No-one ever told me before today it is possible to lose a shoe while skydiving. I was with two other first timers, and all three of us immediately tightened our shoes. "If you lose one, just kick the other one off so you don't look like an idiot," said Carrie, one of the staff. The training video was good, and my instructor (John) was very reassuring. This is a scary thing to see on the wall:
Once we were in the plane, my harness was hooked up to a seatbelt and I put the goggles on. The plane door was open until about 3,000 feet. This seemed so very wrong. Planes are supposed to be sealed units, not things with doors you can go out of while it's in the air! There was a horrible moment of realisation: I was strapped into a sturdy harness. My harness was connected to a guy wearing a parachute. He was going to jump out of the plane. Therefore I was going to jump out of a perfectly serviceable plane that would have to land at some point anyway. The harnesses were connected together, two solo skidivers left the plane, my video woman headed to the door and we shuffled forward. A couple of rocks forward and back and John and I jumped out of the plane.
That's me just out of the plane, screaming. I'm the one on the bottom clutching the harness. If you look really closely you can see my hair tying itself in knots out of sheer terror. I stopped screaming pretty quick. It was cold up there, the wind was noisy and it was hard to breathe. We did some turns left and right, then the parachute went up. The parachute made a hard tug upwards on the harness and suddenly it was quiet. Quiet enough to talk, John checked I was doing OK, I took off the goggles and got to play with the steering toggles. We went through a cloud on the way down, pulled some fast turns, and practiced landing a couple of times. I got to steer the parachute for a while. Landing was easier than I was expecting. John slowed the parachute, and we slid onto the grass, ending up sat down with the parachute deflating behind us. I think we came in at a fast running speed. No bruises, no broken bones, one heck of an adrenaline rush! The pictures are from the DVD they filmed.
It took a while to stop shaking and catch my breath once I was back on the ground. I really wanted to back out when we hit 14,000 feet and started shuffling to the door. The ground looked so far away. The oddest thing about the parachute ride was feeling like you weren't moving. The ground was coming towards me, but it felt surprisingly safe and quiet. I wasn't expecting quiet. It was an amazing ride. I don't think I could do it solo, but I'm glad I did jump, I'm grateful for the opportunity.