Vic Napier, a skydiver I know, has written a scholarly paper on risk homeostasis theory. There's evidence, he suggests, that as skydiving has become more safe, deaths in the sport have remained about the same because of a genetic need jumpers have to maintain a certain level of risk.
It's a fascinating subject. But risk homeostasis isn't limited to skydivers, EVERYONE is affected. It can be seen in the way people gamble, the way they take medicine, how they make business decisions, and especially in how they drive.
Whuffo you jump out of airplanes?
I’ve given a lot of thought to that question. The reason for me may involve risk homeostasis … but, more than likely, it has something to do with being a skinny kid growing up in Denver. There were times I worried about getting my ass kicked at school.
Jumping out of airplanes may be a way of proving something to myself. Besides that, falling down doesn’t take much skill. All I know is that one taste of the adrenaline “high” that comes with skydiving addicted me and I wanted more ... even after being seriously hurt several jumps later (please see link to "log book" below).
Just pulled my ripcord
Just before leaving an airplane, skydivers generally shake hands for "good luck". Then one of them shouts, "DOOR" as cold air rushes in. After that comes the best part ... poking my head out to look down at the airport 12,000 feet below and just "going for it" with a leap into nothing but air.
Glancing back up at the airplane from which I've just fallen, it quickly becomes very small and distant ... and for 60-seconds or so I'm "flying" - something the human body isn't supposed to do! My arms are like the wings of an eagle riding a thermal. And, tracking horizontally across the sky, I become SUPERMAN racing to save Lois Lane.
Ever since I was a kid I've wanted to do that. My mom let me use a big bath towel for a cape and I'd run up-and-down the street flapping my arms for takeoff.
There's also a lot to see ... distant mountains & lakes, fluffy clouds slowly moving UPWARD around me, and other jumpers a few feet away (although they're pretty ugly to look at in freefall because the air rushing up from the ground pushes their faces into strange shapes.) Then it's time to open the parachute and enjoy a quiet ride to planet Earth.
Skydiving has definite risks, of course. It can mean DEATH for even the most experienced skydiver. Whatever dreams he has for the future are on the line when he stands at the open door of an airplane, and he needs to decide if the rewards of jumping are worth the risk of doing it.
Strange as this may sound, feeling you might DIE is one of the reasons why jumping out of airplanes is fun. Human beings seem to be the only animals on the planet that enjoy putting themselves in danger. ... it creates an intense awareness of being ALIVE.
Getting away unhurt may explain why skydivers have so many parties at the end of the day. They're celebrating the fact they survived.
Facing the fear of dying, and knowing you have the ability to save yourself, also creates a huge amount of self-confidence ... one that seems to carry over to everything else you do in life.
The Stewardess on this flight asked me to demonstrate where the EMERGENCY exit is.
Another skydiver once put it this way ...
While you’re falling through the air, absolutely nothing else in the world MATTERS. Whatever you had been thinking on the ground, doesn’t even remotely appear in your mind. Money problems, troubles at work, none of your worries can bother you in the air.
For that time between leaving the aircraft and your feet touching back down on the ground, you are truly FREE. Your mind, body and soul are in a place very few people in the world will ever experience, and nothing else can offer that same feeling of pure euphoria.
When I made a jump in Australia the weird guys at the Brisbane Skydiving Centre tried convincing me that, because I was "down-under", I'd be falling UP to the ground (instead of falling down) ... it STILL felt like falling DOWN to me.
On landing, they were nice to give me a free bottle of "XXXX" ... the most popular BEER in Queensland. Until then I thought all the XXXX BEER SIGNS around town were advertising PORNO places.
PLEASE NOTE: This is NOT me!
And, it's a crazy tradition that JUMP-100 is supposed to be done NAKED!
At first I worried about that. Landing wouldn't be too bad because I'd have an open parachute to wrap around me, but getting to the airplane for takeoff is a different story!
Most jump planes are too small for removing one's clothes and safely putting on a parachute rig while in flight. So, the real challenge is ... how to maintain some form of "dignity" while walking through the hangar and outside to the airplane wearing NOTHING but a parachute rig on your back! Sure as hell, one of the jeering skydivers watching it all happen will be taking pictures for the next party.
Well, I'm not going to worry about that now. There are still 18 more jumps before I get to 100. Besides, I'm ready now to face my biggest fear of all ... Karaoke!
Number of skydives now = 82 USPA License 1-40653 Freefalll time: 65-mins 19-secs Total Cutaways - 1 Vertical distance Freefall: 113.6 miles Under canopy: 62.2 miles Plane to planet: 175.8 miles
Probably the first risky thing I ever did was as a little kid when I ran away from home. I was smart, though, I packed a couple of bananas and some potato chips to sustain me the rest of my life. Later as a teenager, a buddy of mine, Cecil Higginson, suggested taking an unconventional elevator ride in a Denver skyscraper. He worked for the elevator company and my ride involved climbing into the shaft and on top of the passenger compartment, then holding on to the cables while he sent the elevator soaring to the top of the building and back down. There was a lot of grease on my hands when it was over
At 24-yrs old, being a gullible student at Arizona State, there were lots of weekend trips into the desert searching for the Lost Dutchman gold mine, as well as spelunking in Colorado caves. And during a trip to Europe I unexpectedly became lost riding the Moscow subway trains! The only Russian word I knew at the time was "pivo" (which means "beer"). Repeatedly saying PIVO doesn't help much if you're lost in Russia.
In an attempt to master the Spanish language I lived with Benedictine monks for a while at a Mexican monastery. The risky part of that were the occasional trips into Mexico City aboard rickety old buses speeding down narrow mountain roads. The driver's motto is, "Es mejor ser muerto que ser tarde"(better to be DEAD than late).
On arriving I sometimes posed as a priest to get a free room for the night ... which may have been risky too, I suppose (and probably a sin).
Also, when Pope John Paul II was in Denver for World Youth Day, I took advantage of an opportunity to SIT in his chair. (He wasn't using it at the time, of course.)I had just gotten comfortable and begun to think about making some important new theological decrees when they asked me to leave.
There's more crazy stuff on other pages of this site ... sailing aboard the tall ship Endeavour, Zorbing, B-A-S-E jumping (by cable), Bungee jumps, Acting, and being a Ghost Buster. Hope you like reading things like this!
Do you have any questions or comments? Please feel free to use the forms below. It'd be great to hear from you!
In the meantime, here are some links to a few other crazy things ...