Learning to Fly with Skydive Moab

Skydive, Travel, Tandem Jump, Freefall, Moab

“I don’t think I can do this.”

“Gravity will do most of the work. That and our guides who, being strapped to our falling behinds, are every bit as interested in a safe landing as we are.”

With those words we basically convinced ourselves to do something that the human mind was never designed to contemplate: step off a platform thousands of feet above the ground with only a thin blanket of nylon to slow our descent back to earth. But even that description puts things too cheerfully. We didn’t step off a platform. We tumbled off. Headfirst.

Falling out of an airplane wasn’t originally on our to-do list for Moab, Utah, or for anywhere really. There was a time when I figured I’d eventually go skydiving, but over the years that interest mostly faded. Shannon’s thinking on the matter pretty consistently fell in the neighborhood of “no freaking way.” She’d watch from the ground, thank you very much.

Watch us Jump

So how, then, did we find ourselves at 10,000 feet in a tiny single-engine propeller plane, each strapped bum to bollocks with a man we’d only met moments earlier? We’d say it’s all TripAdvisor’s fault, but the truth is that we were building toward that moment consistently, if unwittingly, for more than two solid years. Every new experience, every boundary pushed, every obstacle overcome during our travels brought us a step closer to the point where we had the courage to take this literal leap of faith.

And yet we still blame Trip Advisor.

A week before arriving in town, I consulted the internet for top things to do in the area. Skydive Moab featured prominently. Somewhat jokingly I showed the listing to Shannon, who surprised me by not squashing the possibility from the get-go. Over the following days we discussed the idea, drank a few beers, equivocated a lot, and drank some more.

The right place at the right time

We didn’t realize it initially, but the die had been cast. Neither one of us was going to be the one to scuttle this new adventure. There never really was any question. We were going skydiving.

Mostly we knew that we had simply arrived at the right place and the right time in our lives to take this particular leap. We’ve made a habit of consistently pushing ourselves toward new experiences, often with some trepidation beforehand. Always afterwards we’re delighted to have taken the risk.

For this particular adventure we had two requirements: we absolutely needed “top-notch” safety regulations – no third world skydiving for us – and we wanted incredible scenery to view on our way down. Those simple strictures excluded large portions of the world from consideration. As luck would have it, Moab fit the bill perfectly. We really couldn’t have asked for a better place to jump, but we still hadn’t officially committed.

Skydive, First Jump, Moab, Tandem, Adventure Travel

I’m outta here!

The morning we departed for Moab we were still undecided. I thought we might reserve something later in the week. I wasn’t sure Shannon was going to skydive at all. It’s entirely possible we’d have dawdled and delayed long enough to miss the opportunity entirely. But then Shannon surprised me a second time. “Why don’t you make reservations for a jump tomorrow,” she said.

Wanting to beat Moab’s 106 degree afternoon heat, as well as limit the amount of time our butterflies had to persuade us to reconsider, we arranged for the first jump of the morning. After signing a bunch of papers explaining the complete stupidity of what we were planning to do (yes, we understand that jumping out of a plane is an unnatural act that may result in our death and dismemberment), we met our guides Aaron and Pat, each of whom claim more than 5,000 jumps apiece.

Skydive, tandem jump, first jump, adventure travel, Moab

Hey, that’s my ride!

They fitted us with harnesses and gave us instructions that were blessedly brief—just three things to remember, which was a very good thing. Neither of us had any confidence we’d be able to do anything more complicated than piss ourselves while falling out of the airplane. Pat leaned in and quietly offered me a fourth piece of advice, one I vowed not to forget. “Do yourself a favor,” he said, “and make sure nothing is caught in the harness, if you know what I mean.” Indeed.

All mixed up: excited, nervous, sad and zen

Suited up, we folded ourselves into a plane so small that the four of us and the pilot filled the floor space to capacity. We made idle chit-chat and took in fabulous views of Southern Utah as we climbed to jumping elevation. On the ascent we were feeling naturally excited and nervous, but mostly we found ourselves surprisingly Zen.

On the advice of our guides the most nervous person went first, meaning Shannon did the initial jump. Their thinking is that it’s more unnerving to see someone else take the plunge than it is to lead the charge. And it’s true. Over my shoulder I watched as the door opened, my wife and her guide got into position, and then, without warning or fanfare, simply disappeared from the plane.

More than fear or dread, I had a flash of sadness. At that moment Shannon was plummeting toward the earth. Maybe something had gone wrong.

The melancholy vanished as fast as it appeared, replaced by excitement-fueled adrenalin. My guide and I slid backwards toward the open door, and I caught my first unobstructed glimpse of the world beyond the airplane. When I swung my legs outside onto a miniscule platform my mind emptied. The stray thoughts that normally accompany me every second of every day were gone. There was only the roaring wind, the horizon curving toward infinity, and the ground, impossibly far below.

