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Ericka Bailey is a new skydiver with the goal of becoming a licensed, solo jumper. In this blog series, Ericka shares her honest thoughts on the challenges of achieving her goals.
One of the best things you will see when you come to the drop zone (skydiver slang for the place where
you skydive) is the big open space in the hangar with all of the parachutes. It may look like a colorful
complicated mess but that is not really the case. There is a method to that parachute madness, and that
method is what makes sure you get a safe parachute thus a safe landing, and that my friend, is the goal.
I spent a day at Wisconsin Skydiving Center NOT skydiving, a few weeks ago. Why would anyone want
to do that? Skydiving is about more than jumping out of a plane and freefalling, it is about preparation,
safety and planning. There is a lot that goes into a skydive, from getting a read on winds aloft, planning
your landing pattern, and packing your parachute, a lot of time skydiving is spent on the ground. There is
so much to learn.
I spent a day learning about packing parachutes, hanging out with fellow skydivers, making friends and
absorbing information without the adrenaline and anticipation of a skydive. Sometimes the brain works
in funny ways. Bo told me it would be good for me to spend a day at the dropzone and do this, and like
most things, Bo knows best.
With the help of several of the packers Jocelyn Dawson and Jenny Buck, I learned the beginning basics
of packing a parachute. Skydiver Shawn even let me help with his parachute, which was a big deal for
me and a huge vote of confidence on Shawn’s part. When he went up in the plane with the chute I
helped pack with him and Jenny, I was just praying to myself “Please open nicely please open nicely.”
Sure enough! He parachuted down and reported it opened well. When you sky dive you are ultimately
responsible for yourself, but it is a community. When you are skydiving with others you always want to
make sure you are aware of them, and any potential issues as well. There is an insane level of trust in
this sport, both in yourself and other people.
Packing a parachute is clearly an art, and something that must be done under close watch over and over
again to master.
Not too long after, I came back for some more jumps. Being at WSC and just being available, and open
to learning and what was going on gave me confidence and more comfort in myself. Skydiving is not so
much about jumping by yourself out of a plane, but being a part of a greater group of people who enjoy
life and the sport.
My next jump went fantastic, and I “graduated” to one instructor. I had two awesome stand up
parachute landings and gently encouraged AFF instructor Chris Boeve to declare them “Amazing” on my
log book. What a rush! For me, progressing in the AFF course has been about learning to skydive, not
getting from one level to the next but getting the air time, getting the experience, learning and growing
in my abilities. Bo asked me, “It takes 25 jumps to become licensed and you are only in the freefall
for 45 seconds. So really, you get certified as a skydiver after having less than 25 minutes of skydiving
experience. That it crazy!” It is crazy!
To me, this sport has been about conquering my fears but also living my fullest life. What do we learn
when we are perfect at everything all the time? Also, what do we learn if we give up on something
we love just because it’s hard? There are so many ways I personally enjoy life- whether it is hitting a
personal record on deadlift at the gym, spending time with my daughter, family and friends I always
have a great time. For me, skydiving feels like the ultimate personal celebration of life.
When they say “Come visit us to just see what we do!” they mean it at WSC, and just being
there in the positive atmosphere, with all that energy, is worth the trip to explore what this is all about.
Even spending a day not skydiving, is a day in blue skies. See you on the ground and up in the air!