The sky is no longer the limit

Denise Wright

Canton Air Sports employee Chuck Bramel adjusts his gear after landing from a jump Thursday, Sept. 18.

Credit: Adam Cade

WATCH a video of reporter Denise Wright skydiving.

To put it mildly, I’m not one you would call a risk taker.

I feel on edge if I leave my car or apartment unlocked. I have an irrational fear of confrontation.

And while I’m proving how much of a scaredy-cat I am, I may as well throw it out there — I secretly freak out on almost every roller coaster I ride. Sometimes it’s a little more external, as proven by a few coaster cameras.

I guess I just like to keep both feet on the ground — figuratively and literally.

So when I called my mom and told her I was considering skydiving for a story, she laughed and said, “You’re not going to go, right?”

About two weeks later, I’m pulling up to Canton Air Sports, and I gulp as I reach for the handle of the car door.

“What am I getting myself into?” I wonder.

The same thought is still crossing my mind as I fill out the paperwork, signing my life away.

Extreme Sports in the area

&bull Extreme Martial Arts

2764 S. Arlington Rd., Akron

(330) 645-0505

&bull Synergy Paintball Challenge

29344 Lorain Rd., North Olmsted

(440) 734-7246

&bull Laser Quest

80 Brookmont Rd., Akron

(330) 666-6966

&bull Kiraly Fencing


304 N. Howard St., Akron

(330) 762-4866

I relax a little as I walk over to the plane to begin training.

Chuck Bramel, my skydiving instructor, walks me through the steps: Crouching behind the pilot’s seat, rolling over, crawling up to the door, sticking my foot out on the ledge, ducking and rolling out of a perfectly good plane.

Although only required once, I ask to go over the steps again. By the time of the jump, I had probably gone over the steps at least two hundred times in my head.

In total, training took about 10 minutes, so I was worried we hadn’t covered all the bases.

“So how am I supposed to be positioned on the way down?” I ask Chuck.

“Just arch,” he tells me for probably the third time. I go to ask another question, and he tells me I shouldn’t worry so much, I’ll be fine. Easy for him to say.

My mind is put at ease for a moment when I see the trendy blue suit I get to wear.

“At least I’ll be dressed decently when I die,” I convince myself.

Chuck has more than 6,000 jumps under his belt. This is second nature to him, really.

After suiting up, Cory, a friend I enlisted to go with me, and I are whisked off to the plane.

Chuck and I crawl behind the pilot’s seat as Cory and his dive instructor, Mike, take their seats beside us and slide the door closed.

Almost instantly, I try to go over the steps in my head. “Crouch, roll over, crawl up to the door. Crouch, roll over, crawl up to the door – Oh crap, what comes next?”

I feel sweat forming on my hands, and I can feel every budge of the pilot seat against my back.

We get up about 7,000 feet and Chuck informs me we’re only halfway there.

“Seriously? I already feel like I’m looking at a map from Google Earth,” I think to myself.

My ears pop as we slowly climb upward. I’m starting to feel a little better about the jump as I’ve remembered all the steps by now.

We reach the point of no return, or at least that’s how I feel. I don’t give jumping a second thought as the door is pulled open and the cold wind gushes in.

I roll over. Mike takes Cory through the steps, and I see Cory roll out of the plane. Gulp. My turn.

I crawl up to the door and listen to Chuck’s instructions as my face blows every which way.

I duck on my own.

As we leap out of the plane, my mind is a blank canvas. I feel like I’m diving into a swimming pool and haven’t yet hit the water.

But the wind catches us, and it all hits me like one giant tidal wave.

I’m now plunging head first toward Earth.

What was 30 seconds of free fall felt like two. Chuck pulls the chute, and I’m pulled upward. We continue on our journey downward — a lot slower. The view is spectacular.

We do some spins on the way down. It’s scary doing spins that quickly in mid-air. After pulling the chute, we had about an 8-minute ride to the ground.

We’re nearing the drop zone and Chuck tells me what to do for the landing. I tilt my head to the right and pull my feet up, preparing to slide in on my butt.

We caught some “bad wind” and the landing was rougher than usual, as Chuck later told me, but even then, it wasn’t too bad. As soon as we hit the ground, I knew this wouldn’t be my last time skydiving.

I wouldn’t say skydiving changed my life. I’ll probably still be nervous about confrontations. But next time I’m at Cedar Point, I think the drop on Millennium Force won’t look quite as big as it did before.

Contact features reporter Denise Wright at [email protected]