Skydive, tandem jump, first jump, adventure travel, Skydive Moab

I tried to say something for the camera, but the wind ripped the words from my mouth. Caught midsentence, I unexpectedly pitched forward and my world spun out of control. Glimpses of the ground and the sky and the sun flashed by in quick succession as we somersaulted from the plane. Pat somehow righted us, and I regained my bearings.

Terminal velocity, not what I expected

Rushing toward the earth at 120 miles per hour has none of the feelings you’d expect. There is no rollercoaster-like stomach flipping, no feeling of a sudden drop or even really a sense of acceleration. The sensation isn’t so much one of falling but of flying, high above some of the most breathtaking landscape on the planet.

Time stopped. The thirty seconds of our freefall went on for glorious ages. With arms outstretched we surfed the air. In complete control, Pat spun us in a circle so we could take in the 360-degree panorama. All too soon, a rough jolt wrenched us vertical as the parachute unfurled, gained purchase, and slowed our descent.

Compared to the rush of our initial drop, the gentle glide of an open parachute felt almost motionless. Looking down I could see my feet hovering thousands of feet above the ground, almost as if I were hanging from a stationary hook.

The best view in town

Skydive moab view

Just hanging around

This slower, longer portion of the jump vindicated our decision to skydive in breathtaking Moab. Beneath my dangling feet stretched the unending acres of Canyonlands and Arches National Park and miles of meandering rivers all framed by three distinct mountain ranges gracing the horizon. I’m convinced there is no better way to see this wonderful area than dangling from a parachute.

After a thrilling and beautiful ride, Pat expertly guided us to the softest landing imaginable. “Stand up,” he simply said. I did, and it was over.

To our surprise, the best was yet to come. For the next several days we continued to walk on air, feeling both elated and proud. It turns out that having gone skydiving was a far greater rush than actually doing it.

In our deliberations over whether even to make a jump, Shannon confided that she “wanted to be the kind of person who jumps out of airplanes.” She is. We are. And now we always will be.

Parachute, Skydive, Adventure Travel

Tags: , , , ,

78 Comments on “Learning to Fly with Skydive Moab”

  1. The Wanderlust Gene August 16, 2012 at 8:20 am #

    Leaping out of a plane and plummeting toward earth was the most exhilarating thing I’ve ever done … why couldn’t it have lasted longer?

  2. RedRoadDiaries August 16, 2012 at 8:31 am #

    I want to do this. It’s on my list. Loved the video, did that come with the jump or did you do it?

    • Brian August 16, 2012 at 9:28 am #

      Shannon and I each got a video of our jump from Skydive Moab. I edited the two videos (about 16 minutes of total footage) down to the single 4 minute clip you see here.

  3. sohojay August 16, 2012 at 9:03 am #

    Wow!

  4. charmedbylove August 16, 2012 at 9:05 am #

    awesome! would love to try it one day!

    • Brian August 16, 2012 at 9:29 am #

      Moab is the place!!

  5. slightlyreworded August 16, 2012 at 9:27 am #

    Nice photographs. Really enjoyed the story too.

    Jimmy

    • Brian August 16, 2012 at 3:46 pm #

      Can’t take credit for the photos (except the very last one). The guys at Skydive Moab did a terrific job getting us good shots and video. Very happy with the results.

  6. Arizona girl August 16, 2012 at 9:32 am #

    This is awesome in so many ways! I’m also one of those people who always says skydiving isn’t for me, but you guys just might have convinced me to give it a try – that corner of southern Utah is beautiful, and it must be absolutely breathtaking to see it from such a different perspective. Very cool!

    • Brian August 16, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

      I definitely think we picked the right spot to do this. Now we need suggestions for where to do our encore jump.

  7. Jean August 16, 2012 at 9:40 am #

    Shannon I love the expletives at the end :-)

    • Brian August 16, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

      Heh, heh, heh, heh

  8. moi du toi photography August 16, 2012 at 9:59 am #

    Wonderful!

  9. bmpiller August 16, 2012 at 10:07 am #

    Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane is something I have always wanted to do. Your video just solidified that! Too cool!

    • Brian August 16, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

      Glad we could help push you out the door, so to speak.

  10. Betty Londergan August 16, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    Amazing photos .. WOW! you guys are brave!!

    • Brian August 16, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

      Thank you Betty!

      One of the things we found is that by constantly pushing our comfort zone we eventually become comfortable doing things we never thought we’d do. Very cool.

