Leap of Faith

Freefalling with DZone Skydiving. 

“It’s not looking good,” the pilot, Jon lamented, as he surveyed thick clouds closing in around us. “We’re probably going to need you to reschedule.”

I couldn’t help feeling the sting of disappointment, which was noticeably shared by the small crew that had assembled for my mid-morning skydiving lesson. I got the distinct feeling that the DZone Skydiving crew love their jobs, and were every bit as bummed as I was.

“I guess I’ll give it a few more minutes,” I replied optimistically, as the flight crew reluctantly began putting equipment away in the aircraft hangar at the Three Forks airport.

Despite the disparaging cloud cover, it was a comfortably warm morning, so I plopped down at an aging picnic table just outside the hangar door. I became fixated with peeling the table’s red paint, when all of a sudden, I felt warm sunshine on my back. Jon stopped fiddling with the airplane and walked over. “Empty your pockets!" he exclaimed. "Let’s go! It must be your lucky day.” I looked up, and sure enough the sun was shining and quickly burning off what was left of the pesky clouds.

My tandem jump instructor Rio sprang into action by fitting me into a jumpsuit and harness, and running me through a quick ground training and safety session. In the meantime, the rest of the crew readied the aircraft and equipment.

Excitement grew steadily as Rio, Jon, the video guy Kyle, and I packed ourselves into a small silver airplane and started down the runway. Jon roared the engine and the plane raced across the blacktop. Then, just as I was beginning to think it couldn’t be any louder, bumpier, or more claustrophobic, the ground fell away and the small aircraft felt steady, strong, and nimble—we were flying!

I’m a fairly big guy, so we were packed like sardines in the small aircraft—I was basically sitting on Rio's lap with my back to his chest. He stretched out his arm over my shoulder holding a GoPro camera asking me questions. Grinning ear to ear, I tried my best to answer him.

I looked out the windows, gaping in awe at the beauty of the Gallatin Valley, getting a 360-degree aerial view as we climbed to 10,000 feet. Spectacular views of the Spanish Peaks, the Tobacco Roots, and the Bridgers spread out all around us. Jon indicated that it was almost time to jump. The door of the plane slid open, and we precariously positioned ourselves in the doorway. I went completely numb for a moment, transfixed by the world way, way, way down below us. Rio snapped me out of it by yanking my head back to his shoulder and somersaulting us right out of the airplane.

DZone Skydiving, Three Forks
A moment of tranquility before the jump

Adrenaline coursed through my veins as we plummeted toward the ground. Rio, a seasoned pro, easily steadied us in the air. As we fell, speed, wind, excitement, amazement, and fright came at me faster than the ground we were racing toward. At the proper elevation, Rio deployed our parachute and everything slowed down a bit. We were still falling fast as he transferred the control handles of the parachute to me and instructed me to circle first one way and then the other. It was terrifying, fun, and exhilarating all at once. Rio pointed out our landing zone and took back the controls. The last 50 feet of the descent was surprisingly quick; before I knew it, my butt was firmly planted back on terra firma.

DZone Skydiving, Three Forks
Mid-jump, Tom Petty's famous lines come to mind

Rio and I unclipped and stepped out of our parachute as the Kyle joined us at the landing site. We gave each other high-fives and excitedly recounted our dive as we retreated back to the hangar. Despite the jovial atmosphere, I couldn’t help feeling bummed that the experience was coming to an end.

DZone Skydiving, Three Forks
Another satisfied DZone customer

Rio and Kyle transferred the video footage to a computer, and they quickly uploaded it to a flash drive for me. Then it was sincere handshakes and goodbyes, and I left with my signed jump certificate, a flash drive of my adventure, and hell yes I got a t-shirt!

To book your jump, check out bozeman.dzoneskydiving.com.