Long had I been waiting to skydive in Australia. It was at the top of my bucket list, my time Down Under was coming to an end and I had had a voucher to skydive in Wollongong burning in my suitcase for over a year. I couldn’t persuade any of my friends to join me so I took my kindle to keep me company. That proved to be a great idea since I spent the whole day in Wollongong. It would have been better if I had brought along some food yet I’ll never regret having that beef wrap while sipping coffee on the grass while admiring the view of the beach under the clear blue sky.
Skydiving didn’t go exactly as expected. I pictured myself green and triumphant singing “Defying Gravity” at the top of my lungs while flying through the skies. Instead, I looked like Courage, the cowardly dog, and let’s just say there was no singing… exactly.
After waiting the whole morning, it was finally my group’s turn to get ready. I filled out the disclaimer and had some money left on my voucher so I bought extra insurance; it wasn’t enough that I had paid almost $600 for a medical insurance in Australia I never used, but I was so certain I was going to hurt myself, I bought extra. Then and there, I made friends with a girl from the UK whom I shared my concerns with.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “Nothing is going to happen.” However, when I showed her my injured arm from walking, told her how I broke my tooth while kayaking and crashed against a car with my bike, she wasn’t so sure.
“If you are so accident prone, why did you decide to go skydiving?”
“It was a gift from my ex.”
“While you were together? Otherwise…” she hesitated, but I could hear her thoughts going You are so going to die.
“It’s been on my bucket list for ages, but one my friends broke – not sprained – broke her ankle while skydiving here in Wollongong.”
In an instant, everyone around us fell silent and turned to stared at me.
“You broke your ankle?” somebody asked me in shock.
SHIT! NOONE IS SKYDIVING AFTER THAT!
“Not me but my friend,” I said.
Then somebody asked an instructor if something had happened – such as an accident – within the last six months. “Yes, it has,” the instructor said. “People have had lots of fun!”
“But has someone been injured?”
“Ahem no… Group 12, please come forward.”
Meanwhile, I was doing maths. Kym broke her ankle after the Vivid Festival which ended in June and now it’s mid-November. July, August, September… (Gasps) That instructor is lying!
After we put the special suit on, they gave us instructions as to the position we had to assume when we jumped from the airplane and when we landed and to open our arms when they tapped our shoulders.
My instructor was really cool. I wouldn’t be able to stay that cheerful the whole day everyday. We boarded the plane last which means I sat right next to the door. That airplane was tiny but the door was long and wide. As we took off, I could see everything and I mean EVERYTHING down below, because that door was that big… Vertigo.
But if I was next to the exit, that meant…
“Am I jumping first?” I asked my instructor in a panic at the realisation.
He said: “Yeah nah nah yeah yeah nah nah yeah yeah nah”
I knew that in Australia “yeah nah” means “no” and “nah yeah” means “yes” so this was a matter of translating… I thought of what he said again. WTF.
“I have a confession to make,” I said to him. “I always panic right before jumping off.”
“Yeah, me too,” he said. Why did I say anything?!
He asked me if I remember what position I had to be in before jumping and I said my mind was blank. He told me not to worry and then I remembered. “The banana shape! The banana shape, isn’t it?” I asked. He nodded.
“Now, if you can’t breathe, that means that you are not breathing,” he said. Way to be obvious! “You can fix that by screaming, but I bet with you that won’t be a problem.”
How did he know I’m a screamer?
I held one end of the door while he held the other and synchronised we pulled towards opposite directions. My body was shaking. Strapped to my instructor, I did the banana shape and hung outside with my eyes shut, my arms crossed over my chest and my hands tight around the straps hovering over the immensity for what seemed to be an eternity until the instructor jumped off (if you see the video, I’m hanging there for ages)
I held my position, even when the instructor tapped my should so I could spread my arms. He tapped again but I kept my arms crossed over my chest. Then he started pulling my arm, I struggled, but gave in as he was stronger than me.
I was nervous as hell but not as much as my grandma was when I showed her the video. She started to panic because the parachute wasn’t opening. “I’m right here, grandma. I’m right here.”
Once I opened my arms, I also opened my eyes and saw the world was standing still underneath me. I expected everything to go very fast but instead I was floating on air and it felt like the time had stopped. There is nothing like that feeling.
The parachute was open and we parasailed over Wollongong. It was a blissfully beautiful sunny day with not a single cloud in the sky. Under us, there was the coast with its sandy beaches and its heavenly turquoise waters.
Flying and hanging my feet on air thrilled me to the core. After jumping and feeling that rush of adrenaline course through your veins, parasailing is the climax of it all. Exciting. Delightful. Exhilarating.