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Falling In Love (With a Parachute)

Tim Hager, Up & Coming Weekly, Nov. 6 - 13, 2002 November 05, 2002

(The Portraits of Flight series will appear the last Friday of each month and will count down to next year's Festival of Flight (North Carolina's largest public celebration of the centennial flight, will run from May 16-26, 2003) celebration. The series will profile interesting people and places connected to Fayetteville and flight.)

Love is indeed a many splendored thing. Proof can be found in the lengths that some couples will go to spend more time together. Maybe it's a pottery class, or swing dances, or weekend trips to Gatlinburg.

Or maybe it's jumping out of an airplane, plummeting toward the ground at over 130 miles an hour, pulling a thin rope as Earth advances and floating down from the heavens, feet first, hand in hand.

Rob and Lisa Kopelen haven't done the hand-in-hand thing - they've only been up together three times since Lisa came off student status two weeks ago - but for the skydiving couple, love blooms when the ground looms.

"He's been very supportive about the whole thing, because this was always something that we wanted to do," Lisa said about her husband Rob. "He was gone almost all weekend every weekend and we didn't get to spend a lot of time together. So this was a way for us to be able to do something together. Last weekend everyone told him I was doing well, so that made me nervous. But after the first run it was just a lot of fun to be able to do that with him."

Rob Kopelen is stationed at Fort Bragg. The son of a career Army man, Rob has been around skydiving since he was a child. But it was only three years ago that he went up (and down) for the first time.

"It was totally sensory overload," Rob said. "There's so much going on. You're moving at over 130 miles an hour down, you got the air going around you, I had two jump instructors giving me hand signals, trying to tell me what to do. ... A lot went through my mind. Kind of a welcome to the world of skydiving."

The 25-year old was hooked. Talking his bride to take the plunge with him took less convincing than one might expect. Lisa said she was eager to try.

"When he first started, he was very gung ho about it, just fascinated about the whole thing," she said. "Most of our friends skydive as well, before I started. I've always wanted to do it and since he was so into it, and our friend was an instructor, I got into it."

Lisa went up for the first time three years ago as well, but took a hiatus, starting back up in June. Her first drop from a plane was less of a rush than Rob's. First off, she climbed back in the plane after the first pass, needing an extra few minutes to calm her nerves. When she finally did jump, the rush was less than expected.She was training in static line progression - which basically means your parachute is deployed as soon as you jump - the lack of hang time wasn't what Lisa wanted.

"That didn't give me the warm fuzzies," she said. "It was very safe, but you don't get free fall time."

Rob also works as an instructor at the Skydiving Place in Parkton. He said that, although second thoughts like Lisa displayed are common, few people ask to be brought down via plane once they go up.

"In the over 200 students I've had," Rob said, "I've only had two students that actually came back (without jumping)."

According to Rob, most don't give up because of the work the instructors have put into preparing them before their flight. Also, some realize, as Rob put is, "You're more likely to get struck by lightning on a golf course than you are to get killed skydiving."

It also help that the reward for courage is so fulfilling. Once you're out the door, the rest is an adrenaline field day.

"You're free," Lisa said. "I think you feel in control. Even though things can go wrong, you are in control of it. Me personally, I like the free fall, but I really like being under the canopy, having the parachute over my head. I like just being able to look around."

With your heart pumping, your stomach doing butterflies and the feeling of uncontrollable excitement, it's almost like a first date. Maybe it's no surprise that the couple that skydives together thrives together. For now, Rob and Lisa will take that plunge as often as possible, choosing to fall beside the sunset instead of fading into it.

"I don't know if we'll (be jumping at) 70 or 80," Lisa said, "but I think we'll be doing this for awhile."

For more information on skydiving or to schedule a lesson, contact The Skydiving Place at 858-0700.

quade -
The World's Most Boring Skydiver

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