The small round light turned from red to green, the plane decreased speed to the point of hover (or so it seemed), and the bottom of the large side door began its slow, creaky, ominous rise. Strapped into handsome jumpmaster as snuggly as I would allow without a marriage proposal, there was no turning back now.
Everyone knows the travel writer’s “numerous” benefits: 5-star luxurious resorts, 7-course gourmet meals, 2-hour spa treatments. But for me, it’s the glicken – the over-the-top experiences that tickle the fancy of this adrenaline junkie that keep me in this business.
And the ultimate glicken for my sort of intrepid traveler is skydiving. So while in Hawaii in June on a photojournalist gig covering a 50th Aikido celebration – a Japanese martial art performed by blending with the motion of the attacker and redirecting the force of the attack with various throws or joint locks – I made the arrangements. If I was going to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, you can be sure it was going to be in a place where the view was guaranteed to be spectacular!
Our group of seven arrived at Dillingham airfield on the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii at 9:30 a.m. During the one hour ride, I had persuaded all but one to do a jump. I’m just one of those people who can’t stop my enthusiasm from spilling out. Not that I’ve ever really tried.
Guy, the charming French owner of Pacific Skydiving was thrilled – not just at the prospect of a favorable story to be written about his business, but five additional paying patrons to boot. He began regaling me with all kinds of discounts 50% off for le group, wait, another 5% because of so many, oh and mais oui 100% for la travel writer. At this point I think he actually owed me money. I didn’t push it. I know when I’m ahead.
I was introduced to my jumpmaster, Marcello and Breen, my personal videographer and we began the pre-jump safety instructions, all recorded with my introductory travel writer spiel. Then the three of us and the rest of the group went off, all harnessed and ready (some more than others) for the biggest leap of faith we’ll probably ever take.
We ascended to 14,000 feet – the highest height from which you can jump without oxygen – in relative silence. Perhaps some were praying, some meditating. Me? I was tandem-strapped so tight to Marcello, I couldn’t even breathe, let alone speak. I gave a lot of “thumbs up” as answers to questions.
I think a lot of would-be skydivers really want to hear something beyond the ubiquitous, “just do it.” They want to know how it feels, from beginning to end, in descriptive terms. That was my goal.
I was the second “guest” jumper to leave the plane. We lingered in the open doorway for two seconds, which was one second too long for me. I wanted to shout, “Just go!” but then we did just that.
We tumbled head over heels for a brief moment, then Marcello gained total control and there we were, floating in beautiful form – if I say so myself – for the one-minute freefall part of the jump. The wind in my face approaching 200 miles an hour was pretty extreme, so while the glasses protected my eyes so I wouldn’t miss the panoramic 360˚ view, it’s pretty hard to breathe if you have your wide mouth open in a perpetual smile, as did I. Pure, unadulterated adrenaline. I remember thinking maybe travel writing is only the second best job in the world!
Breen skillfully managed to maneuver to be near us to interact act and video the whole thing, including reaching out to hold my hand! When he suddenly signaled goodbye, it was a clue something was about to happen. Marcello pulled our chute; bye-bye Breen, see you on the ground. It felt like we were jerked back up, which is impossible and just an illusion. The descent is slowed substantially, albeit a bit painfully due to the tightening of straps. This was soon corrected by the Marcello who removed my goggles and loosened the straps a bit so I could enjoy a view that is hard to describe without using overly trite expressions.
Amazing. Incredible. Astounding. Beautiful. Stunning. Okay, I said them. Get over it.
Because Marcello knew I’m a travel writer, he treated me to a little extra “glicken.” He swirled our parachute around, over, sideways, up, down, and every which way. I lost track of the horizon. I almost lost my breakfast. Luckily I remembered my Lamaze breathing and pulled myself out of it. “Skydiving in Hawaii is the most fun I’ve ever had!” I said to Marcello, who had been laughing and talking effortlessly to me since pulling the chute.
As land approached, I pulled my legs and feet up and let Marcello do all the hard work of landing us, after which I allowed my dainty toes to touch the ground. Nicely done! And will you look at that – there is Breen who had landed before us and has his camera in my face to record my first reactions!
What a rush, and my best glicken to date! My short skydive Hawaii video can be seen here:
My boyfriend who had jumped first waited in the field for my landing debut. “You rock, Babydoll!” he said as I was being disconnected from my chute. He’s my boyfriend, so he’s allowed to call me that. That’s his glicken.
“Hawaii skydiving was one of the top five experiences of my life,” said Gallo Sensei, a 6th Dan Aikido black belt who has traveled extensively throughout the world. “I wouldn’t have done it if not for you.” The others expressed similar gratitude. Is there such a thing as glicken on top of glicken? Endorphin?
Owner Guy personally came out to meet me as I landed and escort me back to the airport lounge. He had added an extra touch of instructing that I got their one pink parachute to match my magenta top. Very savvy move to ensure he’ll get a good story. He will.
This is the secret to glicken – frame it so that it’s clearly a win-win for both of you. Express your enthusiasm; send clips of similar articles you’ve published, even if only from your own blog. The client wants a return on his investment, so convince him he will get that. And never ask for anything “free.” Always say something like, “do you offer a discount for visiting journalists?” They appreciate the polite approach and most times you will get it free or ridiculously discounted.
In the last couple of years, I’ve been glickened (don’t you love how I’ve turned that into a verb, like we’ve done to “googled?”) to activities like snorkeling in La Paz, Mexico with wild, curious baby sea lions that playfully bump you and blow bubbles in your face, exploring the steep red rock buttes of Sedona, Arizona with a crazed pink jeep driver, and participating on an underwater shark feeding expedition in Bora Bora. These are glicken encounters of the best kind, and I look forward to more.
Right now, I’m working on a glicken hang gliding in Kitty Hawk, 2,000 feet in the air. I guess I’ve got flying in my veins now.
I’d also like to experience a glicken swim with whale sharks in Mexico. After all, why settle for watching whale sharks from a boat when I could swim alongside these gentle giants. You tell me, which story would you rather read about?
Ready, Set, Jump: Skydiving Hawaii was first published in the August 2013 edition of The Barefoot Writer
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