I have been nursing an ambition to SkyDive. I’ve wanted to do this since the early 80s. In those days I planned to learn how to parachute. Then I met my husband (to be) and he quickly talked me out of it. I can’t have wanted it hard enough, because he didn’t have to use much persuasion.
At a fundraising dinner a couple of years back, we placed a bid on a tandem skydive at the silent auction. It was a bit of joke really. A touch of nostalgia. We were outbid, but the successful buyer offered to sell the voucher to us after his “gift” was declined by a family member.
One of our grandchildren is skydiving mad. She did her first a month shy of her thirteenth birthday and was lucky enough to do another a few months later. Meantime, my voucher was kicking around in the sock drawer. So eventually I suggested we buy her a jump as a combined Christmas/Birthday gift, and we do it together. She didn’t need any persuading 🙂
We decided on the October school holidays, which is spring in Australia. I booked mid-morning to give her mother time to drive south from Sydney. The problem is that Wollongong is sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the Great Dividing Range, which can make it a breezy city, and the gusts pick up as the day progresses. And did the wind blow that day! We waited on the ground for hours before postponing for another day. We didn’t want to land in New Zealand.
Second attempt was slightly better. Another blowy day, but we were booked for earlier and the winds were fluky in any case. The aircraft ascended to 4000 feet before the attempt was abandoned and we landed by the conventional route.
The morning of our third booking – by now the summer school holidays – dawned rainy, gloomy and downright squally. We checked in and cooled our heels, waiting for news. I was pretty disenchanted with the process by this stage, and starting to think the universe was trying to tell me something. Living only ten minutes from the assembly point, I even went home and put a load of washing on.
Next thing the phone was ringing. I had to get back pronto, and my group was kitted out by the time I arrived. In fact, they were up to step three in the briefing “how to fall out of a plane and live” so it was just as well I could remember what I learnt in the previous one.
I often dream of flying, a bit like that scene in La La Land when Ryan Gosling steps off the theatre seats and glides away under his own power. I had this top of mind on my first attempt, prepared to relax and see if my dreams represented reality. I had almost forgotten that flight of fancy by the third attempt – but guess what? It was true. We didn’t “jump” out of the aircraft. We simply swung our legs outside the open door and leant forward. Perhaps my instructor did a kick or something I didn’t notice, but we literally drifted away from the aircraft. Then down through the icy rain-clouds and out into clear air, by which time I remembered I was supposed to spread my arms wide and take it all in. It’s not a sensation of dropping, more of floating, and you completely forget you are free-falling until the chute opens.
I had a go at the controls too, and had a bit of fun calling out “left-rudder”, “right-rudder”, and seeing where that took us. Plus pulling and releasing the straps to go up and down. You could really stay out there for ages if you stick with the thermals. In a small way, it reminded me of catching the wind in a hobie-cat’s sails.
I had let The Good Life producer know of my plan, and so I was also conscious that I was documenting the experience in real time. Recently, they edited the clip and produced this story which uses most of the audible commentary.
If you are a glutton for detail (or punishment) or just want to know more of the experience, you can view the entire eight minute video here
My 2017 sure got off to a flying start ! ! !