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Somehow BASE jumping always sounds like a great idea when you are drinking, laughing, and having a blast with your fellow nutty skydiver friends. “WAHOO!!!! Let’s DO it!!” And then, in the cold reality of daylight, perhaps at the exit point, perhaps on the drive to the exit point it begins to seem, quite frankly, like the dumbest idea one has ever contemplated. And it probably is…but you’ve been shooting your mouth off and now you have to actually do it.

And I can honestly say that at no time before or since have I been SO darned scared as I was on my first BASE jump. Not even close.

Flashback to the year 2000….a much less experienced (around 400 jumps or so) and younger version of the skydiver that I am now is camping out at the world class desert skydiving facilities of Skydive Arizona learning from world class jumper/coaches and having a ball. In the evenings, of course, all are at the Bent Prop Lounge at the DZ, a facility by skydivers and for skydivers and a super fun place to get as tanked as you want to with skydivers. And what else would be playing continuously on the big screen but all sorts of videos of skydivers having silly fun with parachutes. Among those vids are some that feature the coaches and others I have gotten to know around the DZ leaping joyfully in various combinations from an amazing high cliff in northern Italy called Mount Brento. And I said to myself and those around me “Someday I’m gonna do that!!” And the Universe must have been listening.

Fast forward three years and circumstances conspired to place me in Austria with 700 jumps with a great friend who is a relatively experienced BASE jumper and we were suffering from a ton of snow and making no money jumping and it didn’t appear we were going to be making any anytime soon. Of course, I had already expressed my desire to try BASE to him and next thing I know, we are in his car headed for Italy for my first jump. WAHOO and pass the wine!!

We arrive early in the afternoon to perfect conditions and park at the bar directly across from the landing area. I can do nothing but gaze in awe at the massive mountain from which we will leap. Holy smokes…I might actually have to do this! Luckily I have plenty of time to think about this idiocy while Chero packs his rig for my use and scares up another for himself from a friend. Pack up the car and off we go! Minus, of course, any actual training. Who needs that?

The butterflies started raising a ruckus pretty much immediately and only got more agitated the higher we drove. Helpful comments from the peanut gallery on the drive up weren’t exactly helpful. Chero intends my training to take place on the two hour hike to the exit point and the only thing that really stands out is his stressing the importance of not going head low on exit. The exit MUST be done head high and he explains this on the hike as (in a thick German accent) “Throw your breeeast to the wind.” No problem. I got this.

Two hours hiking through beautiful alpine woods helps me to forget a bit about why we are taking this hike, but not much. Butterflies are beginning to stage a full-fledged riot by the time we arrive at the exit point and gear up. Now for more training….”breeeast to the wind and count to seven and pull.” And we make our way over the final 40 yards of rock to the edge. It is now a full-fledged hurricane of butterflies in the tummy and my knees are weak. I am taking compulsively deep breaths and can hear the pounding of my heart in my eardrums and I’m still 8 feet from the edge. The decline angle of the rock leading to the edge is probably only a 10 degree slope but to me it feels too steep to walk down. Gotta get there on my butt. Too scared to walk up. Man this is crazy!

Three or four butt scootches and there I am. At the edge and standing on legs that are literally visibly trembling. You read about shaking legs and you see them in cartoons but who knew they could happen in real life. I am so absolutely scared of what I am about to do that I can barely stand due to my shaky legs. And there I am. Standing above the abyss. Ok, I just might be scared of heights…

I know myself well enough to know that if I spend much time thinking about this it is only going to get harder. Shaky legs…check. Shaky thumbs up to the boys…check. Two breaths….check. Two more breaths…check. “Ok.” One more breath. “Ready, set, go” And of course I neglected to throw my “breeeast” to the wind. And I’m head low and going head lower. To my dying day I will never lose any of the clarity of my thought at that moment. “Way to go d&#*head. This is how people die doing this!” ARCH as HARD as you can to keep from going over on the head down exit….ok….got it…..oh NO….now I’m going knees LOW!! There’s no air to work with….AUGHHHHH………PULL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Whack! Holy heck I DID it!!!! It opened!!! I didn’t fly into the cliff! “WAAAAHHHHHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! HOOOOOP HOOOPPP HOOOOOPPP HOOOOOOOOOOOP!!!!!”

A safe landing in the field, a high five and a big hug with my bro Chero, and off we go to the BAR!!! Feeling on top of the world!

