Monterey Bay Skydiving

Last night I got a call from Ryan to finally organise the carpool down to skydiving this morning. We met at work (the universal meeting place, it seems, for interns) at 9ish and from there all headed off in my car – Ryan, Jeff, Deepu, Stephane (guy, actually – French :P) and myself.

The trip there was relatively uneventful… Jeff looked absolutely horrible when he first turned up – his eyes were barely open. Apparently he had rather a big night last night, on the booze, and was feeling a little precious this morning. Ryan also was a bit seedy. But anyway, they mostly rested on the trip down, which was pretty smooth and quick – there was virtually no traffic at all the entire way, which was fantastic and meant it actually did take about 90 minutes as Google promised. And that was despite me getting off route two times (both due to retarded U.S. highways… well, that and dodgy Google Maps directions in one of those cases).

So we got there at about 10:30, and were booked for 11. Driving in, the place seemed pretty divey, to say the least – it’s based at Marina airport, which is a small commercial field in a similarly small town, and everything was run down looking, overgrown with weeds and whatnot. Kinda worrysome. However, the important stuff – planes, gear and jumpmasters – were all much more presentable, so we were a bit more reassured once we were all checked in and whatnot.

And then we waited… and waited… I think it was about three hours, at least, before the first of us actually set foot in a plane. ’till then, we just had to amuse ourselves playing cards, reading weird magazines (“Vice” or something?) and whatnot.

Anyway, we got out there eventually – Jeff, Ryan & I went first, as we were all going from 18,000 feet (~5.5km), while Deepu and Stephane went only for 15k.

The setup was much the same as in Queenstown – tandem jumps, with one tourist strapped to the front of a jumpmaster, and optionally one camera guy to film & photograph the proceedings. Ryan & I both opted for the video & photos, and the others declined entirely – very foolish, I felt, and made clear to them – Jeff especially – repeatedly, but alas to no avail.

I didn’t sleep much last night… I didn’t feel especially nervous – I wasn’t really thinking about the jump – but must have been. I think I only got four hours, if that, and it was very restless. I vaguely remember having the same sort of restless sleep in Queenstown.

I was still very nervous right up until we were just about to jump. I thought more than once about piking, but, as I said the main reason I’d resolved to do it from the start was to overcome my own objections.

And I kept having nagging doubts and paranoias… such as when I was climbing into the plane and one of the buckles on my harness flew up in the wash from one of the engines and hit me in the face, giving me a nice cut on my lip – minor, but one of those things that seems suspiciously foreboding and omen-like.

Naturally, though, things went perfectly well. I was a bit more confident just prior to leaving the plane – I knew what was coming, and I knew I was very close to the point at which you no longer have any fear and just enjoy it – i.e. as soon as you leave the plane. So that propelled me on. I was envious though, that Jeff was particularly gungho and asked his jumpmaster to spin and tumble him, including leaving the plane backwards rather than forwards. That looked pretty cool. I could have asked my guy for the same thing, I’m sure, but, I didn’t… chickened out. Something for next time. :)

Anyway, there was no suggestion of needing oxygen this time around… I wonder if the air at this latitude is significantly thicker and negates the need for it. It didn’t really feel any different to Queenstown.

So, once out of the plane of course it was a good 80 or 90 seconds of freefall, followed by a few minutes of parachute descent. All completely awesome of course. Different to the first time, naturally, but still a huge adrenaline rush and an awesome experience.

The landing area was a patchwork of concrete, gravel and rather solid dirt. So the landing wasn’t a nice smooth slide like in Queenstown, but rather a fairly abrupt point landing, which was a bit jarring but no damage done. I hadn’t really been expecting it properly – I should have, as I’d watched many others land previously – which that didn’t help.

There was one guy, Makko (no idea about the spelling) who was pretty scary – very entertaining in the air, and he always came in really fast and spun about only right before landing. The first time we were all standing around at the landing area*, and he came spiralling in really quickly, yelling “OH SHIT!” and pretending to be out of control. He completely freaked out all the naive tourists. I was a little unnerved as well, since I was only somewhat confident he was just fooling around. :)

* = Flights were doubled-up such that the first group left from the hanger, on the plane, while the second group were bused out to the landing area. The plane then landed, taxi’d over to the second group, whom climbed aboard and went up for their turn. Not sure exactly why it was done this way, but it worked well enough in any case.

Anyway, after that we took a ride back to the hanger, unkitted, waited for Deepu and Stephane to kit up, and headed back out. They went up and jumped, we watched and filmed from the ground. Good times had by all.

So after that – after quickly watching Ryan’s & my own DVDs on the TV they had there – we headed off. We swung back through Selina in search of food, ending up at a Pizza Hut. Ryan wanted a buffet one, but they didn’t have one, and although they recommended some competitor called “Strawman”, my hopefully trusty iPhone claimed no such thing existed in Selina.

Anyway, that was good and well needed – it was 4:30 when we left the airfield, I think, and we’d basically skipped lunch.

And from there of course it was the long and painful trip back to our sliver of civilisation. And it was painful… virtually all the way up the 101 from Selina to the bottom of the valley was just crap traffic, often stopping completely… for a long while there our average speed was 20mph. Luckily, my car is only slightly less fuel efficient in traffic like that than actually cruising – 47 vs ~44 mpg – so I didn’t really care too much; we had music, and the company was much more lively now that they’d largely shrugged off their hangovers. :)

After dropping everyone back at their own cars, I swung via ye ol’ cinematorium to watch Superbad, which they’d all recommended. I couldn’t find anyone else in 15 minutes notice to accompany me, so it was just my lil’ old self. The movie itself was pretty good… plenty of good humour, and some gross bits – as are apparently required by such general teen movies – although not in a way I found at all distasteful, which was a pleasant change. But it smacked a bit of the typical “awkward geeky types have grand wild adventure and get the hot chicks” meme, which I find sadly unrealistic in my own experience. :)

And now I’m back home, safe and crispy, trying to rip the DVD of my adventures for all the enjoy, but inexplicably having much difficulty doing so. Hmm… I would have said it’ll be up within a few hours, but, I can’t give any estimate with certainty at this point. I’m working on it, anyway – I think it came out quite well, although I look like a dork for the most part. An angry dork, but some reason. To much feist in general, perhaps. :)

I’ll try the photos.

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