Week 17: Jettisoned the Jetpack

“Meet George Jetson. His boy Elroy. Daughter Judy. Jane his wife.” The Jetson’s was one of my favorite cartoons as a kid, and still is. The idea of that space age lifestyle, pressing a button and having a meal ready, having a robot maid Rosie, walking your dog Astro on the outdoor pad, was so out of this world. And so cool. Transportation was via mini spaceship looking vehicles, and the jetpack…loved that jetpack, even Elroy got around in it.


Well, when I had a chance to live that futuristic out of this world experience today, I jumped at the chance. I had seen some news segments about Jetpack America’s version of a jetpack that is water propelled and thought how fun would that be. So when Lacy got a Groupon good for two, guess who was the lucky number two – me!


Although I was so excited to jet pack away, I almost didn’t write about the experience. Why? Because I couldn’t do it. I was so disappointed in myself, why would I want to talk about it. But life brings us disappointments and we need to accept them and move on. Also, at the time it was happening I thought I wouldn’t be able to write about it, because I felt for sure I was going to drown.


You see, I’ve never learned how to swim. So why did I agree to the jetpack adventure? Well, I really didn’t think it would be a problem. I’m not afraid of the water. I’ve snorkeled, gone on many boat rides, been white water rafting and floated on rivers with a life vest. Also, for some reason I thought that the flying would start on dry land or on a boat deck, not in the middle of the bay where I can’t touch the bottom. I really need to clear up these details better before I sign on the dotted line.


When we signed in at the Jetpack America desk at the Mission Bay Sports Center, we jokingly mentioned that I couldn’t swim. Well, they said that there is a swim test, but it’s not a “swimming” test, but one of making sure you can get back up on the surface. I thought oh sure I can do that. Right.


After getting some jetpack training and watching their instructional video, I was more worried about remembering all the details and controlling the thing, not passing the swim test. Okay, out we march with some other guy that was visiting from Trinidad. I decided that he and Lacy should go before me and I would be in the second group — mainly so we could take pictures of each other. Isn’t that important, proof.


Mistake. Lacy will admit this too, but she had a rough start. And watching her make some accidental back flips, and having trouble getting out of the water did not make me feel at ease about my turn. She finally did get up in the air, and made some great walking on water moves. How did she like it? I will paraphrase Lacy’s reply:

“I don’t really know what to say. I was genuinely terrified, yet super excited. The idea of getting to do something like this kept my adrenaline high enough to keep me going. And mostly just to say I wore a jet pack and I flew, even just for seconds at a time.


As for scary…it was terrifying. Every time I landed and the guy was ready to send me back up, I didn’t want to go. I wanted to quit but I knew I would look back on the moment and realize how cool it actually was.  


As for the company… the guys there that day were essential to my successful experience. They were sincere, yet funny. They made the experience more enjoyable. Basically, with all that being said…It ROCKED!”


Okay, it was my turn. I was in the wetsuit (which I really liked wearing, I need to get one of those), and had the helmet on, so no time to think. Let’s get strapped onto the jetpack. It seemed a little more awkward than the training one. Then when very tightly strapped in (and I have bruises to prove it was very tight), I heard voices in my head to walk out into the water chest deep, aka instructor John via walkie talkie. Then and there I probably should have realized it was gonna be a no-go. But stubborn me wants to prove I can do it. I mean, it was on my list for my 50 Weeks, so need to check it off the list.


Luckily for me, instructor David was on his jet ski and was basically giving me a one on one swim test. If it wasn’t for him there, I wouldn’t be writing this. So to pass this swim test thing, I was to let go of the handrails, go face down into the water and try to get back up by grabbing the handrails, forcefully pushing them up while bicycle kicking hard enough to raise me back to the surface. I knew what to do, I thought that’s what I was doing, I wasn’t doing it.


That’s the part that was so frustrating, I knew what to do. For some reason, my body wasn’t cooperating. I would start swallowing water, and each time I tried, I swallowed more water, then panicked more and more. We would stop and the instructors would try and calm me down. Come on, I can relax, I had just come from a yoga class that morning. I can do this. I could not do this.


Lacy was telling them not to give up on me, and it could have been very easy for them too. While working at law firms, I got all too familiar with enough Maritime Law and legal liabilities in general to know it was in their best interest to tell me to get out of the water. They cared that I wanted to have this experience, and they let Lacy talk to me and try to calm me down. David was also very patient with me and kept encouraging me without being forceful. I knew that my drowning fears had gotten the best of me and it would be all downwater for me. I was the one that told them that I was done. We were all disappointed.



The biggest lesson I learned is that I really need to learn how to swim. Seriously. I have a lot of water related activities I would like to do and I don’t want to hold back.


I almost didn’t write this week because it’s hard to admit that you failed at something. But I tried. I put on the suit, strapped on the jetpack and did make an effort. And I will complain that it isn’t fair that I still got some bruises and sore muscles, and didn’t even get the jetpack started. I think my muscles went into overload from survival instincts and tensed up or something. I got a nice cut on my big toe too – and who knows what was in that water I swallowed.


Life is full of ups and downs. You can never be disappointed in yourself for trying, because making an effort counts. We tell our kids all the time to just try. We need to follow our own advice and look forward. And I did look forward that day to watching my older son pitch, and celebrating a friend’s birthday.


I may have jettisoned the jetpack for now, but one day you will call me Jemma Jetson.



Notebook: Jetpack America, http://www.jetpackamerica.com/, locations in San Diego, Newport Beach, Honolulu, Cabo San Lucas, Grand Cayman, and coming soon to Las Vegas. I may not have been able to jetpack, but the pictures show some guys who jetpacked after us. I would recommend everyone to try. Believe me, if I was able to pass that swim test and get up in the air, I’d be signing up for more.

3 thoughts on “Week 17: Jettisoned the Jetpack

  1. Jemma – I am soooo proud of you!! For your honesty, for your bravery and for your vulnerability! You are very inspiring and I can’t tell you how much I enjoy reading about your adventures!

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