Free falling from 14,000 feet against 120 mph winds is a bucket list staple for many, and for Belmont students, it’s something they can experience sooner, rather than later.
Bruin Skydive is leading a trip to Skydive Alabama on March 23, the group’s second since forming last fall.
“I think the big goal of Bruin Skydive is to make skydiving realistic and feasible for students who want to get into it,” said Robby Berry, Bruin Skydive founding member and licensed skydiver.
Skydiving isn’t cheap, and for college students with little spending money, that might be a deal breaker. But with a $50 discount from SGA and a $30 student discount from Skydive Alabama, the price dropped to $139 from the usual $219.
Junior Katie Gleerup went on the trip last November for her first skydive.
“I didn’t really think I would do it before I got out of college,” Gleerup said. “But I just thought, ‘Why not?’”
Even though the decision to go was last-minute, skydiving’s something she always wanted to do, she said.
“I think once you do something like that that is outside your comfort zone and makes you feel like ‘This is a little crazy,’ it kind of opens up your perspective and your mind to be able to try new ventures and do new things,” she said.
For Eric Tudor, another of Bruin Skydive’s founding members, skydiving was supposed to be a one-time thing, but now he’s licensed in the extreme sport.
Tudor’s first skydive was a graduation gift. Otherwise, he probably wouldn’t have gone, he said.
“That’s what is so crazy, and maybe it’s what’s so attractive about skydiving is in literally 60 seconds, you can become addicted to something,” Tudor said. “But the feeling and the experience is so powerful that it’ll draw you in really quickly.”
For seniors Berry and Tudor, skydiving’s all about the buildup and release of fear.
If the plane’s ascent to 14,000 feet is like a piercing inhale, then the 60 seconds of free fall and 5- to 10-minute parachute descent is like a breathy exhale.
“It’s a scary thing just being on the edge of that door, and you’re like ‘What am I doing?’ and everything’s running through your head but … as soon as you’re out, the moment you’re out, it’s just washed away in a sea of euphoria or something,” Berry said.
But what exactly does it feel like to free fall?
Berry, Gleerup and Tudor all explained that it’s not like whizzing through the dips and dives of a roller coaster.
It’s a common misconception about skydiving that you feel like your stomach drops, Berry said.
“When you’re a kid you jump off things, but eventually you land really quickly,” Gleerup said. “But this, it was like you had the freedom to just keep falling, and you had that space in-between you and the ground. … It’s the closest thing you can get, really, to feeling like you can fly.”
Gleerup’s advice for first-time skydivers is not to overanalyze and let fear get in the way.
“The more you think about it, the more you start second-guessing yourself,” she said.
Tudor said, “It’s so unnatural for a person to just fall. … There’s really no way to mentally prepare for it. You just have to do it, and then take it for what it is.”
For her first skydive, Gleerup jumped with a United States Parachute Association-certified tandem instructor. That’s also how those going on Bruin Skydive’s spring trip will jump.
“As a tandem student, you’re really along for a ride,” Berry said.
Tandem jumps are an introduction to skydiving.
“It’s really amazing how controlled the whole process is because you think jumping out of a plane, you just think out of control, crazy, but they know what they’re doing and it’s a very easy process,” Gleerup said.
PHOTO: Belmont junior Katie Gleerup makes her first fall from the sky with a Skydive Alabama tandem instructor. (Photo courtesy of Katie Gleerup)