The wind was rushing past my ears with such intensity that I couldn't hear myself screaming. I was sure I was, but my voice was lost in the void I was falling in to. The chute deployed and yanked me up a bit. For a brief moment, I felt like I was suspended mid air, perfectly still. After this moment of awe, the checklist I had to work down came to mind.
"CHECKING FOR SHAPE, FLOAT, NO SPIN", I heard myself screaming. That checked out, but when I looked up at the parachute I noticed the lines were all tangled up! I grabbed onto each line and pushed outward as hard as I could, just as we had trained. This caused the lines to un-twirl but sent me spinning around my axis. I spun around so fast that the lines were now getting tangled up again in the opposite direction. I tried pulling the lines apart with even more vigor which stopped me from spinning and straightened the lines. I could now finish the checklist and entered the figure-8 holding pattern.
At this point I had to look down to orient myself and pick a spot for me to land. Slightly hesitant, I turned my gaze downward to see my feet bungling in nothingness. Looking beyond them, I saw the airstrip and the seemingly tiny fenced-in area I was supposed to target. Despite what I had learned from the movies ("whatever you do, don't look down"), looking down wasn't that bad. In fact, I enjoyed it. Looking around, I could see for incredible distances, with the horizon revealing the curvature of our planet.
Read on after the jump
We had been trained to exit the holding pattern at 1000 feet, having been shown pictures of when that would be but I found my memory of them to be of little use in mid-air. So, attempting to guess the altitude, I exited the holding pattern. "No, wait, I'm nowhere near a 1000 feet yet", I thought and went back to making figure eights. After second guessing myself 3 or 4 times I finally decided I was low enough to begin preparing for the landing.
I found the parachute to be surprisingly responsive to my maneuverings and managed to find the proper approach easily. Slowly, the ground came closer and closer to my feet. Just before touching down I badly misjudged the distance left, hitting the ground with my toes, flipping forward and falling flat on my face, sending my friends into fits of laughter.
Having been calm and focused the entire way down, the adrenaline really started gushing through my veins once I had my feet back on solid ground. I was picking sand from my teeth the rest of the day, but I couldn't stop smiling. We all agreed it was beyond awesome.
If you ever get the chance to go parachuting, do it! I HIGHLY recommend it!