I’ve always considered myself to be an adventurous person, willing to try (almost) anything once. I believe that life is just too short to miss out on the endless new experiences that exist just outside of our front door. With that being said, I do have my limits. I have always been absolutely terrified of heights.
Still, as a thrill-seeker it is quite easy to see the appeal of an activity such as skydiving. I imagine the courage that must be required to step into that little airplane; the sheer fearlessness one must possess when taking that leap off the edge into the open sky. I think about what part of the entire experience I am most regretful to miss out on. It would obviously have to be the falling itself. I dream of the immense sense of inner peace and utter bliss that must come with it. It is a high that some people spend their whole lives chasing. While I can almost shed a tear imagining the overwhelming sense of pride and adrenaline that skydiving must bring a person, there is still just no way I could ever jump out of a perfectly good airplane. I would more than likely pass out just looking out the door. That is why when I was offered the opportunity to visit iFly, Kansas City’s premier indoor skydiving facility, I didn’t have to think twice. A chance to “feel the free-fall” without the worry that my parachute would malfunction and I’d end up like a bug on a windshield?! Sign me up!
I took a friend with me one Thursday night and we showed up with no idea what to expect. The facility was sleek and modern; the atmosphere extremely relaxed. There was an event going on that evening so we were treated to delicious appetizers and a glass of wine, which we happily welcomed with hopes of calming our nerves. When we entered the main area, we were instantly delighted by the show that the employees were putting on in the flying tunnel. There were four fliers zooming around eachother like Peter Pan, doing flips, dives and all sorts of very impressive stunts. My immediate concern was, “What if I get in there and shoot up to the top, smack dab into the ceiling and get stuck?” Our instructor, Paul, found my question pretty amusing. As it turns out, they happen to be highly trained professionals...and to even come close to doing what they were doing would take months of practice, strength and extreme body control. (Who would’ve guessed?) My flight was going to be a lot more simple, and the air in the tunnel would blow at a much lower speed.
We went through a quick training class that touched on some hand signals and the importance of our form—arms straight out, fingers spread, chin up and most importantly, relax! We put on our flight suits and goggles and headed into the chamber. I secretly feared I was going to forget everything Paul had just told us in the training as soon as my turn came. Or that I would throw my back out, or some other hideously awkward thing would happen. A sweet 11-year-old boy named Carson was in our group and I sensed that he was as nervous as I was. At one point he burst into tears and fully made his mind up that he couldn’t do it, which really bummed our group out because we had all been rooting for him.
My friend was right before me, so after seeing her fly I knew I was ready and was suddenly brimming with excitement. I laid into the tunnel as I had been taught and the instructor did an amazing job making me feel at ease. The first flight was mostly about getting the form down, and I must say I looked much less embarrassing than I thought I would, thanks to the direction and patience from Paul. I emerged with a perma-grin and couldn’t wait to tell Carson how much fun it was. I promised him it was a lot easier than I had thought, and explained how much better he would feel if he could walk out saying he pushed through his fear and did it, rather than regret and wonder forever. (A lot of this had been my own inner monologue from earlier as I had tried to give myself a pep-talk.) He ended up going for it and definitely had the best time out of anyone in our group. We whooped and hollered for him throughout his flight, all of us proud and happy to witness his face completely light up with joy. His mother later thanked me for the encouragement and explained how helpless she felt because she couldn’t be in the chamber to change his mind.
Paul then let each of us go again, and the second time we went more than halfway up the tunnel and flew in circles following a corkscrew pattern. It was by far my favorite part. I was beaming from ear to ear, and closed my eyes just to take it all in and appreciate the feeling of wholeness I had in that moment. I was beyond surprised at how perfect the entire experience was, so relaxing and thrilling at the same time. I highly recommend it to everyone, young or old, adventure-seeker or scaredy-cat. If you are reading this, I urge you to visit iFly Kansas City as soon as you can. It was a story I’ll continue to share with anyone willing to listen, and certainly induced a feeling and a freedom in me I will not soon forget.