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An Englishman falling from the sky


I’d had the urge to sky dive building within in me for perhaps a month and a half by now, and this was the day.  I had finally reached Mission Beach…

I should have been nervous, whilst travelling I have heard of a number of sky diving orientated deaths, and most of them seem to revolve around the plane crashing.  There is a certain sense of irony in that I guess.

This was one of the few times in my life where nerves and fear took a holiday, and purely positive anticipation built up within me. Walking out of the hostel to a motley crew of skydivers of all ages and sizes, I jumped aboard the bus with a spring in my step that so nearly led to my face connecting with the doorframe.

After a short drive to the airfield, where a typically dark humoured Aussie attempted to put the fear into all within earshot, I rubbed the sleep from my eyes. Damn this was relaxing. I was taking the cheap option, so unfortunately no G-Force faces or strange waddle walks, to show all my friends back home.

It’s a strange feeling sitting in a door-less plane with half a dozen others all sitting on each other as if playing Twister at an airborne S+M convention. All ropes and flexibility testing positions, pain for pleasure hey.

Two of the group were taking the boring option of falling out of the plane at just 10,000 feet which allows for about half the amount of free fall four thousand feet higher provides and just as hard a landing if your parachute fails.

Sat in my position – with a 16 stone parachutist helpfully sitting on my leg – thoughts of Andy McNab books and SAS strenuous torture training ran through my head.  I hoped Queen and Country were suitably proud, whilst I stared out of the window at crystal waters, coral, and emerald islands.  I couldn’t help constantly glancing at the altimeters counting down the feet until my test of faith…

Suddenly the plane bucked like a wild bronco and there was a strange strangulated cry and sucking noise. Numero Uno had left the Aeroplane. The pilot regained control thankfully not sending us into a corkscrew, which would have allowed the use of our parachutes in a far less leisurely manner.

I had been wondering where my nerves were. This was the kind of experience that would scare the hell out of me as a young child or even an early teen. Has age stunted my nerves?  Maybe it’s all that alcohol… because as my turn got closer and closer I still felt no fear. I could still stare out of the plane quite easily, wondering in some dark corner of my mind what it would be like if the parachute didn’t open.

There is something about skydiving that allows even the most fearful of people, however scared they might be of heights, to go ahead and jump. Maybe it’s the complete inability to compute the height they are at, the beauty of the scenery below, the surprise at actually being in the position of falling out of a plane hoping the parachute was properly packed, or maybe… just maybe it’s the push in the back from the pro strapped to them. Nevertheless people leave the plane, and on landing most people seem to love it.

Myself, I wasn’t quite prepared for what can truly be described as one of the most fantastic moments of my life…

The sudden leap into the unknown; the way the jet stream buffets you as you bend your body into the necessary reverse banana; you attempt to holler your enjoyment, let the world know how good it feels, whilst instead being forced into swallowing mouthfuls of air; the lack of weight, you don’t even notice the instructor on your back, the twisting, turning, spinning, whilst still falling, approaching terminal velocity, falling towards beautiful oceans that seem so inviting… and then the crack of the parachute, the slight pain in your groin as the harness takes hold and lets you know that now you are safe, and it’s quite, a little piece of heaven, suddenly you can talk to each other, thank the other for the best experience of your life, turn swooping like the Sea Eagles watching your shadow grow slowly larger on the waters below, but now you’re under control, and it’s so damn peaceful, you make your final approach and land on the pure white sands. It’s a dream; it’s got to be just a dream. But it isn’t.

I couldn’t speak for about two hours afterwards, well not coherently anyway; the smile spread across my face seemed to prevent me from forming the necessary sounds. So I went back to the beach to contemplate the experience and promptly fell asleep for a few hours. The evening was spent sitting round a camp fire with a dozen or more like minded souls making like natives, dancing, drinking and singing under the stars on the sands of the beach that I had so recently dropped from space onto. It topped off a surreal day perfectly.

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