Sky Diving Florida
Tandem or Accelerated
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
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,
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
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
morning, but always plan for bad weather.
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
Other drop zones use
much smaller planes, and only holds about four people. The
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
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
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.
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.
114 Melton Avenue
Sebastian, FL 32958
Drop Zone Location Address:
440 S. Airport Road
Lake Wales, FL 33859
Tel: (772) 388 0550
Lakes Wales is a quaint
Florida city. Here are a few resources for the area.
Consider Green Gable Inn for overnight accommodations. If
you mention that you are skydiver you will get a discount.
more information on the hotel, go to:
Green Gable Inn
21380 US 27
Lake Wales, FL 33859
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.
802 Henry Street
Lake Wales, FL 33853
This restaurant comes highly recommended.
2425 Hwy 60 East, Lake Wales, Florida 33853
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
Cypress Gardens - Florida's
first theme park has recently re-opened and now features family
rides and games...
Hill in Lake Wales, Florida - visitors from around
the world are mystified as objects seem to roll up hill,
to solve the mystery of Florida's greatest free attraction...