Del Mar resident Larry Brooks took to the skies in 2014 as a photographer for the Golden Knights, the nickname for the U.S. Army parachute team, at the MCAS Miramar Air Show. But Brooks stayed inside the plane, snapping photos as team members jumped for the opening ceremonies, until it landed.
“They basically challenged me and said, ‘Why don’t you jump with us?’” said Brooks, who took up photography in 1958 during his time in the Coast Guard.
During a trip to last month to visit his son in North Carolina, where the Golden Knights are headquartered, he decided to take the team up on their challenge as part of an early celebration for this 80th birthday Nov. 27.
Brooks, who has lived in Del Mar for 24 years and serves as president of the Del Mar Historical Society, had to get clearance from his doctor due to his age. After that, he selected Oct. 15 to make the jump. When the day came, he took off in a Twin Otter aircraft with several other jumpers, climbing to 12,500 feet.
“There was certainly some trepidation on my part,” said Brooks, recalling the moment right before making the tandem jump.
During the 45-second free fall at about 120 mph, he said it felt more like floating, with the ground too far away to perceive any change in altitude.
“It’s just an amazing feeling to step out of that plane,” he said.
When they reached about 5,000 feet, the parachute deployed. Brooks had a chance to steer the parachute in a few circles before landing near his wife, who had come to watch. He didn’t tell several other family members until after the jump, because he didn’t want them to worry.
Brooks said he was also inspired by former President George H.W. Bush, who took a birthday skydive at 75, 80, 85 and 90 years old.
“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” Brooks said.