SkyVenture New Hampshire

3 Poisson Avenue, Nashua, NH 03060

1-888-SKYVENTURE

1-603-897-0002

To contact us about the Fishpipe, Surfs Up or Indoor Skydiving send e-mail to: [email protected]

More info at skyventurenh.com

How does indoor skydiving work?

Some tunnels (in warm climates) simply suck the air in from ground level, push it through the flight chamber and diffuser and expel it at the top. SkyVenture New Hampshire is a recirculating airflow skydiving simulator. This means the exhaust 4 Way Skydiving practice at SkyVenture New Hampshire air is channeled and redirected to become the intake air. Because we have complete control of the air, we can maintain a comfortable atmosphere in the flight chamber regardless of the outside weather conditions. With the help of a certified instructor, you will be flying after a brief 20 minute training class. Come as you are and we will provide all of the necessary gear to make your dream of flight come true.

Source: skyventurenh.com

As far as I’m concerned, I jumped out of an airplane.

I jumped, I dropped and for several glorious seconds, I soared like a bird across the wind-swept sky.

So the ground was never more than 30 feet below me. So I was surrounded by walls and there was a man controlling every nuance of the wind. What of it, I say? For those exhilarating seconds – minutes, actually – I floated like a cloud, unencumbered by the trappings of terra firma.

At Skyventure in Nashua, N.H., you can get the thrill of skydiving without, you know, actually leaping out of a perfectly good airplane and putting all your faith in something made of nylon.

“When this is over,” owner Rob Greer told me, “you may want to sky-dive for real.”

Did it happen?

You’ll have to wait for that answer. For first I want to talk about the unparalleled thrill of floating on the air created by four turbine engines cranking out wind at up to 200 mph. It’s not an easy task to describe flying to people who, for the most part, have spent their whole lives with feet on the ground

“It’s freedom,” Greer says. “Flying is freedom.”

Couldn’t have said it better. There are other amazing things going on at Skyventure thanks to Greer and his wife, Laurie, including a soon-to-open, largest-in-the-nation wave-generating pool for kayakers or surfers.

But today is about the wind blowing up through Skyventure’s 45-foot tower that mimics the blast one gets when jumping out of an airplane. Is it really the same? Is it enough to delight even the seasoned sky-diver?

“It’s identical,” says Laurie, a 20-year veteran of the sky. “The only difference is the vehicle.”

Derek Landry, manager at SkyVenture, is another sky-diving pro. When asked how well the flight chamber replicates an actual sky dive, he shakes his head as if it’s not even worth discussing.

“It feels exactly the same as jumping out of an airplane,” he says. “Exactly. The only difference is that you’re surrounded by walls.”

Divers young and old

Before I went in, I watched others defying gravity inside the chamber. One was a kid in the classic sky-diver pose: arms and legs out, face slightly upturned. As I watched, he floated higher and higher, grinning like a fool while rising toward the top of the chamber like that kid in Willie Wonka’s bubble room. When he came down a few seconds later, the smile was even wilder.

An older woman went in next. She looked wary on her way in, but in a few seconds, she was smiling, too.

“I call it the smile machine,” Rob Greer says. “No matter who you are, when you’re in there you’re smiling ear to ear.”

You try to imagine what it will feel like and you can’t do it. Unless you have a history of jumping out of airplanes or off a skyscraper, there is nothing in your life to which it can be compared.

“You’ll feel the force of the wind,” Landry told me. “You’ll be like the dog that sticks its head out the window while you’re driving down the highway.”

Greer shook his head as if simply talking about it is not doing the topic justice.

“The only way to know what it’s like,” he said, “is to get in there.”

Free falling (sort of)

Skyventure has a state-of-the-art feel. The main lobby, with the high-rising flight chamber encased in glass, looks a little bit like a prison control tower. At ground level, there are portals where photos from your flight will appear. The photos can be viewed or ordered for purchase with a touch of a finger. Videos, too. These portals are also where you will digitally sign your waivers and all of that legal mumbo jumbo.

Next stop, the second floor, where you will meet your flight instructor, the fellow who will accompany you into the chamber. This isn’t some droll attendant who will stand there nodding at you while you fly. He’s with you every step of the way, flashing you hand signs and generally making sure you don’t fly off in crazy parabolas to the roof of the chamber (unless you want to fly off to the roof of the chamber — he’ll help you with that, too).

To take on the crazy surging wind, you need a few things. Jumpsuit, goggles, ear plugs and tie-up shoes. Got rings on your fingers? Take them off or the wind will take them for you. Change, keys or gadgets in your pockets? The wild wind will steal those, too, and the people of Skyventure have the scarred turbine blades to prove it.

Thusly attired, I was ready to jump, and suddenly, I couldn’t wait. The doorway to the chamber is narrow and it roughly mimics the hatch of a small airplane. Would I have been so eager to jump if it WAS the hatch of an airplane? Maybe, maybe not. But the prospect of folding my arms against my chest and dropping face first into the chamber wasn’t scary at all. I had faith that the wind would pick me up like a dry dead leaf blown off a tree.

Or something. The attendant inside the chamber beckoned me forth and without hesitation, I jumped.

Inherit the wind

The first few moments are intense. To me, it was like a thousand invisible fingers holding me up and shaking me about. The wind is never still, and here was the first surprise of the day – I always thought that falling from the sky must be the kind of thing you can’t screw up. Arms out, legs out behind you and you will just float like a peaceful snowflake to the ground. You might even take a nap on the way down.

