The Adventures of Cheri Carter—Skydiver!
“The scariest part of the jump isn’t jumping out of the airplane. It’s the anticipation on the ride to altitude. I wonder if I can make it to my slot, if I’m doing a group dive, and hoping to have a good landing when it comes. If I’m making a solo skydive, I’m much more relaxed and not scared at all. No pressure to perform, you know.”
These are the words of Cheri (pronounced “Sherry”) Carter of Sun City. With more than a thousand dives under her belt, Cheri is a seasoned skydiver. To get there took determination and serious gym time.
After Cheri retired in 1995, a former husband who is a skydiver nagged her to try skydiving. “I thought, ‘That looks interesting.’ I was scared, but thought I might as well give it a try,” she says. On the weekend of herfifty-fourth birthday, Cheri, her husband, daughters, and friends headed to San Marcos. (A little foreshadowing: Cheri arrived astride her motorcycle.)
“I took a tandem jump. I was terrified, but I was hooked like a big ol’ fish when I got down,” Cheri laughs. But tandem jumps were out. “With a Type A personality, I had to be in control of everything,” she says. She started the Accelerated Free Fall Program to learn how to skydive but had to overcome one problem. “They nicknamed me ‘Maytag’ because I’d go into a high-speed spin when the instructor let me go,” she laughs, “but a thousand skydives and thirteen years later, I’m skydiving on my own.” Cheri holds a D, or expert, license.
A petite woman, Cheri found skydiving physically demanding. Because she is so small, she sometimes has to wear weights. “In order to land with a weight around your waist and parachute on your back and not break your legs,” she explains, “you have to be very strong.” There was also a 200-square-foot training canopy to contend with. “To flare that much canopy required a lot of arm strength,” she says, so she hits the gym three days a week to lift weights and do other exercises to condition her body.
Skydiving has become a tradition for Cheri and her eight grandchildren. “When they turned sixteen, they went skydiving with Grandma,” Cheri says. The grandchildren jump tandem, and Cheri flies up to them in free fall and gives them a literal high five. She has two grandchildren to go. They’re currently fifteen and twelve, and the minimum age has been raised to eighteen, so Cheri will be seventy-two when she jumps with her youngest grandchild.
What’s left for this grandmother? “The only thing on my bucket list is to make a base jump from a stationary object,” she states. No doubt her friends will see that jump posted on her Facebook page someday. Seriously.
To see a totally awesome video of Cheri skydiving with a granddaughter, go to Cheri’s Dropbox.
“Skydiving very exciting and challenging because every jump is different,” Cheri says. Typically, she jumps out at 12,000 feet, falls for one minute, and then deploys her parachute at 3,000 feet.