Chad Gabriel of Illinois jumped out of an airplane for the first time Thursday afternoon above Tooele Valley Airport in Erda as part of a work assignment. He is the host and narrator of the documentary “The Search for Aliveness” being produced by the Tuthill Corporation.
“The chaos and noise from the moment the door in the airplane opened until our free fall ended when the chute popped was intense,” Gabriel said. “It was hard to breathe with my mouth open in the dry Utah air with the wind blasting my face so powerfully. Then my ears popped and I couldn’t hear much of anything. Once the parachute opened it was immediately calm, quiet and tranquil. So peaceful, I felt like I was floating.”
Longtime skydiver, paraglider and adrenaline junkie, Mike Semanoff of Orem, served as Gabriel’s tandem jumper. Semanoff’s resume includes more than 2,000 jumps. Skydive Utah arranged for Gabriel to fly through the sky after he interviewed Semanoff and another adrenaline junkie and wingsuit base jumper, Marshall Miller, of Highland.
A three-member documentary team will travel around the world and conduct about 15 interviews with a variety of people to discover if there is a recipe for aliveness. Erda was one of the first stops on the team’s schedule.
Gabriel has worked 17 years for Tuthill, an international company with headquarters in Burr Ridge, Illinois. The company builds a variety of industrial pumps, meters, vacuum pumps, blower systems and plastic moulding.
Gabriel said the company focuses on self-development for its employees to help them grow personally and wanted to take the investigation outside the organization. The quest is to have about 15 conversations with people from different cultures, beliefs, classes and lifestyles.
“The arduous routine of life can often extinguish our spark — leaving our purpose, dreams, and desires forgotten,” according to the “Search for Aliveness” website.
“As children, we imagined we could do or be anything. However, as we grow and learn, many of us are conditioned to believe that the aspirations we once had are impossible, dimming our spark, and losing the chance to live the life we were born to live.”
Gabriel said a lot of people run from things like paragliding and skydiving because it scares the “heck” out of them.
“Today we want to hear the story of how they conquer their fears and how they are present in the moment to really enjoy it instead of being freaked out the whole time,” Gabriel said. “We want to get a perspective on it to share with others.”
Semanoff said he wants to inspire people to be awesome.
“Everybody came here with a life purpose, to learn something about themselves,” he said. “Everybody is awesome in their own way. We just have to find that purpose and go for it. Just say yes — get rid of the fear.”
Miller said people need to say yes to things that scare them.
“We need to encourage people to connect with their core,” he said. “We have this awareness of our highest self or this person inside of us that we’re inspired to become or to be.”
Gabriel said both Semanoff and Miller recommended letting go of fear to try new things in order to feel fully alive and to learn and grow.
Gabriel said he will never forget his first skydive.
“To be honest, it wasn’t as much of a rush as I anticipated,” he said. “Before jumping, I thought my stomach was going to feel like the worst roller coaster I’ve ever been on. There was none of that.”
Gabriel said he was happy that he skydived in Utah instead of his home state of Illinois because of Utah’s marvelous landscape. He said if he had jumped over rural Illinois, he would have been staring at a flat, patchwork landscape of cornfields and beans.
“It felt so good to have someone take me who has jumped over 2,000 times and also has a wife and kids,” he said. “That made me feel better about my decision to leap. I trusted that he wanted to make it back home to them as much as I did.
“Mike told me if the chute doesn’t pop, take a deep breath. You’ll be my airbag,” Gabriel said. “It was funny — mostly. Things like that and my wife saying “I love you to pieces,” really stuck with me throughout the experience.”
Directing and editing the documentary is Vito Pellicano who is known as a creative jack-of-all-trades who loves being part of the brainstorming process, according to the website. Beginning as a programmer and website designer for Tuthill in 2007, he has spent the last eight years dedicating his work to the company’s brand.
The cinematographer is Erica Magna, a storyteller who loves discovering people’s unique tales.
The documentary team is looking for more people to interview. They have completed interviews with a rockstar mom, adrenaline junkies and a person who has lost a loved one and experienced deep loss.
The website includes descriptions of people they would like to interview.