Find Your Wings at iFly Seattle Indoor Skydiving
Imagine the chance to give your child wings, the ability to fly through the air, and yes, even with the greatest of ease. Would you do it? Would you throw them out the door of a plane to test their skill? What if there was an easier way?
Indoor skydiving centers are popping up across the country. Jessica at Suitcases and Sippy Cups did it with her kids; Dek and I got the chance to give it a try this past month. I have dabbled with the idea of skydiving before, but there is something about throwing myself out of a plane and watching the earth come at me that has stopped me from trying. Watching my 3 year old hurtle to the earth is out of the question. Indoor skydiving seemed like a first step for us both.
I had no idea what to expect when we entered the doors of iFly Seattle, a huge red monstrosity south of Seattle in Tukwila, WA. I asked my friend Nicole along on this adventure with her two kids, Ell (age 5) and Lee (age 3). I was curious to see how the different ages (and 2 moms) reacted differently to the experience.
After checking in, signing waivers, and getting weighed, we were able to head upstairs and watch the group before us take on the tunnel. The kids loved getting up close to the wind tunnel we would soon be entering and seeing what they were in for that afternoon. The instructor even did a little demo of all you can accomplish if you stick with it and book regular time at iFly. Did I mention they have leagues that kids can be in too?!
Pumped up we were introduced to our instructor Chris, who engaged our rag tag bunch of toddlers, moms, and even baby Ty, who would be watching from the sidelines, from the very moment he introduced himself. We watched a short video that explained the hand gestures Chris would give us when we were in the tunnel. It is very loud once you are in there; you even have to wear earplugs. Hand signals are a must. We did a review, and were warned not to do any Kung Fu moves in the tunnel; we were just there to get our feet “wet” in the realm of skydiving and the art of hovering in the air.
After our quick trip through the flight classroom we were given our jump suits, goggles, helmets, and lace up shoes for those that didn’t have them (Velcro shoes can come flying off in the tube). The kids thought they looked hilarious, especially as they knocked on each other’s helmets over and over again.
Once we entered the wind tunnel we would each get a set amount of time based on our package.
- Earn Your Wings: Nicole and Lee would each be able to do two 1-minute flights.
- Spread Your Wings: Dek, Ell, and I would each be able to do two 2-minute flights.
Nicole went in first with all of the kids, while I sat out with Ty, took photos, and watched. I was a lot less nervous that I thought I would be. Nicole flew beautifully, and had a blast, taking her second flight after the kids.
Next up was Lee, who is 3 years old. She entered and went into position with no trouble at all. She was calm and serene. She flew like a pro. She exited after her 1-minute flight and sat back down. She never went back in again. No one could understand why. She had done so well. Apparently once was enough.
Dek, who is also 3 years old, was the third to go into the tunnel. He never let go of the instructor’s arm. Nope. That boy was not going to throw trust to the wind (pun intended) and let go of that man. Chris tried to get Dek to relax and just let go, but Dek would have none of it. He wasn’t panicking, but he wasn’t going to loosen that vice grip he had either. Chris flew Dek around the chamber, getting some fun shots, for Dek’s 2 minutes flght. He then sat down. He was done. When I asked him if he wanted another turn he signed “all done” to me. No way was he getting back in.
Ell was the last of the kids to go in. He knew all the hand signs our instructor Chris had taught us; he had answered every question. Ell entered the tunnel and immediately freaked out as the wind hit him. Chris, our instructor brought him out to talk to him. Ell still was not convinced he should go back in. Nicole held Ell to help him calm down. When he was calm Nicole went back in. Then she and I switched places so I could have my turn. While we swapped spots, Chris spoke to Ell some more. He convinced Ell to give it one more try, but this time on his back.
