Sam Wheeler and his Skydive instructor Rich Fowler, who has more than 25 years of experience. Skydive New England

REGION — Third time’s a charm.

That could be said about my friend’s and my luck scheduling our first-ever skydives. Our first two dives with Skydive Coastal Maine had to be postponed due to the cloud coverage, a good sign that the company took safety seriously. But on Saturday, Oct. 19, the sky was painted dark blue, with only enough clouds for me to count on one hand. Today was the day.

I was surprised that I was able to eat anything on the hour-and-a-half drive to Biddeford. All I could think about was that with each passing minute, I was a minute closer to jumping out of a perfectly good airplane at 10,000 feet. That thought stayed on replay for much of the ride down.

My appetite for adventure has been strong for as long as I can remember. The desire to explore new places and opportunities has brought me to 37 states, Europe, Canada on three separate occasions, and Ghana, Africa, for a week of humanitarian work.

I’ve swum in two of the Great Lakes, hiked in several national parks as far east as Acadia and as west as Yellowstone, and jumped off several bridges/cliffs throughout my home state. But skydiving a few weeks ago was unlike anything else I’ve experienced in my life. It was a completely different animal, and I was about to look it right in the face.

I met my best friend Andrew, who joins me on almost all of my adventures, at the Skydive center about 40 minutes before our jump. We both admitted we could feel the nerves, but I knew neither of us would let each other back out at this point.

Our instructors, Rich and Nick, were just wrapping up two tandem dives. I watched one woman coming down in the parachute, thinking that within an hour, I’d be doing the same thing.

Inside the center, after filling out pages of paperwork, acknowledging the risks that come with the sport, we slipped into our harnesses and made our way out onto the runway, where our plane and pilot awaited us.

The plane looked small from the outside and seemed even smaller once the four of us crammed in. Our knees were bent, and our bodies were pressed against our instructors, so they could begin strapping themselves to us.

The plane rocked back and forth when it first left the ground, making me wonder if the whole ride up was going to be this bumpy, but as we ascended, the flight became smoother. I remember looking down and thinking “wow, we must be almost halfway there.” My instructor proceeded to say we were only one-fifth of the way to 10,000 feet. They told us how high we were with every 1,000 feet the plane climbed.

As it came time to jump, Rich and I maneuvered our legs over to the door of the plane, which was now open. I placed my feet on the step attached to the plane. Below, was Biddeford, now looking like a village built for ants.

How soon would I be back on the ground? The better question, though, was what had I gotten myself into?

Before any more nervous thoughts could pop into my head, Rich gave me a soft nudge and we did a corkscrew type of spin out of the plane. He straightened our bodies out shortly after we were in the air.

My facial expression had turned from complete panic to pure joy in a matter of seconds. Free falling at 120 miles per hour is a feeling unlike any other I’ve had, and a feeling that you can only find in the sky.

I did not get to take in the incredible views around me until my free fall was over. It lasted close to 90 seconds before Rich opened the parachute. Everything slowed down immensely from there. I was now floating in the sky.

In one direction I could see the snow-covered top of Mount Washington, as well as surrounding Maine and New Hampshire peaks. In the other direction it was miles and miles of the Atlantic Ocean. I’ve always said Maine has a little bit of everything to offer when it comes to its landscape. That was never more true than when I was thousands of feet above it.

Skydive Coastal Maine

Nearly every review of the center had raved about how comfortable both Rich and Nick make everyone’s first dives feel. After knowing them for less than an hour, I can safely say I concur.

Rich pointed in all directions, naming off numerous mountains, rivers and lakes. He even pointed out some high rises in Boston, which were barely visible off in the distance.

Although free falling was the most exhilarating part of my jump, taking control of the parachute was a close second. Rich taught me how to steer it. I pulled down hard on each of the handles, depending on which direction I wanted to go. I also did a three-hundred-and-sixty degree spin. He took control again as we got closer to landing. I kicked my feet out straight and leaned back, as if I were about to sit down in a chair. We landed right on the edge of the grass, and to my surprise, on our feet.

Before jumping, I was almost certain I’d feel a sense of relief when I touched the ground again. While that was definitely true, I was mostly sad that the experience was already over. I was happy it happened, though. It was worth every penny.

I shook my instructor’s hand and thanked him for making my first skydive a day I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

Skydiving is the craziest thing I’ve ever experienced in my more than 24 years on this earth. I thought it would be a bucket list item I’d be content with only doing once. That was not the case. I think daily about skydiving again and want to look into other sports that involve this kind of adrenaline rush. Next year I plan on convincing a bigger group of friends to come diving with Andrew and me, who I know is as eager as I am about jumping again.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: