How Skydiving Changed My Life

Gary Holden

by Gary Holden | D-31444 | Cincinnati, Ohio

This adventure all started around my 60th birthday, in March 2009, while talking with my co-worker, Abby, who has the same birthday as I do (though I’m 30 years older). We were trying to come up with something special to do. I mentioned that I would like to jump out of an airplane before I got too old to do it. Abby said that she had always wanted to do it, too, and we made a pact: I would do it if she would. So in June, we made our first tandem skydives. I was hooked! Then we made two more, one in July and one in August. In September, we started the AFF program at Start Skydiving in Middletown, Ohio, but ran out of good weather before the end of the season and had to finish the following year.

I had found a new passion. I used to be an avid golfer. In 2009, I played 67 rounds of golf. In 2010, I played seven rounds. Last year, I played zero.

It wasn’t at all easy for me, learning these new skills. While advancing through the AFF categories, I quit three times. While attempting Category C1, I couldn’t stop spinning. But after three tries and some wise words from John and Bud, I finally conquered that. While attempting my clear-and-pulls, I couldn’t maintain a good body position on exit. Thanks to some good advice from Paul, I got it! The final hurdle was packing. The first time I tried to flake a canopy, it looked like a bowl of spaghetti. But thanks to Dan, I was soon able to conquer that skill, as well. Because of the encouragement and coaching of my newfound friends at Start Skydiving, I was able to get my A license. Everyone at the drop zone was instrumental in my new life experience.

My wife, Debbie (who has made three tandem skydives), and I have found something we can enjoy together. We spend most of our free time at the drop zone with our extended family.

At the beginning of the 2011 season, I decided that I wanted to obtain a PRO rating so I could try out for Team Fastrax, the professional demo part of Start Skydiving. With a lot of hard work (300 jumps that year) and the encouragement of John, Gene, Dan and the rest of the team, I qualified for the PRO rating, and they accepted me onto the team. I’m proud to be a part of an organization with such high standards and whose purpose is to give back to the community and to promote skydiving in general. Now, at 63, I feel younger than ever.

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