By Nicole C. Lindsay
BELOIT, Wis. — If Rockford-area residents are looking for a bit of adventure and they don’t feel like driving to Chicago or Milwaukee, a new skydiving facility is now open at the Beloit (Wis.) Airport.
Great Lakes Skydiving opened in April, and will be open each year through November, seven days a week.
The location was chosen because of its convenience right off Interstate 90, within driving distance of major cities like Rockford, Madison, Wis., Milwaukee and Chicago.
Ted Ganger, a tandem instructor who has been skydiving for almost 20 years and is nearing 10,000 jumps, said: “You can’t explain it (skydiving). It’s like trying to describe the color red. Until you experience it, you’ll never know.”
Skydiving is Ganger’s full-time job, and it has allowed him to jump in 23 states, Mexico, Ecuador, Australia and New Zealand.
To skydive, a person must be at least 18 years old. They can go to the company’s website at www.greatlakesskydiving.com or call them to schedule a jump. Walk-ins are taken if there is room available.
Each individual must fill out a waiver, and the cost is around $200, with the option to purchase video or photographs of your jump.
Most days, more than 100 people skydive at the Beloit Airport, and some of those have been people older than 80.
“One of the best things about this is when we get someone in here who is in a wheelchair and to be able to take that person on a skydive is the most rewarding experience,” Granger said. “Those are the ones that you really remember and that really get you.”
On the day of this interview, three individuals were about to make their first skydive. Laura Long, 28, of Elgin, Ill., Arnell Lewis, 29, of Naperville, Ill., and Jacque Delcamp, 22, of Denver, all had different feelings prior to their jump.
Long said: “I just want to make it down safely. I’m a little nervous, but looking forward to it. This is not something I’ve ever done before — not even close.”
Long had given Lewis a gift certificate to skydive for his birthday and had decided to tag along.
“I never have thought about doing this,” Lewis said. “I’m nervous and terrified because I’m afraid of heights.”
Delcamp, on the other hand, said: “I have wanted to do this for a while, but it was an impulse decision to do it today on my birthday. I’m pumped and not even remotely nervous.”
How it works is that each individual is harnessed to a tandem instructor who has completed more than 500 jumps, taken two training courses, and has at least three years of experience in the sport.
The instructor is outfitted with two parachutes — a main one and a reserve. The reserve parachutes are repacked by an FAA-certified rigger every 180 days, even if they have not been used.
Skydivers take off in a King Airplane from the Beloit Airport, and once they jump, they also land on a grassy area at the airport.
First up were Long and Lewis, who went on the same trip. Only four or five jumpers go up each time. After landing and collecting their thoughts, Long said: “It was amazing. The views were amazing, and Ted Ganger was a great instructor to skydive with. But I don’t know if I could do it again.”
Lewis agreed that “it was worth it and the views were amazing. It was a great experience, and the closest I’ve ever wanted to be to another man in my life.”
Next up was Delcamp, who went on the following trip. Upon landing, she exclaimed that “It was a blast, and I’m addicted now. I can see this being a hobby.”
The consensus was whether you are young or old, scared or excited, experienced or not — cross something off your bucket list and give skydiving a try.
For more about skydiving, contact Great Lakes Skydiving at 1-800-490-3483.
From the July 25-31, 2012, issue