When I first arrived in Mission beach I was pretty terrified of 'jumping out of a perfectly good plane', as all the promotional material puts it. Even watching Oceane's DVD put me into a state of mild panic, and that was with the calming effects of alcohol. However many weeks of watching load after load of skydivers landing safely, and then of serving their little happy faces drinks afterwards (the bar is right next to the skydive centre) put paid to that. When Stacey announced that we had a date and time for our jump my primary emotion was that of excitement rather than fear.
Being the sensible girl that I am, I decided to carefully prepare for my skydive. Following the example that most of the tandem masters have set, I decided to drink scotch with my friend Pete until 2am. Waking up at 6.15am has never felt so good. Really.
At this point I was still just feeling excited. Mostly hungover, but also excited. It wasn't until we had our safety talk and I heard someone utter the words "...tuck your legs underneath the plane..." that I suddenly realised 'oh feck, I'm about to throw myself out of a perfectly good aircraft'.
Not that at any point I didn't want to do it. I felt scared, but good scared. Like when you're about to tip over the top on Oblivion. Adreneline is amazing, and I've missed it. I can't remember who created the quote about doing things that scare you every day (probably Twain or Wilde) but they were totally right. That lovely build up of fear as you you 'tick tick' up to the top, only magnified by a 20 minute plane journey. It's ace thinking you're so high up only for someone to announce that, fantastic, we're halfway to the top.
14,000ft is high. Like, really high. Really, really far up. Very high in the sky. (I can't stress this enough). However when you're past a certain point it ceases to seem like reality. My outward bravado held strong until they opened the door for someone to get out at 9,000ft. And the person just went. Whoosh. Gone. I'm not sure whether I expected them to float out like a feather, but bloody hell people fall fast. At that point the fear really kicked in and I uttered some involuntary expletives. And started to mildly hyperventilate.
When we finally reached the right altitude the door was thrown open and people started to shuffle forward, some more nervous than others. My beautiful friend Louise was beyond scared, and I'm very proud of her for being able to sit right next to the door and not totally freak out.
Whoosh, there she goes. Good lass.
The gear they truss you up in is, as you'd expect and hope, pulled extremely tight. It's not the sexiest of looks, especially as it thrust my not-so-insignificant chest practically up to my chin. Shuffling forward, I repeatedly smacked myself in the face. Coupled with my calming breaths (think woman trying to breath through contractions) and goggles I look super-hot on my DVD. Rawr.
I'd like to describe the moment I finally fell, but in all honestly I now understand how people can describe things as being 'all a bit of a blur'. The seconds between being in the plane and out of it are indistinguishable. One moment I was looking up at the sky, the next I was looking up at the plane. As I fell through the sky.
How they can get away with calling themselves 'Jump the Beach' I don't know. You don't jump, you fall. And bloody hell, you fall fast. There's no reference point to look at and all I was aware of was the wind; the adreneline, my ears needing to be popped and the short bits of hair in the nape of my neck whipping against my skin. I didn't see or hear, I just felt. And it felt amazing.
Those first few seconds set a new bar in exhilaration, you feel invincible. People ask if you worry about the chute opening, or your harness coming loose. Not at all. At that moment you can do anything. You can walk through fire, swim to the bottom of the ocean and punch a tiger in the face. Gravity is your bitch. Physics is your bitch. I summed this up eloquently at the time by doing a 27 second long swear.
The opening chute jolted me back into reality, and for the first time I looked around. Even Tully looks good from 7,000ft (that's right, you fall 7,000ft in 60 seconds. Pretty cool, no?); the rest of it looks beautiful. There was a huge manta ray in the water, and you could see out to the barrier reef. I'm nowhere near eloquent enough to do it justice. Lets just say it was...spectacular. The day we jumped was clear and you could see for miles and miles, far northern Queensland in all it's glory for your viewing pleasure. I was very happy. My favourite part of plane journeys is looking out of the window (I'm 23, honest) and this was even better - a full 360 view rather than a tiny little gap in the side of a huge plane.
We'd been warned in the plane that our landings would be fast as there was very little ground wind to slow us down. Having not done it before I've got no frame of reference, but it seemed pretty OK to me. OK that is, until I had to do my bit and put my legs down. Boomf. On to my knees (there's a joke there somewhere). I didn't mind, until I watched the DVD back. I'm not going to say what it looks like I'm doing (or having done to me), but lets just say that I fall onto all fours and my instructor, ahem, slams into thhe back of me. (Oh Francesca, when will you stop behaving like Bridget Jones?). It's a very classy moment, though I was oblivious, way too pumped up to care about anything. I felt like Jedward, after sugar, on Christmas morning. That was my level of hyper-ness.
I now officially love skydiving. I'm going to be doing my second jump in a week or so, and Des (who took me up before) has promised to 'do some superman shit' during freefall. I'm hoping this means a backflip out of the plane and some mid-air twists and turns. If I had the money I'd do my solo training tomorrow, especially as companies are always keen to hire women (it's a very male dominated area). But it's expensive, and I need to see Australia on foot before I see it from the sky.
Would I recommend skydiving? Yes, wholeheartedly. You will never have a better experience doing anything else. Even if you feel terrified, feel the fear and do it anyway. I've seen plenty of people almost throwing up in terror, only to land with a wider smile than Wallace. My only warning: this shit is addictive.