Proud to jump, live on the edge

There are two kinds of people in the world.

Those who think you can put people into two categories and those who know better.

Well, consider me in the simplified, ADD-driven former group.

My two groups: People who skydive and people who observe those who skydive from the ground.

Watchers and doers.

I'm not saying there is anything wrong with not jumping. There are many reasons — fear and finances chiefly among them — why people stay firmly on the ground. I just think it says a lot about a person who seeks out perhaps the most unforgettable and unique experience in the world — something exhilarating, crazy and scary all in one.

Certainly, it's a small group of us.

I had jumped before Sunday, and I will jump again after Sunday. Frankly, if it wasn't for the cost, I would jump almost any day. Each leap of faith is memorable, no matter if you have jumped a small handful of times or more than 6,000 times — like my Skydive Suffolk instructor, my new best friend as they like to say, Don Jaget.

So, there we were Sunday, staring out the door of a plane small enough it would frighten almost anyone.

After seconds of looking at the ground 13,500 feet below — gazing at the patchwork scenery, at Newport News and the Great Dismal Swamp — the 40-year-old Jaget and this 29-year-old step out the door. Falling at 120 mph, we flip a couple times, looking at the ground one second and the endless sky the next.

For 60-some seconds and 11,000 feet, I fly — waving my arms wildly and screaming as my cheeks flap through the wind.

There's just something about the free-fall; there's nothing like it.

At 2,500 feet, Jaget opens the canopy and transforms from adrenaline junkie to tour guide and counselor.

He points out downtown Suffolk. Then, he senses my intense fear of heights — not strange, even among the most frequent jumpers, including Jaget — is sinking in during our forever-long five-minute glide to the Earth.

He comforts me, tells me to keep talking. He points out milestone altitudes and makes me laugh, dropping lines he's used probably 6,000 times and has worked 6,000 times.

With about 1,000 feet to go, my hands are tingling and I am feeling faint. He steers my limp body toward the landing zone.

Five forgettable minutes that in no-way take away from the one previous minute of pure bliss and joy.

It's not a crash landing, but it certainly isn't a Perfect 10. I pretty much land on my butt and fall to the side. My better half, who was documenting this whole adventure, thought for a split-second to sit down her camera and sprint to make sure I was OK.

Mere seconds later, she knew I was.

I pop up, with my face still as white as a car's high beams but wearing a smile from ear to ear.

I shake Jaget's hand, give him a hug and thank him for another ride of a lifetime.

Then, I become an observer — enjoying the end of adrenaline-filled, unforgettable rides of other friends.

It's a small group. Six to be specific who jumped. Six out of the more than 100 who were invited.

It takes something special in a person, no doubt.

As we gather, all wearing smiles, we share stories. We talk about the ride up to the jumping altitude, the cold once we got there, the view. The guys loved the free-fall. The girls loved the quiet, Zen-like feeling after the canopy opened. As we leave, in a serious delivery, Jaget tells us, "Be careful driving out there, it's dangerous." You can't not laugh.

The discussion continues during dinner in downtown Suffolk — a location that looked amazing just an hour ago while soaring.

We try to top each other with explanations of our journey.

We ask each other if we would jump again. A unanimous "yes," of course.

I bought two T-shirts Sunday.

One is funny: "Skydiving: Indefinitely better than the usual crap you do."

The other is more eloquent, a quote from Leonardo DaVinci on the back the highlight:

"... And once you have tasted flight, you will walk the Earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been and there you long to return."

Of course, they are more than T-shirts. They are trophies, points of pride.

Other people can wear these shirts, but they don't have the memories to go with them.

They don't understand the experience. They don't want to understand the experience.

Because they are observers.

I am proud to be a jumper.

I am proud not to just live, but to live on the edge.

Nick Mathews is the sports editor of the Daily Press. He can be reached by e-mail at or at 247-4962. For more from Mathews, read his blog at

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