Having previously decided that I was not good with heights and comfortable with that decision, I was surprised to find myself walking into an adventure tourism agency in Queenstown, New Zealand with the express intentions of booking a skydiving experience over the city.
Here’s the thing- I’m pretty easily peer pressured- especially while on vacation. Once I realized that nearly everyone in my tour group was going, I tagged along to the tourism office, resigning myself to the lowest possible skydive. Minutes after talking to the agent, of course, I was signed up for the highest skydive they had to offer.
As it was explained to me- you don’t really remember the first 30 seconds of free fall and if I was only going to skydive once in my life I might as well remember it.
The experience I booked had us meet up in town to sign some waivers and go over the safety instructions (it’s important to look at the horizon while free falling!) before loading our group onto a bus and taking us over to our jump location. There was a bit of waiting around on site, but it was a beautiful location and we hung out in the sunshine with some of our friends who had made the jump earlier. We did a quick headcount and they were all still there so that was a good sign for our own jump!
As we got ready to go, we were provided with snazzy jump suits and goggles and sweet talked one of the instructors into letting us take a picture before we locked our phones away. We decided not to pay the extra fee for GoPro footage of the jump (no one needs to see me like that) so this was the only real visual proof we got from the experience. I was also provided converse shoes- turns out hiking boots were not the appropriate choice of footwear.
Once we were all geared up, we met our tandem partners- the professionals who were making sure we didn’t die while falling from 15,000 feet. My new best friend was named Paul and I was his seventh jump of the day. Apparently even skydiving can become routine if you do it enough.
The plane was pretty small with long padded benches lining the length of the plane which we all straddled to maximize space and keep the tandem guides attached to their charges. All but two of us chose to take the highest jump so I was treated to a front row view of the first few lower altitude jumps. The sucking sound that occurred when the jumpers hopped out of the plane both makes me laugh now, but scared the pants off of me at the time.
I have a habit of getting chatty when I’m nervous, which gives the adverse impression that I am both calm and relaxed. Neither calm nor relaxed but yoloing my heart out, I agreed instantly when Paul suggested that we backflip out of the plane.
I don’t think that the reality of the situation really sank in for me until I was sitting on the very edge of the plane with my legs dangling wildly over the New Zealand landscape. ‘Paul, Paul, Paul! ….I’m gonna need a hug’. Paul, the sweetheart, laughed, hugged me and then shoved me out of the plane.
In retrospect, I’m glad I listened to the advice about the height of the jump. The first few seconds of free fall was an absolute blur. I remember being belly up mid-backflip with a clear view of the rapidly departing plane. I remember getting some of the worst windburn of my life. I definitely remember screaming at the top of my lungs directly into Paul’s ears. The later half of the fall is more clear- I did try to look at the ground but the force of the wind stole the breath from my lungs so I had to look back up at the horizon.
As we got closer to the ground, Paul triggered the parachute and our fall came to an abrupt halt. My harness hauled up uncomfortably, and Paul offered to loosen it for comfort. No, no, this can stay as tight as it wants. The gentle glide down was a nice transition from the heart pounding free fall and I enjoyed seeing the city, the lake and the mountains all at once.
Overall, I had an amazing experience! If you’re debating a skydive, bite the bullet and do it! I just recommend that you do the jump over a pretty view- it’s a pretty expensive and relatively short experience so I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much over a less interesting landscape.