For the love of the dive

May 13, 2013 | 11 a.m.

Student makes money packing parachutes for skydivers

Culture | Cherie Suonvieri for The Clarion

For the love of the dive

Sophomore Mikaela Rekstad packs the main parachute for skydivers. The parachute must be packed in an alotted six minutes. | Photo for The Clarion courtesy of Mikaela Rekstad

Many people have skydiving on their bucket list. Some actually go. But Mikaela Rekstad is one of the few who can say she’s jumped out of a plane 12 times.

Rekstad, a Bethel sophomore, was 17 when she had her first encounter with the extreme sport. She went along with her family to Skydive Twin Cities to watch her mom skydive for her birthday.

While there, Rekstad took note of the parachute packers and the skill involved in the responsibility. Soon, Rekstad found herself packing parachutes as well.

“I loved the atmosphere because [the skydivers] were really adventurous,” she said. “They’re like the surfers of the sky.”

With regular skydiving, the diver will have two parachutes, a main and a reserve. Rekstad packs the main parachutes – each within a six-minute time limit – while the reserves were left to an expert who had additional training. Rekstad said that it's comforting knowing divers have a reserve in case the chute she packs fails, but it can still be scary at times.

While working as a parachute packer, Rekstad’s interest in the sport grew, and on her 18th birthday, she took her first jump.

It was within the first few seconds, when Rekstad saw how quickly she was falling away from the plane, that she felt most terrified.

“After that, I just felt like I was floating,” she said. “It’s just this moment of weightlessness and freedom.” Rekstad’s first jump was tandem, which means she was connected to an instructor, but her last 11 jumps have been solo.

Rekstad describes herself as an introvert, and that’s one reason why she enjoys skydiving so much. “Everything you experience from the time that you jump out of the plane to the time that you pull your chute to go and land, it’s just you and God and anything you’ve got to work out inside.”

Since the sport can be costly, Rekstad has chosen not to skydive as frequently as she had been. She has, however, purchased most of the necessary equipment and hopes to dive this summer if she can find a drop zone in Seattle, where she will be for her internship.

Rekstad offered a few words of encouragement for those adventurers thinking about giving skydiving a whirl.

“The dangerous part about skydiving is driving there, really. We do activities that are so dangerous every day, and you don’t get a rush from driving in traffic,” she said. “It’s such a beautiful thing that can’t be explained … I just think it would be silly not to try it at least once.”

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