I’m a little bit weird.
The idea of cycling generates a look of terror on my face. The idea of skydiving… well, my eyes light up at the mention of it with an overenthusiastic “Yeaaaaaah!” and a face resembling the Cheshire cat – for essentially coming face to face with death.
Of course, this was all before I got into that tiny, ramshackle plane heading out to skydive myself. Actually, rewind an hour or so beforehand when I suddenly went quiet in the car with my boyfriend, i.e. the prisoner I had coerced into doing this daft thing with me. (Note: he did come on his own free will, I promise…)
Stupid questions came into my mind like, could I swallow and choke on a bug while skydiving? And, has anyone ever pooped themselves during this? And even, on a scale of 1 to 10, how likely is it that my eyeballs will never be the same again?
In the past I’ve had nosebleeds in the Alps while skiing simply because of the altitude. Now I was going to be 14,000 feet in the fucking air. Pardon my French.
Once we were in the plane with Skydive Surf City (shout out to Matt, who made sure I lived to tell the tale!) I realised there was no turning back. Sure, I could back out the very last second, but what kind of person would that make me? The person who went 14,000 feet and didn’t jump out of a plane and potentially plummet to their death? Nah. Not me.
So off we went. Alan jumped out first and I couldn’t quite get over how he just disappeared. Like, really, the boy just vanished.
Then it was my go. All I kept thinking at this time was, “Be a banana! Be a bananaaaaaa!”. Explanation: this is because your body shape when exiting the plane should go into what slightly resembles a banana – legs arched behind you, curled up, and head completely back. This is what worried me most. That wind is strong and, uh, I recently had whiplash from go-karting (never again) a few weeks before. Yeah… why did I think this was a good idea again?
Out of everything, by far the weirdest sensation was the initial falling out of the plane. I don’t know if this is common, but I hadn’t really connected skydiving with the reality and logic thought that you drop yourself out of a plane from an inconceivable height. It’s slightly suicidal and in hindsight completely insane that you trust that plopping yourself into thin air will be ok.
Freefalling – 45 to 60 seconds
All the people at the centre said this was their favourite part. It was exhilarating, but my problem was that I wanted to fully express how I felt about it all, so kept my mouth in an open smile. A small tip is that this isn’t great for breathing. You know, that thing we do to stay alive. I kept licking my lips and swallowing because my mouth was getting so dry the whole time. My lungs felt so busy with air that I didn’t know how I even was breathing anymore. I couldn’t even concentrate on my surroundings because I was just overcome with adrenaline (and trying to breathe and keep my mouth salivated).
The way I describe that sounds horrendous. To be honest, it’s not exactly a sit back and relax activity at this point. I don’t even properly know what I was thinking at the time, but after a few flips your tandem instructor does, you just kind of go with it. The freefalling time we had was probably enough for me. I was looking forward to the next part…
Parachute (aka relief that you’re alive)
This was my favourite part. With a jolt (and an ear pop), I was suddenly twizzled round onto my bum in an upright position and the culmination of the adrenaline and relief that I made it was so enormous that I just started laughing. I could finally look all around me and let what I had just done – what I was doing – sink in.
I was in beautiful California, I had just skydived and I was still thousands of feet in the air, looking down on Monterey Bay and places I had seen and was yet to see on this awesome trip with Alan.
What made it even better was getting to control the parachute. A sharp and strong tug on either handle would zoom you in that direction. I’ve never felt more like when I was a kid running around the playground pretending to be a bird with that ultimate belief you were nailing the impression – but, obviously, on a much larger scale.
I even pulled one handle quickly after the other so we swung aggressively but surprisingly graciously from one direction to another. It was in this moment that I could really appreciate it all, and I was so excited to meet Alan back down on the ground so we could talk about it.
And talk about it we did. I thought the adrenaline had worn off, but we were rabbiting on at each other at such a speed, it was obvious we were still in the moment. I remember thinking how I wanted that excited feeling, a feeling like you’ve lived, to never go away. The idea of feeling average again was just too boring to contemplate. So I soaked up every bit of adrenaline I had left, and I wrote it in my travel notebook so I could go back to it and relive it any time I wanted or needed to.
And I just did writing this blog post now :)
Have you skydived? Where? How did you feel about it? If you haven’t, would you ever skydive?