Last night some of my coworkers and I went to an indoor skydiving facility called iFly Seattle.
All I have are two words: Mind. Blown.
I have always wanted to go skydiving but that little detail about possible death has held me back for some reason. So when Mike told me that one of his clients had just built an indoor skydiving facility where the rate of death is 0%, I was intrigued. Then one of my coworkers, who has gone skydiving before, suggested it as a team-building activity, and I jumped (but not out of a plane) at the chance.
We arrived at the building having no idea what to expect. We didn’t even completely understand how it worked — a tunnel of air? That can hold up a person? And that person doesn’t die?
We checked in and sat in a little classroom for a ten minute lesson on how to position our bodies in the wind, how to read the instructor’s hand signals, and that no, somersaults are not allowed for beginners.
Then came the this-is-becoming-real part: the flight suits. We were each fitted with a surprisingly comfortable jumpsuit and then told to put earplugs in our ears.
This should not have been difficult. I put them in and felt like they were set when the instructor walked over to me, looked at each of my ears, and then said, “No. These will fall out.” He took them out, rolled them tight, pulled my ear away from my head and jammed the earplug so far in I swear it touched the back of my eye.
After that, I was legally deaf.
Helmets were passed out, goggles were strapped on our faces, and we were finally ready — to be Team America, apparently:
Since one of my teammates had skydived before, we graciously allowed him to lead us into the unknown. The instructor gave the wind controller behind the glass the thumbs up to turn on the air, and it occurred to me that Mr. Wind Control really just looked like a DJ, which I found far too casual for the activity at hand.
Our teammate stood at the door of the giant wind tunnel, and then he leapt into it and I immediately decided I was not going next.
He was flailing all around and then suddenly he got himself in the pose we were taught, and just like that, he was flying. The instructor gave him tips here and there, but mostly he was hovering in the air as we all cheered him on. Well, we could cheer as loud as we wanted but due to hundred mile an hour winds and mind-bending earplugs, he probably just saw a bunch of silent muppets through the glass, waving our arms around.
In a split sixty seconds his turn was over and I was up. I did a little deflection dance, trying to get the person behind me to go ahead of me, but the instructor was having none of it.
I stood at the doorway and jumped across his arms. The intensity of the air hitting my face and the weightlessness of my body was immediately disorienting in the best possible way. I got into position as quickly as I could, and after he moved my arms around a bit, there it was: I was floating. I was also grinning like an idiot.
I couldn’t stop laughing as I realized that this felt completely natural and also like the best thing I’d done in years. The instructor spun me around and I saw all of my teammates through the glass giving me the thumbs up, which made me feel like I must not look quite as ridiculous as I felt. That or they were just glad it wasn’t their turn yet.
All too quickly, my minute was over and I jumped back onto the ground. I felt absolutely fantastic, like I had just been shaken alive from a stupor.
Easily the best entertainment of the experience was watching other people fly. I had to physically restrain myself from falling off my chair with laughter as each teammate went. It wasn’t that they were any better or worse than me, it was just the sheer absurdity of watching someone you know get pummeled by 110 mile an hour winds. People’s cheeks were pushed back and their lips were rumbling like a cartoon character falling off a cliff. As each person got out of the tunnel it took them a minute to realize their entire chin was covered in saliva. Oh, this was good entertainment. Good indeed.
We all got to go a second time, and this time I was confident and the instructor knew it, too. He saw me steady myself and then he showed me a head nod, teaching me to turn my face so that my whole body would spin. It was insanity — I would barely turn my head and I spun like a top. It was unreal.
At the end of our session our instructor said that no one was behind us in line, and if we’d like to go for an additional minute it would be $20. No one hesitated.
Ha. I tried to trick you there. Did you fall for it? Did you think I’d spend $20 without hesitation? If you did, this is likely your first time reading this blog.
Everyone else went a second time, and I sat there telling myself I’d already spent $66 on this, and I’d likely be back to bring Mike and other family members, so I didn’t need to go. But as each person went I could hardly stand to watch their glee.
As the last person exited, I jumped up and yelled, “OK I’ll do it!” into the deaf ears of everyone around me.
I don’t know if it’s because I held out, or because I’d done well the last time, but I’ll never forget what the instructor did next. Ten seconds after I entered the tunnel and was floating, without warning he gave Mr. DJ the thumbs up and the force of the wind shot us thirty feet into the air, twisting and turning and flying all around the top of the tunnel, racing back and forth and driving downward and upward. I went absolutely bananas, totally ballistic with joy. It was exactly what I’d imagined Peter Pan must have felt as he dove in front of the moon in Hook.
One of my coworkers later told me, “I’d never seen you so happy! It was incredible!”
Best $20 I’ve ever spent, hands down.
We all left the building completely elated, telling each other what we’d felt and who was funniest.
There is one drawback to indoor skydiving, and it’s significant: the experience is just too brief. There’s no way around it. Three minutes of flying only convinces you that you want more. Which is a pretty brilliant marketing plan, but it’s also torture when you realize it’ll cost another eighty bucks to return.
It’s just a hunch, but I suspect I’ll gladly part with my cash if it means I can give the DJ the thumbs up and rocket to the moon.