Many of us become more cautious as we go through life. Geraldine Watson is an exception. At the age of 85, she made her first tandem parachute jump. Daring adventures? No problem. Watson had lost her husband eight years earlier, just short of their 50th wedding anniversary. Taking her first jump was her way of recreating their bond.
We talked to Geraldine several months after the jump at her home in California.
When and where did you jump?
It was in San Diego, on what would have been my 58th wedding anniversary. The jump was a Mother’s Day gift from my children; it had been on my bucket list since I saw Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman jump out of a plane in the “Bucket List” movie. I figured if they could do it, why couldn’t I?
The jump was really from 13,000 feet?
The jump was supposed to be 10,500 feet, but then I found out you could go for 13,000. I think I paid $65 extra. If you’re going up, do it right.
Were you worried or nervous at all?
Absolutely not. It didn’t even occur to me. I was enjoying the ride in the plane. I was enjoying it all. I was talking constantly.
How much instruction do they give you beforehand?
Oh, the instruction is for the birds. It was about 12 minutes and I thought it was a waste of time. I felt like, Let’s get on with the show.
What did you wear for the jump?
If you don’t want to wear the suit, you don’t have to. You can go in your shorts if you want to. But I said, “No, no, no. I want to wear the suit.” And you wear a pair of goggles over your glasses. I wore jeans and a hoodie. When you’re up 13,000 feet, it’s cold!
What did you think about when you were going up? And when you landed?
I wanted to experience the thrill of a lifetime and I wanted to show my husband, Bob, I could do it. And I wanted to wish him a happy anniversary! When I landed, I laughed and went, “Happy anniversary, Bob!”
At what point did they attach you to the instructor you jumped with?
You’re walking to the plane and then you sit down and he attaches to you before you take off. And you’re sitting in the seat like this, and he’s behind you. And then he just shoves the seat up and he says, “OK, we’re going to go.”
Were you able to talk to the instructor?
No. But I remember I said to him in the plane, “My brother told me to yell Geronimo! when I step out. So don’t let me forget.” And they did say, “Face the camera, face the videographer. Hold your head up and I’m going to push you out.” Haha, I’m not going to fool around turning my head and look at the videographer! A split second or two passed and finally I said, “Geronimo!” And I wasn’t sure, so I said Geronimo! again and of course it was too late to get it on video.
What did you see? The coast? The ocean? The mountains?
I could hear the instructor saying, “Over there,” and he would point out the sites. Well, I didn’t care what was over there – it was all beautiful. He’s shouting in my ear – we didn’t have earphones or anything – his head is right here next to mine.
It felt like I was just floating. Not going fast at all. You’re out there in the air. You’re going like a bat out of hell. Your hair is blowing like crazy. I didn’t care.
How fast were you going?
Up to 120 miles per hour. Going down, I didn’t know that we were going to go around and around and around, so that was really cool. I think we went clockwise. And all of a sudden, the parachute opens . . . and you zoom up! That was the best part! Yes, it’s like you’re touching the hand of God. That’s exactly what it felt like to me.
Would you do it again?
I definitely would do it again, but I would rather use that money to go to Paris or make day trips with the Senior Travelers or go out to dinner a couple of times. There are other things that I haven’t done. Other places I haven’t been.
On to the next thing?
Yes, that’s the way I feel.
What do you think? Are daredevils like Geraldine born with a “bold gene,” or are they created through their life experiences? Let us know in the comment box below.
For more info on tandem skydiving, check out the web’s skydiving community, Dropzone.com, site by clicking here. The site also has an interactive map for finding skydiving locations near you. Click here to access the map.