Indoor Skydiving December 10, 2007Posted by caveblogem in Other.
This weekend I took my son to a birthday party that was held at SkyVenture in Nashua, New Hampshire. It’s just a short ride north from our house, so it sort-of surprised me that the owners advertise it as the only indoor skydiving place in New England. (I checked the blogosphere and notice that they have places like this in Orlando, Las Vegas, somewhere in Colorado and in Greater L.A.) The kind people who staged this birthday party offered to let parents take their turn at the fun, so I jumped at the chance.
It was an interesting activity, although a little disappointing. I only got two 90-second stints in the vertical wind tunnel. And my first one was cut short, because during my first flight the spotter noticed that my goggles looked a little loose, and they took me out of the chamber, fearing that the goggles would come off my head and fly into one of the fans at 120 mph.
In just 90 seconds it is a little difficult to get the hang of something new like that. It is surprisingly difficult to think clearly while bobbing up and down in a roaring vertical hurricane. They tell you that the key is to relax, but your body is sending an alarming number of nerve impulses to your brain. For me, at least, it takes time to process and sort it all out. The spotter is also constantly communicating to you through hand signals. He kept telling me to bend my legs, for example. They are long legs, and when fully extended they apparently grab considerable air, which has to be balanced out by my arms. Another guy was telling me to smile for the camera. I didn’t even know that my legs were extended. I had no idea what facial expression I was wearing. Apparently it was not a smile.
I have to say that what impressed me most about the place was the staff and the service. This place charges quite a bit, of course, because they can. People were in that morning, I heard, from the Royal Air Force, training for sky dives. When we got there there were at least 20 people up from West Point, doing the same thing (not quite sure how flying in this thing translates into actual skydiving experience, by the way. I knew a guy in graduate school who was a paratrooper. He was a big guy, and they always made him carry the heavy stuff. None of these Army people had so much as a backpack on. They were all wearing special spandex suits with little fins on the knees.) It must be expensive to run the fans and all that. But, even so, this was the best service I have experienced in several years.
And I don’t mean just the expertise at helping people learning to sky dive. The guy who trained this group of ten-year-olds was fabulous. And he spotted for our group, making sure that nobody ran into a wall, or went to high and into the fans, or slammed into the grate below. He was amazing and kind, focused and sharp.
It impressed me still more that when we were all preparing to enter the tunnel the pizza was delivered. It was early, and the hosts were jumping too. Both of them had taken everything out of their pockets, so they couldn’t just step out and pay. But the guy who was taking pictures simply stepped up and explained the situation (hard to do, since everybody was wearing earplugs) and asked the hosts how much to tip.
The hosts also had a young daughter who didn’t want to go within 20 feet of the tunnel. She holed up in the party room, and one of the staff went over and kept her busy. Nobody asked her to do it. She just stepped in and took care of it, so the parents could jump.
I’m not sure I can recommend the experience itself. I am glad I tried it, but it is far out of my price range to make a hobby out of this sort of thing. But I can enthusiastically recommend the place.