Many people with disabilities have skydived, but Patrick Nichols is among the few paraplegics in the country who are certified to jump solo. Although the journey hasn’t been easy, skydiving has helped Nichols get back to pushing the envelope after a 2005 motorcycle crash sidelined the adrenaline seeker.
Nichols, 31, skydived three years ago and was instantly hooked. Since then, he has been at Skydive East Tennessee, perfecting technique and working on his certification. Nichols says maintaining proper body positioning is vital, but landing can be tricky. When Nichols lands, he tries to roll on his side; otherwise he’s likely to land face first.
Getting solo certification is difficult — the U.S. Parachute Association has stringent requirements. Jumpers must demonstrate stable airplane exits, altitude awareness, proper chute deployment and various in-air maneuvers. “Basically you have an understanding of skydiving, know where you’re at in the air, and what your supposed to be doing,“ Nichols says.
Nichols recently finished his certification requirements and officially graduated on October 14. The U.S. Coast Guard veteran now plans to introduce wounded warriors to the rush-inducing sport. He says he wants them to try it and experience the temporary freedom from their disability.