You see, when you enter that wind tunnel a whole lot of air pressure smacks you in the face. It shoots up your nose, presses your cheeks up, and generally gives you that natural facelift you always wanted. This can be very scary for a little kid. This is why Dek and Lee never went back in after their first attempt. Sure it was great one time, but they were not up for doing it again. That was the one thing we had not prepared the kids for, and how could we. Nicole and I had never skydived before either.
Ell trusted Chris and got back into the tunnel. After about 3 seconds floating on his back Ell was hooked. This was the way to fly. Ell and I switched out for the remainder of the time we had left. We used up Dek and Lee’s 2nd turns. Ell never did go back to flying on his stomach, but that is OK. Chris found a way to help Ell past his fears and give him a good experience flying, so much so that Ell wants to give it another go.
Mama gets her wings
As for me, well I won’t be jumping out of a plane anytime soon, but I will definitely give indoor skydiving another shot. I’d like to say that I was a natural, but I definitely need some work. I was in the tunnel three times and each time my arms moved out of position a little more. You have to constantly engage your muscles to keep everything in the right position, but you also have to keep your fingers loose. It’s a tricky balance. My arms were quite sore the rest of the day. It was one heck of a workout though.
Final impressions based on age
Even though Dek and Lee hadn’t flown more than once, they still wanted to shout to the world that they could fly. Dek talked about it at dinner, he still asks to watch the video I shot of him in the tunnel, and tells his dad he will be going again. With each kid having a very different reaction this isn’t an activity you can decide on based on your child’s age. Dek was so excited before and after we went, but when he was in that chamber it was a bit overwhelming.
Is it worth the money to try? Yes! Of course. But I would recommend trying the 1-minute sessions, or if you want a larger package, asking your instructor to break your kid’s time up into 1 minute chunks. It is less time that they have the pressure on their face and they can decide for themselves what they think.
Having a great instructor made all the difference in the world with out experience. The people at iFly want this to be an activity families can enjoy together and kids want to do more than once. It’s a healthy addiction they aim to fuel. Chris’s quick response to each child’s need, and not pushing them beyond their comfort zone really made this a successful outing.
As Nicole and I walked back to our cars I turned to her and said, “Well, this was certainly one of the more unusual adventures we have taken with the kids. How will we ever top it?!” I guess I know our challenge for the rest of 2013.
Prepping for flight
- Watch the videos on the iFly website with your child before you take your first flight. This will give them a sense of what they have to look forward to and an idea of what to expect. Dek still begs for the iFly Seattle commercial below and sings the song. WARNING: You will not be doing most of what you see in this video on your first visit, but it does give you something to dream about and strive for down the road.
- A lot of air will push on your face when you enter the tunnel. To prepare you and your child put a fan on high and stick your face near it. Or put your hair dryer on cold and aim it up your nose. This will give you just a taste of what’s to come.
- Talk to your child about their fears if they are hesitant. Make sure your instructor knows what you are most worried about. They can help you and your child face your fears or give your child an alternative option.
- If you find it hard to breath once you are in the tube calm your breathing down. Take steady breaths out of your mouth. Yes, you may drool a little, but if you just can’t get enough through your nose that is what your mouth is for.
Know before you go
- iFly Seattle, 349 Tukwila Pkwy, Tukwila, WA 98188, tel: 206.244.4359
- Fall/ Winter: 11am – 11pm Monday through Friday/ 9am-11pm Saturday and Sunday
- Spring/ Summer: 9am -11pm daily
- Cost: Packages start at $59.95 per person. Check website for more details and to confirm cost. Video and photos are extra unless included in your package.
- Age: 3 years old is the minimum. No maximum age as long as you are healthy enough to enter the wind tunnel.
- What to wear? Comfy clothes are good, but jeans are fine too. Definitely no skirts. They won’t work under your jumpsuit very well. Do wear laced up shoes if possible. If you don’t you will have to borrow a pair from the center.
Many thanks to iFly Seattle Indoor Skydiving for giving Dek, his friend Ell, and I the chance to test our wings. As always opinions are my own; when they aren’t you will be the first to know.