How I got started skydiving

by Gary Peek

Some Background

I hear a lot of skydivers say that skydiving is something that they wanted to do since they were very young, because of seeing an exhibition jump or something like that. For me, aviation related things were something I assumed were expensive and difficult to attain. No one in my family was involved in aviation with the exception of a much older cousin that was Airborne. He had a picture of himself in uniform with parachutes in the background (a studio background) on my aunt and uncles's living room wall, but no one ever talked about it at all. Maybe they all thought he picked a crazy job. I never thought to ask him about the details until he was gone.

1980, St. Charles, MO

My friend Tom worked where I did and was living with me at the time, and we were having pretty much fun partying and all the stuff single guys in their 20's do, and so he says to me one day, "Hey, you want to make a parachute jump? There's this place that will train you and you can make a Static-Line jump the same day." I said "sure!". I had been thinking about learning to fly airplanes or gliders and had taken a couple of "introductory flights" already that year.

Well, we didn't even get around to jumping that summer because we were always staying out so late that we never got up in time to drive the hour and a half to the drop zone. (I soon found out that going to bed early and getting up early to skydive was the better choice.)

1981, Sparta, IL, Archway Skydiving Centre, owned by Dave Verner

So Tom and I finally made our first jump on June 13th 1981, and then found out that you could purchase a "freefall package" which included all the jumps up to your first freefall, and for the same price as the first jump. I was convinced! Another goal to reach. 5 more jumps!

It only took 3 jumps into my freefall package to realize this was something I was going to do. There was so much immediate gratification in fact that it took me 7 years to get back to accomplishing that goal of becoming a pilot, but by then it was almost easy, I had learned so much about aviation from skydiving.

All of my jumps went great, but Tom was a little lax on his third jump and didn't do a very good PLF and sort of sprained his neck, wore a neck brace to work, and got so much "jumping is dangerous" grief from everybody that he quit. (Oh yes, we're talking belly-warts, T-10's, and PLF's here. Back when you bought a case of beer for your first "square" jump.)

I was not to be influenced by the naysayers however, and skydiving rapidly replaced most of the other things I used to do. Over the years I've added various ratings and certificates, and all of them have made skydiving easier and more enjoyable.

So, what kind of skydiving do I most like to do best? All of it! I honestly don't have an answer to that question. I love the variety that skydiving provides, especially with the new disciplines that have emerged in recent years.

Instruction will always have a place in all of it though, because a lot of friends took the time to teach me over the years, and I keep trying to return the favor to others.

Tom Marcks (left) and Gary Peek (right) before their first jump    Gary on his 15th jump

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