Stepping out into thin air

“Life is  what you make it, a quiet, tame socks and sandals experience or a chance to take in the adventure and world around you.”

This is my July adventure and review of a sky-diving day in Gatineau, Quebec (15-minutes from Ottawa). This will be something you should read if you want to jump here in the Ottawa/Gatineau area or if just thinking of sky-diving in general.

Why 

I am somewhat afraid of heights and throw up on roller coasters (although have survived a double-looper vomit-free)…so why would I consider jumping from a plane? I like challenges and experience…and living life! I have run 100km ultra marathons and run a solo rim2rim2rim run of the Grand Canyon, bungee-jumped and hung from a helicopter. Skydiving was on the list.

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Daniel Sévigny (Co-owner) and my instructor Aristides (Ari) Saavedra

Fun fact – between the 4 co-owners of Go Skydive – they have a group total of 17,700 jumps!

I did my research and happen to bump into an instructor (Ari) at the grocery store where I live – we chatted briefly. Then I talked to a colleague who gushed with excitement about her jump. I went online and found Go Skydive in Gatineau, talked to co-owner Daniel – and the rest you can read about below!

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Click here to watch my entire jump (video uploaded to YouTube)

What it was like

“Like sticking your head out a car window at 200km/hour but facing down from 13,000ft, a yank and then slow peaceful arcs in the sky with amazing views before legs up and a super smooth landing on your butt.”

*For full experience – watch the video above.

I reserved my day and time for a jump and then it was jumping into the car and finding the jump site. Once behind the wheel I felt committed. It was an easy drive and pretty easy to find (once you arrive on road to leading right up to Gatineau airport, don’t turn in but turn to the right on a road that appears to be a dead end. Go Skydive is at the end – look for a flag).

I signed the form, got someone to witness it and went to wait. While waiting I got to talk to others waiting to jump and there was quite a diverse group. There were some young people in what was probably their first real jobs, there to say goodbye to a colleague and then there were a mix of men and women of various ages.

I took photos, walked around the quite, grassy area and waited. I watched others get instructions and get suited up into red jump suits and saw a few float down from the sky. Everything seemed really orderly and jumpers and instructors were given heads up to the next jump time from the main administration building. I was relaxed but felt some nerves.

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Me and Ari ready to go. he arranged so he would be my instructor. Super nice guy.

Finally. I watched the instructions video about what to do on a tandem jump. Head back against instructor, hold on to straps, kneel at the door when ready for jump and then arch like a banana when out with feet back between the instructor’s. Then into gear, instructions again and checked. Extra big goggles to go over my glasses.

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Loaded onto a wagon with benches for short ride to the Go skydive plane.
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Getting ready to board the plane on a cloudy day in Gatineau.

Once suited up, Ari double-checked my straps and equipment and we got ourselves out to the  plane. Ari had a GoPro camera on his wrist and took photos and video during the entire process. He was fun and enthusiastic but professional and made me feel relaxed. I had sat down and chatted with him and another instructor before the jump. He said he had always wanted to jump and when he did he was hooked. Ari also said for him it was a love for skydiving that brought him to work as an instructor but for him he also enjoyed seeing others experience skydiving.

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Snuggled up infront of Ari on a bench as the plane climbs into the sky.

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Green light on – things got real.

Up we went. Some were supposed to jump at 8,000 and a few at 13,000ft, but with clouds and some rain moving in, the pilot smartly chose to go straight to 13. There was shouts and general positive feeling in the cabin and I tried to relax but as we got higher, the nerves set in no matter how much I fought them. Ari goes through what to do again and we wait. Glasses on, hands on strap. Green light, door open and we shuffle forward.

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No countdown, kneel at door, hands on straps, head back and go!

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Small chute slows us to 200k/hr but you feel the drop and rush of air. Adrenaline pumping. Amazing!

I had not been sure what to expect. I had bungee-jumped before and it is like falling into nothingness (quite freaky). This was different, I felt the fall but there is more wind resistance (alot more) and you are buffeted pretty hard. My stomach lurched a bit but was pretty cool. About 60-seconds later we are yanked up as Ari pulls the main parachute.

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A 5-7-minute journey from about 5-6000ft to a smooth landing where things began.

You feel a yank and feel like you get sucked up, ugghh guts again. Then things settle down and get quieter. I may have a fear of heights but not here. I feel secure and well in control (well Ari) is and enjoy the view. Ari offers me the toggles to control the parachute but my guts can’t handle any more Gs than a slow turn and I resign myself to looking down and around. I am a passenger on this jump but ok with it.

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Super smooth landing.

Before I know it we can make out the landing zone below and I am reminded to lift my legs up as we approach a landing. Slow turns and then we rush towards the ground. Not even a bump for me. I slide my butt along the grass and we stop.

One word. Amazing.

Advice

What you need to consider before signing form for your jump:

  • Affect on your insurance
  • What could happen if there is an accident
  • That if not a roller-coaster guy if might make you feel nauseous
  • Weather is unpredictable and a jump or jump time not guaranteed
  • If you wear glasses make sure they will fit snugly under goggles

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What you may need for the day of your jump:

  • Loose clothing and appropriate for weather
  • Shoes or sneakers you can tie snugly
  • Jacket etc. for in case weather changes
  • Plan for what could be a 3-4 hour wait (can be shorter)
  • Bring a folding camp chair
  • Bring a friend or come with a group
  • Bring snacks and something to drink
  • Bring your cell/camera and a book
  • Non-drowsy dramamine to help with any nausea (motion and adrenaline)
  • If a runner – bring some running gear in case you can squeeze in a quick run

And lastly make sure you are comfortable with your instructor, the weather and your decision. Everyone is different and life is full of risks, but if you choose wisely, think ahead, you can minimize them and let some adrenaline flow and experience a few things!

Go SkyDive also has a Frequently Asked Questions section.

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Fun Fact: Co-owner Daniel has been jumping since 1999, has 4000 jumps under his belt and has been a part of 5 CSPA Canadian records .

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Where

The Go Skydive location is just to the left of the Gatineau airport identified by a flag at the entrance to a path that leads to their small grassy setup. Its a short trip on highway 50 from Ottawa or Gatineau and is a few seconds from the exit 154 identified as “Boul. de l’Aeroport”.

There is plenty of space for parking and its only a quiet few seconds walk to the administration trailer on a short path that includes a bridge over a small stream.

1717, Arthur-Fecteau street – Gatineau, Québec

Pay , Play and Pee

There is a an administration trailer where you sign your forms and pay (bilingual staff) (and has some cool gear for sale along with skydiving goggles, altimeters and a few other items for sale). A small vending machine is just outside for a few snacks. There is a small tent for shade with a couple of tables to rest and wait for your jump and is also where you watch a promo video that also goes through the basics for a tandem jump (instructions). There is a small play structure for small kids and lots of grass for playing and there are 2 porta-potties with soap and water to wash hands.

For friends and family there is a covered area (with shade) with a clear view of the drop zone (where everyone lands).

For a first time jumper the cost is $239 or $245 (more if you want pictures or video)(Video is super cool). The less expensive version is called an Adventure Tandem and you get a bit more training, a chance to pilot the parachute and wear an altimeter during the jump. Full information on prices on their website.

Conclusion

I loved the personal challenge and experience. I  do not think I am hooked (as some really appear to be right after their first jump). I think I will jump again but not right away – but I do encourage others to try.

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Go Skydive website

Go Skydive FaceBook page

If you would like to do your own research and get more information on skydiving:

 

Life is never risk-free, but if you think and plan your adventures you can keep living and exploring life!

 

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