My ears popped, the plane door opened, and I was free falling. These 60 seconds feel like a long time, time suspended. I am hooked.
The day began early. Sun shining, no breeze: ideal conditions for skydiving. The aerodrome is an hour out of Perth. I’d be tethered to a man I’d never met for five minutes and 60 seconds. I had read of stories where the main chute had been tangled up and the instructor had to jettison it before pulling the backup auxiliary chute.
“You’ve got more chance of dying crossing the road,” said our instructor. And the same with shark attacks he could have added.
“When you jump out of the plane, the wind just hits you, then it’s pure adrenaline,” says Killian, an Irish backpacker who mustered up a few mates at the International Backpackers to feel the rush that is Sky Diving!
“Come on, let’s go sky diving. It’s my birthday!” says Killian.
It was. He was turning 28, so we obliged the young Irish Civil Engineer who came to Western Australia to find his fame and fortune. We duly went to the office in Leederville, a trendy little suburb in Perth, and paid our money. The friendly staff could smell that familiar fear in a few of us, and gave us some reassurance, “It’s a breeze,” said the sales representative and she then proceeded to give us the top reasons for attempting the skydive: “Cure fear of heights, experience a thrill of a lifetime, achieve that goal of skydiving.”
It didn’t take much convincing for us to do something a bit more adventurous than going to the beach in Freemantle, or visiting Rottnest Island. This was our chance to tick another box off our bucket list. But I wasn’t quite ready for a solo dive just yet. I just wanted a taste of it, and tandem diving is a sure way of doing the real thing, while taking away the responsibilities of actually diving.
We were told to bring casual clothing, runners and make sure not to drink eight hours before the flight. Then the sales lady looked at me, and added an important note. “I hope you all weigh less than 95 kg,” she said, adding that the parachute systems are rated to a maximum weight.
Well that nearly ruled me out. I weighed in at 96 kilograms and the other option was to actually sky dive myself. Not a chance in hell. So I was destined for the sideline, I lamented to the sales lady. A quick phone call to the dive instructor, and she told me the good news. “It’s ok, as we just purchased new parachutes that can support divers up 120 kg.
Us novices chose a 14 000 feet tandem jump. Fifteen minutes of training, then hurtling towards the ground at 150 miles an hour! Before floating above the fantastic views of Perth. $339 was a small price to pay for such an amazing experience – 60 seconds of free fall, looking at the ground coming up for a long, long minute from 14 000 feet is an experience never to be forgotten.
The fine points of the contract didn’t help our nerves much! Section (o), item ii, prevailing conditions were emphasized by the instructor
“Despite careful packing, the parachute may open abruptly (i.e. experience a hard opening) and the parachutist may suffer an injury.”
But it was item iii that nailed the point home.
” And though sky diving is safer as an extreme sport than bungee numbing, there’s an “an element of “luck” in undertaking parachuting over which the Provider does not have control.”
So of course we signed our lives away. But we were reassured. Australia has the safest record as sky diving operators, said the Sales Rep, and my instructor Mark had notched up over 30 000 jumps.
“Just have fun,” said Mark, 32, a veteran of the skies.
The three Irish lads and myself donned our blue aviation overalls and fitted the goggles handed to us by our fearless instructors.
Next Mark fitted us with a harness and ran though our required safety regulations. “Just don’t panic.” he said the rest ‘Would be the best joy ride of our lives!’
Crunch time had come. We walked out onto the tarmac and clambered up into the 17 seater Cessna. This was it…there was no turning back. We got to five thousand feet, nervous smiles all around.
Fourteen thousand feet and the altimeter said we had reached our height…doubts started creeping in. Did we have the right stuff? Would we chicken out? It was a long way down!
Joey from Ireland and Alex from Germany were getting whiter as we climbed. “I’m afraid of heights,” is all Joey said before he boarded the plane, and also stated he’ll be the last out of the plane. I’m told I’ll be the first.
The large plane door opens. “She’ll be right mate,’ said Mark, who was filming us and cracking jokes the whole time. “He clipped me onto his harness. “It’ll be a breeze.” He had a hand held web cam on his right wrist, and was documenting my flight from the moment I started training. Great!
Later, after the dive, Mark said to me, “I’ve seen big burly men turn into babies over the ten years I’ve been doing tandem divers.” OK, I admit it I was no different! When it came time to physically jump I was petrified and just wanted my mum!
I’m now hanging out of the plane. Before you jump, you can see the ground below you. Then the instructor shuffles out of the door, then you are gone, freefalling.
And my instructor is making sure of this. He holds my head back and said, “She’ll be right mate.” Reassured, he nudges me off the edge and off we go!
Now we are free-falling into the wild blue yonder. It’s one thing is to see a view out of an airplane, another thing to be part of it. And the rest was just all smiles and free falling. Pinpricks of landscape started to come into sharp focus. We descended 5000 feet at a blink of an eye.
Then the main parachute opens. The expected jolt never came. It gently tugged on my back. Then the screaming stopped…and realised it was me! The adrenaline was still rushing through me at an amazing rate.
Mission accomplished. I’m back on solid ground.
I’ve got that the shit-eating grin on my face. “Farking brilliant, ” I say to the boys and Mark. The entire harrowing, fantastically brilliant experience was immortalised on film to everyone to enjoy. Yep, we had bonded and we were now certified tandem skydivers and most importantly…we had survived!
How do you go back to normal life after you’ve jumped out of a plane? Easy, just get back up there and do it alone. That’s the next step out of the plane for me.
We were all 20 feet tall and bullet proof! Our instructor asks me ‘Are you alright mate?’
“Me? I’m amazing!! When can we do it again?’
WHAT Skydive Australia
CONTACT 08 9444 4199 http://www.skydive.com.au/
This writer was not a guest of Skydive Australia.