Self-doubt, a dangling cameraman, a snugged-up partner and 14,500 feet of nothing below your feet — all part of a perfect fall.

The sound of my alarm clock ringing at 5:30 a.m. brings my day to a bright and early start. From the moment I hit “snooze” my emotions are jumbled, like a dropped bag of skittles. Today, being tired isn’t even an option because my life depends on my awareness. Today is the day that I finally get to sky-dive. This is something that I have dreamed of doing ever since I watched my father and uncle jump a few years ago. In the state of Maine the legal sky-diving age limit is 18, so on the day we watched my father and uncle jump, my father promised my brother and I that we could jump as soon as we turned 18.

My addiction to adrenaline has been severe ever since I can remember. I was raised in a small town in Maine, where I watched my father be involved with powered paragliding. When I was 14, I was the youngest solo paraglider to free launch off a mountain in Vermont under instruction. My adrenaline addiction feeds far into everything that I do. I love cars and motorcycles, so of course I own both. I love driving all the time, and riding my motorcycle is my favorite thing to do.

So I was very excited as I neared the age of 18 about finally being able to sky-dive, and I began to research the sport. As for who I would jump with, I knew Skydive New England has been a popular company for a number of years and has a great reputation. After watching my father make his first jump there, I knew that it was the place for me.

There’s not a cloud in the sky as I drive down Interstate 95, where I find myself day dreaming about the jump that is about to happen. The weather seems to be perfect. The fresh air flowing from the open window is soothing. If the conditions on the ground are so good, I wonder to myself, how much better will it be in the sky.

After an hour of early-morning traffic we finally arrive at Skydive New England. Although excited, I also find myself a little uneasy about the whole situation. Turning back now is not an option, so I guess the only thing left to do is register for the jump. Finally, we get called into the room where we sign what feels like 100 pieces of paper stating that we understand the risks that lie ahead. The young woman explaining the risks seems very excited with the fact that this sport is very dangerous. She seems like the kind of woman who is addicted to adrenaline the same way I am.

I am lucky to have the chance of sky-diving with three of my family members: my father, uncle and older brother. To have the opportunity of sharing this experience with them makes it that much more unforgettable. Along with the three family members that I am jumping with, I’m also accompanied by my meme, mother and aunt. As we all sit on the picnic table and wait for our names to be called, we watch the groups ahead of us cycle through and fall out of the sky.

I have never listened so closely to someone as I did to my instructor who would be attached to me during the entire fall. To my surprise my instructor, Dave, was a lot smaller than me in body size, which concerned me at first. I thought that there was no way he could control us through the air and make it safely to the ground. Believe me, I was wrong.

Being harnessed and finally sitting in the airplane that will take us to 14,500 feet in 15 minutes is indescribable. As the plane continues to ascend, I stare off into the distance, where I can see the Earth beginning to curve away. Still having doubts about my instructor, I question to myself if I should go through with the jump. But my concerns disappear quickly when he literally picks me up off my seat and places me in his lap to begin strapping us together. Now I feel more confident about my life not ending! One thing and one thing only is running through my mind at this point. Right before I got onto this airplane my best friend told me: “When the sheep look like ants, pull the cord. When the ants look like sheep, its too late.”

Due to me being the last person to board the airplane on the ground, I am the first person in line to jump out of the airplane at 14,500 feet. Perfect, because that’s just my luck. The large sliding door directly in front of me begins to open and the wind from outside rushes its way throughout the inside of the plane. At this point, my heart has skipped a beat. The air temperature is now 10 degrees lower than that on the ground. With the door now wide open, there is a continuous chilly breeze. No sooner do my eyes focus on the beautiful sight out the door that we call Earth, I get a tap on the shoulder from my instructor. I proceed to stand up and walk to the open door. To my surprise, I look up to see a cameraman hanging by one arm outside the airplane. His name is Bon Bon, and he is probably the coolest guy I have ever met! His scruffy beard moves in the wind as he looks back at me. I notice a GoPro on his helmet and a camera mounted to his chest. His helmet has a number of stickers on it, and the helmet looks like it has been in use for a long time.

As I look down, the Earth slowly moves. I look at Bon Bon as he sways in the wind, hanging from the outside of the airplane, and inexplicably I freeze up. For about 30 seconds I hesitate. Then I come back to reality and remember how bad I really want to do this. I look back at Bon Bon and give the cameraman the thumbs-up. Without thinking about my actions, or truly realizing what is happening, I jump out of the airplane and begin my free fall.

You know that falling feeling you get when you’re on a roller coaster or when you accidentally miss a step? I thought for sure that the entire free fall would feel something like that, but I was completely wrong. Falling through the sky at 120 mph is a feeling like no other. The wind against your face is similar to standing directly behind a jet engine preparing for takeoff. The rush of fresh air is enough to clean your sinuses better than any brand-name medicine around! Having the ability to look up and see hundreds of miles away is breathtaking.

At 10,000 feet, I lower one arm from my position and begin to spin through the air. Our altitude is dropping fast and I am still dazed by the feeling of falling out of the sky. More than halfway through our free fall we plummet straight through a white, pillow-looking cloud. At this point in the flight I feel like I am in a dream. Not only have I been free-falling for over a minute, but I just fell straight through a cloud!

The altitude where we have to pull the parachute’s ripcord is approaching. As I watch the altimeter hit 5,400 feet, I pull the golf-ball-size nob to my right. Within a split second we go from falling at 120 mph to gliding at about 5 mph. But the fall is far from over.

Now I am back to a familiar feeling of paragliding, and can finally hear my instructor speak. As soon as we stabilize, my instructor hands me the controls to the parachute. “Have fun” he says. As soon as I hear the words slip from his mouth I pull the line in my left hand hard toward my waist. This movement makes the parachute turn sharply to the left and we make a slight dive toward the ground. Then I pull the line in my right hand and we swing over to the right and dive down again. I continue this pattern and begin to spiral toward Earth. My instructor takes back the controls and tells me he had something to show me. He quickly yanks on both controls and then releases them completely, which “stalls” the chute and makes us sit still in the sky without moving momentarily, then all of a sudden we fall — until the chute catches us again. I ask my instructor to show me his best trick and he proceeds to make us flip over each corner of the parachute. Although the free fall was an amazing feeling, which you cannot find anywhere else in the world besides the sky, the parachuting was also an amazing time.

Landing swiftly on my own two feet, I jump up in excitement and hug my instructor. Although I am very happy to be alive, I would sky-dive all day if I had the chance. Sky-diving was the best experience I have ever had, and I plan on going many more times in my life.

Josh Theriault is an adrenaline junkie who lives in Minot. He recently graduated from Hebron Academy and plans to attend Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston this fall when he’s not planning his next sky-diving adventure.

Sky-diving in Maine

Places offering sky-diving adventures in Maine include:

Skydive New England

Lebanon, Maine

207-339-1520

www.skydivenewengland.com

Vacationland Skydiving

Pittsfield Municipal Airport

Pittsfield, Maine

207-487-5638

www.vacationlandskydiving.com

Three Rivers Whitewater

Jump and rafting trips

West Forks, Maine

1-877-846-7238

threeriverswhitewater.com

Jump & Raft Skydiving

Millinocket, Maine

1-877-586-7672

jumpandraft.com


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