Can a man fly?…should a man fly?
Why do sane people, some highly educated, jump out of a perfectly functioning aircraft? I guess because you CAN, is as good an answer as I can muster. Some find the experience exhilarating, some do it as a rite of passage, but I did it out of spite.
I kid you not, my now ex-girlfriend organised a tandem jump without discussing if I had any desire to join her. This upset me so much I decided I would one up her by jumping solo on my first parachuting experience.
I get in touch with Sydney Skydivers and sign up for the two day Accelerated Free Fall course. Which allows me to skydive solo. I have a long two days of intense study, practicing movements and learning to arch my body the correct way to create a balanced free-fall. Without cartwheeling to my doom.
The course includes some very relevant information like what to do in the event my main chute fails to deploy, the advice from the jump master is “don’t panic as you have a reserve chute”. Do not lose your ripcord after releasing the chute and what to do if your reserve chute fails to open; at this point I suggest to the jump master “it might be a good time to take up a new religion.”
I somehow managed to not completely piss off the instructor and he informs me I am ready to jump. It is real now. Without doubt this crazy leap of faith along with the day I rode a bull at a rodeo are the most nerve wracking experiences of my life.
It’s time to suit up
As I prepare for my jump I go to a “pre-flight room” where they give me a jump suit. It’s disappointing to see my wing men’s suits are black with cool looking logos. No one told me I had to wear a bright YELLOW suit. I don’t know what I was expecting, maybe a white sequinned jump suit that Elvis would be proud of?
The suit is on, there is no way to back out now. I am committed to the jump. Quickly I get over the jumpsuit issues as fear takes hold.
My climb to 14,000 feet is a silent journey. I am locked in a war to control my nerves. My jump companions are yelling to be heard over the noise created by the massive spinning propellers. Everyone is in a hyper state of awareness, you can feel their excitement. My wing-men keep asking me questions to checking if I’m OK?…I respond with a thumbs up and a thinly veiled smile.
We reach the drop zone and I’ve watched 6 tandem jumpers shuffle up to the open door way. At least two of them are told by their jump master they have forgotten to check the connecting harness. The reaction is apparently hilarious as the jumper madly scrabbles to check they are tethered correctly. Being a solo jumper I am one of the last to exit the plane, only my wing men and the crazy camera guy are behind me.
I personally do not find anything funny as I battled my inner demons. A man who has issues with heights should stay firmly on the ground. “Toughen up Lee this is a life changing experience” I tell myself.
“In space no one can hear you scream”, it’s no different during free-fall
I don’t recall much of the initial free-fall, I think I may have blacked out for a moment, which is common. At this stage at least my fear is gone. I cannon-ball towards the earth at Terminal Velocity (200 kms an hour) there is no time to be scared.
Keeping one eye firmly on my altimeter and the other on my wing men who are giving me the thumbs up, I am quickly approaching 4000 feet. My instructor’s voice is ringing in my ears “do not let go of the rip cord after you open your chute, if you lose the rip cord it will cost you $200”.
I reach the correct altitude and I release my chute….it opens perfectly!
It is a thing of beauty, holy shit am I happy!
I stash the rip cord inside my jump suit and realize I am completely alone. My wing men and the camera guy are gone. It’s just me, the beautiful big parachute and SILENCE.
The previous 50 seconds of free-fall was pure noise as I plummeted to earth. Now under canopy there is peace, I have time to view everything around me. The next 5 minutes are the highlight of this bucket list experience. Turning with the breeze and soaring like a bird is magnificent, something I would love to experience again.
I am very proud to announce I nail the landing. My skills flaring the parachute to slow me down and my control on the toggles to change my direction are top shelf. My wing-men and the camera guy arrive soon after I have landed, we high five and hug and I’m throwing out hang loose hand gestures like I’m some sort of jump master.
Will I jump again? I won’t say never….but there are a lot of other goals on This Life List that need to be checked off first.
“This is one Bucket List goal every person needs to check off!”
My top 10 choices for skydiving in Australia
1. Sydney NSW – Sydney Skydivers
2. Mission Beach QLD – Skydive Australia
3. Port Macquarie NSW – Coastal Skydivers
4. Great Ocean Road Vic – Skydive Australia
5. Rottnest Island WA – Skydive Geronimo
6. Uluru/Ayres Rock NT – Skydive Uluru
7. Lee Point Beach, Darwin NT – Top End Tandems
8. Byron Bay NSW – Skydive Australia
9. Goldcoast QLD – Goldcoast Skydive
10.Wollongong, NSW – Skydive Australia