The experience started at 14,000 feet above sea level and ended 150 feet underwater!
“Okay gang, it’s too windy for beach jumps and the landing area has seen better days, but we are jumping the Blue Hole on Tuesday. Gear checks and waivers will be upstairs from the restaurant on Monday. Enjoy your dinner, order more rum punch, and have a great time on this beautiful island that I love so much.”
The boogie-goers sat in Estele’s Restaurant on Saturday night ruminated over Rich Grimm’s words. Blue Hole jump on Tuesday. 38 people gathered once again in San Pedro, Belize to skydive the Great Blue Hole . Some will scuba the Blue Hole right after, others will snorkel, a few will make their way back to the island to wash the canopies and rigs, but all will be involved in this rare experience in Belize. This year’s group included 32 fun jumpers, 4 guests of skydivers, 1 tandem jumper, and her instructor.
Since the winds were too high for beach jumps, Rich set up a snorkel trip for the group. Even though there’s always an inherent risk that any or all of the jumps could be scrapped due to weather, Rich knew a “Plan B” snorkel trip would be A – fun (duh) and B – a good way to get everyone’s minds off their Blue Hole nerves.
Blue Hole Jump
Despite the pre-jump activities, excitement was brewing as the Blue Hole jump was just one sleep and mere hours away. Would the winds be favorable? Will the boat leave on time that morning to meet the jumpers in the water? Will the spots be good? That last one wasn’t much of a question because Rich has spotted this jump countless times, but jumpers will chatter through their nerves and discuss almost anything. Can we do this jump naked? Will the tandem use the fifth attachment point? Will this unicorn floatie stay around my waist during freefall or should I pull high and blow it up under canopy? Skydivers really ask the hard questions.
5am the next morning, the sleepy boat-riding companions boarded the scuba boat to leave for the 3+ hour trek to the Blue Hole. The non-jumpers were looking forward to their front-row seat of the unique landing zone! A couple of hours later, Rich greeted the jumpers at breakfast in the restaurant and gave a final review of the procedures and then a pep talk. He was really good at those. This was going to be his 17th Blue Hole skydive, and despite the number, he was still genuinely excited.
Load one went up at 9am, as planned, and 20 minutes later, every jumper landed safely in the Blue Hole. The boat cheered for the newest installment of Blue Hole jumpers on this bright, beautiful, sunny March morning. The pickup boat grabbed everyone and their heavy, soaked canopies and ferried them to the scuba boat to prepare for their second dive of the day, now a scuba dive!
Load two went up around 10am and had the same results. One jumper, Bob Edmiston, who had to cancel his Blue Hole trip the year before due to injury, showed his patriotism and flew the American flag while under canopy. Efrain Vega, a newcomer to the Blue Hole, showed pride for his country and flew the Puerto Rican flag. Skydivers are a proud, diverse group.
Saving the best for last, load three went up at 11am. This load included Rich Grimm, David Clarke, Chris Forrest who was the pilot from load one (Joe flew the other two loads), and world-renowned photographer Bruno Brokken, who was gracious enough to video Hatz! and his tandem student. The plane climbed up to 14,000 feet and its passengers jumped. The sun was bright and beautiful and lit up the Blue Hole like it was Christmas. The air was warm even at altitude and jumpers basked in the beauty of their backdrop.
Landing in water
Landing in water sounds like a scary endeavor, but in reality, it will be the smoothest, softest landing if done correctly, unless you plan on landing in a giant vat of marshmallow fluff one day. In the world of skydiving, this is not a far-fetched idea, so maybe someone should start planning a marshmallow jump soon!
After scuba diving, snorkeling, and sunbathing, the boat headed to Half Moon Caye for another dive and snorkel spot and then lunch on the beach. After lunch, many took the 10-minute walk to the red-footed-boobie preserve where they climbed a 20-foot ladder to a landing that viewed the tree line and saw the boobie nests filled with their babies.
The three-hour trip back to San Pedro island was mostly smooth, but the 30 minutes of choppiness gave everyone a reason to thank Rich for suggesting to bring pillows for their rear ends. Thanks again, Rich! Truly, an enormous thank you to Rich Grimm and Hatz! for putting together the 2023 Blue Hole boogie. It was an incredible experience where the phrase “It must be nice,” was both welcomed and encouraged.
The Great Blue Hole jump is the pinnacle of skydiving. It doesn’t compare to any other skydive, far from it for that matter! Even jumping in unique places such as the Palm in Dubai or even Mount Everest, you take off and land at an airport as in any other skydive. This is the only skydive where you are intentionally landing in the water, surrounded by a reef, surrounded by another reef, being picked up by a boat and starting the experience at 14,000 feet above sea level and ending it 150ft underwater.
The amount of planning and permissions that go into making this kind of jump possible is insurmountable; including permits and authorization as it is a marine-protected area, coordination with a scuba vessel large enough to bring everyone back, weather, gear cleaning, logistics and sourcing Jet-A on an island that doesn’t even have fuel.
If you haven’t experienced this skydive, there is only one group authorized by the government of Belize to do it, Tsunami Skydivers Exotic Boogies. The group, which can be found on Facebook is run by Rich Grimm, who has had the unique pleasure of making skydivers’ dreams come true for almost two decades now.
Watch Chris Forrest’s fun video edit:
Related article: Rich Grimm’s 20 Commandments – to keep you safe and having fun in this sport for decaeds to come!