By Kyle LoJacono
ZEPHYRHILLS — Most people would never dream of jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, but at Skydive City in Zephyrhills people do it all day.
“We have a plane taking off about every eight minutes every day from 8 (a.m.) until sunset,” said David “T.K.” Hayes, co-owner of Skydive City. “We have people from the area calling and asking when’s the best time to watch the jumps like we only have a couple a day. We tell them anytime the sun is up we’ll have people jumping.”
While jumps are constantly happening, Skydive City does something special each holiday season. The annual Christmas Boogie, which has happened each year since 1989, will include multiple special events until Jan. 3, 2010. The highlight of the boogie is a midnight jump on New Year’s Eve.
“You have to be sober all night to participate in the midnight jump,” Hayes said. “Only 20 people can jump at midnight, but we get as many people in the air right around the new year.”
There will also be music and parties throughout the two weeks. For a complete list of Christmas Boogie events, visit www.skydivecity.com and click the calendar of events link on the right side of the screen.
Winter is the busiest time for the company, which will have about 1,000 different jumpers during the two-week boogie. Some of the jumpers come from 35 different countries, but there are also local skydivers that frequent the business.
“The people that I jump with are amazing,” said Quinn Lamb, Zephyrhills resident and bartender at Skydive City. “The little community we have out here is great…The feeling of free falling is just indescribable.”
Lamb has worked with the business for more than two years. He was born in Tarpon Springs and now lives in the permanent recreational vehicle park located on Skydive City’s property. He recently started teaching jumpers how to use wingsuits, which inflate with air during jumps to extend the amount of free-fall time from 60 seconds to about three minutes.
“It’s just a great, multicultural event b
ecause people come from Europe, Asia, Russia, Australia and other places and stay here for two weeks,” Lamb said of the Christmas Boogie. “Then you have all the events that happen only during the boogie. It’s just a great time”
The Christmas Boogie is one of three that happen each year, with the others coming around Thanksgiving and Easter. Hayes said that the Christmas version is the largest and busiest of the three.
Hayes, 49, moved to Zephyrhills from Toronto, where he worked with International Business Machines.
“Skydiving was a hobby turned profession turned career,” Hayes said. “I became an instructor to earn money for my own skydives and decided why not just start my own business.”
Hayes said there is nothing like the sensation of free falling from the airplanes. However, things have not always gone perfect for him during jumps.
“I broke my neck back in 2001 during a bad landing,” Hayes said. “I was swooping in while using an extreme high performance canopy going 60 or 70 mph. It was just a bad landing and I kind of cart-wheeled and wiped out like I was riding water skies.”
Hayes said he made his first jump three months after his crash and was jumping regularly after six. Despite the obvious risks, Hayes and the other skydivers repeatedly jump out of plans day after day.
For more information on Skydive City, call (813) 783-9399.
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