How Skydiving Changed My Life - Ralph Kubicsek
by Ralph Kubicsek | C-37834 | Gainesville, Florida
Skydiving first came into my life in 2001 when I was 22 years old. I was sitting on the couch with my girlfriend at the time and said, “Let’s go jump out of a plane!” It was a spur-of-the-moment decision, and she was game. We drove to a DZ, and I got my first taste of skydiving. I remember being very nervous and excited at the same time. I have always been a bit on the anxious side, even as a kid, and this was really pushing me to the edge of my comfort zone. The entire experience was amazing. It really did feel like a dream, and I remember wanting to go again as soon as my feet hit the ground.
I made two more tandems over the next five years, one in San Diego and another in Hawaii. After each of those jumps, I was determined that I would jump out of a plane on my own, but I didn’t follow through and gave myself a number of reasons why it wasn’t a good idea. I was convinced that it was too expensive and that something bad was going to happen if I tried it on my own.
In mid-2008, I was somewhat resigned to the fact that I would never jump solo. I had been through a rough patch in life, was going through a divorce and dealing with difficult medical issues. At that point, a good friend became interested in skydiving. He knew that I had jumped before, had heard about the AFF program and was interested in us going through it together. I told him it would be a good idea to do a tandem first, just to get the feel of it, but he was insistent that we do AFF. I said OK before thinking about it too much. We called a drop zone that was about 45 minutes away, and they told us to come out that Saturday at 8 a.m.
The next few months were some of the best times of my life. The people were awesome and really made us feel at home. I made great friends and fell head over heels in love with skydiving. I spent every weekend out at the drop zone and was eager to learn everything I could about the sport. I was definitely not a natural, though. My anxiety was still really bad, and I was having trouble relaxing during the jumps; I always kept my hands clenched in a fist and potato chipped all over the place. On my first AFF jump, I panicked when I couldn’t find the hackey handle and flailed around trying to find it before the AFF instructor pulled for me. On that jump, I also locked up when I was supposed to flare for landing and completely ate it. I remember lying on the ground covered in canopy thinking, “Am I alive?” I got up and brushed myself off and realized that I finally did it! It wasn’t pretty, but I made it through.
That was a big turning point in my life. I conquered some personal issues and made it through stronger and happier than ever. I formed new friendships and quickly developed a passion for the sport. My skydiving instructor was also a wingsuiter, and after seeing videos of him flying, I knew that was what I wanted to do. I spent the next year getting my A and B licenses and trying all sorts of fun jumps including formation skydiving, freefly and tracking. After I had accumulated enough jumps, I began training and made my first wingsuit jump. Like my first AFF jump, it was not pretty, but it was amazing! That feeling of flying through the sky was like nothing else, and I could tell that was what I wanted to do in the sport.
I’ve made about 300 wingsuit jumps since then and have been involved in two large vertical formation jumps. I’ve been able to fly around in the sky for more than three minutes at a time, which is one of the best feelings in the world. I have also completed the USPA Coach rating, and I’m working toward becoming a wingsuit instructor. Skydiving came into my life at just the right times and got me passionate about life again when things seemed to be at their worst. I definitely have a new love for life, and I owe much of that to the sport of skydiving.