Everything was crystal clear in the 10 seconds before I jumped out of a Skydive Kauai airplane, cruising at an altitude of 10,000 feet.
During the 30-minute flight to the drop zone, the air whipping in from the open door of the little Cessna 206 airplane kept me focused on my purpose, and the morning’s spectacular views of Waimea Canyon and Mount Waialeale offered only a slight distraction.
Adrenaline took the reins about three minutes away from the drop zone and a thousand muddled thoughts flew through my head. When it came down to the moment of truth, though, I was only thinking one thing: I couldn’t wait to jump.
“Right now, our hearts are beating the same — 170 beats per minute,” said Ralph Hermaine, my tandem jump instructor. “I’ve been doing this for 21 years and this is your first time, but we’re both going through the same thing.”
A lifetime happened in that 35-second free fall. At speeds of 120 miles per hour, each sense is sharpened, absorbing every aspect of the experience in hyperspeed.
And then, just as soon as I was able to settle into the full reality of the fall, Hermaine deployed the parachute.
In seconds, we went from plummeting to floating, and then we really got to check out the view.
“Welcome to my office,” Hermaine said.
The varied blues of the Pacific stretched out on one side and the dappled greens and browns of Kauai’s Westside took over the other half of the horizon. The entire effect stole away any breath left after the free-fall.
Skydivers switch from pandemonium to peace within seconds and it’s that feeling that spurred Dave Timko, owner of Skydive Kauai, to take up the sport decades ago — two days after he turned 18.
“I think after I landed from my first jump, I pretty much said ‘I’m going to do this,’” Timko said. “It was that euphoric high and it’s just beautiful, spiritual, whatever you call it. It’s something you have to do to understand it.”
Timko opened the doors of Skydive Kauai in January 2005, after retiring in 2001 from nine years on the pro tour of the National Skydiving League. Since then, Skydive Kauai has taken more than 25,000 people on tandem skydiving jumps.
The company usually averages about 2,500 jumps annually.
Written for The Garden Island Newspaper, published Sept. 11, 2016. Photos taken by Skydive Kauai.