MELISSA JAHNKE: MY JOURNEY TO BECOMING A SKYDIVER – AFF LEVEL II

Thursday, August 14, 2014

July 5, 2014 – AFF Level 2

Yesterday was the 4th of July. My head was in the clouds all week after my last jump. I showed my video to anyone who would sit long enough to watch. I was asked to justify “why I would be so foolish to jump out of a perfectly good airplane” to which I replied 99% of the time, “because I can”. There was a celebration at the drop zone celebrating 16 years of business yesterday. I am astonished at the level of professionalism in these people and how they have found a way to carry their passions into a reality. They have managed to take a vision and turn it into a successful business. I love Bo & Alex and hope that I can one day be part of their remarkable community. I was bummed out that I was unable to attend their anniversary celebration.

I have been working 10-hour days, six days a week, trying to suck up as much overtime as possible to make extra cash for my skydiving lessons. I am totally committed to making this happen. I finally told my mom, dad, grandfather, siblings, and friends what I am doing. I was surprised when I heard how proud of me they were. They were concerned for my safety, but I did my best to explain how safe this extreme sport really is. It’s hard to convey a message to someone who knows nothing about skydiving other than few preformed misconceptions, and horrible Youtube videos. All I really had were a few facts, and an outstanding experience from the prior weekend. But I think they all have the idea how I am committed hell or high water at making this a success.

I finished work today at 1:00pm, ran home and packed up the car for my first over night stay at the drop zone. I planned it out all week that I would take my time, wake up early in the morning, be the only one there and greet the sunrise first thing in the morning. I want to go alone, because it is hard for me to focus on learning, and being safe when I am concentrating on my family, and what their needs are. When I am able to go alone, I can concentrate 110% on the task at hand. I haven’t been able to eat much since my last jump. It reminds me of the first time I was in love. Every song on the radio reminds me somehow of skydiving, and I find myself looking up at the sky imagining who is soaring though the air at that very moment. I pack my Jeep up, this time with pillows and sleeping bags, and plan to sleep in the car. It is summer, and it will be an adventure. I hate to impose on anyone, and this would give me my own space to recollect and plan for the jumps ahead.

I arrived at the drop zone around 5:00pm. I was so excited to be back! There were new faces there that I hadn’t met before, and two of the students from the last weekend AFF course. I greeted Bo and Alex, and everyone there with a smile. I was offered to get up in the sky a.s.a.p. I was taken back a moment when Bo explained to be a very important concept that I had taken for granted. He took me outside and pointed to the streamers on the target. He explained that weather will not always promote proper conditions to jump, and as long as we had the opportunity, I should take it and get on a load. So that’s exactly what I did.

I completed the paper work and safety checks. Before I knew it I was geared up and in the plane. Rita and Bo were my instructors this time, and although I felt a bit rushed, I felt I was ready to jump again. After all, the only thing I thought about the entire week was getting back down to the drop zone and jumping out of a plane! As we climbed to exit altitude, Rita quizzed me on hand signals, pull altitude, PRCPs, and other things. I tried to remain calm, and relaxed and gazed at the horizon out of the plane. Just like that we were at our exit altitude. I was ready to do this! Bo climbed out first, and I was second. I took a deep breath and looked to my left and saw Rita smiling back at me. I shouted “CHECK IN”, to which she nodded and smiled. I looked forward and yelled “horizon- up-down…..” and hesitated, but they were going, and I was going with them! (Lesson learned… LET GO OF THE STRUT!) …. And just like that, I was back in free-fall. It felt so good. I was reacting to the hand signals, but seemed to tense up the harder I tried to remain relaxed. Before I knew it, my altimeter seemed to go faster and faster, and like I was reaching for a gun, I pulled that pilot chute and my canopy came right open. It felt like such a hard opening, and knocked the wind out of me slightly. I wasn’t sure what happened on that one until later, but it seemed as though I was too tense from the start. Mental preparation is my key element to a successful skydive, and I just wasn’t there. I made the best of it, and enjoyed myself immensely under canopy. The wind directions were exactly as the week prior. Once I started my descent, I was able to calculate and judge what to do before I was instructed to do so. I was becoming more aware of piloting the canopy. Before I knew it I could hear Bo giving me directions and explaining exactly why and what maneuvers were being asked for me to perform. I stood up the landing again, which made me feel like a champ! I love this sport so much, and am ever so addicted.

Bo debriefed me, and emphasized the importance of relaxing. He pointed out that I have a “flight or fight” reaction, which took over my body, and how important it is to learn to overcome that. He also complemented me on my altitude awareness, and suggested I try not to arch as hard. I need to be a “lover not a fighter”, and just let it happen. He is such a great instructor, and I am trying so hard not to disappoint him, or myself. I feel honored that they all care so much about me, and my journey through AFF.

Bo and Alex’s hospitality are beyond words. They truly care about their skydiving family, and I love that I am becoming a part of their community. I was offered to go along for dinner to Janesville with some of the skydivers, which sounded amazing to me. I really want to get to know everyone so I found this to be a perfect opportunity. I tagged along with Rita and Jenny Buck, Dan, Andrew, and Jamie to a Mexican place. It was outstanding. They even pranked Rita with a special “birthday” surprise and the wait staff smeared whip topping allover her face! Afterwards we went back to the hangar to hang out and prepare for camping out. I planned to crash in the Jeep, but when they told me I could sleep in a plane, it was all I thought about! I fantasized about that, but just thought of it as off limits. Now I was getting the chance! I felt super cool, and like a little kid again! I stayed up as late as I could, watching Kim and Andrew doing Acroyoga, but before I knew it I felt like I was a sleepwalking zombie from the dead. So I called it a night and crawled in the yellow and white Cessna. I was so excited I could barely fall asleep. Not to mention the mosquito that was dive-bombing my ear every three seconds. I think I slept about 2 hours, and couldn’t take the mosquito any longer and went to the Jeep. It didn’t last the whole night, but I can say “I slept in the plane”.

July 6, 2014

I woke early to watch the sun come up on the target again. It was pink skies, and I had a sinking feeling that this is exactly what Bo had been talking about the day before. He was entirely correct, and due to overcast skies at 1500′, I was not able to get a second jump in. I was introduced to Jocelyn, and I started learning how to pack parachutes, and just enjoyed myself getting to know everyone a bit better. It was a fantastic day, and I loved just being there. As 2:00pm came, and the fact that I had a 3-hour drive ahead of me, I decided to call it a weekend and get on the road. I planned for next weekend, said my good byes, collected my hugs, and was on my way. I had tears leaving the driveway of the drop zone, because I just love this place so much in the short time I have spent here.

New to this series? Catch up on Melissa’s first entry from her first skydive here.

A lady smiles while in free fall during a tandem skydive.

ARRGH!!! A Pop-Up! (We hate them too)

But this is totally worth it! We won't spam you or waste your time! Sign up to learn more about who we are, what we're about and receive helpful tips to ensure your skydiving experience is the best it can possibly be! We won't waste your time with nonsense... we promise! 

You have Successfully Subscribed!