Sidney Bailin


 What it Means to Me

For me, skydiving is spiritual. Freefall gives you an incredible feeling of freedom, not to speak of the adrenaline rush. But there's more than that.

As in any sport, fear is the great disabler. For experienced skydivers that's not so much fear of "the parachute not opening" - of course, there are dangers and it is sensible to have respect for them - but more the fear of not performing well.

Performing? Yes, there are many disciplines in the sport, each with an infinite succession of skill levels and challenges. Skydiving is unique in that these challenges must be faced while you're falling at 120 miles (193 kilometers) per hour, or faster.

There are some cool metaphors in this. For example: reaching. One of the mistakes beginning skydivers often make is to "reach" - that is, when they're close to a formation, they'll reach out to take their grips. When you do this, you actually go backwards. By putting more surface area in front of you, you catch more air in front of you, which pushes you back, away from the formation. So it's counter-productive, even though it's such an obvious thing to do.

Skydiving presents many such lessons. By forcing me to struggle with them, the sport has functioned as a model of effective vs. ineffective ways to go about things. And the learning continues.

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