13,500 feet. I checked the altimeter for what seemed to be the hundredth time on the ride up to altitude. The light turned green, and time appeared to stand still. We made our way to the door and a cool rush of air hit me. We rocked back and quickly left the airplane, falling towards the earth. It was beautiful. For once, I was perfectly in the moment. I couldn’t stop smiling (and screaming). The parachute opened and soon enough we had an easy landing; it was then that I realized my life was forever changed. My first tandem skydive had me hooked. I felt freedom for the first time in years, and I knew it was time to live on other side of fear.
I had wanted to skydive ever since I was in middle school. I saw a video of skydivers when I was in the hospital recovering from spinal fusion surgery. I was inspired by how fearless, free and happy they were. I just wanted to fly above the world and leave my problems behind. I guess once you experience setbacks and adversary you crave a sense of freedom and the pursuit of true happiness. Skydiving for me has always been about personal growth: a journey in self-love and learning to be fearlessly me in the process.
Years after my first tandem I decided I wanted more. I enrolled in the AFF (Accelerated Freefall) course, and started on my journey as a solo skydiver. I am now a licensed skydiver with dreams of progressing in the freeflying discipline and becoming an Instructor to inspire others in the sport. Here are some of the reasons why I skydive; I hope they can inspire you to try the sport, or find something that gives you a similar feeling of passion, confidence and personal growth.
Skydiving Gives Me Confidence
When I started skydiving, I was not a very confident person. I had a lot of insecurities stemming from previous bullying incidents and a resulting negative self-image. I didn’t have that fire in my soul to follow my passions; I was just kind of existing. Skydiving helped ignite a passion for life. It proved to me over the course of getting licensed that I can do anything I put my mind to. It made me confident, it made me strong, it shifted my mindset, it made me laugh at myself, it made me dream fearlessly and live without limits.
This sport also gave me confidence by showing me that I can rely on my training and intuition. It showed me self-reliance. I had a malfunction early on, I believe on jump 38. Before this, I was secretly terrified about malfunctions. I would always (and still do to this day) go over my emergency procedures before every jump, and make sure I knew how to identify certain malfunctions. Doing this definitely helped me react, and react quickly. The reserve parachute opened perfectly, and I had an easy landing down. It shook me up a bit, but it was way less catastrophic than I imagined. In fact, it was really no big deal! It gave me confidence in myself, but also my gear and training. Now, I know what to expect and how to deal with it. I don’t fear the unknown. I am confident, but still realize that I can’t be complacent.
Not only did skydiving give me the confidence I needed on my journey to self-love and conquering my goals, it gave me skills to apply to take chances in all aspects if life. I learned to take risks in building my own business, building friendships, starting and walking away from relationships that did not serve me and chasing various other outdoor adventures. It taught me to always evolve and never get complacent. It humbled me and made me accept where I am in this journey. It has made me literally “take the jump,” knowing I will land safely with whatever decision I make.
Skydiving Gives Me a Community
Let’s face it: I’m a weirdo. I’m not exactly status-quo, and over the years I have become perfectly ok with that. In fact, I celebrate it. I’m loud, crass, high-energy, have a sick sense of humor and my ADHD is always on full display. It’s sometimes hard to find people similar to me out there, but not at the dropzone! Skydivers really are a rare breed. They come in all forms: the weekend warrior who escapes the 9-5, the “dirtbag” who lives in a trailer on the dropzone, the scared tandem who wants to check off a bucket list experience, the student, the ego-fueled skygod or the dedicated jumper who has goals of going pro. One thing is for sure: they embrace you like family, no matter how scared, inexperienced or weird you may be.
And it’s not just the home dropzone that you will find an awesome community. Skydiving is such a small community (everyone seems to know everyone) so chances are you will see people you know or have friended on social media at other dropzones. I travel a lot, and have yet to find a dropzone where I didn’t feel part of the community or made good friends and memories.
Then there are the boogies. Now these are a great way to improve your skills and become part of the community. Even as a new jumper I attended these. Was it a bit intimidating? Hell yes. But that’s what the load organizers are there for! Make sure to get outside your comfort zone a bit further and go to these. You will have amazing memories and gain new skills with group jumps. Just make sure to be honest and open about your skills so you won’t be in over your head or get into a dangerous situation.
Going to different dropzones and boogies gives you the opportunity to make friends from many walks of life. After leaving each one, I am always happy to leave with new friends and plans for jumping in new places in the future. Jumping on your own is fun, but jumping with others allows not only for friendships, but progression in the sport. Try jumping with people below, within and way above your skill level. You will learn a lot from each experience.
Skydiving Challenges Me
Skydiving is a lot of things for me. It’s fun, it’s a meditative escape and it’s a thrill. It’s a good challenge that always seems to shatter my ego and give me confidence at the same time. I love a good challenge, and progressing in the sport can be tough. It’s mental, physical and emotional. It’s sometimes hard to be around such talented and experienced jumpers and not be frustrated with where I am in the sport. But I always remember the words “we all start somewhere,” and seem to get back to the moment and embrace it.
I remember when I first started skydiving on my own. Being a petite woman, it was definitely hard to keep up with some of the people I jumped with. My arch wasn’t as strong, and I seemed to love potato-chipping in my track. I was determined to get better and nail my form, so I went to the tunnel to practice. I hired coaches to work with me in freefall, and watched the videos of my jumps to see what I could improve on. I would practice the positions at home to work on muscle memory in the sky. Now, learning freefly, I feel like I am back in the same situation. I am taking each jump as they come, having fun and learning in the process. I practice in the tunnel when I can, and work on the body positions at home (and sometimes in the gym). The keys to skydiving: consistency, determination, passion, creativity and tenacity. Practice, practice, practice!!
Celebrate success and learn from failures. You are always a student. You always start somewhere. Never forget that in your journey.
Skydiving Taught Me About Fear, and How to Feel Alive
Skydiving makes me feel truly alive. Honestly, after a few jumps the adrenaline rush goes away; I always describe it as evolving into pure bliss as we learn to embrace the now. Skydiving showed me freedom. It showed me how to truly live, and that life really begins on the other side of fear. It showed me that fear is all mental, and that once we can overcome these mental blocks and switch our mindsets the true transformation begins.
Skydiving Shows Me the Power of Now
Living in moment is something that is seemingly damn near impossible for most people. We think of the past, dream of the future, and spend a ridiculous amount of time on social media comparing our lives to others. A lot of times we forget the beauty of the present moment. We forget how amazing we are, and how incredibly blessed we are. We forget how amazing our life really is. We forget that we have the power to change our life, and make it amazing. With my crazy ADHD, I definitely find it hard to stay present, and not fall into these traps. Nothing brings me closer to the beauty of now than skydiving. Once I’m out of the plane, I am 100% in the moment. I am free, I am happy, I am in control. So take the jump, take the risk. There is nothing to fear but fear itself, and what lies on the other side is far more amazing that you can even imagine.
Why do you skydive? Why do you do what you do? What fuels your passions and how do they make you feel alive? Let me know in the comments below!
Blue skies to all. Thank you for being a part of my journey. – Kirsten Alexis
Founder and main contributor to This Adventure Life, Kirsten Alexis has passion for all things adventure and the outdoors. She is an avid participant in action sports, such as skydiving, paragliding, snowboarding, high-altitude trekking, mountain biking, surfing and more. She is passionate about inspiring others to live their wildest dreams as well as conserving the environment for others to enjoy for years to come.