SPORTS: Falling Skies

Falling SkiesThe feeling of falling from 10,000 feet in the air, towards the Oklahoma earth, isn’t what you’d expect. That  stomach-in-your-throat sensation from riding rollercoasters isn’t there; the rush of jumping off a cliff, into a lake, isn’t there. It’s more like floating…like riding a strong wind above the world, and for several Edmond residents, it’s the best and most exciting feeling ever experienced.

Skydiving—which makes an appearance on the bucket lists of many—is safer, more accessible and more affordable than ever before, and a few Edmond adrenaline junkies are taking the ultimate plunge.

Madison Farr’s bright blue eyes light up when she thinks about jumping out of airplanes. It’s the jump that thrills this University of Central Oklahoma senior, the feeling of leaping into the air and falling 9,500 feet towards the earth.

Skydiving has always been her dream, and when she turned 18, Madison and her cousin took the leap. “I went as soon as I turned 18, but I hadn’t gone back until I started school at UCO and met Lindsay and Grant. It’s a lot of fun when you know the instructor,” she said. “The best part is jumping out of the plane. When the parachute opens, the view is nice and all, but it’s the jumping out that I love.”

Madison is a bit of an adrenaline junkie, despite her all-American, girl-next-door looks. She has been on zip lines and gliders, taken rides in air show planes, and has experienced scuba diving. She wants to bungee jump in the near future, but right now, falling from the sky is her new passion. “We went with a bunch of people on Labor Day, and we jumped at9 ,500 feet,” she said. “They tell us to put our right foot out of the plane onto the railing, but as soon as my foot hit that ledge, I went out. I just couldn’t wait. I’ve done tandem jumps each time, only because I still get so excited that I’m not sure I can control it.”

UCO student Cana Shaw joined Madison that weekend, for her first dive too. As a friend of Madison’s, Cana as up for the adventure. “I had to watch Madison go out of the plane first,” she said. “I wasn’t nervous until I was in the plane. When we first pushed off out of the plane, it was scary at first, and everything goes kind of slow-motion. Then you’re falling.”

When a person jumps out of a plane thousands of feet in the air, to free fall into the sky, thoughts can either be life-changing or just plain weird. Madison worried a little about her hair whipping her tandem instructor in the face. “My helmet was kind of loose, and I had that fear that it would fly off and my eyeballs would dry up and I’d die,” Madison said while laughing.

Approximately 2 million parachute jumps occur annually, and less than one percent of the jumps that take place result in some sort of mishap. Grant Rasmussen, instructor at Oklahoma Skydiving Center, is quick to point out that skydiving is safer now than it ever has been. “I’ve done nearly 700 jumps, and I’ve only had two malfunctions. Because you have two parachutes, the second one always works perfectly. Those are pretty good statistics,” he said.

Grant has a family history in skydiving. His parents met and fell in love while jumping from planes, then stopped when Grant and his brother were born. It wasn’t until Grant turned 16—the age requirement to jump—that father and son both began the hobby again. “I did my first jump in December, and it was freezing  and I was scared out of my mind,” Grant said. “But it was a real out-of-body experience. You aren’t able to explain the feeling to anyone because there is no feeling like it. It doesn’t feel like falling, and you are so high up, you can’t tell that you are falling.”

So in love with the feeling, Grant began hoarding his lunch money to save up to jump and eventually began doing odd jobs at Oklahoma Skydiving Center to trade for free jumps. Then he began teaching there. Now, both Grant and his father, Mike Rasmussen, teach and do tandem jumps at Oklahoma Skydiving Center.

Lindsey Jenkins of Edmond, and a graduate of UCO, was accompanied by Grant on her first jump on September 1st. “I was looking forward to it after Grant told me about it, but being attached to him my first  jump made it not as scary,” she said. “I’m going to do it again. It’s expensive, but worth it.”

Most students need 10 to 15 jumps before they jump without their instructor. Some may require more jumps before they are secure enough to take on the sky solo. Oklahoma Skydiving Center trains first-time students  to do solo jumps as well. On a normal summer weekend, up to 100 people visit the school to skydive. “There  are three skydiving operations in Oklahoma, but only two that do tandem jumps,” Grant said. “We do  tandems, and that’s what most people do their first time. Basically, you are strapped to the instructor who does  all the work for you. If you are going to do it, be prepared for a crazy experience!”

Oklahoma Skydiving Center is located at the Cushing Regional Airport. To book a jump or lessons, call  918-225-2222 or email to [email protected]

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