The breeze is warm and dry. Typical Californian weather. Perfect blue sky not a cloud in sight. The sail cloth flaps loosely in the breeze above me. Ordinarily I’d be thinking about how I could fix this problem but I’m too nervous.

I’m sitting in a the waiting area having forked over two hundred bucks to jump out of a perfectly good aeroplane. This sounds slightly crazy because it is. Just minutes earlier I’d signed my life away. Five A4 pages of double sided legal disclaimers. “If you have any questions speak to your lawyer”. Yeah like I brought my lawyer with me to America. After everything was signed, I then had to read a disclaimer while looking into a video camera. I figure if I die it won’t be me suing them anyway.

Across from where I’m sitting there’s huge bar. The area is surrounded by camper trailers. It occurs to me that here is the ideal place to get drunk after a hard days diving before crawling back to your van.

Most of the people here are young … apart from the geriatric freestyle skydiving team rehearsing their moves. A mix of people. A few accents. Behind me are some egos. Cool clothes wearing baseball caps. They look like the extreme sport guys you see on TV and exude confidence. Just nearby some young French guys converse in sexy dulcet tones drawing heavily on cigarettes. Another guy meticulously packs his parachute. He is fit and tanned. Just behind me a group lying on what look like skateboards practicing free falling. It looks silly.

A shadow falls over the assembly area and all eyes are drawn upwards. One guy comes over low and fast seeming to skim the tops of the trees. He makes a perfect landing. It looks dangerous. If I wasn’t scared after watching all the videos and signing the disclaimers I am now. I visualise what it would be like to do this myself. A lump comes to my throat.

Mike is my instructor. He’s American, short and stocky in build, served in the Army. The kind of guy who inspires confidence. He explains he's jumped about 14,000 times. My mind starts to do the the calculations on that. How many years how many jumps per day. In the end I give up. I’m too nervous.

There’s another guy sitting beside me, we get chatting. Aaron is from the area and he’s decided to do a jump while waiting for his car to be serviced. One way to kill some time I guess. He seems distracted and I can see he’s eying off one of the female instructors.

We suit up and the call comes through to walk to staging area. I climb the stairs into the plane hot exhaust from the engine whooshes into my face. It’s hot and smells like a combination of aviation fuel and burnt metal. Inside the aircraft is Spartan, even the oldest Metro bus in Hobart seems positively luxurious by comparison.

The pilot doesn’t waste anytime and takes off immediately. The aircraft climbing steeply. I watch the altimeter strapped to my wrist. 1000 feet  2000, 3000. Mike leans over to me shouting over the engine noise. “ten minutes till we jump!”. I’m still very nervous.

With five minutes to go we clip up. I try to relax. Mike does everything up so tight I can feel each breath he takes. We edge down the grey benches down toward the back of the plane. We get to the door and I resolve to look at the horizon and not at the 12,000 foot drop. To be honest I'm pretty scared. He counts to three. I close my eyes and we’re falling.

I open my mouth to scream but the shear force of air pushes any scream I had back into my gut. My mouth is instantly dry and my cheeks ripple in the wind. I close my mouth quickly. The fall itself is frenetic. My brain is overloaded with a thousand sensations at once. It’s hard to think clearly, everything happens so fast. Mike yells something in my ear and I manage to smile and wave to my camera guy. I give the thumbs up.

Mike again yells in my ear that he’s going to open the chute. For the second time I close my eyes. The chute opens bringing our 180km/h free fall to an end. The harness violently tightens across my body. It feels like my arms and legs are going to be ripped off.

I open my eyes and everything is eerily quiet and totally still. The contrast to the frantic free fall just moments earlier couldn’t be greater. I look down and we’re very very high up. It feels a bit like looking out the window of a plane but without the plane part.

We glide and loop downwards toward the landing area. It’s not a bad sensation which only starts to get scary as we near the bottom of the decent. Trees and roof-tops loom just a little too close for comfort. We zoom over the top, landing smoothly.

Post jump I’m sitting once again in the bar area gradually removing my jump suit. Aaron rolls up to the female instructor with a post jump confidence high. I can just overhear their conversation. He asks her on a date. She says no. It’s absorbingly awkward. I’ve got my value for money. So much more entertaining than just a jump.



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