I'm Free Falling!

Jun 16, 2009

I previously posted this in my travel blog, but as summer approaches I'm planning another adventure. I thought I'd re-post this here and maybe I can inspire somebody else to give it a try! Skydiving is the most exhilarating, amazing thing you'll ever do!

While living in Cairns, I befriended a fellow backpacker by the name of Brad. Brad was from Camrose, Alberta, which is quite close to home, so we got along quite well simply talking about Tim Hortons and various other Canadian-ish things. On February 23, Brad was celebrating his 21st birthday. Seeing as how he was on the other side of the world, he was determined to make it his best birthday he'd experienced yet. As a big fan of birthdays and any excuse for celebration, I opted to help brainstorm ideas to make it an unforgettable day for my Camrose friend.
The night before the big day, we were both still clueless as to what to do.
Then it hit me.
"Let's go skydiving!", I said. I could hear the words coming from my mouth and I couldn't stop them. I think I was half joking, but I saw a glimmer of excitement wash across Brad's face and knew at that point, that there was no taking that sentence back.
I guess I just assumed that there would be no space for us... who tries booking skydiving with 12 hours notice? Tours fill up fast in Far North Queensland, I guess we would just be out of luck. I was never expecting the tour sales lady to say "Okay, everything is confirmed", and before I knew it, I was reaching for my credit card.
I'd just like to point out that I'm not brave. Not by a long shot. I'm scared of spiders, snakes, thunderstorms, the dark... even the Easter Bunny freaks me out. So to make the decision to jump out of a plane and fall through the sky, is very untypical of me. There we were, staring at our tour tickets, wondering how traveling to Australia was capable of making us do such crazy things. Clearly, we'd been getting too much sun.
Later that night, my friend Jake booked his jump as well, and the next morning the 3 of us woke up bright and early and hopped onto a bus bound for Mission Beach, 3 hours south of Cairns.
On our bus, we met our fellow daredevils for the day. 2 Koreans (One named David Beckham!) 2 guys and 1 girl from Vancouver. Everybody seemed so relaxed the entire ride, and I couldn't help but to wonder if we would all be returning to Cairns later that afternoon.
We finally arrived at beautiful Mission Beach, where I met my tandem partner, Sinno, and signed several forms to acknowledge that I was aware that "Skydiving is a dangerous sport that has the potential to result in death or serious injury". Our guides strapped us in to our harnesses and gave us directions for exiting the plane. I tried to listen, I really did, but I couldn't focus on anything at that point.
Jake went up in the first plane. I stood on the beach, taking pictures as he came closer and closer to the ground. When he landed, he rushed towards me, unable to communicate just how incredible the past 20 minutes had been, but trying his best to explain anyways.
And then, it was my turn.
We headed off to the airport, where Sinno told me we'd be second to jump. Birthday boy Brad was first up. We hopped into our tiny plane with our tandem partners and the eager Koreans, and took off. As we climbed in altitude, you could see the ground getting further and further away through the giant hole where a door would normally belong. As the first jumper, Brad got the pleasure of sitting beside the non-existent door and got paler with each second that passed.
I can't quite explain what was going through my mind at that point. I wasn't afraid, or excited... I think it was all too surreal to have just one emotion, so I just put on a brave face and gave a thumbs up to the camera.
When we reached 14,000 feet, it was cold and windy in the plane, and Sinno give me the signal to let me know it was time to go. I watched as Brad jumped, and it looked as though he'd just been vacuum sucked out the side of the plane. Immediately after him, we shuffled towards the door, I looked down, and it was at that moment that I changed my mind. I'm in a perfectly good airplane, why would I get out in the middle of the sky?! But it was too late. I felt myself as if in slow motion falling away from the plane. There I was, freefalling over the Great Barrier Reef.
It was incredible.
It didn't feel like falling. It really didn't t feel like much, besides an overwhelming rush of adrenaline and the wind blowing in my face. We were freefalling for an entire 60 seconds, falling 10,000 feet before Sinno pulled the parachute. I don't think I remembered to breathe the entire time, but it felt as though only 10 seconds had passed by. I breathed a sigh of relief that our parachute had been in good working order and that we were still alive, and tried to take it all in. I looked down in awe of the beautiful islands and reefs below us as we slowly floated back towards the Earth. I didn't want to land. I'd never felt such an amazing high in my life.
Sinno briefed me on how to land safely... stand up right away. As we approached the beach, we landed, I stood up, and immediately collapsed to my knees. I wasn't able to stand up yet, I was in a completely different state of mind and everything was a blur of excitement.
Brad and Jake met me on the beach and we all excitedly chattered about how amazing the feeling was, but we all knew that there was no describing it. It's just something you have to do.
We headed back to Cairns more giddy than we knew we were ever capable of being.
Skydiving is rumoured to be the best natural high that a person can experience, and it didn't wear off for the remainder of that day.
Mission accomplished.
Brad had the best birthday of his life, and I felt like if I could jump out of a plane, I was capable of doing absolutely anything in life.


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