Rebecca Eckler takes flight and gets hooked on the free-fall adrenaline rush
Thankfully, I don’t have time to worry that I’m going skydiving. It is before 8 a.m., and I’m rushing to iFLY Toronto, which is located in Oakville, for what they describe as “an epic experience.”
In The New Mid-Life, I’m all for epic experiences, but I’m also a little more fearful than I was when I was younger. For example, not too many new mid-lifers I know want to start a new sport for fear of injuring themselves.
But my outgoing and very cute 21-year-old instructor, Adrian Uracz — am I making myself sound like a cougar? crap! — tells me that they get indoor skydivers as young as four years old.
The eldest iFLY Toronto indoor skydiver? 93 years old!
I figure if a four-year-old and a 93year-old (who came with her son and her grandson) could do this, then certainly this new mid-lifer could … and probably should.
So what is indoor skydiving? Well, according to iFLY Toronto, it’s an opportunity to experience the sensation of free fall. Participants watch a video that gives an overview followed by classroom training of body position, hand signals, entrance and exit procedures and a safety briefing. You are then in a 14-foot cylindrical diameter vertical tube that is 45 feet tall, in which an airstream is passing at a speed of up to 250 kilometres per hour.
Once inside the wind tunnel, you get the experience of what skydivers experience during the free-fall portion of the jump (without actually having to jump out of a plane, which, to almost everyone, is the scary part), which is generally done from 13,500 to 3,500 feet of altitude at a speed of 200 kilometres per hour.
I know this isn’t rocket science, and that I’m not about to perform brain surgery, but I tell Uracz that I’m a little nervous.
“It’s normal to feel nervous. I’d be nervous if you weren’t nervous!” he says.
But, he stresses, “This is not supposed to be stressful!” Easy enough for a 21-year-old to say. A little hard to believe when you are a mother of two.
Today, I am going to indoor skydive four times, 60 seconds a pop.
As for new mid-lifers, he says, groups of women and men come in “all the time.”They also host birthday parties and bachelorette parties.
After I’m all suited up, I hold my arms to my chest (as instructed by the video) and am ready to fall into the tunnel. “Remember,” Uracz yells, “stay relaxed and smile!”
I fall forward and am immediately swept up, feeling the skin of my face flapping (and a little drool falling from the sides of my mouth).
“That’s perfectly normal. I had a five-year-old do this, and there was so much drool,” Uracz says and laughs.
Immediately, inside the tunnel, I know I am hooked, feeling, well, kind of like a superhero, mixed with the kind of rush you get when you are at the top of a roller coaster.
Yes, I sometimes fly into the walls, but it’s easy to push yourself back. Yes, I sometimes fall right to the ground, and Uracz tosses me back into the air. I feel weightless and free, and, looking back, all I could think about in that tunnel was, “I don’t want this to end!”
I think this new mid-lifer is going to be a repeat flyer. I know my 11year-old daughter would love this.
“My mother isn’t so much a fan of me actually skydiving. But she feels more comfortable with the indoor skydiving,” says Uracz, when asked how is mother feels about his job.
The company has another location in Montreal, and iFLY is celebrating its first anniversary in May.
They are often so busy, says Uracz, that, especially on weekends, they have back-to-back indoor skydivers. Often there is a waiting list for a few weeks.
Interestingly, no one has ever thrown up. No one has ever stood at the entrance of the tunnel and said, “Nope. Not going to do this.”
But more interestingly for some, is that there is a fitness factor to indoor skydiving.
“I think I lost about 20 pounds in the first two months I started indoor skydiving,” says Uracz, who is very lean. He tells me I’ll feel sore tomorrow, as if I just had “a really good workout.”
Sadly (and yes, I mean I WAS sad when my session was over), I feel both exhausted and full of adrenaline.
That adrenaline rush lasted the entire day. I don’t remember the last time I’ve been so excited by something. And, yes, when I woke up the next morning, my shoulders and stomach muscles did feel like I had done a hard yoga class the day before.
I can’t help but ask, “When you tell people indoor skydiving is your job, is it a good pickup line?”
Uracz laughs and says, “Yes. It has worked a couple of times.”
I guess the big question is, will I ever try actual skydiving? After this, the answer is a definite, “YES!”
Eckler experiences the free-fall portion of skydiving