Best Of Chicago

The Great Lakes Skydiving Experience

November 7, 2012 2:00 PM

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(Credit: greatlakesskydiving.com / Rachel Azark)

(Credit: greatlakesskydiving.com / Rachel Azark)

skydiving The Great Lakes Skydiving Experience

(Credit: greatlakesskydiving.com / Rachel Azark)

By Rachel Azark

Great Lakes Skydiving
Open March through December
7 days a week
8:00 am – 9:00 pm CST
www.greatlakesskydiving.com

How to Get the Idea to Skydive

First of all, it was not my idea, it was my friend’s. However, find a skydiving deal on a site like Livingsocial. We found our deal on Livingsocial for $139 for one tandem skydive. Great Lakes said that probably 90 percent of their business comes from deals like the one we found.

Second, put skydiving on your bucket list if it isn’t there already. That way when people ask you if you’re crazy, you can just say, “it’s on my bucket list.“

Lastly, take Nike’s advice and “just do it.” If you think about what you are signing up for then you are never going to do it. And you need a friend to go along with you that is as crazy or crazier than you are.

screen shot 2012 11 07 at 12 34 55 pm The Great Lakes Skydiving Experience

(Credit: greatlakesskydiving.com / Rachel Azark)

Preparing to Skydive

The day arrived and we had driven the almost two hours to get to Beloit, WI. Fall graced my friend Tia and I with an amazingly sunny day for our adventure. The Great Lakes staff first makes you sign and initial a six-page waiver on how if anything happens, you aren’t going to sue them. Then they make you sit there on some futons and watch a video of a man who created tandem skydiving. He talks you through how you may die or seriously injure yourself while skydiving. At this point, you must continue to tell yourself that nothing will happen to you.

After the video, you quickly weigh in and must, MUST buy the video package. They offer three price ranges. The first package for about $69 includes your instructor wearing a camera on his wrist during your jump. The second package for $99 includes a cameraman and photography of your jump. The third package for $129, you can get all of the above: the still photos, the video of your jump, and the camera on the instructor’s wrist.

We then greeted our instructors who helped us gear up for our jump and explained what would be going on in the plane and how to scream to clear your lungs when the cold air knocks the breath of you.

screen shot 2012 11 07 at 12 36 22 pm The Great Lakes Skydiving Experience

The Skydive

The plane has two long benches inside, which we scooted on to, our instructors behind us. The plane taxied down the runway and took off at full speed, making you slightly pitch forward and cautiously look at the plastic door that’s keeping you from the Earth. Our cameramen continued to photograph us and interview us in the plane about how we were feeling. I was feeling pretty good. I’m always up for a plane ride somewhere.

Then suddenly, Tia’s instructor started strapping her in preparing her for the jump. I could feel my instructor doing the same for me behind me as my straps were being tightened. Panic suddenly ensued. When Tia waddled toward the opening of the plane door with her instructor and was pushed out, I screamed.

It was my turn next to waddle to the door. People have asked, “What’s it like to stand at the door and look down?” I don’t really have a fear of heights, so seeing the Earth 14,000 feet below me did not freak me out. It was more of an exciting sense of I’m actually going to do this.

When I was thrown out the door (they push for you, so you don’t have to think) it was a strange sensation of falling through the air. And a panicky sensation when you realize that only the straps around your chest are what’s keeping you from falling face first on land. Not to mention the cold air beating against my face was almost unbearable. But suddenly, the cameraman who jumped before me, was five feet from me in the air waving at me and making silly faces. He did a great job of distracting me until the instructor pulled the cord, and the parachute yanked us up.

It took a few minutes to get comfortable with the “sitting” position of parachuting, as the instructor slightly loosens the straps. But once that happened, it felt like I was in a dream while I floated through the air. I could see for miles up there and felt like a bird.

skydive landing The Great Lakes Skydiving Experience

(Credit: greatlakesskydiving.com / Rachel Azark)

The Landing: Celebrating the Dive

The instructor lands the parachute for you. I was told to keep my feet and legs up while he did the work of landing us. We had a perfect landing and landed on our feet! My cameraman rushed to my side to interview me about my adventure and my favorite and not so favorite parts of the jump.

My legs were wobbly and I was shaking, but it felt good to give my family hugs and be safely back on the ground.

Would I do it again? Probably not, but you never know. I can at least say now that I have done it.

Watch The Journey:

Rachel Azark is a writer, may be crazy for having done this, and lives in Chicago. Read more of her work on her blog parksandpancakes.com.

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