Thanksgiving is all about giving thanks, of course. There are lots of things I’m thankful for, most of all my family. But today I’m also giving thanks to the folks at Skydive Pismo Beach, who helped me face some of my fears and jump out of an airplane. They told me after the successful jump that for most people, skydiving is about facing fear and conquering it.
“Look I’m shaking – just a little bit nervous,” I laughed as Tom Pecharich, the owner and an instructor at Skydive Pismo Beach, strapped on an altimeter and made some final adjustments on the tandem harness.
I was getting ready to jump out of a plane. Something Pecharich told me he’s done more than 6,000 times. But why?
“Huh.. I’ve been doing this 18 years and thousands of skydives and I still can’t put it into words. It’s a feeling, my favorite thing to say is – what does happy feel like? – and people can’t tell me – well skydiving is happiness on steroids for us – I think anyone in the sport of skydiving would say that,” said Pecharich.
After the harness is on and some initial instruction, it’s out to the airplane. The ride up to 13,500 feet is plenty of time to think about what’s coming and get the final preparation done. It’s also plenty of time to get nervous, really nervous.
“This is only something you’re going to experience once,” said Pecharich. The feeling of inching your way to the edge of the airplane, knowing you’re going to jump. That not knowing what to expect. Pecharich told me later the first time is scary because you don’t know what to expect. The second time is scary because you do. It’s a feeling that’s very difficult to explain. When your feet are dangling out of the plane, knowing it’s about to happen and having absolutely no idea what to expect or what you’ll feel.
“Especially people that are nervous, I say look – you can come back and do this a thousand times – but once that door is open and you are sitting there waiting to jump, you get to feel that exact feeling once. There’s no feeling like that in the world, I don’t think you are ever going to do anything that’s going to make you feel that way,” said Pecharich
For me the jump was about overcoming fear, proving to myself that I could face my fears and conquer them.
“I think anybody that really just wants to challenge themselves. And feel like you can accomplish anything, I think skydiving is the gateway to that. If you can overcome that uncertainty and maybe that little bit of fear to jump out of an airplane, anything that comes up in your life after that you can say I can do it,” said Pecharich.
I hope that is true for me. I certainly felt accomplished once we were safely on the ground. In fact, we went up a second time that day and did it all over again.
Pecharich says providing that feeling of accomplishment is why he keeps doing it. “I get to leave here every day with the sense of satisfaction that people left here feeling really good about themselves. That they’re happy, that they tell other people about what they did.”
And that’s exactly why I wanted to share it with you. But the only way to really know what it’s like is to go and skydive yourself.
Skydive Pismo Beach is located at the Oceano airport. I also wanted to say a very special thankyou to all of the people who helped with the jump and the story. Tom Pecharich was a great instructor and got me safely to the ground a total of three times. I also wanted to say thanks to Randy Dahl and “Wolfy” Permenter who wore helmet cams and took video of the jump.