For his 88th birthday, John “Jack” Bryce jumped off a mountain and spent an exhilarating 40 minutes paragliding over Revelstoke.
“It was something I always wanted to do. I really enjoyed it, it was great,” said Bryce who, when not living in North Bay, Ont., resides with his son Shawn Bryce and his family at White Lake near Salmon Arm.
Accompanying John on his Oct. 9 flight, the day after his birthday, from about 6,000 vertical feet (7,300-feet above sea level) was Revelstoke Paragliding’s Brad Murphy, who was impressed by his fellow flyer’s passion for living life.
“This one was just very special – this guy, he was in the armed forces, he was a paratrooper who had a dream to go paragliding and at 88…,” Murphy said.
Born in 1933 on Staten Island, NY, John said he volunteered for the draft during the Korean War, and trained as a paratrooper with the 11th Airborne Division. His only time jumping out of planes occurred during training as the conflict ended before he could be deployed. He said that background may have contributed to his desire to give paragliding a try.
Heights have never been a concern for John.
“I worked on a high line – when I was young and crazy and desperate for money I worked one year climbing those poles, power transmission poles, I did that, so I’m not afraid of heights,” reflected John, who joked he may change his nickname to “Jack the Eagle.”
John worked as an industrial electrician for years before teaching electrical apprenticeships.
“My son right here was one of my first students, and my grandson is taking electrical apprenticeship,” John said.
Shawn and his family were present for John’s flight.
“I was proud of him – it was amazing,” Shawn said. “He’s very safety conscious but, whether he knows it or not, he’s definitely a thrill seeker.
“I’ll be honest, I wasn’t worried at all because the gentleman who was doing it did so much safety work at the time, just a complete explanation of how everything goes.”
John was also grateful for Murphy’s guidance and company during their tandem flight.
“He joked a lot and he said, halfway down, ‘how’s your stomach?’ I said my stomach is fine. He said are you into some fun? I said sure,” said John. “So we did a couple of loops and turns and twists – you name it, we did it. It was excellent. We had my family down below waiting for us and they saw the whole thing.”
Reluctant to join his dad on the flight, Shawn was inspired and is thinking of giving paragliding a try. John too has plans to return to Revelstoke for another flight.
“I want to do it in the summer when it’s a little bit warmer,” he said.
Murphy admitted to feeling anxious about flying with the 88-year-old thrill-seeker, but at the same time said everything just seemed to line up, from that being his 87th flight, to the weather conditions which, on the day of the outing with John, went from concerning to perfect.
“When we drove up mountain we couldn’t see the valley,” said Murphy, noting recent snowfall made the drive alone a concern. “All of a sudden, we got to the top of the mountain and everything opened up. We had about an hour and a half window where it was safe to fly. So everything worked out perfect for us.”
To anyone considering giving paragliding a try, John’s advice is to go for it.
“It’s not hard at all,” said John. “They won’t be sorry they did it. It’s a lifetime experience.”
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