Now, who in their right mind would go thru all of that and then even THINK about doing something like that again. Hmmmm. I guess the operative word is “right” mind, yes?

🙂 “Big” Jim Cargille, USPA D-23753, AFFI/TI 2012

(Editor: I couldn’t decide on a single picture that expressed how much fun Jim has in the air, so here are several with him as tandemmaster taking people on their first skydive.)

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Wishing you blue skies, gentle winds, and soft landings! – Larry D-6730

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“not yet”

When I was in high school, I went out to the local dropzone to make a skydive. I was 17, looking for a good time, and was excited to be doing something that I knew very few, if any people had at my school. I remember getting to the Parachute Center in Acampo, CA. There weren’t too many people there that I can remember. There were just enough it seems to send the plane up. My brother was with me. He is 7 years younger than I, so he was just in the plane to watch. The only thing that I can remember about my instructor now is that he kept on asking me if I was nervous yet. He asked me when he was gearing me up. He asked me on the bus ride to the plane. He asked me when we were taking off. My answer was always, “not yet”. He asked me again right before we exited the plane. All I can remember about that moment was that I was not nervous, but excited. It was an amazing thrill to be in that moment. As we were falling, I remember that I was amazed when we fell through a cloud, and I thought that it was the coolest thing ever. When the parachute opened, he asked me how I liked it. I most likely responded with something like, “that was awesome”. Words cannot describe the feeling that I had in that moment. By the time we landed, I knew that skydiving was the sport for me.

4 years went by, as I was living life. I finished school, went off to the Army, rode motorcycles, went hiking etc. Then one valentines day, I was talking to my girlfriend at the time, and we decided that we should go skydiving. More talk led to the decision to learn, instead of just doing a tandem. We were living in Hawaii at the time, so we got to see the islands from a completely different perspective than anyone else does. That was 6 years ago now. We learned how to skydive, and had some good times. I was able to get my freedom from work and still get that rush; that thrill. When I got out of the Army, I came back home and was waiting for school to start. I still wanted to skydive, but I didn’t have too much money, so I went up to the place I made my first jump and started packing parachutes for them so that I could make a little bit of money, and still jump from planes every now and again. As time went on, I met another Dropzone owner, and through my time that I knew him, he convinced me to become an instructor. I was reluctant at first. I didn’t want to work in the sport that I loved so much. I didn’t want to become jaded. But, I became a tandem instructor, and was taking people for their first skydive experience. I absolutely loved it.

Chase, here as a tandemmaster, takes others on their first skydive

Chase, here as a tandemmaster, takes others on their first skydive.

I have since moved back down to Acampo, and am instructor at the place that I made my first jump from. I am still in school as well. Half the time, I just look to the sky in between classes, or out of the window, and wish that it was the weekend, so that I can go to work. I wish for blue skies, and calm wind. I want everyone to come skydive with me so that I can just keep going up. It’s not the best paying job in the world, I tell people, but I love it. The feeling that it gives me is indescribable. I cannot tell you how I feel about this thing that has changed my life… But I can show you. I’ll see you in the sky.

Aloha,

Chase Wilhelm, USPA 222190, D-30620

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Wishing you blue skies, gentle winds, and soft landings! – Larry D-6730

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I’ve been enjoying reading all the posts of everyone’s first jump. A common thread in almost every story is how it also makes you part of this incredible group of people that skydive for their living, for their adventure sport, or just randomly as I have for the past 20 or so years.  The family of skydivers…

My first jump was definitely a family affair. It consisted of my brother, Ed, my oldest nephew, Eddie, my niece that was visiting Hawaii for the first time from the mainland, Anjeanette and me.  We all decided to do something memorable together for Anjeanette’s visit so a family skydive is what we did. I can’t remember exactly what year it was maybe 1992 or so. It was out on the North Shore of Oahu at the same drop zone where Skydive Hawaii is now, but it wasn’t that operation back then.

Carmen front and center along with the rest of the jumpers on the load.

Carmen front and center along with the rest of the jumpers on the load.

We did a thorough training for a good hour or so before getting into the plane. We were all pumped with adrenaline when we boarded and I think my nephew was wondering why on earth he agreed to do this. I was fine till I got to the open door and thought to myself “Holy @#$it what have I done?!!” And then we were out the door, I was screaming and smiling at the same time.  What a fantastic rush. “This is better than any carnival ride I’ve ever been on!!”

Carmen with her tandemmaster Jim Cargille, freefaller John Coller joins them.

