How Skydiving Changed My Life - Jake Morse
by Jake “Feather” Morse | C-39588 | Minnetonka, Minnesota
Two years ago, I was willing to try nearly anything to rebalance my mix of work and life. I sought a social hobby that people really got excited about, with a small, close community that calls itself family. I’ve had hobbies and a social life, but the two never really comfortably overlapped. I sought that overlap.
In high school and college, I had been a self-isolating misfit. I got into online video games, accomplishing little more than degenerating into a better couch potato. I didn’t play sports, belong to any teams or join any clubs. My social life included people I barely knew and wasn’t all that excited about. On top of that, I wrecked a car at 17 and watched my insurance skyrocket. My dedication shifted to my job to pay those bills, a priority I held for a long time.
After a few less-than-successful other endeavors, I played a hunch and signed up for an AFF first-jump course. Not being a sporty-type person, I had never really considered skydiving before. I showed up and spent a good portion of the day in a classroom learning various tidbits of things that will save your life, like how to PLF and “when in doubt, whip it out.”
When the classroom time was over, after a wind hold, my turn came. I’m sure I was shaking the entire way to altitude, despite thinking I was staying calm. After pull time, with an overload of adrenaline, I was suddenly in the calmest place in the world. The feeling of being at 5,000 feet under a 288 Manta loaded at about 0.5 to 1 is what hooked me. With warm spring air, a big toy to play with and plenty of time to enjoy the peace and quiet, I loved every bit of the ride.
The rest of my student progression was riddled with challenges. I’m very tall and thin, so I earned the nickname “Feather,” which I now fully embrace. My third jump included tumbling and sub-100-mph fall rates. I pulled lower than planned, on my own, because the instructors fell distantly below me. After that jump, I went home and reevaluated the risks of skydiving. Repeatedly watching the video of the jump, I convinced myself I hadn’t done all that badly. Yes, I was capable of saving my own life. No, I wasn’t going to splat on the ground. After that, only select instructors would jump with me. I wore 20 to 28 pounds of weight in vests and belts, and the instructors wore camera wings or big, retro suits.
I kept coming back for solo jumps and, after the jumping shenanigans, was figuratively and literally invited into the circle of regular jumpers. I found the best people in the world, my happy, calm place and a never-ending source of adrenaline and potential. I found that overlap. I’ve continued to wear the lead with success and have learned to take advantage of my fall-rate handicap. In a sit-fly, I can join in on speed stars and turn points with belly jumpers; without wearing anything special, I can track along with those in small wingsuits. After lots of tunnel time, 230 jumps and numerous skydiving trips across the country, my life has 180’d from the workaholic trajectory it had been on.
I’d been told, “The sport just gets better the longer you stick around,” but in my first year, I was already having such a great time, I was skeptical. But in my second year, I had the pleasure of traveling some of the boogie circuit and meeting more people. That’s when I found out how great the community really is. The superstars treat random rookies like gold. As you grow with this sport, it grows with you. The more you put in, the more it gives back, and the potential is limitless. I hope someday that I’ll fly with enough skill to return or pay forward the favors people have done for me over these last two years. For now, I’ll learn to be the best skydiver I can be. Wingsuiting is on the agenda, and I’ll continue to explore the possibilities that come with being 6 feet four inches tall and 130 pounds.