Sala Yussuf’s family still doesn’t know what he did last month. The University of Minnesota senior doesn’t know when or even if he’ll tell them.
All he knows is that he woke up early one Saturday morning and did something crazy —something he said forever changed his life.
“If the jump didn’t kill me, I knew my mother would,” he said, a week after skydiving for the very first time with the University of Minnesota’s U Skydiving Club on Oct. 29. “But I will definitely do it again in the spring.”
He is one of nearly 140 students who took their first jump with the U Skydiving Club this year.
At least once per semester, club members orchestrate a large weekend event when 50 to 100 students are able to skydive in the metro area at a reduced rate.
“It was really like a dream,” Yussuf said. “You have wind in your face and you’re free falling, and you can hardly breathe, but you’re trying to remind yourself to watch and remember everything that’s going on.”
Micah Ternet, a board member of the skydiving club, has taken more than 100 jumps since last summer, when he first got into the sport.
He said the large jumping events open his classmate’s eyes to the sport he has fallen in love with.
“During your first jump, your body is in sensory overload,” the graduate student studying security management said. “But every time after that you pick up a little more of what’s going on.”
Ternet is one of about 10 core members of the group who have made skydiving a central part of their lives.
Club President AJ Stuyvenberg said they make sacrifices — such as working extra jobs, limiting their social outings and focusing less on their studies — to jump as often as possible on the weekends.
“Our Friday nights are more docile than other college students’,” the computer science junior said. “This is the kind of thing you don’t think you have the money to do, but it can definitely be done.”
But for both Ternet and Stuyvenberg, no sacrifice is too great.
Both talk about their favorite moment in the sky — the moment they spend their weeks waiting for.
“It’s my therapy,” Stuyvenberg said. “When the door flies open and I jump with my friends it’s the most content I can be.
I’m completely comfortable in the sky. I think we all are.”
Most of the club officers are licensed skydivers able to perform solo accelerated free fall jumps. But first-time student jumpers, who were able to jump for $170 — a deep discount — in late October, perform tandem jumps with master jumpers.
Yusuf plans to test Ternet’s theory that the experience gets better each time. He said as soon as his parachute opened, he turned to the instructor strapped to his back and told him he would be back in the spring.
The skydiving club holds meetings, chalks University sidewalks and demonstrates ground launches with parachutes on the Northrop Mall lawn to attract students.
On the day of the jump, they place students in carpool groups to the drop zone and support them through the process.
Stuyvenberg said people don’t have to be a member of the club to tag along; they can contact them at any time to join the group on a weekend jump.
Yusuf said without the group setting and accessibility, he and his friends probably would have left the experience on their “bucket lists” for a very long time.
“These were U students. I felt like I could relate, which made it a lot more comfortable at the time,” he said. “Now we have this experience that is a part of me and a part of them. We have an understanding of each other.”
As the U Skydiving Club remains hopeful for good weather this Thanksgiving weekend so they get a few jumps in, Yusuf said he’s beginning to revise his “bucket list.”
“My life has definitely changed after this,” Yusuf said. “I’ve started seeing the world so much differently.”