Carmen with her tandemmaster Jim Cargille, freefaller John Coller joins them.

When all of us landed safely at the drop zone we were all hugging, laughing, and giving each other hi-fives. We had done it! We each waited for our videos to watch and relive what we had just experienced. My niece’s song to her jump was appropriately Tom Petty’s “Freefalling”.

Fast forward to 2008 and my 6th tandem jump over so many years. It was a celebration for my 50th birthday with my skydiving family of John Coller, Larry Wiss, and Jim Cargill. John jumped doing a head down with Jim and I attempting to do the same. Larry got lost in the pack unfortunately. It was a jump that I will treasure forever. Here’s my favorite picture from that day.  I call it “How Skydivers Hang Out”. The other picture is of John in the background with Jim & me tandem. Skydiving is an experience I love every time I go.  It definitely is a “family affair”.

Carmen

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Wishing you blue skies, gentle winds, and soft landings! – Larry D-6730

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My first skydive, yessss, there was more than one. I’m a badass. I like to fall from the sky, James Bond-like.

Ok, ok, only two, but it sounds waaaay cooler to begin a story that way!!

My dear friend and partner – in tequila drinking – crime Larry, had been trying to convince me forever and always to go…. I was NOT having it. “Why on EARTH would one jump out of a perfectly good airplane?” I asked, and kept asking for oh, probably 3 years!  I had even accompanied a large group of friends, some from out of town, first jumpers, shivering in their boots, but SO gung ho, and kindly, (read – shuddering in fear) volunteered to be the ‘on the ground’ camera-woman.  Such a kind friend! Pooh. That was just the nerves, aka, deep all consuming FEAR talking.

After vicariously experiencing the HIGH that accompanies a jump from being around my friends who had jumped… I decided that enough was enough, and I had to create better memories about something that my friend Larry was so passionate about, and share in this CRAZY, INSANE, GRAVITY DEFYING, RIDICULOUS adventure. Pictures from afar taken whilst watching friends land in giddy, elated glee just weren’t gonna cut it.

Help came in the form of my brother who came to visit from New Zealand. Kid’s almost ten years younger than me… I was no way, no how, gonna be the WUSS older sister! Not only did Larry pick us up that morning from home, he also resisted telling us any horror stories on the way. Bonus. Good friend. I might have run screaming from the skydiving base otherwise. I will say this though – funnily enough, once I wrapped my head around the fact that I was, in all honesty, going to leap from a plane at 14,000 feet, and hurtle through the air, facing the ground, as it zoomed up towards me… I felt a strange sense of peace. I realized that once one makes the choice to confront one’s fears head on, albeit fully helmeted, that those fears don’t seem to be quite as frightening after all.

My brother, Larry, and a dear friend, Amen, (appropriately named, I’d say, as praying seemed to be all I that had been doing all morning) came along. Dave, my brother, and I were the newbies… Amen and Larry had already experienced well, the experience. We piled into the plane after getting suited up, and given instructions; arms out like wings when we jump! Legs tucked under! No throwing up! Ok, I made that last bit up… but I DID subsequently hear a story about a sweet girl who landed with a little bit (a lot) of last nights dinner – ramen is only good going in, friends, not coming out. Same for sushi, just because you are looking at the ocean doesn’t mean you have to return your fishies to it the next day, YA KNOW?? – all over her and her tandem master. Ohhhh, did I mention that I was strapped to an experienced, fully capable human being who jumps out of planes for a living? I was, I was! I was too! What the heck was I afraid of??? It wasn’t like I had to remember to pull the cord!

We climb into the plane, we climb into the sky. Higher, and higher. I’m strangely calm, I’m taking it all in… amazing views of Hawaii… blue sky, blue ocean… then…. JUMP! Nothing can quite compare to the feeling you have when you realize your feet are NO LONGER ON ANYTHING!!!! Holy shock! Holy WHOOSSSHHHH! We’re hurtling through the air for what seems like a lifetime, with skin, clothes and heart flapping in the wind.  PS: it was cold! If you’ve never been… wear pants and a sweater. (You’re welcome! You can thank me later.) Then, as suddenly as we were bounced down, we were bounced, SNAPPED back UP! Then… My Friend Larry is coming towards me (how does he move sideways in the air????) and I get a wee peck and a radiant smile!

I even got to ‘visit’ with my brother in the air. Now, you tell me when the last time you had a lucid conversation with someone, anyone, at say 10,000 feet in the air. Yes, I did say lucid. Being high doesn’t count!

