One big thing crossed off my bucket list


Today I went skydiving, and it is everything that you probably think that is~ plus a little bit more that just can’t be put into words. It was no doubt a phenomenal experience, and there were just so many things to get out of the jump.

I found out about this opportunity only about a week ago, when my pastor invited me to join a handful of others from church. So, a good sized group of us yesterday drove up to Lompoc ready to jump. Unfortunately the wind was too intense, so we couldn’t do much other than eat at this pretty decent Mexican place. There wasn’t a good day to reschedule that fit all of us, so we broke into smaller groups for the jumps.

Today, Bree, Mike, and I were the first of those smaller groups to head up. Our jump was scheduled at 8 am, and so we had to leave Santa Barbara by 7. I got up even earlier- 4:30, because I tend to do that when I’m excited about things. It was Daylight Savings and my roommate was getting in just as I was getting out. That marks the only time I’ve had to fight for a shower at 4:30am. I got breakfast and we took off.

We got to Lompoc on time, and unlike yesterday, the field full of grass was completely still. No wind was in the way. We finished up all the paperwork and got going. To be honest, signing the waivers might’ve been scarier than the jump- the wording all pretty much boiled down to “Don’t sue us. We technically have permission to kill you.”

I was supposed to jump with a guy named Sam, but Bree wanted him because yesterday he mentioned he could do flips and stuff. So I switched and wound up with an instructor named Geoff. Geoff is a 6"7 powerhouse with a strong Russian accent, so if I was going to be jumping out of a plane strapped to somebody, this would be the guy.

We got up in our tiny aircraft, rolling about 10 people deep. Mike, Bree, and I, our instructors, a guy who was going to be jumping from 5000 feet above us, his instructor, the cameraman, and the pilot who was my age. The plane was really small, and pretty noisy- the plane ride was actually more intimidating than the fall.

For some reason, I was sleepy in the plane. Maybe it was because it was kind of cold at that time, or maybe because the drive to Lompoc is pretty hypnotizing. Sitting on the bench I caught my heart beating like crazy, both fast and hard. The rest of my body was oddly perfectly still and calm. I wondered if my heartbeat was intense enough for Geoff to feel.

We got to 13,000 feet, our jumping altitude. The door opened and it got louder. The moment I felt the most butterflies was when watching Mike and Bree jump ahead. They just went through the door, and I saw them shoot to the ground, realizing, hey I’m next.

Geoff gave me this whole briefing on how to jump, which didn’t even really matter. The door was too small for me to properly do that whole thrust thing, so I just squeezed through the door, and he took the defining leap.

And it was exactly like I heard it would be. Because the drop is so far, you don’t really get the falling sensation you would when you take a spill off most things. You also don’t get pulled straight down because you have the movement of the plane. Instead it was like floating, and spinning through a very windy place. We had about a minute-long free fall. Breathing was tricky, because if you took the tiniest breath, all the air in the world would welcome itself into your lungs. Also, if you opened your mouth, it wouldn’t be so easy to close it back up.

I didn’t know what to think of the freefall, and I still don’t. But a few thoughts that passed were:

Oh man, I’m going through the exact same motions as somebody who would be headed straight to their death at this point.

It really does feel like floating!

Wow, there’s the ground, and it doesn’t even look like it gets closer.

The parachute deployed after about a minute of that, and I went from hurling down at 140 MPH to 10 MPH in two seconds. I didn’t feel any of the pressure of that though, it just felt like it would when you would be running as a little kid and your dad would run up behind you and lift you up by the underarms. And this was the most peaceful moment I’ve experienced possibly forever.

The one thing about skydiving is it makes you realize how limited your vocabulary is under certain situations. All I could tell the camera is “Woo,” “Awesome,” and “Yeah!” Which all would have been perfectly adequate if I were filming a Mountain Dew commercial.

I floated down, said a prayer, because I made it a point to remember to do that on the way down, and enjoyed the view. I had a 270 degree view of the ocean, and I could see Santa Barbara and IV from there. I asked Geoff if he ever thought of deploying little green army men with their own plastic parachutes from this height and seeing how long it took them to get down. I don’t think they had those wherever he’s from.

He let me steer the parachute, then we stuck the landing. I landed pretty much sitting down in a bed of soft gravel.

Skydiving was definitely one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and I’m glad I could do it and not just for bucket list reasons. I didn’t really tell anyone I would go, except for those going with me, and so it was kind of funny to see reactions after I got back- my mom’s being the best; I surprised her with the YouTube video. I changed my voicemail to tell people I was skydiving, you know, just in case.

I am so thankful for today. I think there’s something about skydiving that takes you closer to God- in more ways than one as you might imagine. It’s a good way to get your body and your endorphins involved in the practice of letting go of fear, and just trusting. Faith should be fun.

With that said, it may be off my bucket list, but I am definitely down to do it again.

Philippe Lazaro2010