Last week, iFly invited the Portland Monthly staff to visit its brand-new indoor skydiving facility in Tigard. iFly is an Austin-based company that has 37 similar wind tunnels around North American and Europe, giving pro skydivers the ability to practice their in-air moves efficiently and cheaply, and n00bs (like us) the closest analog to freefall without actually jumping out of a perfectly good plane.
Spencer, our flight instructor for the afternoon, showed us what's possible once you get good.
Here's how it works: on the roof of the narrow, three-story building are four giant fans that blow a Republican debates' worth of hot air down into the basement. There, it's cooled and shot back up into the transparent tube. As this tube narrows, the air picks up speed, lifting anyone and anything in the tunnel with it. Be warned: The air is a merciless master. According to Spencer, many a cell phone, necklace, and wallet have been lost by naive jumpers who ignored instructions to remove all personal items.
Three of us braved the tunnel and three of us survived.
BENJAMIN TEPLER (Associate Food Editor):
Walking into iFly’s new three-story indoor skydiving operation felt a lot like getting invited to a cool pre-teen laser tag birthday party—but in practice, way cooler. After an instructional video that I was guaranteed to forget upon entering a 130 mph wind tunnel, I’m suited up in a hammer-pants-style uni-tard and steered toward the flight chamber: a glass, aquarium-like enclosure where everyone can watch you flounder, like a beached whale, at any angle. The instructor eased me in, holding me like an infant in an Aqua Toddler’s class, as I struggled to internalize the nuanced, reactive movements of the extreme sport. Just hovering is one thing; spinning at high speeds and pulling acrobatic tricks is another. That’s where iFly gets you: you get just a taste of what’s possible and you’re hooked.
MARTY PATAIL (Associate Editor)
The video of my first time in the tunnel will forever remain dead and buried on my hard drive. I wobble about midair like a buoyant sack of watermelons while the instructor, grabbing at the two handles on my suit, tries to right my uncooperative body. My second shot in the tunnel was much more successful. Once I learned how to stabilize myself (more or less), bobbing up and down about 4 feet above the metal grate did start to feel like a little like flying. The spinning trip to the top of the tunnel at the end of my two minutes was thrilling, and if it all came as easily as that I would definitely do it again.
EMMA MANNHEIMER (Editorial Intern)
So, the key to indoor skydiving is forgetting everything in the instructional video—so says the instructor. The real strategy to indoor skydiving is forcing your body to manipulate itself while your brain is all like, ‘HELL NO.’ Entering the wind tunnel my body fought the high-speed gusts propelling me about. Thankfully the instructor was alongside to redirect me with a hands-on approach. The initial exposure to the wind was uncomfortable: the smell was odd and my lips flapped about like a cartoon. For the finale, the guide spun me to the top of the 14-ft glass chamber and then back down which was the most thrilling 10 seconds I’ve experienced lately. I was disappointed by the lack of stomach churning of actually falling (crazy, right?). Regardless it is awesome to float around a tube like a tiny blimp, awkwardly forging a course up, up, and away.
For more information, visit portland.iflyworld.com.