A group of friends and I went skydiving for the first time over Memorial Day weekend. It's something I've always thought I'd like to try and sometime last week I said, "if I'm going to do it, let's do it." I got a lot of "OK's!" (In case anyone is wondering, all but one of us is in our 30's and 40's.) I shopped around on the web ("bargain shopping" for parachutes is such an oxymoron...) and found a place East of San Diego that was only an hour away. Trying to face my fear of heights, I opted to go for the gusto and signed up for the "Accelerated Free Fall" program instead of the tandem jump. In the tandem, you are strapped to a jump master and have no control over your outcome. In the AFF, you go through some training and end up jumping with your own chute (with two jump masters on either side of you). One other friend went with me (the other three in our group jumped tandem) and we spent the morning learning the procedure, what to do, how to do it, what to do if it doesn't happen, etc.. It was a LOT to absorb. Our instructor (who also ended up being one of our jump masters) had a lot of experience with over 10,000 logged jumps (and only three reserve chute pulls). My altimeter showed we were 13,500 feet above the earth when my turn came up. I freaked out, internally, scooting towards the rear open door: seeing people leap out and quickly down and away is quite disturbing to see... I opted for the video so a third guy accompanied me down. He scooted outside the plane and waited for our departure. My left wing-man/jump-master got to the opening and grabbed external handles, I was crouched at the opening but facing forward, and my right jump-master waited for me to ask for the go. It was surreal. Having the guy on my left, blocking the view of the open sky, I didn't have to deal with the openness. I "checked in" and was given the go. Two seconds rocks later and I was out of the plane. There's no time for second-guessing (THEY're going out and they're taking you with them!!!) Watching the video later I saw myself freeze on the exit, then my legs flailed wildly for a second or two of panic before I got control and relaxed. The jump masters NEVER let go of me while I was under free fall (and they WILL pull your chute FOR you if you don't do it on your own or when they give you the signal to.) The training worked; I did everything right: I checked my altimeter (often), I made sure I knew (repeatedly) where my chute release was. I was given signals to arch my back more and complied. 30 seconds into the fall I finally got a hold of myself enough to look around and found the cameraman had been in front of me the whole time! You're floating on air. You don't even notice you are falling at about 120mph (about 190kph). At 5500 feet (about 60 seconds of free fall) I waved them off and pulled my release. It worked perfectly. I got a hold of my guide straps and went through my tests to make sure I had a good chute. I'm told it takes between 4 and 5 minutes to glide down from that altitude but it felt like 30 seconds. I was too caught up in what I had to do to enjoy my predicament. I steered it in, guided (on one-way radio) by one of my jump-masters who had landed LONG before I did (they pulled their chutes much further down). I landed on my feet but slid to my butt. Got my chute under control and gave a thumbs up to the camera. It took a couple of hours and several viewings of the video tape before I could remember a lot of what happened; I was numb!!! I was so worried about the "script" of things I had to do in the air that I really didn't notice the experience. My girlfriend, who jumped tandem, seemed to enjoy herself much more. The video is awesome: the cameraman's timing was perfect. He jumped slightly before us and the view is from slightly below us looking up at me and the quickly receding airplane. Then he comes up to level and faces me. I think I'd do it again. I'd like to try it knowing I know what to do and trust myself more: take the time to enjoy the freefall and play more under the canopy instead of heading straight for the drop zone under full decline. Anyone else try this and want to share their experience?