  11. Rev. Paul McKay August 16, 2012 at 10:50 am #

    Great photos and narrative too. Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane is still on my bucket list, especially now that my college age daughter has done it and keeps taunting me, the little snot.

    • Brian August 16, 2012 at 3:51 pm #

      Ha! Don’t let here get away with that.

  12. Wazeau August 16, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

    This is so awesome I teared up. Way to go, guys.

    • Brian August 16, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

      I love it! Thanks.

  13. Katherine August 16, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

    AWESOME! Makes me want to go skydiving, and I’m afraid of heights and flying in a plane. Looks like so much fun. Maybe, I’ll muster up enough courage one day. Thanks for sharing your experience. :)

  14. maggiemyklebust August 16, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

    AWESOME!

  15. Honie Briggs August 16, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

    That is terrifying and exhilarating. I might like it….might. hmmm something to think about.

  16. Jane Fritz August 16, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

    Wow, thanks for sharing this. I may have to reconsider my own thoughts on this activity!

  17. Atari August 16, 2012 at 4:19 pm #

    Skydiving has always fascinated me, but, as a pilot, the more I fly, the less I want to jump out of a perfectly good aeroplane! Kudos!

  18. jodie August 16, 2012 at 7:11 pm #

    I love the spirit of adventure being willing to try every experience that comes your way. Congratulations.

  19. apple.e.e-s. August 16, 2012 at 8:35 pm #

    oh my. it would be a blast if i can try this one day!

  20. gottagetbaked August 17, 2012 at 1:52 am #

    That is absolutely incredible – good for you guys! Now you know that you can do just about anything, that the only way to conquer your fear is to face it, and you’ll have the memories of this experience (and those amazing photos & video) for the rest of your life. I’d have fainted as soon as I stepped off that plane!

  21. wvfarm2u August 17, 2012 at 7:49 am #

    Wow….on my list. Enjoyed watching your faces…including screams of pleasure…..and grinned with you the whole time.

    • Brian August 17, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

      We’ve watched the videos many times and are very glad we got them.

  22. rayfausel August 17, 2012 at 10:27 am #

    did it one in New Jersey. 14000 feet, free diving, wind rushing into my mouth, 9000 feet, parachute, softly drifting to earth.

  23. Les Petits Pas de Juls August 17, 2012 at 11:36 am #

    ain’t it just one of the best thing ever? really? I love it! and the views are always exhilarating (did one in southern France, back home with friends as guides and one on North island of New Zealand…) can’t wait for more! you got to love it!
    Glad you did! when’s the next one?
    Cheers!
    Jul’

    • Brian August 17, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

      We are glad to have done it. “When next” is probably more appropriately phrased “where next” – the when of it governed by the where. New Zealand seems like a good choice.

  24. Cheryl August 17, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

    Awesome. don’t know if I could do it.

  25. maryalive August 18, 2012 at 10:32 am #

    Awesome! Loved reading this post, well done guys!

  26. rubywednesday August 18, 2012 at 10:52 am #

    great post! this is definitely on my bucket list — i’m thinking about doing it as a graduation gift to myself in a couple of years’ time!

    • Brian August 18, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

      Sounds like a wonderful gift.

  27. Tarina August 18, 2012 at 9:15 pm #

    Skydiving sounds fun – if you can manage to jump out of the plane :) I imagine it would be hard for me to do anything like that. Then again, I might surprise myself, but I’ve never been flying, so I have no idea really :D
    Great travel blog you have, I love travel.
    I just wanted to nominate you for a blog award here. http://radioactiveyeball.wordpress.com/2012/08/19/blog-awards-nominations-and-excitedness/
    See what you think :)
    Tarina

  28. alanasivin August 19, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

    Looks amazing! I always say that the best way to see a new place and stay active is to go on daring adventures like this one. Keep it up :)

  29. Ingrid August 19, 2012 at 10:14 pm #

    Thanks for sharing. The video was awesome. This is next on daughters list. She already did bungy jumping in New Zealand. Hubby was a Navy Pilot so obviously he has a few jumps under his belt. Now hubby and daughter are trying to convince me to go with them and MAYBE after this post I will consider.

    • Brian August 20, 2012 at 1:39 pm #

      Hi Ingrid
      Skydiving isn’t something people should be pressured into, but I’m glad to hear we’ve helped make the case. Come back and let us know how it turns out.

  30. Suzy August 19, 2012 at 11:45 pm #

    I have seen Arches National Park on the ground so I can only imagine how seeing that scenery while free falling must feel. Nice work! I don’t know if I could be so brave but after watching your video it somehow doesn’t see that bad.

