By Mark Guccione, As Told To Brookr Morton
SCUBA Diving | July 2016
The helicopter door opens right above the ocean, and wind floods in. That’s when the diver’s perception narrows: He stops hearing the thumping of the rotor blades. He sees only my hands — nothing else. That’s the adrenaline rush. If he panics, there will be problems. I teach heli-diving for OC Helicopters in Los Angeles, and I’m the only PADI Heli-Diver 1 specialty course instructor in the world. So let’s start from the beginning. When you climb aboard the helicopter, keep your hands low, no higher than your head, or that will be the last time you put your hands up. Then you’re inside wearing all your dive gear, save for your fins and mask. Those are strapped to your chest. Your air is on. In the event that you have a problem, we want to make sure you can breathe. We drop jumpers at one of three locations, where, after the drop, they are joined by a divemaster via chase boat. As we approach the drop sites, I slide the door open. Several jumpers have told me this is when it gets real. While this is happening, I’m communicating with the pilot. He has to anticipate the weight displacement when roughly 200 pounds exits one side. When it’s time, if you’re diver one, you unbuckle first. I have a hold of you. You scoot left, stepping onto the step. Below is the ocean, 15 feet down. Nobody ever asks for a higher jump. Then you have to step, not jump. If you jump, you place too much weight on one side of the helicopter. As you’re in the air, you look slightly down. If you don’t, you’ll faceplant. That free-fall is why we do this. I’m always looking for that rush in diving, and for me, this is it. If you have to ask why someone would want to do this, then heli-diving isn’t for you.