Thrill-seekers go sky diving with a great white <img src="http://sdncnews.com/graphics/video.jpg” border="0">
Father, son take hobby to new heights
By Halie Johnson
ContributorIt is dangerous to go diving with a great white shark. Skydiving with a near-to-life-size inflatable great white is probably less dangerous, but there are still precautions to take.
One needs a plane with a hatch big enough for the creature and about 14 suckerfish, aka skydivers. Then you need a large “drop zone” and a shark made from strong, airtight material so it won’t explode mid-air.
Once you’ve got that, you need enough jumpers to evenly weigh down the beast and videographers to capture the first known, life-size, inflatable shark dive.
It all came together Oct. 12 for several area residents who created a minor feeding frenzy when their fully inflated great white arrived at Perris Valley Skydiving school.
Hal Streckert, a General Atomics project manager who lives in La Jolla, and his long-time adventure buddy - and son - Kyle Streckert, an independent contractor who lives in Del Mar, said they took great pains to make this excursion possible.
The two have been skydiving together for more than three years - the older Streckert has about 10 seconds more experience than his son.
“Skydivers talk about their first time like twins talk about being born,” Kyle explained.
Through skydiving, Hal met Joao Tambor, who works at Perris Valley Skydive and didn’t hesitate to help make the special dive a reality.
The shark-dive team formed organically.
Julien Hug, known in Rancho Santa Fe as the host of Mille Fleurs, and the Streckerts met at Skydive San Diego, where they usually jump. He joined the expedition, as did two Brazilians, several Europeans and a few other seasoned skydivers they met that day.
“We don’t usually allow people to take objects up. We don’t even let people take cameras up,” Danielle Wallencheck of Perris Valley Skydive said.
But with 260 jumps under his belt and the right connections, Hal finagled his 14-foot, custom-made great white onto a Cessna 206 plane, or “Skyvan.” Perris is the closest “drop zone” with such a plane.
The mid-air tumble of small dark bodies clinging to a somersaulting cushion only lasted for about half a minute before the figures began to spin away.
Hal and Kyle were the final pair left riding the shark’s back before eventually letting go.
Incredibly, the shark survived the fall. The divers had all landed before the great white meandered into a gated pond that was part of a nearby water recovery plant.
“The shark came unstable faster than we thought it would,” Hal said. “But even if a jump doesn’t go as planned, it is still fun.”
“We were just happy the thing didn’t burst when we exited the plane,” Kyle said.
Hal said he plans on diving with real-life great whites, but thought he’d take a dive with this soft-toothed version first.
He’s working up other ideas for the next big skydiving adventure.
In the meantime, the world’s first skydiving great white “will live to jump another day,” Hal said.