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Sky Diving Florida
Tandem or Accelerated Freefall Instruction
skydiving in florida
By John Mc Namara

The stage was set. My 18-year old nephew, R.J. would sky dive. As a high school graduation gift, I promised that I would escort him to partake in this bold activity. He traveled from New York to Florida, where he would take flight.

The morning arrived, and we were ready for our day trip to the facility in Lake Wales. Two friends, Dana and Kim went along for the ride also. It was Kim’s birthday, and her 2nd jump. It was Dana’s first time. Everyone seemed prepared to jump. Since reservations are required for each participant, I made arrangements ahead of time with Freefall Adventure in Lake Wales, Florida. We traveled on Saturday from Ft. Lauderdale to Lake Wales. The drive was easy, and took about three hours. From Ft. Lauderdale we took the Florida Turnpike up to Route 60 West, all the way to Lake Wales. R.J. demonstrated his excitement throughout the morning. He proclaimed that it would be the rush of his life. Kim, the veteran, talked about her jump 10 years prior and about how she was still thrilled this time, on her 36th birthday. Dana, Kim’s older sister, was looking for a life changing experience. With this jump, she was hoping to help put some action into her life.

When we got close, we began looking carefully for the sign directing us to the Lake Wales airport. You can miss it easily. Kim spotted the small sign and we turned down the road toward the airport. At this point we saw the airport and sky divers in the air, our first sign that exciting things were going to happen. This small airport is perfect for a Florida style sky dive due to the open skies, lacking airplane traffic.

After paying at the office, we had the opportunity to meet Captain Mick and the instructor, Keith Taylor, who boasts fourteen years of experience. Learning this was very reassuring for the group. Keith gave a talk on what to expect during the tandem jump. It was a quick lesson, but Keith managed to effectively convey the essentials. He first explained that in a tandem skydive you have an instructor clipped to your back. Next, he described the position needed, and what to do when you land. Further, he conveyed that in a tandem fall you get the rush of the jump but the instructor has control of the parachute and the fall. It is a very safe experience.

It is important to remember, with all jump zones, you need to be patient. We had scheduled an 11 a.m. jump, but we did not get into the air until 1:30 p.m. During the wait, we received additional instruction on the jump, the sign up process, and lessons regarding waiting for other groups.

This day was a perfect, with crystal clear skies, very few clouds and little wind. We jumped in July, which is a very hot month in Florida. Most jump zones are not air-conditioned and even though most of the waiting is under cover and there is shade, the heat in the summer is a prevalent condition, and should be expected. I have jumped in the wintertime when the temperatures are cooler, especially at elevation.

Weather is the enemy of sky diving. If the winds are more than 10 mph or if there are too many clouds or rain, the jump should be canceled. As mentioned before, be patient, the weather is always changing in Florida. It is wise to jump early in the morning, but always plan for bad weather.

During the summer, you should be comfortable jumping in shorts. On this particular jump zone we got a jump suit to wear during our dive. The jump suit is used to help stabilize the diver while in the air, as well as to slow down the descent.

The plane used at Freefall is a King Air, a large twin-engine plane that holds about ten people.

Other drop zones use much smaller planes, and only holds about four people. The King Air has benches inside for extra comfort. The door on the plane offers plenty of room to accommodate you and your instructor’s need to walk/waddle and/or jump through it. Getting out the door is when the fun really starts, beginning with a free fall that takes from 30 seconds to one minute, at a height of ten to thirteen thousand feet in the air.

R.J. paid an extra $95 to have professional videotape and photographs of his tandem skydive jump. It is well worth documenting this experience for you to relive, and to show others. As for R.J., he now has the chance to watch his somersault out of the plane over and over again. Once R.J. reached the ground he said, “I need to get certified, so I can skydive by myself.” R.J. loves his video. Imagine being able to revisit the feeling of flying through the air towards the ground, then your parachute opens and you experience the effortless feeling of floating back to the ground. While R.J. has his video to relish, Kim and Dana were just thrilled about their jumps and the cute instructors.

Like R.J. experienced, one of the main reasons for experiencing the tandem jump is that it helps entice you into getting your certification as a jumper. Captain Mick’s specialty is in training for the AFF (Accelerated Free Fall) certification course. He has been teaching jumping for twenty-three years, eleven of which have been in Florida. Originally from the United Kingdom, he has jumped all over the world and enjoys sky diving in Florida the most. He has done such a great job over the years that he gets most of his students via word of mouth.

The goal of the AFF student is to achieve the “A” license, which is the first level of certification. Ultimately, there are seven levels. We talked with Josh Garry, one of Captain Mick’s students, currently at level 3. Josh, who is 20, says he is taking about 1-2 months to get certified. I asked Josh, what he thought of tandem skydiving. He said “Tandem skydiving is like being a passenger of the car, and getting your AFF certification, is like driving the car and being in control.” You can get certified in 1 or 2 days. If you spread your classes out over the course of time, you only pay as you accomplish a new level. The cost for all seven levels equals $1,102.50.

In the opinion of many students who have traveled around the world, Florida is one of the better locales to sky dive. They all return to Florida. January through April is the busy season, but summer, July through August, can be busy also. There is a $100 discount for college students or military. Once you get certified, it is only $30 to rent and jump. At the time of our adventure, the cost of a tandem jump was $179.

The best aspect of Freefall Adventure is the personalized service you receive from the staff. If you have more questions about the program, please contact Captain Mick’s wife, Gill (pronounced ‘Jill’). She is very knowledgeable and can answer any questions about the program and the area. Since students visit from all over the world, Gill often helps with housing in the area. The locations that a student can usually find accommodations are in the cities of Lake Wales, Orlando, Tampa, or Cocoa Beach.

Freefall Adventures:
Mailing Address:
114 Melton Avenue
Sebastian, FL 32958
Drop Zone Location Address:
440 S. Airport Road
Lake Wales, FL 33859
Tel: (772) 388 0550
E-Mail: SkydiveMik@aol.com
Website: http://www.ffadventures.com

Lakes Wales is a quaint Florida city. Here are a few resources for the area.

Hotels
Consider Green Gable Inn for overnight accommodations. If you mention that you are skydiver you will get a discount. For more information on the hotel, go to:

Green Gable Inn
http://www.greengablesfl.com
21380 US 27
Lake Wales, FL 33859
Reservations: 863-676-2511

Restaurants
One of the best places to eat in Lake Wales is Crazy Fish. It is hard to believe there is such a great seafood restaurant in Lake Wales so far away from the ocean.

Crazy Fish
802 Henry Street
Lake Wales, FL 33853
863-676-6361

Norby’s Steak House
This restaurant comes highly recommended.
2425 Hwy 60 East, Lake Wales, Florida 33853
863-676-0296

Other places of interest
Bok Tower Gardens - This spectacular tower stands atop the highest point in Florida surrounded by breathtakingly beautiful gardens, only 4 miles away...

Lake Wales National Historic District - This carefully maintained district features dozens of beautiful historic buildings, representing several periods of American Architecture, ranging from Mediterranean Revival to Art Deco. Great restaurants and interesting shops make the visit even more fun. Evenings and weekends in the District find offerings of musical entertainment and dancing. A self-guided walking tour brochure is available at the Depot Museum.

Cypress Gardens - Florida's first theme park has recently re-opened and now features family rides and games...

Spook Hill in Lake Wales, Florida - visitors from around the world are mystified as objects seem to roll up hill, come try to solve the mystery of Florida's greatest free attraction...

 

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