We eventually made our way back to land… perfect landing, adrenaline pumping, happy to be walking, but already, somehow, missing being buoyant…

I didn’t get over that rush for a long time… I can understand why adrenaline junkies are, well, junkies. It’s addictive.

So, I mentioned I had gone skydiving a second time…. Stay tuned for that story… Wink, wink.

Jane Benney

Jane (l) boarding for her second skydive with friends Patricia and Larry.

Jane (l) boarding for her second skydive with friends Patricia and Larry.

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Wishing you blue skies, gentle winds, and soft landings! – Larry D-6730

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This happened on my seventh jump while still on static-line, from a Cessna 182 over Barnwell South Carolina. This jump was to be my last static-line jump and my last DRCP (dummy rip-cord pull) prior to being allowed to do a true “Free-Fall.”

I was the third student to jump and was sitting behind the pilot facing the tail. The first jumper was sitting with his back to the firewall and the second jumper was sitting in front of me between my legs and facing the tail. The jumpmaster was sitting in front of the first student and also facing the rear of the aircraft. When on jump run and the door opened, the first student was given the “get in the door” command, and rotated into that position. Then out on the step, hanging from the strut, and then given the “GO.” After the number one jumper exited, the jumpmaster pulled in the static line and deployment bag, had the second student get into position, and was about to repeat the exit process, when it became very very clear to us all that the engine had quit and the prop was NOT turning!!!

Did I mention we had a young pilot flying at the time (Randy Cash) and he gave us the command to “EXIT and EXIT NOW.” So the number two student, who was about to get in the exit position and did not have the static line attached to the aircraft yet, looked at the jumpmaster yelling “RESERVE??? RESERVE??” She yelled “NO, NO,” pushed him out, pulled his static line, and his parachute opened normally!!!

I was very attentive to the situation and as soon as I could I was on my way to the exit position and about to hang from the strut, when suddenly I was ripped from the plane by my deploying parachute!!! The jumpmaster thought I was just going to “bomb out” the plane and had already pulled my static line while I was positioning to grasp the strut! I was on my back looking up at the plane as I exited and saw the jumpmaster jump immediately after I did.

She and I landed in a nearby cemetery without incident, and were soon picked up by other jumpers for our ride back to the DZ. Seems that the first jumper, while positioning for the door, had inadvertently turned the fuel off (fuel petcock was on the floor between pilot and first jumper), which caused the engine to quit. Arriving back to the DZ I saw the second jumper getting in his car and driving off and was never seen at the DZ again!!!

I was asked by my jumpmaster if I had pulled the DRCP as I was pulled from the plane, to which I replied, “No, I forgot to.” Well back then you had to make your last DRCP and first free fall on the same day, so………………. back in the plane I got, and made my last static line and first free fall on the same day that I also had my “FIRST” emergency exit.

Blue Sky’s!!! Arvel Shults

 

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Wishing you blue skies, gentle winds, and soft landings! – Larry D-6730

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Chris Hunter and Eula.

Chris Hunter and Eula.

I was 20 when I ventured into the sky, I was just a few weeks shy of 21. I had entertained the idea of jumping after meeting Chris at work. He was a fun jumper and agreed to take me to the local dropzone to check things out. That weekend would be the beginning of my new life. One in which the outrageous things in life were no longer thought of as outrageous, but just normal.

After two hours of ground school and arching I found myself being suited up by my instructor. Excitement coupled with my anxiousness to get it over with streamed thru my mind. I never once considered the thought of dying, this feat was not about defying death, but instead surrendering to everything that I thought of as abnormal. I remember vividly the rush of air as it pushed thru the door on jump run. My hair whipping around my goggles, watching every fun jumper beginning with Chris, fall into open air. The whoosh sound as each body left the plane, and finally the four point shuffle to the door with my instructor George. I keep repeating to myself internally to keep my eyes open. I knew I had to stay present for the moment when I stepped over. I looked down at my feet and immediately took note of the magnitude of the earth. We are all just tiny ants on this farm.

Eula making a BASE jump.

Eula making a BASE jump.

George gave me a thumbs up, and I nodded in approval. We rocked in unison as practiced on the ground and rolled into air. With eyes wide open I experienced visuals of earth, sky, plane several times as we rolled away. As we assumed the standard belly to earth position I began to look around at the surroundings. The desert floor was vast. But, the Pacific ocean was visible for a small portion of the freefall. I had no desire to acknowledge the camera flyer who accompanied my jump. I was in awe of the beauty that I was witnessing having allowed myself to step outside of the parameters of safety that had been engrained in me since childhood.

