Before Zeus found a convenient portal that took him from his Mount Olympus throne to his private vineyard in Athens, his preferred method of descent was the jack-knifed skydive. Experience the chariot of Grecian gods with today's Groupon: for $99, you get a tandem jump with a professional jumper from 10,000 feet from Skydive Hollister (a $169 value). Groupon customers can upgrade for an additional $30 to an 15,000-foot jump. The drop zone is about an hour from the heart of San Jose at the Hollister Airport.
Each Skydive Hollister staff member has earned the highest ratings from the United States Parachute Association, and all crew members have a minimum of 1,000 jumps under their wind-resistant belts. Extremely safe equipment accompanies proper training instruction before boarding the Cessna for the nearly 2-mile climb. Upon reaching jump altitude, divers leap from the plane for 20–30 seconds of free fall while confidently connected to their tandem master. Speeds reach upward of 120 miles per hour before the parachute is pulled, signaling the start of a picturesque float to earth that lasts a few minutes.
A graduated skydiver lives with an expanded perspective of the ground and greater appreciation for the infinitude of California's vertical horizons. The entire experience is borderline comparable to escaping Plato's Allegory of the Cave, as the one-of-a-kind aeronautic adventure opens up a new world of augmented reality. Call ahead to schedule your jump.
The instructors at Skydive Hollister conduct their highest jumps at 18,000 feet—the greatest height from which one can dive without supplemental oxygen. Even at this altitude, they have to pump oxygen into the plane’s cockpit before a jump. Once outside, the 120 mile-per-hour free falls last little more than one minute. They help students navigate this rapid descent on tandem dives, during which they strap into the same harness as their student and coach them in proper body position, steering, and parachute release over the sound of roaring wind. At 5,000 feet, instructors deploy the parachute and instruct their partner in parachute control and landing techniques as the blue waters of Monterey Bay and the hills of San Francisco unfold below.
Instructors also train students seeking skydiving licenses through two programs. In the Accelerated Free-Fall program, they teach skydiving principles and technical basics in a four- to six-hour ground school before strapping students into their own parachutes for seven jumps. The Instructor-Assisted Free-Fall program precedes this solo training with two tandem skydives, during which instructors teach their protégés the basics of free-fall turns, altitude awareness, and filling in for the lead goose flying in V-formation.