For Courtney’s 30th Birthday, I wanted to make sure it was an unforgettable time. So this year, we headed down south to the desert metropolis of Las Vegas. We head down there for a few reasons, but mainly, because you can go skydiving year round! Being that Courtney’s birthday is in the winter, this was sort of a big deal! So we packed up Jeep and headed down I-15 for a wild adventure, both on the chaotic strip and being dropped out of a perfectly good airplane! And let me tell you, going skydiving was some of the most adrenaline pumping activity I’ve done in years!
Neither Courtney, nor I, had ever been skydiving before, so we we signed up to do a tandem skydive through skydive Las Vegas. Tandem skydiving is where a novice and an instructor jump out of an airplane together, strapped to one another during the entire descent. The instructor makes all the decisions, controls your exit from the plane, and will deploy the parachute when necessary. As the novice participant, all you have to do is enjoy, have fun, and take it all in! But our jump almost didn’t happen. We were scheduled to jump around noon the day after we arrived in Vegas, but due to windy afternoon conditions, they called me to inform us that our time-slot would be canceled, and instead we’d have to jump at 6:30AM. So we called our first night in Vegas early and got ready for a nerve-racking early morning.
Once we arrived at the Jean Sport Aviation Center, we checked in, signed some waivers, watched the disclaimer video stating that we have to understand the risks that we’re about to partake in, and took a brief training class. We had to perform the movements that we’d be required to do once in the plane, like tucking your legs under the plane for exit, laying on your stomach with your arms out to simulate free-fall, and then in the tuck position to prep for landing. That all took maybe 15minutes, then we got dressed in the jumpsuits and head out to the airplane. Because we were going “early” we were actually going to be the first to jumps of the day. So we crawled into the small 5 person plane, Court and I both sitting on the floor in the laps of our instructors, facing the soon-to-be open door on the side of the plane. The plane climbed to an altitude of around 12,000ft, just as the sun crested the desert horizon. The entire time, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t that nervous about what was about to happen. I was very excited and shockingly calm for what we were about to do. But as soon as Court’s instructor opened the door, it all changed, and my stomach flipped upside down. We were really about to go through with this!
First, I watched my wife, get sucked out of the airplane when her and her instructor jumped first. Then it was our turn. My instructor crab walked the short distance, with me attached still, to the edge of the open door. I sat, with barely an inch or two of my but in contact with the base of the open doorway, with my legs wrapped under the bottom of the plane and hands clutched to the harness, while I waited for the instructor to get the green light. I was very, very apprehensive at this point, trying to reason with my “fight or flight” response that I was going to be okay and this was a “controlled” environment. Then, without almost any warning, we were free falling! Since the plane was already moving, I didn’t get that “free-fall” feeling in my stomach, but rather just the torrentially fast wind feeling across my face. It was exactly how I’d always imagined in my dreams. A weightless feeling, moving through the air, with your life completely out of your control It was pure ecstasy.
We hit our terminal velocity during free-fall shortly after leaving the plane and I was in awe. I was fascinated at how fast we were falling, but the ground below did not seem to get any closer. I felt like I was at the top of a snow-globe and the Las Vegas desert below was the figurine landscape. Eventually, I got my bearings and finally started to look around where the real views were, on the horizon, just as the sun was coming up and everything was in the perfect morning light. But then all fun things have to come to an end, the free-fall was abruptly finished when my instructor pulled the ripcord and deployed the parachute. But I was wrong again, the fun was just beginning.
Once under the parachute, to descend faster, you can pull one of the steering cords, connected to either side of the parachute, and you fall in a spiral motion. The amount of G-forces one feels during this wasn’t something I had felt since the days of boardwalk rides. It was exhilarating, and hilarious at the same time. I didn’t know how to react, other than to keep smiling and laughing. I tugged one side to spin clockwise, then pulled the other side to spin counter-clockwise, it was all almost too child-like fun. This was so out of the ordinary and normal experiences of my life, and I couldn’t get enough of it!
As we approached the landing zone, the instructor took over and touched us down with a flawless landing, requiring us to only take a few steps before coming to a complete stop. From there, we watched as my wife and her instructor made their way down to us. When they touched down, I ran over and gave her a huge hug. The experience was similar but very different for the two of us. She loved the free-fall, but the G-forces during under the parachute spins were too much for her. Both of us were still smiling ear to ear, even after we went back to the aviation center, got out of our jump suits, and were headed back to our hotel in Vegas. Flat out, that was some of the most fun I’d ever had, period. Thankfully, skydiving isn’t a cheap activity to just go out and do every week, or else I’d be in real trouble. Ever since then, I haven’t stopped thinking about skydiving again, and really can’t wait for the next time.
My name is Zachary Kenney and I’m an adventure filmmaker & photographer. My passion is to tell stories that will hopefully motivate you to go live a more adventurous life. Whether that is to experience the view from the summit of a mountain, or wandering through a new town on a road trip. Currently based out of Park City, UT.