Places & Faces
Cajun SkyDiving Center
10/2/2018 1:11:51 PM
Skydiving

"Hey, John! Any interest in jumping out of an airplane in Jennings tomorrow and writing a story about a new skydiving business there?” read the text from Thrive magazine editor, Angie Dilmore. I’ve come to look forward to her monthly notes detailing the latest writing assignment. They’re usually about local restaurants or recent food trends. This was a new one. Hmm, short notice. At first I told her I’d have to check my schedule. Then promptly replied, "Who cares what’s on my schedule! I can’t pass this up. I’m in!”

Angie gave me a phone number to call to set everything up. After setting a date and time, the woman on the phone asked if I had any friends in the media or public relations who would want to jump with me. Just then, I serendipitously received a text from Kaitlyn Gallegos, a friend in PR. 

"Do you and Kelsey (my wife) want to go do yoga on Saturday?” she asked. 

"Want to jump out of a plane instead?” I responded. 

"Sometimes it’s really hard to be your friend,” she said. She’s right. And she was in. 

On the morning of the jump, we drove to Jennings. Cajun Skydiving is located at the Jennings Airport just off off I-10.  In a field under a tent near the runway, a man was rolling up a parachute. "Hold on, I’m almost done packing our chutes. Had to watch another YouTube video to figure it out, but I think we’re good.” And that was our introduction to Cajun Skydiving’s owner, Cameron Fontenot. He was joking, of course. In fact, Cameron is an extremely accomplished skydiver and jump master, having spent years as an airborne soldier in the military, and with thousands of jumps all over the world in his post-service life. Kaitlyn and I were in good hands. 

After a short safety briefing, video, and the required disclaimers and paperwork, we were ready to go. Cameron’s easy demeanor calmed our nerves as we put on harnesses that would literally hold our lives. We would jump tandem, meaning we would be harnessed to the front of Cameron and another jump master, Temple McLaughlin. 

We crammed into a tiny single engine Cessna and before we knew it, we were flying. As the plane climbed to altitude and to the correct position, we nervously chitchatted about traveling and sports. "The plane ride up is always the scariest part,” Cameron surmised correctly.  

After circling around Jennings, the plane was finally where it needed to be to drop us out safely. The small hatched door opened and the plane filled with a roar of cold air. As it shook and vibrated with the pressure change, I saw Kaitlyn put on her game face. It was stark white like she’d seen a ghost, but a game face nonetheless. She was up first. I watched as she dangled her legs over the side of the plane. In the blink of an eye she and Temple were gone. The tiny plane banked with the weight change. Next, my turn. 

I swung my legs over the edge of the plane. The view took my breath away. Below us, under fluffy clouds, I saw beautiful green rice fields and crawfish ponds. I saw the town of Jennings and I-10. I could just make out our car where my wife and Angie were watching the sky, waiting. My heart raced. With no fanfare and little warning, Cameron flung us out of the plane. Upon exiting the vibrating and noisy airplane I felt an immediate peace and silence of being alone in the sky. Then the adrenaline kicked in as we rushed toward the ground and Cameron and I both screamed expletives of excitement. Our freefall lasted less than a minute, but it felt much longer. The parachute opened and I felt the tug of the harness on my body; then total silence, other than the gentle flapping of the parachute fabric. For five minutes, we descended peacefully to the ground with an incredible view of Southwest Louisiana. 

We landed gently in the grass next to the runway. The adrenaline had cleared my mind of everything but one question – when can we go again? 

For more information or to book your own skydiving adventure with Cajun Skydiving, go to cajunskydivingcenter.com, find them on social media, or call 337-603-0186.
Posted by: John O'Donnell | Submit comment | Tell a friend

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