Your heart is pounding and your mind is racing as a million thoughts go through your head. Your palms are sweaty, legs shaking as you’re ushered towards the plane door. 14,000 feet in the sky and all you can hear is the loud sound of the wind hurling through the plane door as you plunge, terrified, towards the ground…
For some, skydiving is all about the rush, whilst others want to overcome their fears. And what better way to overcome your fear of heights than to jump out of a perfectly good plane, 14,000 feet high, strapped to a man you just met.
My fear of heights would debilitate me. I couldn’t even climb on the roof of a house or walk over a foot bridge without having a panic attack. As the years have passed, I have challenged myself in different ways to face my fear head on with the hope to one day overcome it. Skydiving was at the pinnacle of this fear. And whilst I wasn’t sure it would cure my fear of heights, I was sure that if I did manage to pluck up the courage to do it then it would put me in control of my fear.
As I approached 30, I wanted to do something exciting and memorable to celebrate my birthday so I turned to my bucket list for inspiration. Skydiving. The mere thought of it made me sick. But it was a milestone birthday, so I sucked it up and made the commitment. I chose Skydive Jurien Bay because of the spectacular views of the ocean.
I woke up on my birthday with heart palpitations and knots in my stomach when the realisation kicked in that I was actually going through with this. Happy Birthday to me!
At the office, I tried to remain calm as I stared blankly through the safety briefing, got kitted up and met my instructor. My instructor ‘Belgi’ (because he is from Belgium) was awesome. He was cool, calm and collected and sensing I was petrified, made an effort to distract me by joking around about the wedgy the harness was giving me, chatting about how many jumps he has done and why he now calls Jurien Bay home.
Getting into the plane I felt pretty claustrophobic. It was a small plane and there wasn’t much room to move once all 16 of us were packed in. Strapped to Belgi with the parachutes on his back I felt very restricted and tried to focus on my breathing.
Our 20 minute ascent up to 14,000 feet seemed like forever although Belgi did a good job of keeping my mind occupied, joking around and filming me on his GoPro.
When we arrived at 14,000 feet, the doors were opened and it was at that moment that I felt this overwhelming sense of TERROR. The sound of the wind hurling through the plane door was nothing like I have ever experienced before and it didn’t help that we were last to jump so I was forced to listen to the screams of fear and panic from my peers as they jumped before me.
I don’t really remember anything Belgi said to me as he ushered me towards the plane door. Trying to maintain my composure, I was frozen still as Belgi pushed me out of the plane.
Falling at speeds of over 200 km/h, it took a while for my brain to catch up to what was actually happening. When I did eventually open my eyes, I looked around to see nothing but blue sky. I could barely hear my thoughts over the sound of the wind and the airspeed quickly built up until we reached terminal velocity giving us 60 seconds of free fall. These 60 seconds felt like 6 minutes, with no perception of time or space.
On the plane, Belgi kept telling me to make sure I kept my mouth shut during the freefall, and now I know why – check out my many faces in the video!
Belgi deployed our parachute at 5000 feet which propelled us back up before spending 5 minutes floating gradually back down to the ground. After I calmed myself down I was able to look around and appreciate the magnificent coastal views and reflect on what I had just done.
We made a soft landing on the beach – I have never been happier to plant my feet on the ground! Giving Belgi a hug of gratitude I felt pretty proud of myself for what I had accomplished.
Would I do it again? No thanks. Although it was an amazing and worthwhile experience, it served its purpose. It was a memorable way to spend my 30th birthday and has put my fear of heights into perspective. Thanks Belgi and the team at Skydive Jurien Bay for looking after me.
Has skydiving made your bucket list? Share your stories below.