What it felt like to fly

Morning Star reporter leaps out of plane at the Great Canadian Freefall Festival in Vernon.

I had always wondered what it was like to fly. As a kid, I imagined soaring through the air like Peter Pan.

Last week, I finally got to experience it.

It was Canada Day weekend and Okanagan Skydive was celebrating their annual Great Canadian Freefall Festival. I woke up early, too excited to sleep, and drove over to the airfield hoping I’d get to jump. The winds had been too strong the day before.

When I arrived, I put my game face on. I was mentally prepared. It was my first time skydiving but I was no stranger to adrenaline sports — I had bungee jumped twice before.

Soon, I met Hooch, the tandem instructor who would, moments later, jump out of a moving plane with me attached to his torso.

He handed me a pink and black skydiving suit, a head cap and a harness. Feeling both nervous and excited, I hastily put them on. Now that I looked the part, we made our way to the tarmac and waited for the skyvan to pull up. The licensed jumpers were relaxed, chatting about which formation they would take once in the air. The other first-time tandem jumper and I sat silently, wondering whether we were all crazy.

Hooch was the first to board the skyvan when it pulled up beside us on the runway. I quickly followed behind. First in, last out. We would be the last to jump off the back of the aircraft.

We took off and climbed to 12,500 ft. My heart raced as the hatch opened in a military-esque fashion, revealing the howling winds. Divers lined up to step out of the skyvan and begin their freefall. Stepping off and disappearing from sight. One by one, they scooted to the edge, stepping out and plummeting towards earth.

Finally, there is no one left but me and Hooch, who had firmly latched our harnesses together. We waddled to the edge. I crossed my arms over my chest, the way we had practised and kicked my feet up at the edge, my heart pounding in my ears. Hooch stepped off the ledge and we were freefalling. Adrenaline kicks in.

The skin on my face feels tight as we freefall going 120mph. Hooch taps my arm and I let my arms fly outwards. A few quick seconds pass before the parachute is released and our speed slows.

Hooch lets me steer the parachute for a few moments as we drift over the Okanagan valley.

Hooch takes back in reins as we make our way back to the landing pad. Everyone else had already landed and we weren’t far behind. We slid back to earth with our feet out.

Hooch unlatched my harness and begun neatly folding the parachute. He’s nonchalant like we didn’t just cheat death. He joked that the adrenaline that comes from freefalling is like a drug and that it won’t be my last time jumping out of a plane.

He’s probably right.

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