Johnny Strange Dives into the North Pole!!

May 22, 2012

Johnny's North Pole Journal entry:

Norway, April 13th, 2012 - The thought of my parachute having another malfunction loomed deep in my mind, normally not a problem, but the North Pole is so cold I feared my reserve could even freeze. I grabbed my skateboard, and continued to school. The stress of midterms, combined with an intense adventure quickly approaching was testing whatever was left of my mental strength. I still had to work out some logistics for the trip, and two weeks prior one of the lines broke on my parachute at 3,500ft, wrapped around my others causing me to spin uncontrollably eventually forcing me to cut it away and deploy my reserve chute. Not as crazy as it sounds, but considering I was leaving to skydive into the north pole the following weekend meant I now had to drive back down to San Diego to pick up my parachute from the Rigger who fixed it for me., and not have time to jump it again until the North Pole. Again, not usually a problem, but I was in mid terms at USC in the midst pledging a Fraternity, so time was not necessarily something I was full of right now. I continued skating down fig towards campus. Now, I don't know if you have ever had to drive in LA or not, but to sum it all up, I'd say people drive like preschoolers paint, stay out of the way because it's a real fucking mess. So far I've been pretty good about not getting any paint on me so to speak. My parents taught me to drive when I was 10, stick shifts at twelve, dirtbikes in middle school, & street-bikes since I was 16 so my head has been somewhat trained to be on a swivel. In fact, on this lovely day of chaos, my head was able to turn just in time to watch the minivan hit me as it ran through the stop sign. My legs shot up as I made a last second jump off my skateboard, I hit the hood first then landed onto the concrete. This was going to be a long week. I was lucky she slowed down at least for the stop sign before she went through, because all in all it wasn't that bad since I didn't take the impact head on or go under the car, thank god, as that would have ruined my trip. Actually the worst part of the whole ordeal was having her chase me down in tears screaming how sorry she was, I wasn't trying to be a dick or anything but I was late to class and since I wasn't hurt I was not about to waste time I desperately needed. After attempting to calm her down and convincing on lookers NOT to call the cops I was finally out of there. What a way to start what would turn out to be one of the most stressful weeks of my short 20 years, I had a lot on my mind.

Skydiving at the poles doesn't exactly have the best reputation. In 1997, a tragic accident occurred at the south pole resulting in the death of some very experienced sky divers. No one really knows what happened for sure, but it made me a little uneasy to say the least. In America you have to be 18 to skydive, so I started flying paragliders at 13, had a pretty hard crash in the mountains and took a little break until I was finally able to skydive. After going through the skydiving course AFF, I jumped as much as I could and lived on the couch in a house of sky dive instructors who taught me everything I know. At the time, against the advice of everyone and common sense I would either lose my logbook or not log my skydives because I was jumping mostly to be free of drama, I felt that nothing else mattered and I wasn't being judged when I was with these people. I got in trouble earlier in the year for one of my 'stunts' when I was just messing around riding on the roof of a car, and skydiving became a way for me to get away from everyone who criticized me, which was a lot of people. But soon I found out that skydivers have more than their fair share of the type of people I was trying to get away from. It was then I started B.A.S.E. jumping. No other people besides my close friends, a quiet bridge or a lonely cliff with two or three friends who I would actually listen too and were very experienced. I stopped skydiving, jumping once in awhile to stay current or to practice tracking, I'd rent gear have someone pack for me, keep my head down low and be out of there most the time before I had to talk to anyone at random drop zones all over the place. But with the danger of the North Pole jump, I made around 50 jumps in one month and ran the worst case scenarios through my head the whole time to try and prepare.

I left my apartment in USC still a little shaken up from being hit by a car, and headed to my sponsor Beverly hills Ducati where I used to work in the back cleaning bikes. My friend, the owner of ColorRite (my other sponsor) was there too as they wished me good bye, I was leaving in 24 hours and I hadn't even packed yet because of school.

There where camera crews everywhere when I got to Longyearbyen, Norway, I kept thinking to myself "Well, if I go in (die) it'll be well documented, my parents are gunna be pissed." The frozen waste land hazed my face by biting whatever lay exposed and welcomed me to the artic. I hurried into the main tent, where I met the two Russian paratroopers who wanted to jump in with me. I wasn't expecting the press until maybe after all this was over, I would then use the 'Stop Genocide' 'Cure Parkinsons' flags I put on the summit of Mt. Everest, the South pole, and hopefully the North pole in an auction for charity. I figured if I was going to have my stupid fun, I might as well at least divert the attention to better causes. The Russian spoke not a word of English as we tried to communicate how the jump would go. This made people around us nervous as they thought this would be some sort of problem, the south pole tragedy had people on edge about this jump. The roar of the helicopter was silent as my thoughts checked my gear before my eyes could. We were 8,000 ft above the North Pole we were literally on top of the world, I motioned for a gear check, which he thankfully understood and we all checked each other's pins. The door opened. I peered 8,000ft below me to see a mess of frozen ice with no reference point. I looked at my altimeter, and it seemed to be working, but I still didn't trust it. Fear danced up my spine as I told myself to stop being such a pussy, after base jumping I didn't think I would ever get scared doing a skydive again. The Russian leaned out the door, I followed with the other right behind me waiting for the signal. It was supposed to be 1,2,3 jump, or at least that's what I thought we said. On the count of 1 he jumped into the frozen air and I followed. All the fear was swept away as I stepped from the door, l even leaned back to throw a gainer. The air pierced throw my clothing, but I couldn't feel anything but joy as I plunged head first towards the pole, then tracked to try and meet the Russian who was decently far away after our misunderstanding out the door. I took it all in as I raced to the ground, my goggles started to freeze, now was the moment of truth, I felt I had free fell long enough and my Altimeter read 3,500 so I pulled and waited to see what would happen. I was never so happy to see the colors blue and black in my life as my parachute snapped open! I yelled, 'Yeah baby!' then let out a cheer of joy as I 360 down to the pole. It was so cold I couldn't feel my hands anymore, but I didn't care, I was alive. Later in an interview I was asked about the fear "I know some people think what I do is irresponsible because of the risk," Strange said. "But the day I let my fear deter my ability to follow my dreams, I have already died."

I will, as well as everyone else die someday, but on this day, I was more alive then I had ever been before.

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