The Kid finally goes skydiving

Photo Sumbitted  Morning Star sports reporter Tyler Lowey goes for his first skydive with Okanagan Skydive owner Brett Chalmers on a tandem jump during the second annual Great Canadian Freefall Festival in Vernon Tuesday morning.
Photo Sumbitted
Morning Star sports reporter Tyler Lowey goes for his first skydive with Okanagan Skydive owner Brett Chalmers on a tandem jump during the second annual Great Canadian Freefall Festival in Vernon Tuesday morning.

The red light flicked on beside me and the plastic door blew open. The fear became real. Standing on a ledge 13,000 feet above Kin Beach, clinging to my harness, I jumped and couldn’t scream even if I wanted to.

What a rush.

Okanagan Skydive wrap up their second annual Great Canadian Freefall Festival Wednesday. They invited a few members from the media out for a jump.

What an unbelievable experience. I have been waiting to go skydiving for years. Last night I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve.

For the past few days, anytime I heard a plane fly, I couldn’t help but grin in anticipation.

The day started with safety training at 9:30 a.m. Everything was explained thoroughly and was very comprehensible. The crew at Okanagan Skydive did a great job in reassuring everyone’s safety. For something as sketchy as jumping out of a plane, all I needed to worry about was arching my body when I exit the plane and to make sure I landed on my butt when we came back to Earth.

The instructors were great. They were light-hearted, easy going, goofy and fun. They made jumping out of a plane seem nonchalant.

After suiting up, it was a 20-minute wait for the plane and the instructors to pack the chutes. Last weekend the mercury was boiling above the 40s, so I’m glad I took the morning jump and avoided the heat of the day with those suits on.

When we made our way down the runway, it finally felt like the dream was becoming reality. I couldn’t wipe the stupid smile off my face.

Okanagan Skydive purchased a new Quest Kodiak 100 plane for the season. The orange aircraft can hold more jumpers and it can go 3,000-feet higher. It allows for longer free-fall times and bigger group formations.

We crammed into the plane and I was third up to jump behind a few professionals. There were three fairly attractive girls in our group, so I wanted to show off my toughness by being the first jumper from the group.

It took 15 minutes to ascend to our jumping altitude. My instructor – who happened to be the owner – took that time to link our harnesses together. The harness was so tight I could feel the circulation leaving my limbs. But there was no way I was going to ask him to loosen up. Despite the tightness, there was still a doubting suspicion of, “What if I’m not totally buckled in?”

On the way up, the pro guys were preparing for their jump by visualizing their movements similar to what bobsledders do before their run. They were going solo to work on new tricks and flying patterns.

Right before they shot out of the plane, they dapped it up with everyone on board, stuck their tongues out at each other and started woohoo-ing. They were foaming at the mouth to jump.

The door burst open and they dove into the blistering blue sky like they were jumping into the deep end of the pool – no hesitation and headfirst.

There were so many, “Holy smokes” moments that morning. That might have been the most surreal one.

I was still in awe of their maniac departure when I was abruptly rushed to the door. It was go time.

The inside of the plane is not tall enough to stand in. I had to awkwardly shuffle while bent over, with a guide strapped to my back, towards the yawning door.

Holy smokes, that’s the ground down there.

I’ve been on several airplanes before. 13,000-feet looks a lot different when you are standing on a ledge compared to when you are buckled into a plane, looking out the window in between episodes of The Simpsons.

I felt like I could see from Salmon Arm to Kamloops and everything in between. The scenery was immaculate.

I used to jump off cliffs and high towers into a pool, but this wasn’t anything like that.

I was briefly terrified seconds after leaving the structure of the plane. My brain took a few seconds to comprehend what I was doing.

I had to grip the harness while the stabilizing chute was released. Those few seconds were the only scary parts as we tumbled towards the ground.

After I could release my hands, I let everything hang loose and enjoyed the biggest riot of my life.

This is the craziest thing anyone can do. I’m sure at some point in my life I would have done it, but the fact that I was on assignment for work made it even sweeter. It was the biggest thrill ride I have ever been on.

I have never done, or plan on doing cocaine in my life, but I’m pretty sure that’s how amped up I would get if I snorted some rails.

We plummeted towards Earth at 120 miles per hour. During the 55-second free fall I didn’t even feel real; it was such a mind-blowing experience.

Opening the parachute was the gnarliest part of the jump. I was plunging through the atmosphere belly first at break-neck speed before coming to a screeching halt.

It was a euphoric combination of a car slamming on the breaks and the eerie feeling of being on a ski lift without the bar lowered when the lift suddenly stops.

The float down was breath taking. We drifted over a pollen-saturated Okanagan Lake, surrounding neighbourhoods and the countryside. My instructor even let me steer the parachute. Twisting and turning, spiraling down to the landing strip was better than any rollercoaster at Six Flags.

We came in pretty hot for the landing, but it was the easiest part of the jump. All I had to worry about was lifting my legs as if I was resting them on an invisible stool. We slid on our butts to safety.

As soon as we stopped, my body was taken over by another wave of adrenaline. I began laughing hysterically and yelled “Woooooo!”

I finally went skydiving.

I remember being glued to my T.V. Oct. 9, 2012 when Austrian Felix Baumgartner set the then-world record for highest skydive from 127,852 feet. He basically jumped from the edge of outer space.

I think that’s my next big jump. I am so in love with the sport of skydiving that I can’t wait to go again.

Until then, I’m never going to look at a normal plane ride the same ever again.

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