High Altitude Skysurfing

Normal skydives are done from about 12,000 feet. Every now and then we might go up to 15,000 feet for a little bit more freefall, but at this altitude you start to get dizzy from lack of oxygen if you don't get out of the plane soon. Not many skydivers get to jump from the next level up in the atmosphere. I was all for it, but just wanted to be prepared. The two critical items at a high altitude are temperature and lack of oxygen. So basically I had to dress warm and take a mask. We were going up to 35,000 feet where the temperature in freefall would be like -47 degrees. I bought all sorts of mountain gear to throw on, including a hood for under my helmet and heat packs for my feet and gloves. My camera helmet had to be specially modified to accommodate a fighter pilot's oxygen mask. It was a pretty tricked out rig with all sorts of hoses and tanks attached to my parachute harness. I also had a communications system all wired up so I looked like some space man. With all this extra equipment, I had to keep an eye on everything and go through a special procedure of detaching from the onboard oxygen system and properly firing up my personal system just before exit. It would not be fun to do this too early and then run out of oxygen in freefall. I have never passed out on a skydive before and didn't want to find out what it was like. The actual jump wasn't too hairy, just very cold. The air is so thin at that altitude that there wasn't much wind resistance in freefall and I picked up a lot of speed. It was loud and obnoxious. Not really a pleasant sort of experience, just something to pull off. It took forever to get down to opening altitude and I couldn't wait. I just kept checking my altimeter. When I finally opened, I was way off course and nowhere near the beach where I was supposed to land. I ended up finding a high school football field at the last second and landed there. The students were tripping out on me. I have to admit it would be very strange to be at track practice and see some weird space age looking dude with a snowboard come parachuting down onto the field. Then I told them I was with MTV and made their day. Some kid tried to run off with my board, but then decided to give it back. The cops showed up and made me leave.