Adventure - NW Georgia Living Magazine

By J. D. Erickson
Skydive The Farm is open seven days a
week and is located at the Polk County
airport. Skydiving is a weather dependent
sport, so if it’s rainy or overcast it’s best to
call ahead.
While writing this article Skydive The
Farm was in the process of possibly
relocating its operations to Rome.
Skydive the Farm | 493 Airport Rd.
Cedartown, GA 30125
(770) 614-DIVE
t’s a
bird! It’s
a plane!
No, it’s
a middle aged
man going
through a
mid-life crisis.
I’ve always
wanted to go sky diving but somehow
never made the time to try it, or maybe
I was always a little bit leery, i.e. scared.
The opportunity recently came one
beautiful spring weekend and I took
advantage of it. I have to say that I’ve
never experienced a more exhilarating,
adrenaline filled moment in my life than
while flying through the air at unbelievable speeds. As I come close to the halfcentury mark, I was able to scratch sky
diving off my bucket list after visiting
Skydive The Farm in Cedartown, GA.
If you’ve never experienced sky
diving and are curious enough to try
it, then do a tandem jump. Tandem
is where you and an instructor make
a jump and the instructor wears a
parachute, while you the student wear a
harness connected to the instructor. You
still experience the thrill of sky diving
but rely on the instructor’s skill and
experience to safely guide you to earth.
In retrospect, that is how I should have
started out. I opted for the Accelerated
Free Fall Course in which eventually I
would be on my
own, left to fend
for myself at some
point several thousand feet in the air.
Back to School
My first jump was a part of the
Accelerated Free Fall, or AFF, a course
for training new skydivers which
includes multiple jumps. The AFF
Level One course I took required
several hours of training prior to
exiting the plane with two qualified,
experienced instructors.
I had the good fortune to have “Fast
Eddie” Grantland as my instructor.
Eddie has close to 7,000 jumps under
his belt over a more than 30 year period,
which gave me the assurance that I was
in good hands. Eddie and I spent nearly
five hours going through techniques,
safety procedures, how to properly pull
your main chute/reserve chute, landing
techniques, and many other invaluable
lessons. We also spent time outside in a
simulated plane practicing my exit, hand
signals, etc. I took copious notes and
point — if I did
not move my left
hand upward while
moving my right to
pull the cord, it could
result in a potentially
dangerous spin.
Sky divers don’t jump out
of planes, they step out of them
at 14,000 feet. Also, the official term
for parachute is canopy. At the end
of the course, I had to take a written
exam. Unfortunately after five hours of
training, the weather was not cooperating so the jump was scheduled for the
following day.
It’s Time to Do it
The next morning was a beautiful,
sunny Sunday morning and the lobby
of STF was full of people from all walks
of life: kids, teens, and grandparents
watching their family members doing
tandem jumps. There was also a slew of
experienced regular skydivers ranging
in age from 20–40 that consisted of both
men and women. The regulars were a
tight knit group and reminded me of a
pack of daredevil snow skiers who live
for Black Diamonds. They wore gear that
expressed their personalities and didn’t
have an ounce of fear in them.
Then came the time to don the gear.
I put on my 2XL bright orange diving
overalls. I assume it was orange to
designate a first time jumper. I also had
my parachute, goggles, helmet, and
altimeter, which is used to watch your
altitude during the sky dive.
The next step was boarding the
airplane and there were close to 20
people on the flight. Eventually we
climbed to 12,000 feet on our way to
14,000 feet, which was the height we
were “walking out of the plane.” I admit I
got anxious and my heart started racing.
My OMG Moment
Once we got to our desired height, the
doors opened and less than five seconds
later a guy literally dove out of the door,
followed four other daredevils. Man, this
was intense and I thought those guys
were absolutely insane. Oh God, I’m
up next.
Fortunately, I had two experienced
instructors, Sarah and Leslie, who would
be exiting with me, making sure yours
truly made it out the door intact. In order
to have three people exit the plane at
once at more than two and a half miles
in the sky, we had to be in synchronicity.
The next thing I know, Leslie moved to
the open door and I tepidly followed. It’s
Go Time! I took a deep breath, grabbed
the doors and practiced what I learned
the day before. Finally after about five
awkward seconds where I thought Sarah
and Leslie expected me to wimp out, I
took a step out and dropped like a rock.
I then had my “Oh (expletive)”
moment. I also had a new idea for Shark
Tank: skydiving grade adult diapers,
because I was dropping at a rate of
one thousand feet every five seconds.
To say it was an adrenaline rush is
an understatement.
While falling so fast, I completely
froze up and forgot almost everything
that I had learned the day before. Both
girls were giving me hand signals telling
me to straighten out my legs. Sarah later
told me it was sensory overload, which is
when one or more of the body’s senses
experiences over-stimulation from the
environment. Good call Sarah, because
my brain was over-stimulated while
falling so rapidly.
Thankfully I did remember that once
I reached 6,000 feet, I needed to pull
my cord and deploy my canopy. The
canopy is supposed to deploy in less
than five seconds and it did. I was then
abruptly lifted straight up in the air and
suddenly floating.
A Birds Eye View
Now I had to figure out how to safely
land. Although my acceleration had
slowed from 120mph to 20mph, my
nerves were still a little bit frayed. I had
fallen so fast, so quickly and now I was
floating thousands of feet in the air. The
views from that height are amazing, you
can literally see for miles. I now had less
than five minutes to navigate my canopy
and its “cargo” to safety. The drop zone
was about the size of The Georgia Dome
with plenty of room to land in. What
could go wrong? Fast Eddie distinctly
said the day before that there were
four things you want to avoid when
landing: trees, water, power lines, and
other obstacles.
Trees are for Climbing
Unfortunately, I didn’t quite make a
favorable landing. I had a walkie-talkie
strapped to my chest and I soon could
hear Sarah guiding me in as I got closer
to the drop zone. Sarah instructed me to
make a hard turn to the right, and then
my next memory is hearing Sarah tell me
I was going to crash in the trees. I could
see the tree line and thought I could
lift my legs over them and hopefully
make the drop zone but it wasn’t meant
to be. What did I do? I crashed into the
trees. I finally came to a complete stop
and was dangling about fifteen feet
off the ground and could hear Sarah
yelling “Don’t move! Don’t move!” While
dangling there, my body weight caused
me to drop a few feet, followed by a few
more feet and finally after about twenty
seconds I had both feet firmly on the
ground. Nothing broken, only a couple
of scrapes.
The Walk of Shame
As I was walking in to the clubhouse, I
heard someone ask a friend, “Did you
see that guy crash into the trees?” I was
a little embarrassed but admitted that I
was the guy who landed in the trees. As
I took off my gear another plane load
was going back up, including Sarah and
Leslie. I have great respect for these
women because they are fearless; for
them skydiving is not only a cool activity
but it’s their profession.
Skydiving is a must-do activity for
thrill seekers, and everyone who falls
into that category should try it at least
once in their life. It was the most intense
adrenaline rush I have ever had and I
do plan on going back again. Word of
advice: Don’t tell your mother.
Jerry D. Erickson
is a real estate
developer , investor
and adventure
seeker. A former
jock he now
enjoys watching
sports more than
participating. Jerry
lives in Marietta with his 2 sons, JT and
Jack, who are active in sports, school and
general mischief.