Skydiving over Ambergris Caye, by Jorge Aldana for the San Pedro Sun
It is considered one of the most extreme sports in the world, but skydiving can also be considered the best, it all depends on who you ask. Many people I spoke to feel that jumping out of a perfectly functioning aircraft is the craziest idea. Maybe it is, but for me, it proved to be the single most incredible and amazing lifetime experiences. My tandem buddy, Lyal Waddell was superb, professional, and provided me with a sense of determination and confidence. His instructions were simple to understand and I knew that I was in great hands with Waddell. Keith Levefque was our photographer/videographer and was also a real character who helped me in cementing the idea that skydiving was great.
The Boogie in Belize group from Tsunami Skydivers Incorporated is no stranger to the people of Ambergris Caye and Belize. For the past five years many eager spectators have flocked the beach annually to the landing drop near Coco Locos Bar, north of the bridge. The day is enjoyed while taking in the scenery as the divers jump out of a shark painted plane, open their colorful parachute and land on the ground in a perfectly safe condition. And while many prefer to enjoy the scene, many also like to be front and center of the action.
Once you have made the difficult decision on whether to experience a tandem jump (skydiving with two divers strapped to each other), all you need to do is show up at SunBreeze Hotel where one signs up for the jump of one’s life. “Once you follow the instructions, all will be perfect and it will be quite the memory,” expressed my tandem buddy. I knew that if I wanted to challenge my colleagues at work and share my experience, then there was no reason not to follow those instructions.
I found myself seated to the extreme front of the Shark plane, strapped with all the implements for skydiving. As I sat in the plane, I began experiencing flashbacks from the many comments my colleagues told me throughout the week; the fearing of having an “accident” while out of the plane. There was no way I would go through that embarrassment at work, so I became self determined knowing I had to overcome the challenge.
As we went higher into the skies, it began felling cooler and from what Waddell told me, it was normal because of the altitude. I was carefully fastened to him and when we came to a height of 13,000 feet, the first group of skydivers plummeted to the ground. I knew it was just a matter of minutes and the challenge would be over with. Then, Waddell turned to me and asked, “Are you ready?” My response was quick, “Let’s get the ball game rolling.” The plane made a second spin over the jump area and then the second group made their jump. When we turned for the third time, Waddell said we are ready. I gulped and a big mouthful of cold air rushed to my lungs. We slowly moved to the door and once we were in our jumping position, I turned at both cameras for a photo shot, then the moment of truth arrived.
I jumped out of the plane to a speed of about 120 miles per hour. It was an indescribable dive through the air, slicing through the clouds the way birds do. Enjoying the bird’s eye view of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye was fabulous and I turned my eyes in all directions trying to identify different locations on the island. As we quickly descended, I stared at the skydivers who had jumped before me and then I saw Levefque, the cameraman, skydive in front of me. I knew that was an opportunity to take a picture and video of the jump. I proudly waved at Levefque and a huge smiled took over my face as a sign of great accomplishment. Then after a few minutes, before I realized, the parachute popped open.
When the parachute opened, I was jerked up a little into the air and the descent became slower. After keenly observing Waddell for a few minutes, I was given reigns of the parachute which I proudly controlled by pulling the ropes in the directions we wanted to turn; I pulled right and then we both began spinning. It was getting me a little bit dizzy and then I quickly pull to the left. Before I realized, I was cruising and controlling the parachute all by myself. The sad reality of everything is that it was too much excitement for a few minutes and we were gradually making our way down. After about 12 minutes into the jump, Waddell took full control back of the parachute. I knew it was almost over. He then turned into some clouds then we burst into some gray looking clouds, which was spectacular and awesome.
Then it was time for the landing on the drop area. We began descending slowly and felt Waddell tap me on by back which was a signal to slightly lift my feet upwards. I did as instructed and by the time I realized, I was on the ground.
It was all incredible and I felt a sense of accomplishment. No doubt I surprised a lot of people, including myself. I can assure that the little nervousness for the unknown, is well rewarded by the experience you accomplished once you do the tandem jump. It finally, came true! Freefalling was absolutely amazing and for anyone to try to compare that to anything else in the world it is virtually impossible. I’ve tried several things in my life, but nothing is compared to skydiving. Once the parachute was deployed and we slowed down looking out over the landscape, it was one of the most peaceful moments I’ve ever had. If you’ve never taken a dive before, there enough reasons like mine that I encourage others to experience a challenge becoming a reality. If you haven’t made up you mind, you have until February 23rd to put on record what I would consider one of the most memorable days of your life. I definitely owe it all to Lyal Waddell, Keith Levefque and all the staff of Tsunami Skydivers Incorporated. I said to my self when getting into the plane, “I don’t know when but, you will be seeing me again.” I can proudly beat my chest and say, “I did it!” How about you?
Photographs by Keith Levefque
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