Imagine standing in a plane, stuffed like sardines in a tin can, with your heart clenched in a fist. Suddenly the back door of the plane swings open and there is nothing but open air and the ground 14,000 feet below. Nothing happens at first: Then, with a run and a jump, you are airborne, free-falling for the longest sixty seconds of your life before the parachute is pulled and you gracefully float down to the landing point.
This is what junior Dan Lenko does every week.
“It’s indescribable,” he said. “You’re so removed from everything.”
Lenko is only four jumps away from earning his A-license in skydiving, which will allow him to jump anywhere in the world and in up to 30 mph winds. Currently, he can jump solo with the parachute above him, working with instructors to learn more complicated moves in the air. To earn his solo license, he had to do jumps with an instructor ten times within 30 days, and to keep his license current, he has to go skydiving once a month.
Lenko first got involved in skydiving last fall when he went with Eastern’s Outdoors Club to Freefall Adventures in Williamstown, N.J. Lenko loved it so much that he earned his solo license by the end of the semester. He is now the vice president of the Outdoors Club.
“I would have never done it if I hadn’t gone to Eastern,” Lenko said. “Eastern really gave me the opportunity to do what I’ve always wanted to do as a kid.”
This activity does more than give you thrills; it also helps you face your fears. Believe it or not, Lenko is afraid of heights–and he goes skydiving every weekend.
But he is not afraid: Lenko equated the experience of skydiving not with falling but with floating.
“It’s just freedom in the air,” he said. “You’re in complete control of your body the whole time.”
The first minute of skydiving is a 5,000-foot freefall at 120 mph until the parachute is pulled. After that, it is nothing but a gentle coast for three to four minutes until landing.
Anyone can do it, as long as he or she is 18 years old and weighs less than 250 pounds. Last month, Lenko saw a man paralyzed from the waist down go skydiving–twice.
The Outdoors Club is still taking students skydiving, including sophomore Andrew Robertson, Lenko’s roommate. This will be his first time, and he is very excited.
“I feel like I’ve always wanted to do it,” Robertson said.
Junior Kim D’Abbene has gone skydiving one time with the club: April 5, 2008, the day before her twenty-first birthday. Her parents paid for her to go as an early birthday present.
“It reminds me of the power of God,” D’Abbene said. “There’s no experience like it.”
The Outdoor Club will be taking students to Freefall Adventures in Williamstown, N.J. on Oct. 3. It is $189 per person, but the first twenty students to sign up will get $20 off. For more information, e-mail Dan Lenko at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out www.freefalladventures.com.