By Ashley Walter
It was a pleasantly warm Saturday morning in June of 2009 at the Sussex Skydiving School in Sussex County, NJ, Ryan Weaver recalls as he sips on his Red Bull energy drink. The Red Bull seems ironically symbolic for this thrill seeker.
“I always wanted to go skydiving, because I figure if I could overcome this fear and adrenaline rush, I could pretty much overcome anything,” Ryan said with a sort of memorable cloud fogging over his eyes.
The drive down to Sussex seemed to take forever with the suspense beginning to build in both Ryan and his brother Michael and two cousins George and Christie. Ryan said that when they arrived they had to watch a video and a quick tutorial before going up in the plane. They also had to sign many waivers.
“It was quite comical signing my name 15 plus times and initialing my life away practically. There was even huge, bold, red print that said, 'Jumping may end in death.' ” Yet, the nerves didn’t set in for Ryan until they were forced to wait two hours for clouds to clear. You can’t skydive until there’s clear skies.
The wait was finally over and into the plane they went. The fear still hadn’t come over Ryan while the plane ascended. When the door of the plane opened and he had to step out onto the wing is when the wave of fear washed over Ryan’s body.
“When I looked down and realized how far up I was, is when I said to myself, ‘O my God what was I thinking?’ When I had to step out onto the wing, I remember being so scared not to fall… which made no sense since that is exactly what I would be doing in a matter of seconds.” Ryan was strapped tandem to the professional skydiver. This is when the professional is harnessed behind you, jumps with you, and tells you when to pull the parachute. Ryan said, “My heart felt like it stopped beating, my lungs were frozen with suspense, and I couldn’t even get out a scream when I realized the pro jumped without me really truly ready too.”
Ryan said that the first four seconds of falling, you feel as if you’re flying because you are still moving at the same speed of the plane, falling slightly sideways. After that, it feels like a continuous roller coaster drop. When you are far enough from the plane, you sprawl out opening up your arms and legs. The pro tells you when to pull the chord for the parachute, when you are a certain distance from the ground.
The pro has a safety parachute; Ryan had a safety parachute and the initial parachute. “I felt pretty safe. I mean if all three didn’t open up--than God’s got other plans for yah.” Ryan got to control the parachute with the two handles and could steer where he wanted to go and even do a few flips. When you come close to the ground you hike your legs up on a 90-degree angle and can land on your butt. Ryan chose to land on his feet and run, which can be quite tricky with the speed and the weight you're coming down with. “My brother tried to run in, and fell flat on his face!” Ryan said, chuckling.
The second Ryan hit the ground, he wanted to do it all over again. His adrenaline was so high his hands were shaking and his heart was beating out of his chest. He free fell for about 30 seconds and the rest took about 4 minutes gliding with the parachute.
“I have a video to remember this extreme first time experience, which I look for every excuse possible to show off to family and friends,” Ryan exclaimed.