Longtime skydiving enthusiast Dan Meyers is a self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie. But as he explains, most skydivers are.
By his own definition, they are a rare breed. After all, he says, “everything in your mind and body is telling you don’t do this.” But they do. They launch their bodies out of an airplane and plummet, with every safety measure of course, to the ground.
Meyers has seen from first-hand experience that after a novice jumps once, it can quickly become an obsession. And those rare breeds who love the sport build strong relationships along way.
Meyers is 63 years old, perhaps not the poster child that the rest of us would picture as a skydiver. But these adrenaline junkies are committed long-term to an experience Meyers can only describe as, well, indescribable.
“It cannot be described by words," he said. "That’s common, we get asked that a lot. It’s such a unique experience that I don’t know that there is a word that covers it. It’s sensory overload. You have to have a strong desire to jump out of a plane.”
That desire quickly grows to a passionate obsession.
"The 29 years that I’ve jumped I've never went anywhere without my rig," Meyers said. "Anything that I did it had to do with skydiving. It’s my entire social group of people.”
Skydiving even permeates through Meyers’ other hobbies. His competitive dance partner is also an avid skydiver. Skydivers, it seems, tend to stick together.
Meyers, while jumping in tandem with other skydivers, has seen every reaction after a land: elation, euphoria, excitement, and the occasional jump-land-and-faint combination. But if the first jump hooks you, you’re in it for life. Which explains why he’s now spent 25 years as an instructor.
For Meyers, this hobby wasn’t planned. In 1991 he was a newly licensed pilot when he watched a skydiver jump from a plane, fly over him, and land. Meyers ran to him, begging to know, “How can I do this?”
That was the moment Meyers quit flying airplanes and started, instead, jumping from them. Since then he’s logged over 4,000 jumps, but he still considers his numbers low compared to those jumping veterans in the 20,000 range. A few decades ago that many jumps was a rarity, but advances in equipment and facilities that make jumping more accessible have played a hand in propelling the hobby.
In the past, before stricter regulations and more accurate record keeping, jump numbers were mere bragging rights. Today, those numbers are much more official. World record formation jumps for example, which Meyers regularly participates in, are processed through three separate sets of agencies and judges before being approved as an official record.
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The world record is currently held in Thailand, with over 400 recorded simultaneous divers. But Meyers has participated in dives with over 220 recorded skydivers in formation. These competitions have taken him across the United States to Florida, California and Illinois. He estimates the total average fees for setting up and implementing a competition can be north of $100,000 — a testament to the passion and dedication of each jumper.
But about those bragging rights?
“The [Lincoln Sports Parachute Club’s] professionally rated demo team is legendary," Meyers said. "Making demo jumps into 29 Cornhusker State Games opening ceremonies here in Lincoln. And other high profile Air Show demos such as Oshkosh, Wisconsin.”
Their success is evident, with just enough allure to convince even the most height frightened jumper. Even if the allure is to observe instead of participate.
Meyers, a Hastings native and retired engineer with BNSF, quickly learned that once he found the thrill in skydiving that it would only intensify. In addition to jumping out of planes he enjoys scuba diving, instructing other skydivers on the weekends, and also spends 10 hours a week as a competitive ballroom dancer.
“Almost every [skydiver] is a pilot, or scuba diver; they have other thrill seeking hobbies," he said. "Our time is pretty much focused on doing adrenaline type activities, skydiving being the main activities.”
That adrenaline fueled mindset is one that Meyers can’t quite put his finger on, but he encourages others to join him.
“Come out and learn to skydive with us on the weekends," he said. "Or just make a fun day of watching the canopies.”
Meyers, a former Marine, participates in a skydiving club stationed in Weeping Water called The Lincoln Sport Parachute Club (LSPC) which was formed in 1959 by Marion (Shorty) Janousek and Ken Sisler. Janousek was inducted into the Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame in 1998, and Sisler was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his service during the Vietnam war.
The Lincoln Sport Parachute Club recently celebrated its 60th anniversary, making it the longest continuous skydiving operation in America. To celebrate the milestone, United States Parachute Association president Chuck Akers made the journey from USPA headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, to attend.
For those on the fence or simply curious, the Lincoln Sport Parachute Club hopes to alleviate any fear: “Your safety is our #1 priority. All instructors and coaches at LSPC hold current United States Parachute Association (USPA) ratings and are certified in static line and tandem skydiving. We are highly proficient at training skydivers and have the experience, knowledge, and equipment to provide a professional, full-service, and safe skydiving operation.”
But keep in mind the warning of enthusiast Meyers, who says one jump might not be enough: “The addiction is real.”