“Are you ready to skydive?” asks the instructor with the door of the aeroplane open at 3,500 feet. I nervously check that all my buckles and straps are securely attached and peer out looking over the Wiltshire countryside. “Yes” I reply after taking a deep breath. I am the first of the group to jump and have not witnessed anyone else before me take the plunge.
Slowly I shuffle to the door, dangle my legs out and grip the sides of the plane. With my head tilted up and the wind blowing past me at over 60 miles per hour I ask myself “what on earth am I doing? I am just about to leap out of a perfectly serviceable plane in good working order that is not about to crash.” The adrenalin is pumping, the nerves are rife, this is what I have trained for and it is now or never.
“GO!” shouts the instructor. I push myself out and spread eagled I see the plane fall away from me, hang on, it’s not the plane falling, it’s me! What am I supposed to do? I’ve just spent an entire day training for this, oh yes, count. I shout “one thousand, two thousand, three thousand, four thousand, five thousand.” No wait, I was only supposed to count to four thousand, what do I do now? I remember, check my parachute has opened, “oh no” - the chute’s lines are twisted. “Keep calm” I say to myself, I know what to do, just grab hold of the risers, pull them apart and kick out the twist. I can’t believe it, it worked, everything is okay, I’m flying, I’m alive. I AM ALIVE!
With my heart still pounding and my mind buzzing I come to terms with the complete sensory overdose the last 10 seconds have been, just one more thing to do before I can be sure everything is in order, I need to establish that I have control of my parachute. The toggles at the end of the control ropes detach easily from their Velcro fastenings and I pull on them, one at a time, and sure enough it responded just as I had hoped, I have control and nothing is wrong. No need to go through the emergency drills. No need to jettison the chute. No need to worry about the reserve.
Looking up at my beloved canopy I breathe a sigh of relief and marvel at the wondrous piece of material suspending me half a mile above the drop zone, protecting me from hurtling towards the ground at quite literally break neck speeds. I start to relax, there is barely a cloud in the sky and I can see for miles. This is fantastic. For 3 or 4 minutes I feel invincible, flying through the sky with a grin on my face even a child at Christmas could not muster.
As the altimeter’s cruel hand turns counter clockwise showing 800 feet coming up it awakens me from my wonderful dream, a dream of soaring through the heavens that has come true. Time to look sharp and get those landing drills down pat, I don’t want to tarnish an unforgettable experience by injuring myself now. An instructor at the DZ calmly talks me through the final stages of my approach via the radio strapped to my helmet. The childlike grin on my face turns to one of intense concentration. At just a few feet from ground zero I can almost make out the individual blades of grass so pull both toggles all the way down and flair for a perfect landing on two feet with no broken bones or sprained ankles.
That was the most exhilarating day of my life, I have scuba dived amongst coral reefs and climbed cliff faces, I have stood stretched out on a yacht barely controlling it through gusts, experienced white water rafting and coasteering, but skydiving beats them all. Wholeheartedly recommended.