My Skydiving Adventure in Australia
I would have never imagined that I’d actually jump out of a plane one day. I have friends who had done skydiving before and they told me only the most positive things about their experience. However, it never clicked or sparked my interest too much. Even though I’m into adrenaline rushes and challenges for the body and mind, hence why I ran two marathons, did a bungee jump or climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. But Skydiving? That was one of the last things I would have wanted to do. That’s what I thought. Until I went to Australia and it became kind of compelling…
„Banana position! Got it? Put your head back and bend your legs back, that’s very important! Keep that position and don’t worry, I’ll take care of the rest!”
I am sitting in a bus on the way to the biggest adventure (or the stupidest thing I’ve ever done) in my life and my guide Ryan is repeating his words for the nth time. “Clear, got it, really!“ Ryan seems to be satisfied and focuses now on his textbook again. Economics. He utilizes every spare minute to continue his studies, even in his early 40’s. This job is rather a hobby and he would like to start a totally different career some day. While he’s reading in his book, studying “Operational decisions – dealing with uncertainty”, my heart rate is picking up and I’m asking myself as well whether this decision here has been the right one…
Who sows the seeds of thought…
Flashback: three days back in time, we were on our road trip driving down the Australian east coast from Cairns to the Whitsunday Islands on a nice early Australian summer day at the end of October, when we stopped for lunch in the seaside town of Mission Beach. We ordered “Surf and Turf“, prawns and steak, followed by a “driver reviver” (cup of coffee). After that, we took a walk to the looooong sandy beach, which is the main attraction of this town.
It was here, where we witnessed for the first time how a group of parachutists – watched by a few rubbernecks – landed at this beautiful beach. My wife became courageous: “This could be something for us, we should do that one day…!” (I haven’t taken that comment too seriously, as I could not imagine that she really meant it, nevertheless, I got hooked on this thought…). On our way back to our car, we passed the office of the company, where the next group was already waiting eagerly to leave for their jump. A sign in front of the door said: “Beach Landing Guaranteed”. The seed was planted.
One and a half days later, we are on a sailboat in the Great Barrier Reef. Together with about thirty other people, we are on a diving excursion and visiting the Whitsunday Islands, too. It’s unbelievable. No matter whom we are talking to, every conversation was more or less the same: “What’s your name? Where are you from? Where have you done your skydive?” I’m not kidding, literally each and every passenger on this boat can tell a story about him or her skydiving. It seems to be an absolute “MUST-DO” when in Down Under. If you miss this chance, you ought to be a damn fool.
…will harvest deeds: Let’s do it!
As we get off the boat the next day, there are still two days of driving back up to Cairns ahead of us, before we will leave Australia again, headed for Hong Kong. I make use of the first accessible WiFi network to google „Skydiving Australia Mission Beach“. The homepage tells me that they have availability for the earliest jump tomorrow morning, 8 a.m., Mission Beach. I need to double check with our schedule: Our Flight from Cairns leaves at 4 p.m. We need a good two hours of driving from Mission Beach, that should work out. For the first time, I mention the idea which has been stuck in my head for a few days now, to my wife. She asks me whether I’m really serious, but eventually agrees to the plan. From the parking lot of “Frosty Mangoes”, I call the customer service to fix our booking for the next morning. They confirm. Tomorrow is gonna be the day!
There’s no turning back
“Hi, I’m Ryan and I will be your guide for today’s adventure!”
At the crack of dawn, we arrive in front of the office of Skydive Australia, where we are welcomed by our guides. Having filled out the declaration of consent and confirmed that we understand all the risks connected to Skydiving, we are introduced to the Banana position for the first time. After an extensive safety briefing, we take a few pictures for the souvenir video (of course, I have booked this option, too. It is hell expensive – 400 Aussie-Dollar for the whole package per person, but who cares? This is probably a once-in-a-lifetime event, so I want it all, naturally…), before the whole group jumps into the bus.
The ride takes twenty minutes until we reach the small private airfield, where our Cessna 208 with the registration VH-DNK (Dennis’n’Kathy – how fitting!) is already waiting. One last picture before take-off, and we enter the plane. Me and Ryan sit in the front right in the second position, only one pair of a guide and another lunatic in front of us. This means, I will be the second one to jump when our time has come…
In total, we are nine pairs that have left for experiencing the thrill of their lifetime. The plane takes off with the two pilots in our backs. It feels odd to sit against the direction of travel. Slowly, we are approaching the clouds with streets, fields and houses below becoming smaller and smaller. Ryan takes a few pictures of me in a state of maximum tenseness.
Then, he addresses me once again: „The Banana position, remember? Just do as I told you and we’ll be fine!”
Bananas in free fall
Eventually, we reach our cruising altitude of about 4,000 meters above sea level and the roll-up door is being opened. The guy in front of me sticks his legs out of the plane and then falls over to the front, out of the plane, always keeping the Banana position.
I thought that I could do just like him, but that was not what was going to happen! Apparently, everything had to happen quickly now, hence why we rush forward and almost fall out of the plane. Banana position, hah! Everything happens way too fast. I try to act like I was told to, but it is difficult now that we are falling out of the aircraft.
The adrenalin rushes into my veins, blood rushes into my head, a first scream gets stuck in my throat and I close my eyes for a moment. As I open them again, a wonderful bird’s eye view on the beach, the ocean and the greem hinterland reveals itself to me. And we are approaching this scenery at an acceleration rate of 9.81 m/s2 (almost, of course there is a certain air drag…)!
I still don’t know what exactly is happening to me in this moment, but Ryan holds his GoPro stable as if he had never done anything else in his life…
Suddenly, our free fall is braked heavily. The harness cuts into my armpits and thighs, because the parachute opened up. Has it already been a minute in free fall? Well, rather 30 – 40 seconds, but that’s okay. Everything’s quiet now.
Slowly, we sail through the air and Ryan shows me how to steer the parachute. So, we are slowly drifting to the left, to the right, hit the brakes again and then spiral downwards. I remove the safety glasses and my complexion recovers to its regular tone, but my hairstyle will be ruined for quite a while, I guess.
A promise is a promise
As promised and wished for, we land directly on the heavenly beach section of Mission Beach. Incredible, how reliable the guides manage to get down there. Moreover, the landing itself is soft and we even manage to keep standing, thanks to the intense briefing by Ryan 😉
We watch the rest of the group coming down, before taking a final bunch of pictures and even a short interview in memory of this daredevil-ish activity of skydiving. Eventually, we pack the equipment and move back to the office, where I take off my harness at last. Finally, I feel free and safe again, having both feet planted firmly on the ground. A last handshake with Ryan, before he turns towards a group of people waiting in his back, saying: „Hi, I’m Ryan, I will be your guide for today’s adventure!” Absolutely crazy. Up to eleven jumps a day are done by the guides of Skydive Australia, which means a lot of bus rides to study economics.
However, I’m just glad that I survived this one. Enough thrill for the moment. My wife sees it the same way, having been close to a heart attack during the jump. Nevertheless, we are both happy that we took this action so spontaneously, as this experience will stay in our memory forever. And the next adventure will soon be around the corner, we are sure…
Have you been to Australia? If so, did you dare to do a skydive? Or would such a daring thing never come cross your mind? What was your biggest adventure when travelling? Please let me know about it in the comment section below. I’m curious to see whether you have some suggestions for my next trip. Thanks!
(Experience report from October 2016)