View from the Sky
The Cessna 206 aircraft lofts from the tarmac into the air on a wintry day for yet another successful adventure for a pair of special people. The plane steadily rises through the clean, crisp air above the desert mountains. As the aircraft lifts toward the thin, wispy cirrus clouds several thousand feet higher, the landforms of the desert basin below take on a watercolor haze, appearing soft and inviting in the distance. This is the dropzone for Skydive West Coast, a paradise for the positive adrenaline rush of a lifetime.
Robbie and Tanya Spencer, owners and co-founders of Skydive West Coast, are experts on the sky, its weather and the terrain as far as the eye can see. Robbie, originally from South Africa, and Tanya, from England, have traveled the world and agree that Southern California has the most excellent weather for skydiving year-round. They share abundantly with their guests on the landforms and sky features to help their guests feel more comfortable in a new environment. Robbie and Tanya are the only husband and wife team of expert skydivers that jump with their customers, called tandem skydives, for people who are not trained in the sport but wish to enjoy the experience. For this special couple, the ascent is the appetizer, the visual tour is the main course, and the jump is the decadent, transcendent dessert.
From the Cessna’s glass roll-top door, Robbie points out into the vast space above Banning Airport toward the San Gregonio Pass toward the Big Bear Mountains to the north, the San Jacinto Mountains to the south, and all the way to the Salton Sea. Robbie reminds you: “After you do this, you can do anything!” Yes. Yes, you can. You are thoroughly engrossed in the beauty of the moment, in the protection of two of the most expert skydivers in the world, encouraged that indeed you can do this.
Soar Like a Bird
Your reservation is confirmed. You take a delightful drive out to Banning Airport to meet Robbie and Tanya. Parachutes and aircraft are packed and checked. Robbie and Tanya equip you with special harnesses especially for tandem skydives and explain how you will be safely connected to them during the tandem skydive. All you need to do now is enjoy the ride.
Smiles beaming, you board the plane together for a 20-minute ascent and a scenic tour to 12,500 feet. When the drop zone is in sight and the time is right, Robbie and Tanya take you for a one-minute adrenaline-filled freefall, soaring like a bird, then release the parachute for six to eight full minutes of gliding and taking in the most spectacular sights. The whole landscape opens up for you with brightly snow-capped mountains over cloud-shadowed valleys, patches of green Joshua trees in the sandy desert, and on a crystal-clear day, a glint of sun rays off the Pacific Ocean. Skydiving is not like being in an airplane.
“It is the closest to flying like a bird that you can get. You don’t feel like you’re falling; you feel like you’re flying like a calm, soaring bird,” Robbie says.
Love is in the Air
Robbie, a commercial pilot and world-traveling skydiver, found himself in England in 1991 where Tanya, an award-winning parachute packer, safety trainer and skydiver, was living. They became close friends and stayed in touch even when their paths diverged to travel the world. When they reunited several years later, love was in the air, and two years ago, they decided to get married and settle in the Southern California desert. With over thousands of jumps and 60 years of skydiving experience between them, they launched their lives into the birth of their very own skydiving experience and training business, Skydive West Coast. Inspired by their love story, many couples come for a skydive to get engaged and even get married!
The future of skydiving is more than just an adrenaline rush for thrill-seekers. Skydive West Coast wants to work with organizations such as Windy Warrior that help people who have had accidents and negative experiences with adrenaline post-trauma and PTSD. They have found that tandem skydiving can help individuals who are ready to create a positive and safe adrenaline experience. That goes for fearful people in general as well as helping to build trust and courage in business, relationships and life. Robbie and Tanya agree that after a veritable flood of positive adrenaline, “You’ll never look at the sky the same way, ever.”