When I was nine, I was tall. These days, I’m a whopping 5’4, but back then, I exceeded the national average and was taller than the 50 inches required to ride this:
That’s the Giant Dipper at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, one of the oldest wooden rollercoasters in the country.
My nine-year-old self and adult-self agree that the trauma resulting from this ride explains my subsequent and persistent distaste for free falls. Turbulence on airplanes, rollercoasters, even watching people jump off high rocks into water make me queasy.
Free falls and a plethora of other things grace my list of fears, but one of them is actually not heights. So I was excited to participate in one of the most popular and exciting tourist activities in Costa Rica: ziplining.
After much hemming and hawing over the loads of companies to choose from, we decided to go with Extremo. The ziplining itself was really fun—the views were great, we did a 30-meter rappel and the very last line was what was called a Superman, where your feet and hands are strapped in and you fly across a valley like—you got it—Superman.
But before we could revel in that heroic flight, there was what was called a Tarzan Swing. And here’s where my hatred for free falls comes in. A Tarzan Swing is what you imagine it would be: a
vine big rope attached to a tree that you use to swing on jump off a platform and hold on for dear life. This method of vine transportation normally wouldn’t bother me, but this swing was…well, pretty high. And there was enough rope for a bit of a…fall.
And as each person stepped off the platform to swing above the jungle, they emitted some variation of a blood-curdling scream. Some were more dignified than others. A strapping, older German gentleman let out a shriek none of us expected. All of this was not encouraging.
In fact, my anxiety mounted as each person stepped up to the end of the wooden platform to get clipped in. Finally it was just me and Quiet Wife of Shrieky German Man. And I lost my shiz. There, in the jungle of Monteverde, in front of the Tico guides and the Germans and a couple from Quebec and my buddy Lisa, I started to cry. Not like big bawling sobs or anything, but it was kinda like this:
I wasn’t embarrassed—I got over crying in front of strangers ages ago—but I was disappointed. Everyone seemed like they had so much fun jumping off that platform, despite the screaming. I wanted to have fun, too! If the old guy could do it, I could too, right?!
The guide looked at me sympathetically for the first time and told me I didn’t have to do it if I didn’t want to. I shook my head and said I could.
I felt like I was walking the plank on a pirate ship. My stomach is bracing just writing this—that’s how nervous the free-falling sensation makes me.
With the guide’s advice that “it’s easier if you close your eyes,” I snapped them shut and in the darkness felt a push and I was falling.
I screamed, but unfortunately I don’t have one of those made-for-horror-films screams that’s high-pitched and piercing. Even as a little girl I couldn’t scream. Just YouTube “people screaming Tarzan swing” and overlay that with the sound of a female moose being strangled and you’ll get an audial idea of what I sounded like, followed by a vigorous “I HATE YOU ALL, I HATE YOU ALL SO MUCH!”
Unfortunately nobody had the foresight to take footage, which—if they had—would be me crying, screaming, and Lisa laughing her butt off at me.
Moral of this story?
(Other than the reinforcement that I cry a lot, that is…) I was really glad I tried something outside my comfort zone, even though I a) made a fool of myself and b) well, mostly a. I didn’t die, which was the main goal, and I actually enjoyed the adrenaline rush!
Bungee jumping and skydiving are still probably not in my future BUT after watching the first-person footage from the Giant Dipper on a recent NYTimes feature, I decided maybe it’s time for me to give it another shot.
Road trip to Santa Cruz Boardwalk, anyone?
*This post was inspired by Liz at Young Adventuress, who is clearly a lot more gutsy than I am!