Fifty minutes north of Austin sits Skydive Temple, where Austinites gather to socialize and jump out of airplanes. The only thing marking it is a yellow sign shaped like a torpedo. Occasionally a mosquito buzzes overhead, but for the most part the area is silent. The prop plane sits still, the last load of skydivers has landed and the place will be closing soon.
Walking closer in from the dirt parking lot, it becomes clear that Skydive Temple is the center of a buzz of activity. In a hangout area informally known as “the hut” friendly voices and laughter echo off the corrugated metal walls. Past a large latch door, at least a dozen people are lounging about, chatting and discussing the day’s jumps. Outside the hut, on a covered patio with several picnic tables, another group of people gathers. They have on bright neon skydiving jumpsuits and are clustered around a keg of Shiner.
On most weekends, finance senior Parker Anderson is one of the daredevils in the neon suits. He doesn’t look like someone who jumps out of a plane for fun when the sky is clear. He looks more like a finance major than an extreme athlete. He’s skinny, on the taller side of average, with straight brown hair and unassuming clothes. A large backpack filled with textbooks and pencils hangs off his shoulders. But appearences can be deceptive.
“I got into skydiving because it fits my personality,” Anderson said. “I was the kid at pool parties [who] always tried to do a crazy flip, the kid that rode his bike full speed down a hill. When I found out about it, skydiving seemed like the logical next step.”
Anderson wants to use his skydiving skills to get into base jumping, a sport in which participants jump off fixed objects such as skyscrapers, antennas and cliffs. He believes base jumping is the most adrenaline-inducing activity a human being could participate in outside of a war zone.
“Most experts say that you need somewhere between 200 and 500 skydive jumps before you have the canopy control skills to start hopping off cliffs and skyscrapers,” Anderson said. “So I’ll be skydiving a while.”
Anderson’s elementary school friend Will Banowsky, an Austin native and student at the University of Charleston, also likes hurling himself from airplanes. With Parker, he completed an Accelerated Free Fall program, which licenses people to parachute by themselves without supervision. Today Banowsky has completed more than 60 jumps and has a license from the United States Parachute Association, allowing him to jump unassisted almost anywhere in the country.
Banowsky described the feeling of hurtling toward the ground at 120 miles an hour as “otherworldly.”
“That feeling of falling, unattached to anything, there’s nothing else like it,” Banowsky said. “I just can’t get enough of it. Skydiving has turned into a crazy passion of mine. It’s completley changed my life.”
Skydiving has had such an impact on Banowsky that he sold his car to pay for more advanced training and his own parachute. He is quick to add that the experience more than justifies the loss.
This might seem radical to many people, but at the same time Banowsky’s actions are well in line with many people’s image of a skydiver: a thrill-seeking adrenaline junky who lives on the edge.
“[Skydivers] are pretty much all adrenaline junkies,” Banowsky said. “Some more than others, but people who like to jump out of planes at 13,000 feet tend to have similar outlooks on things.”
But Anderson and Banowksy were quick to add that this personality quirk is what makes the community so special.
“It’s one of the most tight-knit groups of people I’ve met in my life,” Anderson said. “Skydivers know that there aren’t a lot of people out there like them, so when they find one of their own there’s always a connection.”