By Rachel Lancaster
Year-round, the certified skydivers at Jump Florida Skydiving in Plant City, Florida, strap themselves to those seeking a thrill and dive out of a plane – for fun! For most, the thought of hurling themselves out of a plane towards the earth at over 100 mph sounds insane, to say the least, but for some it is an experience of a lifetime. Jumping out of a plane may seem dangerous at face value, but it is just another day in paradise at Jump Florida Skydiving – a paradise that the staff wants to share with anyone willing to experience it.
At Jump Florida, there are many options to choose when creating your experience. The average altitude at which most jumps are performed is around 10,000 ft. Jump Florida Skydiving offers three different altitudes: 11,000 ft, 14,000 ft, and a whopping 18,000 ft!
“I chose the 18,000 ft jump because if I’m already jumping out of an airplane, I might as well go big,” said Brett Bell, one of the many first time jumpers in the holding area. While there is no set altitude that any one person can jump from, the highest tandem jump – a jump taken along with a certified instructor – is 18,000 ft.
“I’ve jumped from 24,000 ft. I had to breathe oxygen through a little tube,” said Blaine Barden, one of the certified skydive instructors at Jump Florida Skydiving. Nothing compares to the famous Red Bull Space Jump that Felix Baumgartner performed at an intimidating 128,000 ft, but Jump Florida Skydiving allows for the best, safest tandem experience possible. “No matter what altitude is chosen, the experience is too good to be true,” Bell stated after landing safely.
According to Barden, “At 11,000 ft, you’re going to free fall for about 40 to 45 seconds and at 18,000 ft, you get about a minute to a minute and a half of free fall.” There is a price difference between altitudes, but the price doesn’t compare to the experience of a lifetime for most jumpers. If someone is unable to figure out from what altitude to jump, Barden has some good advice: “You always want more free fall. The higher, the better!”
Another option potential jumpers have to consider at Jump Florida is whether or not they want to purchase an additional video and photo package; this is definitely recommended for first time jumpers. Included in the package is a video of the whole experience from before boarding the plane until landing safely, along with 30 photo stills to enjoy. The video has three songs of your choice playing through the jump and allows friends and family to experience the adventure, too.
Many wonder what exactly to expect for their first skydiving endeavor. Well, here’s how it works: the plane at Jump Florida Skydiving seats 12 people, half of which are instructors. The ride up is around 15 to 20 minutes long. Once the plane reaches 11,000 ft, those who have chosen that altitude for their dive are hooked to their instructor for the tandem jumps. The plane then completely shuts off, and the divers are signaled to take their jump. The procedure is the same for both the 14,000 ft and the 18,000 ft jumps.
Imagine a brick falling from the top of the Empire State building. That’s exactly what the brave people at Jump Florida Skydiving looked like, plummeting toward the earth. “You don’t feel weightless like you would on a roller coaster; there’s nothing like it. I would do it again in a heartbeat,” said Bell. He goes on to confirm that the free fall is the best part: “It’s the closest thing we, as humans, will ever get to flying, and who doesn’t want to fly?”
Once free fall is over, the instructor pulls the chute open and the team glides down to the landing strip. Besides the plane ride up, the glide down is the longest portion of the skydive – about 5 to 10 minutes – depending on the original jumping altitude. The instructor does all of the work, for safety and to allow for the experience of a lifetime.
Fear is what usually stands in the way of most people that want to take the leap, which is why tandem skydiving has become the most popular form of skydiving. By offering jumps where a student is harnessed to a certified instructor, this opens up the experience to the faint of heart, who would otherwise never dare to take flight. Barden has 2,000 jumps under his belt, 500 of which are tandem jumps. When asked if he still has a fear of skydiving, he said, “There is always a little bit. You’re jumping out of a plane. Of course, there will be a fear, but it’s more caution [and] awareness.”
The wait area was filled with people of all ages, ready and terrified for their turn to soar through the sky. “I’m terrified of heights, but I’ve wanted to go skydiving for as long as I can remember,” said Bell while being harnessed and waiting to board the plane. Barden uses humor to relax those who are scared. “I try to be calm [and] let them know ‘hey, it’s not all about you. Wherever you go, I go. It’s teamwork; it’s about both of us.’”
Statistically, skydiving is much more safe than people may think. A person is more likely to be killed getting struck by lightning than in a skydiving accident, according to the National Safety Council.
“I was shaking the entire way up, and I was one of two who chose to jump from 18,000 ft, so I watched four other teams jump out of the plane before me,” said Bell. Even though he was scared to take the leap, Bell already has plans to do it again very soon.
Jump Florida Skydiving really provides the experience every thrill seeker is looking for with their experienced instructors, fun atmosphere, and utmost concern for your safety. Still wondering whether or not to take the leap? Barden has a little more advice to share: “Just have some guts, and do it. It is so worth it.”
Image courtesy of Jump Florida Skydiving.