High-flying adventure available in your own backyard
VIVIAN, LA (KSLA) - Jumping out of a plane may not be on your bucket list.
But if it is, there's a place in Vivian waiting for you.
"People think 'Oh, I'm afraid of heights.' (Well), I have skydivers that jump on a regular basis that won't climb up on a hangar, but they'll jump out of an airplane all day long. So it's a different feeling," Skydive Louisiana owner Bill Geaslin explained.
"You don't lose your stomach. It's a completely different feeling that you can't simulate; you have to do."
For 27 years, Geaslin has been providing the dream of freefalling and floating to thrill seekers in the ArkLaTex and beyond.
Geaslin himself has skydived more than 8,000 times.
"It's always different; it's never the same thing.
"Some people think falling out of a plane would get old," Geaslin said. "But taking people on skydives, if it's their first skydive, getting that energy their first time, it's different every time and you can always learn in the sport."
Skydive Louisiana recently moved from Gilliam to a hangar at Vivian Airport, which is two miles southwest of the northern Caddo Parish town of Vivian.
The town has "been real easy to work with. It's a small community; it's a great place to do business," Geaslin said. "They like to have the business come in there, and they want to help you succeed."
Adriana Giacalone loves the fact that Skydive Louisiana moved to Vivian Airport because the company now has more space.
"I never thought the Shreveport-Vivian-Bossier area would provide something like this, but I love that they do," the second-time jumper said.
"I skydived for the first time last weekend and fell in love with it. And so now I'm going to do the three jumps and then solo and maybe go from there.
"I'm thinking about becoming a skydiving instructor."
Giacalone found her second jump to be just as exciting as the first.
"It was peaceful and exciting all in one. It was just an incredible experience."
That's a sentiment echoed by her friend Johnny Kennedy.
"You only live once," he said, "I like it. It's a good weekend thing to do that gets you away from everything, I mean, I trust dropping out of a plane with them."
The oldest person to skydive in Louisiana - a 98-year-old woman - took the jump with Skydive Louisiana, Geaslin said.
"And the oldest gentleman in Louisiana, he's jumped four times. He's jumped on his 80th, 85th, 90 and at 95 years old, a World War II veteran.
"I just like helping the military guys," Geaslin continued. "A lot of them come out, and they're from different parts of the country. And they can come out here, and they might've learned to skydive somewhere else. They have a hobby or sport they can get right back into here locally even though they're not from here."
It just so happens that the guy who helped KSLA News 12's Marie Waxel with her freefall is an active-duty member of the Air Force.
"I'm a crew chief for Barksdale Air Force Base. And we come out here on the weekends just to have fun relax and take people on their skydives," Andrew Melanson said.
He moved to Bossier with the Air Force when he turned 18.
"I was looking for something to do on the weekend. And one of my best friends came out here and did a tandem skydive, actually at this place. And he brought me out. And the first time I hit the ground, I was like 'I got to do this, this is going to be me'."
So Geaslin helped him get the training and hours needed to make it happen.
Seven years later, Melanson now is a tandem instructor.
"It is unlike any other experience I've ever had before, the difference between taking people and going by yourself," Melanson explained.
"When you go by yourself, it's almost euphoric. Once you get past the adrenaline and all the rush of jumping out of a plane, it becomes almost therapeutic skydiving, and that's what most of us see it as.
"Taking tandems brings the adrenaline back in the sport for us because we strap 180 pounds of human to the front of you and you say 'I will take you and I'll make sure everything's OK for you.' It brings everything back in the sport that we chased after the first couple of times we jumped."
For Melanson, skydiving helps balance his military and civilian lives.
"It breaks the monotony that the military can sometimes instill on you. But we also have a lot of military guys who come out here. So having them come out here and still being around them, it's good for us."
If you're worried about taking the leap, Melanson says don't be.
"It's actually a lot more safer than you think. Our tandem instructors are certified by the FAA. We have monthly recurrence jumps that we have to do different tasks we have to accomplish. It's extremely safe."
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