As the Cessna 206 ascended higher into the picturesque blue sky, Stephanie Poirier checked around the plane to make sure everything was going smoothly. The Cessna 206 is the larger of the two planes used by Skydiving Danielson – the other is a 182 and only carries two instructors and two students. The 206 could carry three instructors and three students at a time, albeit snugly. At the moment the three students looked like the usual nervous subjects. Stephanie thought they didn’t look too shaken up though, not nearly as bad as some. At this point, everyone is well versed in the safety procedures and pretty much the entire jump process. Stephanie even walked the students through the packing of her own chute. She knows that the plane ride is the worst part so she does her best to distract them by talking about weather. At times it can seem forced, but it does help some. Stephanie remembers the first time she jumped at 10,000 feet and how the wind thrash against her face and the whole world seemed enter the plane at once.
As the plane nears jump point, the door is opened and it gets a whole lot louder. There is not much else for the instructors to say or do at this point. The customers have already been hooked up and strapped in. Customers can do solo jumps, but only after they have had two training tandem jumps with an instructor. Stephanie looks at the students and asks them if they are ready. They nod anxiously. The students, attached to the front of the instructors, are maneuvered towards the loud precipice. There is a short pause near the edge. At first it’s only a foot outside the plane, then the student’s whole bodies are hanging out like a sack of potatoes. It takes a lot of strength to do this since not only is Stephanie holding the student’s weight, but she is also holding the weight of the packs. I asked Stephanie what if the students don’t want to jump. She says, “Surprisingly, that is extremely rare. At this point you don’t have much of a choice. You’ve already paid so it doesn’t make sense not to jump, no matter how afraid you are.”
Stephanie had a job that many of us dreamed about when we were young. Stephanie Poirier was a professional skydiver. She joined the industry three years ago almost by accident. It was a friend’s birthday and Stephanie promised to go skydiving with her. Stephanie was nervous about it but lived by the philosophy that everyone should at least try something once. When she saw that it was raining the morning of the jump, a part of her felt a weight lifted at the thought of not having to go through with it, but then the call came and before long she was signing a “Release of Liability & Assumption of Risk” waiver. Stephanie’s first dive was not a particularly memorable one she tells me. “I just remember ground coming at me extremely fast.” The adrenaline of the dive consumed her completely, from the flight up to the quick jettison down.
A year later Stephanie would jump again in Key West and while driving home with her mom, Stephanie reflected upon the casual and adventurous life-style of skydivers. The next day off the coast of Florida, she witnessed her first “Boogie,” a term for a bunch of skydivers coming together to jump, compete, and meet fellow enthusiasts. At that moment something clicked within her and she was determined to become a skydiver. At first Stephanie only intended it to be a hobby but after three years with the sport she had almost 2000 jumps.
“It’s the peace and solace for me somedays, and others it’s the fact that I get to jump out of a plane with my friends. I can’t imagine not skydiving anymore now. The moment you leave that plane, it’s just complete …” Stephanie pauses as if she was able to replicate that feeling while chatting with me “…freedom, complete freedom.”
Stephanie then went on to describe the sensation under canopy, “It’s absolutely mesmerizing, definitely my favorite part of the jump, especially if I get to see the sunset over Providence. It’s a whole new perspective on our world.”
“For many first-timers it’s a way to improve self-confidence and overcome your fears and for some more seasoned enthusiasts it’s a way of pushing yourself and your limits, doing cooler tricks and pulling off larger group dives, we skydivers are always looking for that. Skydiving can be different for so many people, and that’s what’s so amazing about it. The fact that I get to help people experience it is a real privilege.”
Stephanie has personal found growth at Skydive Danielson. After getting her license, she worked closely with the organization to train new students and officially became a certified instructor. Stephanie’s current goal is to become a better teacher and to be better prepared to educate people about skydiving. Later this year, she plans to work at a drop zone in Malaysia for five months.
“Contrary to common perception, skydiving is very safe, if that’s what’s holding you back. We are always looking to improve safety, that’s always a focus wherever and however you jump. Many people already make it a goal come back year after year and jump with us, but I just tell people to try it once.”
Stephanie’s bio: Stephanie Poirier has been skydiving for almost five years now with close to 2000 jumps. She earned her skydiving license in Sebastian, Florida, but found her home Drop Zone at Skydive Danielson, about 40 miles outside of Providence, Rhode island. Stephanie is now a certified instructor at Skydive Danielson and in addition to jumping, she gets to coach new students. Later this year, Stephanie will be traveling to Malaysia to work at a Drop zone there.