Plenty of men over the age of 60 spend their weekends playing golf, fishing or participating in other terrestrial endeavors. Not Steve Love.
The 62-year-old Philadelphia resident, a retired union carpenter, prefers to spend his free time in freefall several thousand feet above the ground.
“It’s as good as sex, but you can’t do sex every 30 minutes like you can with sky diving,” said Love, a proud member of the over 60-year-old crowd that jumps regularly from the Crosskeys Drop Zone in Williamstown, Gloucester County.
“It’s the only thing you can do where you actually feel like you’re flying. It’s just a hell of a lot of fun,” he said.
Love took up the sport in 1999 on a whim after he ran into someone who had just returned from a jump at a drop zone in the Poconos. He went through the requisite training and wound up hooked after completing his first jump.
“As soon as I hit the ground, my instructor said I’d be back. He was right. I’ve been doing it every since,” said Love, who has completed more than 2,500 jumps over the last 14 years.
If the weather cooperates, you’ll find him getting in and jumping out of airplanes at Crosskeys and other area drop zones most every weekend.
“It can be very addictive,” Love said, citing both the excitement of freefall and the camaraderie among fellow skydivers.
“One of the best things is that I can go to any drop zone across the world and meet someone with the same hobby,” he said. “There could be eight different people in the plane with eight different jobs, ages or backgrounds. A millionaire could be sitting next to a ditch digger. That’s the part I like. We all have some common ground.”
Although Love is often shoulder-to-shoulder with thrill seekers in their 20s or 30s, he said there are plenty of skydivers over 50 or 60. In fact, just last year Love was one of 60 skydivers 60 years or older who participated in record-setting formation jump in Lake Elsinore, Calif.
Love admits that most of the senior skydivers are experienced jumpers who took up the sport at a young age and continue jumping, but he said began taking part at an advanced age.
And age isn’t as big of a handicap for a skydiver as you might think, since the best skydivers are usually the most experienced ones.
“As you get older, you can’t do all of the same things you used to; you’re stiffer and maybe can’t jump eight times in one day. But age isn’t much of a factor,” he said.
The cost isn’t exorbitant either, he said. The fees charged by most drop zones average around $25 a jump.
“Jumping four times a day is still cheaper than a round of golf in some places,” he said.
Parachutes and other equipment can be pricey, but used equipment is easily found for sale online or at drop zones and typically still lasts for years. “It’s not prohibitive,” Love said.
And while there’s no hiding the risk involved in the sport, Love said the danger is often overstated.
“If you do what you’re supposed to do then 99.99 percent of the time you’ll be safe,” he said. “We always say its more dangerous to drive to the drop zone than it is to jump from the plane.”
That may be statistically true, but it still doesn’t stop people from giving him funny looks when they learn of his favorite hobby.
“People ask me what I’ll be doing today and when I tell them they think I’m crazy, but we’re not idiots,” he said, adding that he plans to continue jumping for “as long as I can walk.”
Maybe even longer.
“I’ve seen guys with one leg hop on the plane and then jump, land, and then use crutches to go back to the plane for another jump … If you want to do it, you can do it.”