbara is located in Lompoc, about 30 minutes north of Santa Barbara. The company schedules appointments in 15-minute incrementals. To prepare, we each had to sign papers releasing the company of responsibility and watch an informational video.
We were then weighed, which is done for two reasons: 1. Parachutes have a maximum capacity, so your weight, as well as your instructor’s, determines your parachute size.
2. To calculate the total weight of the people on the plane. If the plane is overloaded, it could crash.
Next came our suits. We were given the option to not wear one, but I wanted the whole experience. We suited up, and then our partners put us in harnesses.
Before boarding the plane, we were told that two taps on the shoulder meant we should put our arms at 90-degree angles from our bodies. One tap would remind us our legs needed to be up as we approached our landing so we’d be prepared to make a running stop.
On the plane was the pilot, Alexander, me and two instructors. As we went up and up, I looked below to see buildings become smaller and smaller. I took big breaths to combat my fear and told myself, “Don’t think about it.”
As we climbed to 18,000 feet, my instructor buckled himself right behind me. We scooted to the opening. Then he told me to jump. There was a long, inner scream as I jumped. No one had told me that in the 90 interminably long seconds of that vertical plunge, the sound of the wind rushing past would hurt my ears so much—it felt like my eardrums were fracturing. Though we were provided with goggles to protect our eyes, my ears needed protection as well. I felt sick, as though I would throw up, but I had to control that urge because I knew my diving partner would bear the brunt of my vomit.
The instuctor finally opened the parachute, and we floated along the air currents, so light and airy. The valley below slowly came toward us as we did S-curves to prolong the landing. Finally, he tapped my shoulder as we approached our landing. I raised my legs, but I was unable to make a running stop. Instead, I landed on my butt, which was fine because the ground was soft and I was wearing the suit.
After, Alexander and I camped at El Capitan State Beach, viewed the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and gazed at the city from atop the hilltop of Franceschi Park.
Was I glad I experienced this adventure? Yes, yes and YES!
The author and her son after jumping out of a plane.