• WHAT: Parachute Center.
• WHERE: 23597 N. Highway 99, Acampo, CA
• HOURS OF OPERATION: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., daily. No reservation necessary.
• COST: $100 (tandem jumping).
• MORE INFO: Call 209-369-1128 or log on to www.parachutecenter.com.
LODI - Max Garrido had a 50th birthday to remember.
That was a few years ago when the Stockton native received an invite by a friend to the Parachute Center just north of Lodi to mark this milestone occasion.
“It was winter (in February) yet it was a clear day,” Garrido recently recalled.
He had a similar request to skydive from the same friend a year earlier but balked. Garrido had a change of heart as he neared 50.
This time, he wasn’t going to back out. “Yes, I was still a little nervous but I had no choice,” said Garrido.
The Parachute Center is one of the largest and oldest open-to-the-public skydiving facilities in the U.S.
Serving the sport since 1964, the authorized independent instructors here employ the latest in training techniques and modern up-to-date equipment. Garrido’s tandem jump – the Parachute Center handles first-time jumpers along with freefly, sitfly, Canopy Relative Work (CRW), and accuracy, to name a few – consisted of watching the introductory video, training, and coming away with a personal videotape to remember that day.
“The introductory video and training helped explain how (skydiving) works,” he said.
For $100, the Parachute Center provides an introductory jump that includes the plane ride, equipment, and training provided by an authorized independent and specially-trained instructor. Weight matters, as those over 200 pounds will be assessed a service charge per each pound over that amount (the limit is 300 pounds).
As for his tandem jump, Garrido, who was among 10 on the small plane, vividly recalled his 60 second freefall with the experienced instructor from about 13,000 feet or two miles. He got a bit airsick from the ride and initially was overcome by fear of the jump.
“When the chute finally opened, I thought I’d feel a sense of relief. Instead, we went straight up in the air at full speed for about five seconds. It was scary,” he said.
But once that part was over and done, Garrido settled in and enjoyed his downward ride.
“From there, I was able to calm down. I could see the (Highway 99) freeway and the earth below us,” he said.
His final obstacle was the landing. Garrido’s instructor, who he described as a “tall, bald big guy,” cued him in as to when to lift his feet before hitting the ground.
“You can really hurt yourself if not careful (on the landing),” Garrido said. “Me? I landed right on my butt.”
He now looks back in awe when recalling the details of his skydiving experience.
“I still can’t believe I did it,” said Garrido. “I’ll look back at the video and I can spot all the things that I did wrong.”
Still, he’d do it again if given the chance.
“I’ll do it again if a group of us went skydiving,” Garrido said.
209 staff reporter