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

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

July 12, 2014 – AFF 3

All I can say, is with out any uncertainty, I am a skydiver. It is all I think about, and dream about. I am driving my coworkers nuts with my stories of jumping. They are all teasing me of being “skydive drunk” and have nicknamed me “baby bird”. I find myself doing practice ripcord pulls walking through the building at work. I find myself watching the video of my first AFF jump, and dirt diving as much as I can get. I have found it really relaxing to roll my car window all the way down and let my arm hang in the wind. People think I am waving, but I’m truly just practicing my “free fall relaxation”. Every atom in my physical body is screaming at me to get to the drop zone. I am addicted. My spirits have been up, and my heart is smiling so big.

I load up the car again for the 200-mile journey to my favorite place. I kiss my family goodbye, and thank them for their understanding support during my AFF training. They understand how important it is to me. This time I know I will not be jumping in the evening, as it is completely overcast and drizzling the entire way. I arrive just in time to sit in on a team meeting, which I find very fascinating. Bo is an amazing leader, and the way he conveys his messages is stunning. He and Alex have built a family of talented individuals who care just as much as they do about their business. It amazing what can be accomplished when people live true to themselves and their passions. I know the more and more I spend time here that I have found a missing link to my very own life. I feel I belong here.

I meet more and more people every time I go. I love everyone’s story, and am amazed at the amount of intelligent, successful, outgoing people that are here. I once again am blown away at the hospitality of Bo and Alex, as they try to feed me, and welcome me with open arms. I find out that a few of the jumpers are spending the night at the hangar again, so I am relieved when we get the chance to hang out and get to know each other better. I practice some Acroyoga with Kim, and am quite impressed how much fun it actually is. What a cool place, and incredible atmosphere. I get an early nights rest, and head to bed.

July 13, 2014

I awoke in time to watch the sun rise again. This time, I ventured into Ft. Atkinson to buy some tea, yogurt and a banana. I have no appetite, and know I have to try to eat something. Afterwards, I venture out to the Target, and watch the wind streamers, and feel the wind at ground level. I want to be prepared for my skydive, so I begin to look up winds aloft readings, and check the trending forecast. Winds were coming from the west, and this was the first time jumping with winds from that direction. I am eager and excited and just can’t wait to get going. After Bo and Alex get to the drop zone, I help pull the planes out of the hangar. This is so exciting to me, and I just love being able to help. (If I only lived closer to the drop zone, I could see myself spending every waking second there, sucking up as much knowledge as I possibly could! As for now I am limited to Saturday evenings and Sundays.)

I get all signed in, get my paper work, and gear checks out of the way. Bo teaches me “roll out of bed” technique in the event that I am stuck on my backside during free fall. I am hopeful this will be my release dive, and Bo keeps telling me I can do it, but I have to earn it. He prepares me for what I am to expect on this jump and before I know it, we are geared up and heading to the plane. I am jumping with Tasha and Bo this time, and am so ready to make up for my crappy exit last time. I have been practicing all week in my head, and on my living room floor, and I am so ready for this jump! We climb to altitude, and again, I am quizzed on hand signals, and pull altitudes. I try to smile and enjoy the plane ride. I watch horizon out the window and try to keep and eye on the drop zone as best as I can, but always seem to get disoriented once we get to 12,500′. We climb out, Bo on one side, and Tasha on the other. I check in, and count down, and we are off! I complete a circle of awareness, and then I do three practice ripcord pulls. Then I enjoy the free fall, and continue to do circle of awareness while trying to learn how my body can fly. I am trying hard not to be too rigid, and it is so hard to overcome. I find myself looking out in front of me and I see Bo smiling so big at me! He let me go! I was released!! Tasha has also let go but remains close to my side. I am so excited at the fact that I am free falling alone that I look at my altimeter and notice 5000′, and I quickly reach back and PULL HARD! The next thing I know I am spinning as my canopy is inflating. I look up at my canopy and I see a mess of line twists. After some choice words, I do as instructed, and kick myself out of them. And just as it was explained, they come right out, nice and easy. I equalize my ears, and listen for the commands on the radio.

I fly my canopy to the target and am able to land standing up again. When I reach the ground, I pause for a moment, and shake my head. They show me how to collect my lines, and carry the parachute. I walk back to the hangar and get high fives from everyone. Bo and Tasha review my skydive, and there is so much work to be done. I will be doing level 3 again, because I need to have a stable deployment. I must relax and learn to control my entire body better. This is teaching me so much about constructive criticism, but I look forward to the feedback because I know I am learning from the very best.

I utilize the rest of the time to try and pack some tandem canopies, and soak in the presence of the coolest people I know. I adore this place, and when it comes time to pack up and head home, my heart has a hard time saying goodbye. Before I know it, just like I had awaken from a dream, I am on the road again, headed home.

New to Melissa’s journey? Follow Melissa’s journey through AFF at the links below. A new entry will be posted every Wednesday at 2:00pm.

The Journey Begins – AFF Level 1
AFF Level 2 – Baby Steps

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

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