Brother, it’s not so. The slightest movement of your hands, legs or arms will disrupt your union with the wind. Drop your chin too much and suddenly your descending toward the mesh trampoline at the bottom of the chamber, protecting you from the turbines below. Move your hands this way or that, and they will act like rudders, sending you into a small spin. The wind pushed me up and my instincts were to swim through it. The result was that I drifted into the glass like a bee in a jar, or I descended to the mesh trampoline at the bottom of the chamber, sure that every onlooker was laughing at this fool who didn’t know how to float.

Learning how to do it is half the fun. It doesn’t hurt that your flight attendant is with you all the way. Mine was Ben Ceurvels and he was always at my side, gently easing me into proper form and flashing hand signals wherever necessary. Straighten your legs, this two-fingered sign instructs. There’s a sign to lift your chin and another to relax. Just relax and let the wind do its thing.

Your free fall lasts two minutes, and here’s a funny thing. One part of your brain will perceive that it went by in an eye blink while another feels that it has gone on forever.

For those two minutes you are flying, and flying has always been the stuff of dreams. You will want to compare the thrill of it to something else and you will come up empty. Floating untethered is liberating, just like Greer told me at the start. It’s as much fun as you always suspected, but there is also an element of empowerment. This is why the people who soar in the Skyventure chamber tend to keep coming back, whether they’re professional divers, whether they’re young or old.

A 92-year-old woman took the leap, you know, and so did a 2-and-a-half-year-old girl. A funny story here.

The 2-and-a-half-year-old came in with her father, wanting to fly as all children do. But to jump into the flight chamber at Skyventure, one must have no shoulder problems, one must not be pregnant and one must be potty trained.

“We told her, ‘Once you’re potty trained, you can come back and try it,'” Landry says. “They were back two weeks later. That girl got potty trained in a hurry.”

When I got out of the chamber (no problems with my own potty training, thank you) I was euphoric. I felt supercharged, like a man on some exotic amphetamine. All I wanted to do was talk about flying and apologize for my own inefficiencies. But had I done that badly on my virgin jump?

“You were solid,” Greer told me. “When you’re in there, all your senses are heightened. Every tiny movement feels like a large one.”

When I watched our photographer Amber Waterman take a turn, I thought she floated as gracefully as a feather. When she came out, she said she felt like she’d been all over the place, about as graceful as a rock tumbling down a hill. A lesson learned to take with me on my second jump. And my third and my fourth.

I get high with a little help from my friends

Not everybody wants to be blown up to the top of the chamber. Some are happy to float freely just a few feet above the safety of the trampoline, and there’s no shame in that. Me, I wanted that ride, and Ben took me up on my subsequent trips.

Intense? Try intoxicating. With Ben’s help, I soared up toward the previously unseen roof 45 feet above the floor, spinning in a half-circle as I went. Up there, there’s a sense of thickening air pressure and you can hear the roar of the turbine. Up there, you feel a little bit out of control, as if gravity has turned its back on you entirely. Twice I went up there and twice my imagination soared right along with me. For those wild seconds, I felt more like a rocket than a feather or a cloud.

Fun? Indescribably so. For the eight total minutes that I flew, I understood perfectly why sky divers crave jumping like junkies crave drugs. I understood why so many of them keep coming back.

Skyventure serves plenty of sky divers, but they also host physics classes, birthday parties and corporations looking for a little team building. That’s understandable, too. When you come out of the flight chamber, all you want to do is high-five everybody you see. You want to talk about your jump and you want to start planning for the next one.

So, does this mean I’m ready to take the next step and jump out of an airplane at 12,000 feet?

Quit rushing me, dude.

Skyventure is not just another amusement park. Their skydiving attraction is one you can’t get any old place. To find another version of this, you’d have travel to the Carolinas, to Denver or to Las Vegas. (By the way, the specialized facility, the safety equipment and procedures, the liability — they all mean the experience is not cheap: $55 for 2 minutes of soaring. But consider: The average sky-diving free fall from an airplane is 45 seconds to a minute.)

Same with indoor surfing. Good luck finding anything near this size in the U.S. Here, Skyventure offers something that only the ocean can give you – and then only if that ocean happens to be in the mood.

The 32-foot indoor SurfStream will be the nation’s largest. Presently getting the final touches, the pool will feature waves that include 5-foot barrels, which you can take on with surfboard and kayak. To make sure they got everything right, the Greers recently brought in a group of rowdy professional surfers.

“They loved it,” Greer says. “Absolutely loved it.”

Just to prove that he’s a sport, Greer jumped on a surfboard of his own and gave it a go.

“I tried to take on the big boy wave,” he said. “It chewed me up and spit me out.”

The pool is topped by a massive glass roof with panels that can be opened and closed. While I was there, the Greers were in the process of bringing in sand, palm trees, plants and tikis to give the pool a distinct Hawaiian air.

The cafe at the head of the pool was almost done. Soon there will be lawn chairs and smoothies, bikinis and surfers. Around the corner is a fish pipe water slide featuring a massive Zorb that spins at 45 revolutions per minute. Towering above it all is the flight chamber where my dreams of flying were finally realized.

Roughly eight years ago, while trying to decide what to do with their lives, the Greers almost went into real estate, buying buildings, fixing them and then selling for a profit. I mean, yawn, right?

Instead, the market went bad and this fun-loving couple went into the business of thrills instead. I’m exquisitely happy that they did, because I got to fly and as it turns out, it was everything I had hoped for.

So, do I want to do it for real? Do I want to climb aboard an airplane and then jump out of it at 12,000 feet?

Nope. But I do want to go back to SkyVenture, and the sooner the better.


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