Miles High: Junior Nathan Hoy finds ultimate thrill in unique hobby of skydiving

By: Sommer Danielsen

The wind bites junior Nathan Hoy’s neck where his helmet ends but not yet where his jumpsuit begins as he opens the door of the plane, revealing nothing but a vast passage of air below. His altimeter fastened to his wrist, his 30-pound pack secure, he leans closer to the open plane door for the countdown. 5,4,3,2,1. The descent begins. There is no one to turn to now. Completely alone, 14,000 feet above the ground, the responsibility of surviving this jump lies solely on the shoulders of a 17-year-old boy.

Hoy has a hobby a little bit more dangerous than skateboarding, a little bit more involved than video games and perhaps more terrifying than any physical contact sport. Since age 10, he has spent his weekends skydiving alongside his father, and recalling his first jump, a smile instantly stretches across his face. “Nov. 27. It was out of a [hot air] balloon,” Hoy said. “I was nervous, but [once I jumped,] I was addicted right away.”

“When you’re jumping you forget about everything else. It’s my high; nothing else compares.”

He has the great opportunity of learning from his father, who works teaching instructional courses and taking those participants on skydiving ventures. Growing up, he would sit in on his father’s classes, picking up the technique at an early age. He highly anticipated the day he would finally be old enough to pursue his official skydiving license and jump solo.  “It was always my dad’s dream for me to jump, and to teach me,” Hoy said.“The first time I went solo, I was confident, but it was different. I didn’t know what to expect; there were a lot of unknowns.”

Much of Hoy’s training was done jumping from hot air balloons. He favors this more than planes, even though balloons offer 4,000 less feet for descent. According to Hoy, the reduced speed of the jump gives a lot more depth to the experience. “Balloons are a lot more eerie, so it’s more like base jumping,” Hoy said. He tilts his head as a smile creeps to the corners of his mouth once again. “That’s when you get that feeling in your stomach. There are seriously no words to describe it. You just keep falling. When you’re jumping you forget about everything else. It’s my high; nothing else compares.

Don’t be fooled, in the midst of all the excitement, skydiving requires a tremendous amount of focus and discipline.  “During the jump you have to think about body position, how you fly, keeping up with each other, the altitude, the people around you. You don’t just fall; there’s a lot more to it,” Hoy said.

Whether alone or in a group, each jump is carefully planned. In a group, the divers decide what they want to accomplish during their jump, then reenact their movements on the ground before embarking on the jump. The grippers on their jumpsuits allow them to grab onto one another and create formations while airborne. There are even competitions for four-person jumps, which Hoy has considered pursuing in the future.

While jumping with other divers, Hoy also does Canopy Relative work. “I like canopy work because I get to sit on my dad’s parachute and mess around with him in the air,” Hoy said. However, it requires careful execution to avoid being caught in a whirlwind of nylon.

“You don’t just fall; there’s a lot more to it.”

Thrill seeking does not end here for Hoy. “This [skydiving] is definitely the highest adrenaline rush, but my dad and I love to do other crazy things,” Hoy said. He and his father have climbed Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, as well as a 14,000-foot mountain in Colorado. The Hoy duo also took on RAGBRAI for the 11th time this year, riding all week long.

Very few minors hold skydiving licenses. Last fall, the United States Parachute Association revised the requirements for receiving a license, raising the starting age from 16 to 18 years. Seeing his window quickly closing, Hoy worked all of last fall to successfully complete 25 solo jumps and receive the first level of four diving licenses, license A. Thanks to his hard work, he was grandfathered into the Association.

“I definitely want to continue this in the future. I want to do it my whole life, teaching and helping out on the weekends,”

Now, Hoy is working to apply for license B, which requires 50 jumps,10 of which must be consecutively landed in a marked area. License B will also require Hoy to receive water training, perform a canopy course and take an exam. “I definitely want to continue this in the future. I want to do it my whole life, teaching and helping out on the weekends,” Hoy said.

As Hoy reaches the ground, completing his jump, reality wraps itself back around him. His list of 17 year old- responsibilities ever growing; school, homework, working at Menchie’s frozen yogurt the next day. But looking out at the expansive drop zone before him, he pushes all these thoughts aside. He savors the adrenaline lingering in his body; a familiar, yet never mundane sensation. Another 14,000 feet in the books, and another 7 days until he can do it all again.

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