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Taking Flight on Mother’s Day at iFly Indoor Skydiving

This post is sponsored, but the opinions are 100% our own.

While many San Francisco moms were enjoying champagne brunches or spa treatments on Mother’s Day, I went indoor skydiving with my husband and nine and eleven year-old daughters at iFly in Union City. Although skydiving is something I’ve said I would never do, iFly reminded me that you can never say never.

So, what exactly is indoor skydiving? Picture a twelve-foot wide, forty-foot high hexagonal chamber through which giant propellers push air upwards at speeds of around 120-150 miles per hour, creating a column of air capable of literally sweeping you off your feet.

Such vertical wind tunnels, as they are called, give skydivers a way to practice their flying skills and experience free fall without having to jump out of a plane, and have created the relatively new sport of “bodyflight.” Ifly is one of the country’s leading indoor skydiving companies, with twenty-nine facilities throughout the United States, including the Union City location, about 35 miles from San Francisco in the East Bay.

Soon after crossing the San Mateo Bridge, we arrived at a futuristic, blue and white, warehouse-like building, rising out of a suburban commercial area with an In-N-Out Burger conveniently located next door. After checking in and signing waivers, our friendly flight instructor, Chad, led us into a room labeled “Jump School” where we and the six other people in our 11:30am flight group sat down to watch a brief video on how to position ourselves in the wind tunnel: belly down, arms and legs outstretched and slightly bent, and chin up.

We also learned some important hand signals that Chad would use to communicate with us during our flight, since we wouldn’t be able to hear anything with all the wind noise. We would all do two approximately one-minute fights, each equivalent to one and a half skydives.   

While it was reassuring to know that Chad would be in the chamber with me providing one-on-one assistance, I had a stomach full of butterflies by the time Jump School ended. I like to think of myself as athletic and fairly fit, but thrill seeker I am not; it’s not for nothing that my family has nicknamed me “The Turtle” on the ski slopes.

“What if I do it wrong?” I wondered, picturing a worst case scenario. “What if I panic?”

I mentioned to Chad that I was feeling kind of scared, but he just smiled and assured me it was always the people who were the most nervous who did the best. I tried to trust in his confidence, pushing away my thoughts of backing out.  

After gearing up in goggles, earplugs, helmets and jumpsuits, we were brought into a seating area right outside the plexi-glass enclosed wind tunnel to await our turns. As I watched my younger daughter soar higher and higher off the ground, smiling gleefully from ear to ear, I was reminded of the fizzy lifting drinks scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, where Charlie and Grandpa Joe float up into a similar chamber, nearly meeting their deaths in fan blades at the top. Fortunately, the propellers powering iFly’s wind tunnel were safely located under a metal screen far below and to the sides of the chamber, so there was no risk of getting caught in them.

One by one my family members returned to the bench happy and unharmed after their initial flights. It was now my turn. Chad gave me the okay signal, and I leaned in through the entrance, belly flopping into the craziest wind storm I have ever experienced.

Somehow, my body knew what to do, assuming a mid-air yoga locust pose that required almost no adjustment by Chad. Feeling the support of the cushion of air beneath me, I was able to relax and even enjoy myself, floating up and down through the chamber to a height of about eight or nine feet. When my time was up, I left the wind tunnel feeling exhilarated and excited for my next turn.    

The second round of flights, which included what iFly calls a “high fly,” was even more thrilling. Holding onto my jumpsuit, Chad spun me up to the top of the forty-foot high chamber and then plummeted back down to the bottom in a series of four or five rapid-fire free falls. After the first one my fear of heights kicked in and I had to close my eyes, but I’ll never forget the view from the top of the tunnel and the heavy feeling of falling through space, the wind whipping ferociously through my jumpsuit.

For a grand finale, Chad treated us to a solo performance of expert moves, shooting bat-like up and down the chamber and climbing upside down along the glass walls like Spiderman in his red and black jumpsuit.

Afterwards, we went over to the In-N-Out Burger for some lunch, feeling charged up by our indoor skydiving experience — the most fun we’d had together as a family in a long time. Maybe they only said it because it was Mother’s Day, but my husband and daughters all agreed that I had been the best body flyer in our group. If I could do this, who knew what other “nevers” I could accomplish. Next time — and there will definitely be a next time — I may even keep my eyes open!

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