The Adventures of John Tait

John Tait at The Stratosphere

John Tait at The Stratosphere

John Tait is a 41-year-old bungee jumping and skydiving enthusiast. All his adult life John has had a fear and fascination with heights. To confront these fears he engaged the services of WildPlay Adventures, Pacific Airsports, and The Stratosphere. At the tender age of 19 John took his first bungee jump off the bridge at WildPlay in Nanaimo, BC, and it has now become an annual birthday tradition. John was reassured by the negligible bungee jumping accident rate, joking that one has a higher chance of being injured on their way to a bungee jump than during the jump itself. Bungee jumping is a thrill which pits the instinctive against the logical.

As you stand on the platform, your ankles restrained by a cord, loud music echoing across the valley, the sun in your face, and the wind in your hair; you feel quite alone. You take one last glance down as your feet shuffle the last few inches to the edge of the platform. Then there’s a muffled, “Three, two, one…BUNGEE!” With arms outstretched as if to catch a cloud, you feel the blood rushing through your body. The tingling begins in the fingertips, twists through your belly, touches your toes; and you’re off! The wind whips against your face. The cheers of well wishers become white noise as you see the river rushing toward you at a hundred kilometers an hour. The cord around your ankles snaps taut as your body stretches out. Your fingertips touch for the river as you are suddenly rebound weightlessly, halfway back up. In a few minutes the safety team is lowering your energized soul into a waiting raft and you reach a steep metallic staircase back to ground level.

In search of an even greater challenge, Tait decided to give skydiving a try. His mother couldn’t understand why he would want to jump out of a ‘perfectly fine airplane’ from 10,000 feet. “Because I can,” was the only answer John could give. He signed up at Pacific Airsports in Campbell River and took their full day safety and communication class. Since John was new to skydiving, he would be doing a tandem jump with an instructor attached. After safety drills and waiver signing it was time to board a snug four-person plane. The aircraft took 20 minutes to reach 10,000 feet. The sweeping views of emerald forests, finger-like islands, and pristine waters were a plus. When the plane had reached its target altitude, the door opened to a deafening roar and a minute later they were out on the wing. One quick thumbs-up was followed by a quick lean forward and the sound of the plane was just a memory.

During a skydive freefall, the only sound you hear is the wind rushing by at 200 kilometers an hour as your flight suit whips and snaps. You are higher than birds fly and the horizon is endless. The parachute deploys at 5,000 feet about fifteen seconds into the dive and the second half of the decent is a panoramic paradise. Swinging left or veering right, you catch the updrafts; the closest words to describe the experience would be awe inspiring. A few metres from the ground you pull hard on the parachute cords and get a little lift which cushions your landing. You disentangle from the tandem rigging, slip out of your flight suit, and collect your skydiving certificate. Henceforth, the memory of such a wonderful experience will always etch a toothy grin to your face.

This year John Tait decided to include a new challenge in a routine Las Vegas vacation. He was on a ‘search and destroy’ mission to have as much fun as possible within his four-day time frame. Before leaving Nanaimo, John had heard about the Sky Jump, the world’s tallest jump: 108 stories or 885 feet from The Stratosphere tower. And at 10 am on Saturday, June 1, 2013, John took the plunge. After being weighed and fitted with the proper safety rigging, a private elevator shot John to the top of the tower. As pictures were being taken, a final safety check was performed. The John stepped out onto the platform, the desert air tickling his hair and the heat rolling by in waves. A glance down at the cement landing platform and John let go of the guard rails. The drop took only eight seconds but each second seemed to take 10. The endless colours, shapes, and sounds of the Las Vegas strip were too much to take in. Upon landing, John was momentarily breathless. An employee helped him you out of his rigging and asked how his experience was. “Glorious! Only in Vegas!” was John’s response.

Why does John Tait do such things? Simply put, because they terrify him and he refuses to be beaten by silly mind over matter challenges. John challenges everyone reading this to overcome their personal limitations this summer and confront what scares then. Run a little faster, jump a little higher, sing a little louder. salutes John Tait, the humanist with the outstretched arms. You can tweet John at @IsleFreeThinker