Thrill seekers: Skydiving still very popular on the Island

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — Skydive South Padre Island owner Frank Shisler has skydived more than 10,000 times.

He takes Island thrill-seekers with the courage to step into thin air more than 10,000 feet to jump from a perfectly good airplane every day.

We spoke to him about the 60-second freefall that hits speeds of up to 150 miles per hour, and the amazing 5 to 7-minute parachute decent back down to the Island that his team offers only on South Padre Island.

When was your first time skydiving, and what was it like?

Shisler: I jumped for the very first time when I was 23 after a friend of mine invited me to try it. And the moment I jumped out of the airplane changed my life forever.

When somebody goes jumping for the first time, it’s like it literally changes your life. The second I let go of that airplane I knew I was going to do that again.

Before my feet touched the ground I was already thinking about, how am I going to get the money to do this again?

What does it feel like when you jump out of an airplane?

Shisler: There is no way to describe it. It’s just a euphoric feeling. Some people describe it as the longest minute of their lives. Other people describe it as the shortest minute of their life.

For me, I feel it’s just a calm and a sense of no other thing in the world is in my brain at that moment.

I feel like when I let go of the airplane that nothing in my life ever exists until I’m back on the ground.

There is no perfect way to really describe the way it feels to skydive.

Does it feel like flying like it shows in the movies like Point Break or Superman?

Shisler: It truly is. I can fly my body the same way an airplane flies through the sky. I can’t go up because an airplane has an engine, but I can go up in relative motion to a person in free-fall. We are flying at the same speed, or I can fly a little faster or slower than that person.

I can jump out of an airplane and fly right to a person who jumped 10 seconds before me and catch them. Now my Skydive went from 60 seconds to 7 or 8 minutes flying and 6 to 9 minutes with the parachute.

How safe is skydiving and what’s the range of ages you work with?

Shisler: You have to be 18 to be able to skydive in the USA. The oldest we’ve taken skydiving on this Island is 94 years old.

Less than 1 percent of the total population will ever jump out of an airplane. Less than 10 percent of that 1 percent will ever do it more than one time.

People always ask me if skydiving is safe. People die skydiving, everybody knows that. It’s not a secret people have died skydiving. We tried to take out the risk as much as we can, and we have done it safely for seven years on this Island.

Out of 7,000 people I have taken up, only three people have ridden the airplane down. Their lives are just as important as ours.

What’s it like falling for 60 seconds and seeing the strip of Island?

Shisler: This is one of the most beautiful places I have ever jumped. It’s beautiful when you’re up there and you look down and the Island looks like a landing strip.

To see that and to see how beautiful the water is and that bridge from that height is breathtaking. You can skydive anywhere, but people say, why would I want to jump into a field when I can jump out over this beautiful Island and land on the beach?