Eula landing at G Spot on Colorado River after a BASE jump from the cliffs above.

Eula landing at G Spot on Colorado River after a BASE jump from the cliffs above.

That weekend I did two tandem jumps followed by AFF* two weeks later. My 21st year was the beginning of a lifetime of pushing my limits within reason, learning a few lessons the hard way, and humbling myself to the power of the elements. I have made friends that are considered family and jumped over the most beautiful landscapes that earth has to offer. And, I continue to still be amazed when I find myself in open air.

Eula Gonzales

*AFF – Accelerated FreeFall is a method of skydiving training.

You can enter your comments/feedback on this story via the “comment” section beneath this text, this is a moderated blog so your comment won’t appear until its’ approved, once approved it will appear in the Recent Comment column on the right side of this page.

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Skydive-Nitty-Gritty@hawaii.rr.com

Wishing you blue skies, gentle winds, and soft landings! – Larry D-6730

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The Perrine Bridge, Twin Falls, Idaho: July 31, 2010

I had been out of the Marine Corps for about 7 months, when I did my first BASE* jump.  A couple of my friends at Skydive Hawaii were doing a lot of urban BASE.  I really enjoyed watching or doing ground crew for them.  I had that urge to take things to the next step.  For me, it seemed like the next step was BASE.  I also think I was looking to fill a gap that getting out of the Marine Corps sort of left.

I bought my first rig on basejumper.com, a Perigee II with an Ace 240 for $1,500.  I spent a lot of time reading articles online, asking questions at the DZ, and watching videos.  I totally guilted one friend into coming down to Honolulu, to teach me how to pack.  I may have bribed him with beer as well.  I spent about 6 weeks practicing packing and learning as much as I could about the sport.  I hit up one of my skydiving mentors for some contacts in Twin Falls, because none of the experienced Hawaii BASE jumpers could make the trip.  He put me in touch with a guy named Jamie.  Nicole, a Skydive Hawaii videographer, made the trip with me.  She had a few BASE jumps under her belt at the time, but was still pretty new to the sport.

So Nicole and I get to Twin Falls, and contact Jamie.  We met at the Visitor’s Center and talked for a few minutes.  We grabbed our gear and headed out to the bridge with a few other BASE Jumpers.  I had it in my head that my first jump should be hand held, not realizing that many first jumpers do static line.  I look over to a new acquaintance, Anne Helliwell, having no clue how influential she has been for BASE jumping, and I asked her if I was holding the pilot chute correctly.  She said in her awesome Kiwi accent, “NO, STOP RIGHT THERE!”  She proceeded to help me hold the pilot chute correctly, and then I climbed over the railing.  I smiled at all of the other jumpers, counted backwards from three, and jumped.  I threw the pilot chute immediately, and then I “rolled up the windows” with my hands.  It felt like an eternity, before the canopy opened, even though it was literally less than 2 seconds.  Luckily, my chute opened on heading and I had a relatively graceful landing.  Anne landed right after me.  She smiled really big, congratulated me, and asked me what jump number that was for me.  I grinned back and said, “Well, that was number one, I guess.”  After Anne picked her jaw up off the ground, she told me that we had a few things to work on.  Anne, Jamie, and a few others spent the rest of the weekend with Nicole and I, showing us a lot of little things that we were completely clueless about.  It is scary how underprepared I was for my first BASE Jump.  Jamie didn’t realize that it was my first jump either.  I thought I mentioned it…

I made a lot of great friends on that visit to Twin Falls.  Even though I don’t get to see them very often, I hold them in very high regard.  Frankly, I’m pretty sure Jamie and Anne kept me alive on that trip.

Randy Stamper    BASE 1542

* BASE stands for Buildings, Antennas, Spans, and Earth; a person must jump from all four to receive their BASE number.

 

You can enter your comments/feedback on this story via the “comment” section beneath this text, this is a moderated blog so your comment won’t appear until its’ approved, once approved it will appear in the Recent Comment column on the right side of this page.

If you have a “first” story/pics to contribute they’re appreciated; however please self-monitor, nothing explicit or verging on the illegal; submit them via email to:

Skydive-Nitty-Gritty@hawaii.rr.com

Wishing you blue skies, gentle winds, and soft landings! – Larry D-6730

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