Birthdays never seem to be special for me, so this year I wanted to do something very different so I took the bull by the horns and planned well ahead. It needed to do something achieveable, memorable, affordable and within a reasonable distance from home as I had no extra time off work to travel long distances.
Skydiving is probably on many people’s bucket list along with bungy jumping and hot air ballooning. Having now ballooned twice and have no intention of bungy jumping, Therefore, I chose to go skydiving for my birthday along the stunning coastline of Torquay.
As I mentioned in my post on hot air ballooning here, – I’m a Melbourne girl but for this experience, viewing the coastline of Anglesea, Torquay and Point Addis would be a highlight, especially as it was my old stomping ground when I holidayed with my kids and as a young woman teaching bushwalking and aquatic activities. I knew the area from the ground, but to see it from 15,000 feet would be awesome.
After the my usual amount of research, I chose to skydive with the Australian Skydive who were the ideal company to put my life into their hands. I mean, who wants to have their tombstone read:
I also put out a few feelers into my industry as I do with most things like this, and Australian Skydive kept coming up trumps. With the research ticked off, I found a good offer with a coupon code with Adrenalin.com.au. Plus I was able to book it for my birthday. 16 March. My 58th birthday.
Prior to leaving home, I rang to check all was good and was told that the flight was on and to come on down. As I drove along Blackgate Road towards the site, I could see six parachutes gently gliding down towards one central point. Within a few minutes of everyone grounded, a bright yellow Tiger Moth plane took off with that familiar sound you hear in old war movies.
I arrived early to secure a good park but there was no need to worry. There is plenty and I was able to park under the share of the large pine trees because it was a clear, warm autumn day. There is a small adventure park that you can pay to enter ($10 pp) that has mini golf, beach volleyball, Jolly Roger Pirate Ship and more. There is also a viewing area for the Tiger Moth and skydivers plus a small café that serves light food and refreshments.
The booking area is obvious and after filling out the paperwork and being weighed, I was ready to go. There is an offer to purchase photos and / or a video which I declined for two reasons. I don’t need to see the pics as the memories are in my head. The second was that I am on a budget and another $110 just for the pics was out of my reach.
Despite being early, in no time at all, four others and myself were rallied together for the briefing by the experienced skydive instructor, Bernie. He made what could be a boring briefing into a funny and engaging one that covered all the necessary requirements, including having us on our bellies being ‘bananas’ and demonstrating to us how to place our arms once we’d exited the plane.
As we moved to the staging area to be kitted out I had a lovely chat with Bernie about his time working with Australian Skydive. As someone who works in a similar industry, I was intrigued to know how much experience is required to become a tandem jump instructor, how long people are in the industry and of course, how many jumps he’d done himself. For me, part of the experience is always meeting the people and Bernie is a wonderful ambassador for Australian Skydive.
As we watched a group of skydivers coming into land, I was advised that my instructor was going to be Aaron who has over 10,000 jumps under his belt. Little did I know that Aaron was in fact one of those landing right in front of me. I watched him land with his tandem buddy, make the obligatory salute and high fives for the GO Pro attached to his wrist, drop his used chute, pick up a new one, greeted me and we boarded our small plane. On board were four other tandem jumpers and three men doing their own solo skydive.
We quickly shuttled onto the small plane that is purpose built for skydivers and we straddled a long seat with Aaron attaching himself to me from behind and going through his safety checks. The plane was quickly up and in the air and as we made our way skywards, the Tiger Moth had taken off as well, makeing a sweeping move nearby that had my jaw drop with amazement. Hail the pilot!
Skydiving tandem, is something of an intimate experience. You are rigged together tightly, with little wiggle room between you. There certainly isn’t anything sexual about it, but you do need to be prepared that you’ll be hanging off a complete stranger like an overgrown baby in a Baby Bjorn sling.
The plane flew up and over Torquay, down towards Port Addis, then Anglesea. Aaron pointed out the iconic features up and down the coastline which was a little hazy due to the recent bushfires over 300kms away. Soon, we turned back towards Torquay to the ‘jump zone’.
Prior to jumping, Aaron asked if I wanted to help steer the chute but I was here to be totally immersed in the experience. So I passed. Plus I knew the everything was going to go quickly and didn’t want to be distracted by trying to learn something new. The plane turned back away from the coastline towards Torquay and Aaron did the last of his safety checks, pulling the harness between us a little tighter and gave me the thumbs up.
There are three lights inside the plane that signify the timeline of when to jump. Red. Amber. Green. As thet red light went on the solo skydivers positioned themselves, pushed up the roller door that you exit from and when the light went green, leapt swiftly from the plane. No hesitation at all!
The first of the tandem divers went next and then suddenly, it was our turn. I kept wondering why I wasn’t nervous or scared and still not sure why I was calm. What I did know was to soak it in because everything was going to happen fast. One second your shuffling forwards to the open door. Next your legs are hanging over the edge with 15,000 feet between you and the ground. Then you tumble forwards exiting the plane, freefalling but quickly your instructor pulls you into the ‘banana’ position and slows down the freefall.
Aaron points to his wrist where the Go Pro is placed and no doubt history has recorded my cheeks being blown somewhere up around my eyebrows and my smile stuck in a dry ‘the joker’ grin.
Freefalling is an amazing. Only when you’ve tumbled out of the plane and you see it disappear from view quickly does it hits you (excuse the pun) that you’re dropping at around 200 km/h.
Then the chute is deployed and we float more than drop although it was all happening so fast, it seemed that falling was falling – whether freefall or with a chute above us. My ears popped. I felt a little nauseous. But other than that, everything was great. Aaron steered the parachute so we could see up and down the coastline as well as a few nice spins to make it fun.
