I’m definitely a ‘yes’ person. I have a fear of my life passing by without living to its full capacity. So when the chance arose to do a skydive for charity, of course my answer was a resounding YES PLEASE.
I arranged to jump for the Jessie May charity. They are a fantastic charity that offer care and support for terminally ill children and their families. The work they do is astounding but they need all the help they can get- so I was thrilled to skydive for such a worthwhile cause.
As soon as my first pound was raised, I knew I couldn’t back out. Probably a good thing, because in the weeks before the event I convinced myself all sorts of disastrous things were going to happen. But of course I had already said yes, so I pledged to stick to my word despite my increasing nerves. Said nerves skyrocketed when I arrived at Redland Airfield Centre in Swindon and read the waiver we had to sign – “I accept that Skydiving can cause injury and even death”. Its safe to say I began to freak out a tad!
But as soon as the professional staff called us over and began to discuss the safety procedures, my mind was put at ease – sort of. They described how we would be strapped to one of the professional divers who had previously done thousands of jumps (the one diving with me had done seven just that day). We didn’t really have to do anything apart from move our arms at one point and lift our legs when we landed. Everything got fully explained to us and we were advised that we would be securely strapped into our harness ten minutes before our jump. Nonetheless, I was shaking like a leaf throughout the whole training.
This shaking evolved into full blown breathlessness and nausea when I found out that I had an hour and 40 minute wait until I was to board the plane. It only sat six people, so could take a maximum of three tandem jumpers per flight… and even less if, like me, people had opted to get a film taken of them. I was put on the fifth flight out of our group, which meant a tediously long wait with my ever increasing nerves. Watching plane load after plane load of people take off and land (all who said they loved it) was both exciting and sickeningly suspenseful. I both couldn’t wait to get in the plane and also never wanted the moment to arrive! But the reassurance of other jumpers helped to calm me down a bit. I ceased tremoring like a full forest in a hurricane and returned to quavering like a leaf. Finally, I was strapped in and bundled onto the plane.
The plane journey was probably the most traumatic bit. Six of us bundled into this vehicle which was the size of my Nissan Micra, or maybe a little smaller. The plane lifted off- no runway, just juddered up and away. The landing patch of land got smaller and smaller. My butterflies got more and more excited. We had a 5 minute warning… the instructor tightened my straps… a 2 minute warning… I was told to put my hat and goggles on… the door opened… the first jumpers made their way to the plane door and lept out and then it was my turn. I took myself to the open plane doorway and did the unadvisable, looked down at the Wiltshire countryside stretching below me. I marvelled at the view, then panicked because I was about to plummet towards the green pastures and all those grazing sheep, but by this point I’d been pushed off the side and was flying through the air anyway. I say flying, and indeed gravity was pulling me towards the earth at 120mph; but it felt as if I was levitating. Had I developed magical powers? I could see the earth getting marginally bigger, but when the instructor tapped my arm to signal for me to change to the parachute hand position, I felt as if I wanted to continue this weird hovering sensation for longer.
But then I was hanging in the air. I could see as far as Wales and almost down to Salisbury. The cars travelling down the M4 looked like small insects. I was quite literally on top of the world, and I felt like that. “That wasn’t scary, was it?” asked my instructor. I grinned and said no, not really – although I was still very aware of the fact that I was suspended in mid-air supported only by a piece of large material. The instructor let me ‘control the canopy’ – that is, pull to the left and spin in a circle, and pull to the right and spin the opposite way. If the freefall was the adrenaline fuelled rollercoaster part of the skydive theme park, this part would be the spinning teacups. Kind of vomit inducing, but kind of fun.
We had practised the landing both on the ground previous to the skydive, and in the air. I had to lift my legs at the knees, then straighten them, to ensure no leg injuries while landing. I alighted perfectly smoothly, but tumbled back when the wind dragged the parachute back – a normal procedure, and I was shocked that I felt completely unscathed.
Nothing could wipe off my grin of victory as I walked back to the viewer’s area. “I did it!!” I exclaimed. I conquered something that a lot only dream about despite being absolutely terrified, I was completely unharmed, and I was ready to take on the world. I do sometimes worry that my SAY YES attitude will get me into trouble, but skydiving was definitely not one of them. There’s all sorts of statistics online and I’m not sure how true they all are, but I will say for sure that I felt much safer up in the air strapped to a qualified instructor than I have at times before on the motorway in a car.
If anyone is thinking about doing a skydive, swallow your fears and inhibitions and just do it. There is nothing more liberating than literally flying through the air. Its always fun to be superman for a day.