Skydiving is one of those things that is a lot like travelling the world. Most people say they would love to do it, but most people never do. Maybe it’s the money, maybe it’s the fear, or maybe it’s the fact that the concept is so far fetched, but nobody ever really considers it a potential reality. That all changed for me as soon as I stepped foot in the drop zone of Skydive Arizona.
Skydive Arizona is located in the small town of Eloy, about halfway from Phoenix to Tucson. After nearly an hour of driving, a wrong turn and two dirt roads later, it’s pretty safe to say it’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Upon my arrival I was greeted by Melissa Lowe, the marketing and events coordinator. After filling out extensive and not-so-reassuring paperwork, she gave me a tour of the grounds, which features three landing sites, a gift shop, an indoor diving site and even a restaurant.
Looking up into the sky, about a dozen parachutes were floating down from above, each one swooping in one direction or another as they came to a smooth landing on the ground. While watching, I learned from Melissa that Skydive Arizona is home to one of the largest drop zones in the world, as well as the Red Bull Air Force.
“Most people don’t even know we’re here,” Melissa told me as we made our way back to the front office. I was surprised at this, given their impressive amenities. “Skydiving is such a unique thing that most people only find us because they seek us out.”
After an hour or so of waiting, I was approached by my instructor, Freddy. He’s a Boston native with an accent to show for it, and I liked him immediately. He strapped me tightly into my harness and instructed me on how the dive will go from start to finish, showing me the moves we’d make as we jumped from the plane. We walked together to join a group of people who would be joining us on our tandem dive, and before we knew it, we were aboard a large, bench-like wagon that delivered us outside a small aircraft, waiting for us to board.
The aircraft was tiny. With 20 of us packed inside, there was very little room to move or stretch. After less than ten minutes in the air, I saw a passenger preparing to jump. Before I could turn to ask, Freddy told me he was in training to be a certified diver and was practicing his emergency jump. I watched as he opened the plane door, grasped the handle above, and fell out of sight. My stomach very quickly felt as though it jumped along with him.
After another five or six people jump a few thousand feet higher, we finally reached the height of a terrifying 13,500 feet. Freddy did a double check on our gear and led me to the door, reminding me of everything we discussed. Before I realized what was happening I was already at the door, hands gripped tightly to my harness. I looked out at the brown and green horizon, but only had a short second to admire the beauty—Freddy tapped me on the shoulder and together, we jump.
The butterflies only lasted for a few seconds, as the rushing wind against my face and pressure in my ears had me distracted. But I quickly adjusted to the free-fall sensation, smiling and waving at the photographer and videographer in front of me. I let go of my harness and held my arms out, admiring the endless horizon in front of me.
Another tap alerted me that Freddy was going to pull the parachute, and before I knew it, we were floating down to the surface. Freddy pointed out all the surrounding areas, such as Picacho Peak, Casa Grande, and the small town of Eloy to our left. He asked me if I like roller coasters, and as soon as I answered yes, I understood why he asked. Freddy pulled the parachute from side to side, and it felt like the big drop at the top of California Screamin’ over and over again. I laughed, held my arms out, and enjoyed what felt like free falling all over again as we closed in on the surface. The sensation was unreal.
On the surface, Melissa stood waiting to congratulate me on my first dive. The solid ground felt strange beneath my feet after being in the air, even for only a few minutes. She and Freddy walked me back to the office where I was given a T-shirt, coupons and a certificate of completing my very first dive.
Overall, skydiving was everything I had hoped for and more. Skydive Arizona has not only one of the most impressive sites and friendly staff, but an experience that’s worth everything skydiving is made out to be.
Skydive Arizona, 4900 N. Taylor Street, Eloy, 520.466.3753, skydiveaz.com