In no time I could see where we were to land back at Australian Skydive base and watched the other jumpers landing before us. As we came closer to the ground, Aaron made a gliding manoeuvre from left to right and then a 90 degree turn as we came in parallel with the take off point. ‘Feet up’ he says. Although we seemed to be coming in fast, the instructors have complete control over the chute. In those last few moments, he makes some quick tugs on the chute cords and we come to a complete stop, ever so gently sliding in on my toosh.
The ground crew quickly assist Aaron detach from me, help with the chute and getting me up onto my feet as I was feeling a little wonky being back on the ground for a few seconds.. You can view my landing here. (thanks Yvette for filming me). High 5’s all round with Aaron who has a wicked sense of humour which comes with throwing yourself out of a plane from a great height several times a day. As I greeted my friends, Aaron greeted his next client and headed back to the plane.
Major tip: skydiving is weather depending so don’t decide to book it on the last day of your trip as the conditions may mean they won’t fly that day and you’ll miss out. Please allow for contingency days so as to not miss out due to late planning.
At the time of booking, the cost was $297 minus a 10% discount. Included in this fee is the Australian Parachute Federation levy. If you wanted photos or videos, Australian Skydive record the whole experience for you but they are purchased at an extra cost.
The bonuses of flying with Australian Skydiving are:
- A safe operator
- Opportunity to purchase photos or videos
- Central location along the coast with stunning views from the plane and when you skydive
- Register as a student with the Australian Parachute Association. This is an opportunity to take out insurance as well.
You can contact Australian Skydive at this link here or call 1800 557 101. If you have any questions or queries, their staff are extremely knowledgeable and helpful.
To finish off – we all know that birthdays are about the cake and this colourful heart-shaped sweet treat was made by eight year old Archie who came along with his brother Jem to watch me jump. Thanks mate. The sparkles and No. 58 was the perfect touch.
Interesting facts about skydiving
What time of day is best to jump?
There is no ‘best’ time other than the weather conditions of the day.
How high do you jump from?
That depends on where you fly but on the day we flew it was 15000 feet which took about 15 minutes flying time to reach. Seeing as we speak in metric, why do they still speak in feet and not metres I wonder?
Will I get motion sickness?
It’s possible that either the plane flight up or jumping out may give you motion sickness. Bernie mentioned that they’d ‘seen it all’ so I imagine people have had some unpleasant experiences but on the whole, it appears that most people are fine going up and coming down.
I’m scared of heights, so can I still jump?
I don’t know of many people who aren’t scared of heights but for me it wasn’t until my feet were actually hanging out over the edge of the plane and saw the view that I was a tiny, itty bitty bit nervous. But being attached firmly to an instructor seemed to alleviate any concerns and of course, it all happens so fast.
It’s rare for someone not to jump but don’t worry, you won’t be cajoled into jumping if you’ve got to the door of the plane, 15000 feet up and decide not to jump.
What is provided?
Your professional Tandem Master Instructor, all briefings and instruction, all skydiving equipment including overpants for landing (optional), goggles available to wear over prescription glasses.
What should I wear on the flight?
It was 27 degrees, fine and sunny the day I jumped. I wore long track pants and a short sleeved t-shirt, closed toed shoes and wore my prescription sunglasses because it was so bright. I did take up their offer of wearing their black / red pants that have some padding for the landing. I was heading off to Vanuatu 48 hours later and didn’t need to travel with an injury. In summary, wear comfortable clothing to suit the weather conditions with closed toed runners.
Note about cameras
You can’t take your own on the jump. If you want pictures of the entire experience then purchase directly from the provider. If you have family and friends on the ground, they can snap to the heart’s content.
10 Skydiving Fun Facts
- Felix Baumgartner jumped from a height of 128,100 feet or 39 km on the 14 October, 2012- He achieved Mach 1.24 and thus also broke the sound barrier.
- The youngest to accomplish the feat of skydiving was a four year old. The jump was a tandem jump (skydiving while being harnessed to a trainer), and was made from an elevation of 10,000 feet.
- On February 8, 2006 the record for the largest freefall formation was a 400-way set in Udon Thani, Thailand by World Team. Five C-130 Hercules airplanes were used and it was held for 4.25 seconds. They had exited from an altitude of 25,000 feet.
- On 20th of May 2001, Michael Zang created a new world record by completing 500 jumps in a day. His jumps were made in intervals of less than 3 minutes and he performed these jumps from 2,100 feet.
- During freefall, the wind traveling past your ears is well over 100 mph. This much makes you deaf to all sounds you cannot hear a fellow skydiver. By yelling into each other’s ears, you may hear a little but you certainly can’t have a proper conversation.
- Approximately 3.1 million skydives occur annually. Out of this, the average number of fatalities is around 55 which is less than 1% of the jumps that take place.
- Some of the most daring skydivers include a 92 year old man sporting artificial knees, a hearing aid and weighing 105 pounds who leaped from 3,500 feet did a solo jump and a 90 years old woman who skydived from 12,000 feet to celebrate her birthday.
- The lowest mass tactical jump was 143 feet
- There have been instances in which military planes have gone down in bodies of water and pilots have used their parachutes to save their lives. They have deployed their parachutes underwater and been pulled up by the parachute in addition to activating their life vests.
- In 2012, Anders Helstrup of the Oslo Parachute Club took off from the Østre Æra Airport in Hedmark, Norway. On the way down, he was buzzed by an actual-factual meteorite. It, like, totally almost hit him! And he caught it on camera – click here but the good bit is at 8:45
Now it’s your turn.
What’s your experience of skydiving? Where did you fly? What were your highlights?
Leave a comment below.