OK – the parachute opened! I was very grateful that it did. I jumped from 10,000ft – though the skydive guys kept trying to talk me into jumping from 14,000 – I think it was because the other people who were supposed to jump didn’t show up and they needed the money. Small Brother, M and I went up to the Skydive office at 1pm and waited around for quite a while – we watched skydiving videos and read the visitors book where they get everyone who’s jumped to sign and make a comment. All of the comments – every single one – were like this:

BETTER THAN SEX! – Steve from Ireland
Ohhh Myyyyyy Godddddd! – Mary from Canada
YOU guyz ROCK!! AWESOME! – Jen from the UK
The MOST amazing experience of my life!!! – Sven from Sweden

I was quiet but with big wide eyes. After a while M and Small Brother left and I got put into my suit, harness and took off all my jewellery. I got to practice bending into a backwards banana shape on the carpet, head and feet to the ceiling, back arched. Then I did what I have always sworn I will never do – got into a small Cessna. Yike. But as Small Brother pointed out – if you have to do it, it’s probably best to do it when you have a parachute to bail out with.

The flight up was extraordinary. The plane was so small – there was only me, my jump partner (now to be referred to as JumpMan) and the pilot – and it was full! There was only one seat – the pilot’s – we just sat on the floor. All of Hervey Bay was spread out like a picnic blanket – I could see the streets that I knew and other areas that I’d never seen before. It was like a birds eye view of town planning. We flew out over the coast and toward Fraser Island. The water was very beautiful; I could see the different depths and shelves beneath the sea, tiny little boats, milky white sandbars and deep water channels. I felt better about sailing to faraway places – there was so much room to move down there!

About six minutes into the flight I had a blonde moment and got it into my head that I was jumping from 1000 metres. I decided that everything looked lovely from where we were – surely we weren’t going much higher? I asked JumpMan how high we were. He pointed at his altimeter – it said 3000 feet. It was then that I remembered we had to get to 10,000 and almost bit off my own face. Oh. My. God. We didn’t climb straight up – it was more roundabout and scenic. I would have been quite happy to sit up there all day and look down out of the window, secure that I had a parachute to rely on before we nosedived into the sea. JumpMan had other ideas.

JumpMan: OK B, are you ready?
B: [nods mutely – eyes big and wide] J: Right. Get on your knees with your back to me. Closer. Closer.
[In the end he just grabs me, and I become his instant, cojoined twin.] B: Yike!
[He straps me to him so tightly that I feel like some kind of extra piece of clothing. I can hardly breathe, but I’m glad. I want security at all costs – even if it makes me feel like a sex aid.] J: OK. Do you remember what we practiced? Foot out the door, knees over the edge. Remember, don’t jump, just let me take you down. OK?
B: [more mute nodding]

We wait. The ground looks as far away as I’ve ever seen it. JumpMan and the pilot confer. I can’t hear what they’re saying – I’m hoping it’s not “we’re losing fuel – I’ve lost all control – you must jump!” All of a sudden, it’s time….

JumpMan opens the door. It looked like a flimsy piece of crap, but it had obviously been doing it’s job, because the noise and the wind were suddenly overpowering. I edged my foot out on to the wheel strut, and put my other knee out over the doorway. I instantly forgot about beginning my ‘banana’ position, but JumpMan pulled my head back firmly. I felt like a horse. He pushed forward.

The next ten seconds were like every rollercoaster you can imagine coming off the rails with you in it, but feeling strangely like Mel Gibson in Die Hard at the same time. It took me that long to get my ‘banana’ posture happening. JumpMan was tugging at my arms to get them into the right position. Suddenly I realised how I was supposed to be, and realised I had a little more control if I closed my fingers and used my hands like wings. This got the thumbs-up from JumpMan. Neither of us could hear anything, the noise of our bodies falling through the sky and the wind blew everything away. We fell for a few more seconds until I felt the jerk of the parachute opening. We were wrenched upright from face down. Everything went silent. Absolutely. That was the most amazing bit of the whole jump. Floating thousands of feet above the sea in perfect quiet. I think JumpMan expected me to get a bit more excited about the last 40 seconds of freefall, but I was more enraptured by the feeling of being a magic, silent, floating bubble. Extraordinary.
J: Woo HOO! Great, huh?
B: [feeling like a feather] Uh huh. It’s beautiful. I can see everything.

We floated for a while, it seemed to take forever. I was looking for M and Small Brother on the ground, but was too high up to make them out. I could have floated silently all the way to the ground, but I had to open my big mouth. I’d begun to wonder how we were going to land in the right spot.
B: How do you steer?
J: Riiiight. Hold this strap with your left hand. Grab the other one with your right.
[My arms are now in the air like I’m mid-way through a Mexican wave.] J: Now if you want to go right, pull on the right strap.
[I pull like a girl. Nothing happens. I’m wondering if this is a good idea.] J: No, pull. Like this.

He yanked down on the right hand strap and we went into a series of loops that crossed my eyes and almost made me bite my tongue off. It was not pleasant. Then he did it again, but this time on the left side. We were travelling now at triple the speed. As soon as we stopped floating like a bubble with the wind and actually harnessed it, the power of the parachute became obvious. It wasn’t silent anymore. He did another series of loops and I relived every moment of the banana smoothie I’d had a few hours previously. By this time I was truly nauseous, but also completely amazed at what I was doing. I could see M and Small Brother down on the beach, looking skyward, and another skydiver near them holding a flag to show us where we were going to land.

I got to do a bit more floating and then JumpMan got down to business.
J: I’m going to steer us in. Show me your landing position.
[I stuck my legs straight out in front of me, and grabbed under my knees to hold my feet in the air.] J: Great, that’s fine. Now you’re probably going to have to slide in on your bum. I’ll be doing the landing, you just concentrate on keeping your legs up. Only put your feet on the ground if you hear me tell you to. OK?
B: OK.

The ground got closer and closer. M and Small Brother were waving – I did semaphores with my arms. We landed with precision. JumpMan told me to put my feet down, and my butt never touched the ground at all. I felt very pro. The other skydive guy came running up to stabilise us. I was grinning like a freak, but feeling like I was about to be sick. I shook hands with JumpMan and thanked him for the ride. Small Brother and M sauntered up, beaming. Wanted to know what it had been like. I could only answer in words of one syllable, due to my nausea.
“How was it?”
“Amazing.”
“How scary was it jumping out of the plane?”
“Very.”
“How do you feel?”
“Queasy.”
“We saw you doing loops!”
“Yep.”

The skydiving guys had given up coaxing an American-style BETTER THAN SEX woo-hoo reaction from me. I felt quiet. I’d just floated like a cloud. What was there to say? I had a feeling that Small Brother and M were slightly disappointed with my demeanor, but I couldn’t help it – I was half wonder, half quease.

I rode back in the minibus with the skydivers and they chatted all the way back. I held on to my stomach and tried to join in. What I really wanted was to sit somewhere cool with a long cold drink, but I had a 12km drive back to town in a hot Humber in front of me. We got back to the airport and I handed in my suit, harness and shoes. They gave me my 10,000ft certificate! They didn’t ask me to sign the book. I am a bit sad about that now, but at the time I just had to escape and sit down somewhere. What would I have said?
Queasy, but brilliant.

 

If you click on the picture you can download a little movie that Small Brother took of me. It’s just less than 1MB.