    • Brian August 20, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

      Hi Suzy,
      I think the video has definitely helped some folks inch their way toward “taking a leap” for themselves. We can certainly say we’re both happy to have done it and to have the video to relive it.

  31. rfljenksy August 20, 2012 at 11:02 pm #

    SOOOOO awesome… I did my first leap here in Venezuela and would love to do it again.. very inspiring..

  32. daydreamcatcher August 21, 2012 at 1:29 am #

    So amazing! I just did this early July. I was so happy to see that y’all went skydiving in the same place that I went. I glad you decided to do it. I love your blog.

  33. Noa August 21, 2012 at 10:55 am #

    So awesome! I would love to do this, but I’m really scared of heights…can hardly climb a ladder to the attic :(

  34. Pola (@jettingaround) August 21, 2012 at 11:19 pm #

    Wow, what a PHENOMENAL experience!!! I loved the post – the detailed description, the video, the photos. I don’t know what I’m waiting for – I need to go jump out of an airplane. ASAP. Thanks for sharing this with me and congratulations!

    • Brian August 23, 2012 at 7:14 pm #

      Be sure to come back and tell us about your jump.

  35. SnapRandom August 22, 2012 at 8:54 pm #

    I feel like I’m also flying with you while watching the video…I’m really scared of heights but this one makes me want to try it. hhhhmmmmmm….I’ll think about it many many many times! You guys are amazing, you are so brave to even try it.

  36. BagspackedI'moff August 25, 2012 at 8:23 am #

    Respect!! And what a place to do it. What a view! Maybe I really should try skydiving. I’ve always said no but parajump/parapente (off one of the smaller mountainsides in the Alps) and parascend (over a beautiful blue sea in Greece) have been done so it is the natural next step!

    • Brian August 27, 2012 at 5:42 pm #

      “Next step” is kind of how we got there. Sounds like you’re ready to go.

  37. Stephanie Rowe August 25, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

    Congrats on your first jump. I do have to say your photos are great, looks like you had perfect weather. I’ve always wanted to jump at Moab. If you want to know all about jumping go to DropZone.com

    That little skull on the frame of the door of the Cessna is brilliantly ironic in comparison to the stunning scenery.

    • Brian August 27, 2012 at 5:41 pm #

      We’ll check out DropZone. Thanks for the link.

      They had little stickers (“Jump more, bitch less”) all over the airplane for added amusement and distraction on our way up.

  38. zacrah August 26, 2012 at 10:32 pm #

    I give you guys a lot credit. It always appealed to me but I doubt I will ever uster te courage to it. Kudos to you!!

  39. mamacormier August 26, 2012 at 10:45 pm #

    You’re braver than me. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

  40. NewLifeOnTheRoad (@NewLifeOnRoad) August 26, 2012 at 11:11 pm #

    not something that i have ever wanted to do but my son Zachery did it for his 16th birthday gift! nuts if you ask me :) love your video!

    • Brian August 27, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

      Nuts? Maybe. Fun? Definitely. ;-)

  41. kmpinkel September 6, 2012 at 11:14 am #

    Awesome!

  42. eliseoberliesen September 7, 2012 at 10:15 am #

    I am not sure I could look death that closely in the eyes. You’ve got some, uh, ur,
    ummmm..let’s say guts.

  43. poppytump September 10, 2012 at 9:53 am #

    Those are some *amazing* photos ! What a fabulous place for a sky dive with the perfect conditions and the panoramic view you would have had.You LUCKY LUCKY Pair:-)
    I did a tandem many moons ago over somewherein Germany. I was on a high for DAYS :-)

  44. inukshuk September 11, 2012 at 5:10 pm #

    Why does Moab always keep coming back to me ? I seems like THE place to do all kinds of cool stuff !

    Nice blog by the way, I really like your philosophy :)

    • Brian September 11, 2012 at 9:00 pm #

      Probably because the city lives up to it’s slogan “Moab, where adventure begins.”

  45. rainaarora September 19, 2012 at 8:58 am #

    We are going sky diving in Cairns, Australia this October. We did not think as much as you did before booking our first sky dive. Hope we do okay!

  46. jennastyles676 October 29, 2012 at 5:54 pm #

    I always want to do this, and bungee jumping. Soon I guess, on my next trip to New Zealand. Thanks for sharing!

  47. Bayrider November 18, 2012 at 4:27 pm #

    Whoa, I’m pumped now. I haven’t really followed your blog but moving it to the top of list now. Great stuff, I’m definitely on your wavelength. You rock!

    I love Moab and Canyonlands. We did an awesome fullmoon midnight hike up to Delicate Arch there a few years back. If you get a chance try it one or two nights off the actual full moon, the time we did that there was not one other person there, to my amazement.

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