All my life, I’ve had two words for skydiving:
I can barely handle Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom, and you want me to jump out of an airplane?
Then I got invited to try indoor skydiving at iFly in Davie, where guests can experience weightlessness and flying inside of a large wind tunnel. I took them up on their offer and brought my friend, Jenn.
Walking into iFly, I saw instructors doing flips and shooting up to the top of the 60-foot tunnel, then barreling their way back down. Afterwards, a family of four, including two small children, went into the tunnel one by one, floating with assistance from the instructor. Each came out laughing, a huge smile on their face.
But before we would have a chance to fly, we first went to the iFly classroom. We watched a quick video on the proper posture and the four hand signals our instructor, Harry Berning, would use to make sure we flew safely—flat hands over our heads like we’re going through a TSA checkpoint, slightly arch your back, and keep your chin up.
After the class, we put on a jumpsuit, were fitted for helmets and goggles, and then made our way to the tunnel. I went first, assuming the position at the door and gently floated my way in with guidance from Harry. This was it, I was going to fly!
My first thought as I was floating a few feet in the air, the wind whipping my face, was that it was hard to breathe. But after a few seconds, I acclimated to slow my breathing and just enjoy the fact that I was flying. Harry had a soft hand on my back or gently grabbed at my sleeves to guide me around the tunnel, giving me a thumbs up or using the other hand signals to remind me to bend my legs a little more or keep my chin up.
After a minute, he guided me back to the door and I was back on land, that huge smile on my face I saw the previous flyers had. It was now Jenn’s turn, and I was awestruck to think I just did what I was watching her do. Afterwards, Harry told us we both caught on to everything quickly…did we want to try going higher?
Before I could chicken out, I said yes. Back inside I went, and after floating for bit, Harry and I went 20 feet into the air in gentle circles, slowly up and down three times. I screamed the first time we went up—with excitement.
For our third fly, Jenn and I wore a virtual reality helmet. iFly has numerous videos of real skydivers around the world, but we opted to experience someone barreling through the air in a wingsuit. So I could move my head and see the 3D world “around me” while in the tunnel, Harry held onto my suit so I could fully embrace the experience.
Harry has been a skydiving instructor for six years and joined the iFly family two years ago. He says that a lot, but not all, the instructors are skydivers and being in the tunnel helps them with improving their diving outside. We chatted about the sport and also how athletes give back—for his birthday next week, he’s skydiving off a hot air balloon in Pennsylvania to raise money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, in honor of a friend he lost to suicide.
After my evening of indoor skydiving, I can tell you I’m THIS much closer to trying the real thing.
iFly, 11690 W. State Road 84, Davie; 954/280-4359; iflyworld.com/fort-lauderdale