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Star-Bulletin Features


Tuesday, July 16, 2002


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PHOTO BY DIVER GREG, DROP ZONE HAWAII, COURTESY OF JUNE DILLINGER
June Dillinger, dressed in lime green, takes the plunge from high above Dillingham airfield with the help of instructor Shaun Dunn of Drop Zone Hawaii.




Leaping into 40

I do not like roller coasters or high
balconies, but the idea of sky jumping
on my birthday for some reason
held irresistible appeal

By June Dillinger
Special to the Star-Bulletin


On the 18th of June, I was 39. The next day I would be a year older. At 11:36 p.m. I lay in bed thinking with excitement about what my next 40 years would hold. Honestly, I felt a bit strange. After tossing around a few minutes, I put on a headset with some meditation music to speed the sleep process.

I don't know when you figured out that you were an adult, but for some it comes later than others. For me, it was when I was 36. Of course, not much has changed in my life since then except that I learned the meaning of responsibility and lost the meaning of fun.

With fun in mind, it seemed like turning 40 was a milestone that should be celebrated. Six months ago, I set out to find something "out of this world" that would welcome me into the better half of life. (Or, at least, that's what I'd been told.) I began the hunt for information on jumping. You know ... from an airplane.

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PHOTO BY DIVER GREG, DROP ZONE HAWAII, COURTESY OF JUNE DILLINGER
They free fall for about 45 seconds before opening the parachute.




I asked around and was eventually referred to a co-worker who had logged many hours diving out of airplanes. Phil had delivered leis to weddings and on occasion jumped into his own back yard after work. It sounded exciting. He even told me I could jump naked! I wondered for a brief moment what kind of shoes I should wear for the landing. He told me to contact Drop Zone Hawaii(www.dropzonehawaii.com).

As the months ticked by and I solidified my plans, my friends wondered if I was going through a midlife crisis or what was I trying to prove. All I knew was that I had to do it. I might add that I do not ride roller coasters, I don't like open balconies at high heights and I don't do the high dive at the swimming pool, so this was an interesting move, to say the least.

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PHOTO BY DIVER GREG, DROP ZONE HAWAII, COURTESY OF JUNE DILLINGER
A glide to a gentle landing.




A couple of days before the jump, I called to reserve a spot for myself. I called back a second time when my father urged me to check the company's safety record. Their information was good. I didn't need research beyond watching a few war movies, but I did wonder where we were going to land! For some reason, I believed the landing would be fine, no matter what shoes I wore.

I invited 76 friends and family members to join me. Unfortunately, no one was available on a Wednesday. Some responded with, "Why jump out of a perfectly good airplane?"

All I could think of was that there wasn't any other kind I'd rather jump out of.

I AWOKE ON June 19 feeling strong and happy to be alive. It is always a beautiful day in Hawaii, and I was fulfilled, having spent 18 years living here. I took a morning walk around Diamond Head, then came home to shower. I picked up my son Macklin from summer school at 10:45 a.m., and off we went to Dillingham Air Field on the North Shore. By the way, I wore my favorite light green top, black pants and favorite running shoes from the Running Room.

Once out at the Drop Zone, I was greeted by a friendly staff. A few of the master divers were lounging around having casual conversation while waiting for their next jump with a novice. Their confidence seemed to rest in their beings.

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PHOTO BY DIVER GREG, DROP ZONE HAWAII, COURTESY OF JUNE DILLINGER
June Dillinger, center, beams after landing with her instructor, Shaun Dunn, left. Her son, Macklin Woo, right, watched from the landing area.




Some Japanese tourists were in the waiting room filling out paperwork or watching a video while biding time until their turn to jump. After completing my five pages of paperwork and watching a safety video, I strolled outside and saw a group of divers land at the end of the airstrip. Ah, I said to myself, so that's where I'll land. Right at the end of the runway out front. How simple!

I would like to leave the rest up to your imagination. It would also be unfair to spoil the rush of it in case you do indeed decide to try to give jumping a go. However, I will say that by far and above, there is nothing more awesome than a free fall from 10,000 feet, especially when securely tethered at the shoulders and hips to a very attractive and skilled master diver.

The 120 mph drop was just not long enough with him. We traveled together through clouds and above the incredible deep blues and greens of the Pacific Ocean. The twinkle and glitter of life was breathtaking. Our tandem parachute opened with a gentle tug, and we were set in place for a comfortable six-minute ride back down.

I'd say go ahead and hit me again at 41, but I already have an appointment for lessons this weekend. Anyone is welcome. It's a Saturday.


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