How Skydiving Changed My Life - Ann Rezbanyay

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by Ann Rezbanyay | C-36575 | Northville, Michigan

 It was the summer of 2006 in southeastern Michigan. I was barely 23 years old, growing my destination wedding photography biz and in the midst of being a serial dater attempting to find someone who could keep up with my passion for extreme sports. Every date I had was atypical and centered on adventure. Trying to not repeat anything, it was only a matter of time before one of my dates included skydiving.

My date and I met at the local drop zone and signed up for tandems. Saying that he was fearful in the plane would be an understatement. Upon landing, I was revived, refocused and gleaming with excitement only to find him hurling his guts out onto the landing area. After saying my goodbyes to him, I went inside to manifest and immediately signed up for the following weekend’s AFF class.

For the next two weeks, I was at the drop zone learning to skydive every day. But then I reached a stopping point: hop ’n’ pops. Claustrophobia set in while I was on the plane. It was frightening looking down on jump run and actually seeing people mowing their grass. And I could not convince myself that my head would not hit the strut or step on exit. Despite my struggles through my hop ’n’ pops and having to repeat them 10-plus times, I learned oodles about myself. By being able to remain positive in the midst of defeat, learning to “trust my arch,” dealing with extreme stress, learning under pressure and being aware of my surroundings at all times, I improved my quality of life all around.

The following year I grew restless with the vibe at my home drop zone. (I also noticed that I went from weighing 100 pounds to 115 pounds from lack of time spent on sports outside of skydiving.) Deciding to venture out of the sport that summer, I sold all of my gear and was determined I was better off splitting time between rock climbing, boxing and skiing. However, barely six months later, I landed my very first set of broken bones when skiing down the backside of Keystone in Colorado. This made my job as a wedding photographer extremely difficult.

It also prompted me to reflect on that last year of choices, which got me thinking about how truly different skydiving was compared to my other hobbies. The tipping point, though, was watching the sunset during a wedding and noticing how different the parallax is from the ground versus seeing it under canopy. I longed to be back in the air. Barely out of my cast and with new gear in hand, I traveled to both Carolina Sky Sports in Louisburg, North Carolina, and to Skydive the Point in West Point, Virginia, to make my debut back in the sport. It was glorious! I was at home in the sky and decided to come back with a purpose. In an effort to not be stagnant again, I chose to combine my love for photography, traveling and positive people by becoming a “boogie brat.” To follow through, I made a pact with myself to skydive on every continent, in every state and on as many islands as I could before I turned 30 years old. I am 50 percent of the way there and still have four years left.

In 2008, I attended the Good Vibes Boogie in New Zealand. After successfully working through a brake fire that wrapped itself around my ring sight and my massive Nikon, I landed off. Finding myself on a mountainside and sort-of shaken, I took my gear off and sat there looking out and contemplating. It was then that I uncovered the idea of writing a book, “399 First Dates: Tales of a Bachelorette,” putting all of my failed dates and adventures to good use. Seizing every opportunity is something skydiving shows me continuously. Whether learning new skills in the air, building friendships and relationships on the ground, or expanding my creativity toward new business ventures, skydiving encourages me with every jump I make and photo I take.

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