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Staff photographer Daniel Dreifuss here. I am not usually one for writing, but recently I had an incredible experience that needed to be shared.

Monterey County isn’t short on beautiful views. Whether on hikes and drives, this picturesque county is a sight. But the view from 18,000 feet in the sky, falling toward earth at 120mph? That is a whole new level.

On Thursday, Sept. 30, I was awoken (per usual) by my puppy, Rio Oso Puppyface. I fed her and took her out and then I got dressed and set out for the Marina Airport. Once I arrived I was taken to an old hangar with a sign that read “Skydive Monterey Bay.”

That’s right—despite my colleagues’ disbelief, I was going to jump out of a perfectly good airplane.

After signing some paperwork I was introduced to my instructor Christian Perez, a veteran who has been jumping out of planes for more than 20 years. I felt comfortable right away. He was very clear on safety instructions, hand signals and full of confidence and comforting words of wisdom. I was joined by three other jumpers from Hollister, only one of whom had ever skydived before. They were as pumped and ready as I was. Christian checked our harnesses one by one, and then we were ready to go.

There were 16 skydivers total that day and we went in groups—I was in the second jump group. As the first group got on the plane and took off, my group was loaded onto a bus and shuttled over to the landing area. We watched as the first group fell from the sky and floated down to the surface of Earth. There were smiles, cheers, high-fives and laughter all around from the first-time skydivers as they landed.

Perez landed with his first jumper, grabbed another parachute and came over to ask if I was ready to go. I said yes and we got on the plane. It was a clear day and the views were amazing—I could see Santa Cruz and Big Sur as we ascended up to the jump height of 18,000 feet. Skydiving from this height would normally require an oxygen tank—most “civilians” jump from just 14,000. Skydive Monterey Bay can go higher, I was told, because the company has a Super King Air 200 airplane, which can reach 18,000 feet in just nine minutes, so no oxygen tank is required (insert science here).

The 10-minute ride up felt pretty fast. Perez strapped to my back, did some safety checks and went over how to awkwardly walk to the door of the plane.

And then it was time to jump! (And time to prove my coworkers wrong.) We got to the door of the plane to see our videographer/photographer Joey Allen (who is a member of Team Canada’s Skydiving team) hanging on to the side of the plane waiting for the signal from Perez.

Annnnddddd we were falling…Perez put us in a quick 360 looking up at the sun to watch that perfectly good airplane fly away. We leveled out, looked up and saw Joey recording. My adrenaline was pumping as we raced through the air—all in all the free-fall lasted for around a minute and a half at about 120mph.

Eventually, Perez gave me the signal to pull the ’chute. And with a soft tug, the parachute opened and we slowed. I took a deep breath, removed my safety goggles and enjoyed the steady pace all the way to the ground. The views were incredible, the adrenaline rush was unreal and the experience was unforgettable.

Skydive Monterey Bay provides video and still photos for skydivers—it’s an additional charge, but worth it. For more information, and to plan your own jump, check out their website.

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