‘Plain and simple, skydiving is all about controlled terror, and I love it’ – Lewis B. Sanborn
I love me a theme park, always have, probably always will, until i’m a mum and someone has to hold the bags while everyone else goes off and has fun. Same goes for water parks, the higher and faster the better. Perhaps it’s the army upbringing in me, it’s very macho and male oriented, who can be the best, the fastest, the bravest, or maybe it’s the feminist in me; anything the boys can do i can do too. Whatever it is, when it’s come to throwing myself off something, I’ve always been first in line.
It’s funny really, because i can be an absolute wimp in other aspects of my life and it’s one thing standing in the queue at Alton Towers and watching hoards of people go all the rides, you know you’re pretty much safe, but what about jumping out of a plane? That’s just insane right?
That’s definitely what i was thinking the night of 20th April 2013, sitting on our balcony on Honeymoon in Cairns, Australia, wondering why the bloody hell i thought it would be a good idea to throw myself out a plane at 6am the next morning. My new husband had bought it for me as a present for my 30th Birthday the previous year, and 6 months previously, jumping out a plane over the gorgeous Australian coast line seemed a fantastic idea, and a million miles away. My main worry, was that my dive master would be cocky, and do nothing to ease my fears, it’s not like a bungy jump, my husband reassured me (he was jumping too) they’ll be far more professional than that. So you swallow hard and think to yourself ‘It must be all right, thousands of people have done it before’ then ‘but this time it’s me’ that’s the difference. Que early night and restless sleep.
I’ve read psychology magazines that say when you get so far into a situation that makes you nervous or uncomfortable, when all your fight or flight instincts have run out, you come to accept what’s happening and you actually become quite calm. That’s how i felt the next morning as we were travelling by sunrise into Cairns. The form filling and waiting around at the office seemed to take forever but in reality was probably only about half an hour. We got introduced to our dive masters (Jez for me, Jacko for Hubs) aka the men who’s hands our lives were to be in for the next hour and piled into a little mini bus for the short ride to the airport. The bus ride was silent, apart from a little bit of nervous chit chat among friends. There was no backing out now, no one wants to be the hysterical girl who punked out.
Remember when i was told that the divemasters would be far too professional to make jokes about skydiving? Well good old Jez thought it would be funny to tell me it was his first day as we piled into the little rickety plane (which frankly, made it look like jumping out was actually the safer option!) and up up and away we went! I felt much calmer during the plane ride, Jez became a bit more talkative and talked me through what was going to happen (basically he was going to do all he work and i just had to relax – sounded good to me!) Turned out i was first to jump out of the whole plane, which i preferred, the adrenaline was starting to kick in and just wanted to do it by that point. In fact as I’m writing this I can feel my stomach tightening in knots again, exactly how I felt going up in that plane. It’s a good job the dive masters are so enthusiastic because they really do calm you down. What’s funny though, is that other than the night before, never once did it cross my mind that I wasn’t going to do it, it probably helps that we pre-paid and I’m tighter than I am afraid so wasn’t going to lose all that money! I mean, don’t get me wrong, I was petrified, more scared than I’ve probably ever been in my life, but there was never any question that I wasn’t going to do it. I was leaving that plane the quick way, no matter what.
We’d reached 9,000 feet and Jez put my goggles on for me. I’d been well and truly strapped to him by this point, so was thankful that a. I felt secure enough that I wasn’t going anywhere without Jez firmly in tow, and b. I’d showered that morning! He opened the door way beside me and I could feel the warm air rushing in, adrenaline levels were sky high by this point I really, really, really just wanted to get it over with. Jez shuffled me to the edge and I had one last glance at the husband, you know, just in case and off I went tumbling out the door.
What’s so great about a skydive, is that you have no control over anything, and what I mean by that is, you don’t have to do anything. It’s not like a bungee jump where it’s left for you to jump and up to you to worry about positioning, every life was in Jez’s hands and I was perfectly happy with that, because it was left to me, I would never have done it. The second you leave the plane is exhilarating. The first time I opened my eyes was a shock because I actually saw the plane I’d just jumped out of, so had obviously flipped over, that was pretty amazing. We steadied ourselves and began to free fall. All those nerves, the panic, the ’why am I doing this?’ melted away and turned into pure ecstasy. This was it! I was doing it, I was flying, I’d jumped out a plane! One of my worries the night before was that I would ruin the free fall for myself by willing him to just open the parachute so I knew we were safe. When you’re flying at 9,000 feet over the Great Barrier Reef, that parachute opening is the last thing on your mind. It’s the kind of height that’s so high, you almost don’t get perspective of how high you are, the ground is still a very, very, very long way away so you don’t get that plummeting feeling you think you might.
I was in a free fall daydream (in reality only about 30 seconds) when the parachute opened with a jolt and jolted me back to reality. Jez removed my goggles and uttered the words I’ll never forget for the rest of my life ‘Welcome to my office’ not a bad way to start the day I reckon! We were able to chat for a bit whilst gliding down over beautiful Cairns and I was probably the happiest I’d been in a really long time. As we gently glided down to earth I saw my husband had actually made it down before me, surprising as he jumped after me (his parachute took longer to open it turns out – something you’re only happy to hear once safely on the ground!) so not only did he get to see me leave the plane but he also got to see me land too, such a special moment for us both!
There is no way to avoid feeling fear when you experience something new and scary for the first time, but for me, the greatest feeling was not giving into that fear, by taking the easy way out and just chilled on the beach. If we had just chilled on the beach I can guarantee it wouldn’t have been one of the best days of my life, which is what the day turned out to be. Once we were in the ground Jacko told us the best thing to do was to find a pub and have a good drinking session, otherwise we would just have an adrenaline crash and fall asleep by lunchtime, and I’ve never been one to disobey the orders of a professional…..
Check out the video below: