terminal:velocity

terminal:velocity, originally uploaded by monkey_pushover_tree.

Sunday, I reached terminal velocity. I became the man that fell to earth at around 125mph. Still thinking of it now gives me a rush.

beforejump

Before the jump with the harness on. Going for "training"

So how do you describe such a thing. Well, best to start from the when you first turn up at the Skydive the Beach office. I’m been looking forward to the whole thing and wasn’t worried. The office in Wollongong is a small affair, with a tv showing others jumping and some B.A.S.E. Jumpers doing their stuff. Duality by Slipknot was playing in the background, which was cool. I had that track on my ipod, so I was enjoying the whole thing. Some of the others around us were showing the signs of nerves and the watching of people jumping from planes, was making it all seem very real.

You then fill in the forms, the usual stuff; you accept this is dangerous, you can die, that you are not medically incapable etc oh and next of kin details in case something does go wrong. Plus you have to give your weight. This is so they can match you up with the right person. Even with all of this, I didn’t really think anything would go wrong. I guess part of this comes from climbing and trusting the system. That and there was very little I would be able to do about it anyway. So after you fill in all the forms, you get given an pair of over pants to wear and the option of a fleece. Then you’re supposed to go wait outside.

When we got outside there was group coming into land. All very graceful and looking like they were having fun. There was one kid flapping his arms and screaming “I’m flying! I’m flying!”. This all just made me want to do the jump some more. There was also a girl that when she landed, ran off to get sick, but I guess this is not for everyone

A few minutes after this, we were ushered around to the side of the building to get the gear on. You put one foot in each leg loop, then they haul the rest of the harness over your shoulders. Easy as. Then, they tighten up some the straps, double backing everything. This was all just like a full body climbing harness, if anything, it felt a lot more comfortable at this point.

The you meet the people that you are going to be attached to for the fall. In my case, I had Greg aka arnie. Here is what the Sky Dive the Beach people say about him:

“The original terminator, Arnie is our very own bionic man…..well he did have a hip replacement in November 2006, and was jumping again within 3 months! With over 10,000 skydives, Greg is holds an Instructor A rating (the highest instructional rating possible). He started jumping as a naive 22 year old while in San Diego on a navy trip. Greg has achievements aplenty under his belt, including being a gold medal winning world champion, and Australian champion 5 times over, his most recent is a 25 way canopy formation Australian record early in 2007. This father of one has a dream holiday destination…..Santorini.”

cessna

our plane, which I only have a 1 way ticket for

I didn’t know this at the time, but it’s not like you get to choose who you jump with. I don’t think it would have made a difference to me either; I was looking forward to doing it and not nervous. They joke around with you any way, I guess this is to make sure that you’re feeling okay and relaxed about the whole thing.

cessnagettingon

Getting on the Cessna for the jump

Next comes the training…there really isn’t that much of that. You are all kneeling down. You put your head back; arms crossed across your chest and then thrust your hips forward keeping your back arched. Then you’ll get tapped on the shoulder and you can put your arms out.
For landing grab your legs and slide on your bum. Don’t stand up until they say it’s okay to. We run through this twice… it’s simple nothing to it.

Then Greg was back out with a video camera; all of them where. They are talking to you and filming you. Asking how you are feeling how things are going etc. This is a reoccurring thing as they get the photos from the video, or if you are having a dvd made this is what it’s made up off. Then all onto the bus we go; it’s off to Illawarra airport.

The twenty minute ride is kind of quite. There is an air of apprehension. Jokes are made, but you get the feeling that people are getting nervous now. It really didn’t take that long to get to Illawarra. There was also a moment of realisation that it was that airport that we were jumping from. It’s one we pass on the way to climbing at Nowra. For me this seemed all familiar; I knew where we were so it’s all good.

The plane was refueling when we turned up, so there was another wait of five minutes. During this time, the instructors are rechecking the harnesses that you are wearing and putting on the packs. More jokes and video happens. Finally, the plane taxis around the corner. We wait on the grass until its turned around.

It’s a noisy Cessna Caravan 208 in the Jump the Beach livery. The first thing you notice is the very large door opening. That’s going to be the exit at 14000 feet. There is a rusting yellow ladder that is propped up against the door. You clamber up it and the next odd thing appears. You sit backwards, between the legs of a person behind you (your instructor). Eventually everyone climbs in. The plane is noisy; it’s not like anything you go on holiday on. You can here the prop roar as we taxi out to the runway. We had to sit here for a while as a microlight landed. “Bugsquisher, we call them, Bugsquisher” shouted Greg to me.

I’m still all a bit nonchalant about this. I’ve been in planes big and small and we’re just waiting for take off. Finally, the bugsquisher lands and gets out the way. We start the take off; it’s a slow trundle down the run way building up speed. Finally we’re up, no turning back now. I’m looking out the window enjoying the scenery. There is some cloud cover coming in, but most is still visible.

4500feetplane

The view from 4500 feet

4500feetalt

see, 4500 feet (well almost)

About five minutes in, we look really high up. Things look small, you can see the for miles around. Greg shoves the camera in my face again. “How you feeling now? Still looking forward to this?” Yes and yes are my replies. He then shows me the altimeter. We are only at 4500 feet…we still have another 9500 to go. Things look small at this height anyway, God knows how much smaller they are going to get. Back to making jokes.

It’s all uneventful until the call for 5 minutes goes out. Then people start getting serious. It’s the most serious that I’ve seen the instructors get since we started. Goggles go on. They fit tight against your face. The comfortable harness now gets tightened. Greg had warned me earlier that it would get tighter. It’s really tight and restrictive now and I’m also a lot closer to Greg than I have been since we started this thing. I’m finally hooked up against him.

The three mile light pops on – it’s red. I’m not sure how many others notice it. We are getting really close now. Greg goes through what we are going to do; Swing leg over the seat here, shuffle on knees to the door, head back, arch back, tap tap tap, open arms, smile for camera!

1 mile orange light goes on…The door is slid open. Suddenly it’s cold. The air is rushing in…this all feels very real now. I’m still not really worried though. Green.

The two next to do the door suddenly fall out. They are gone as if they never sat in the plane. Then someone else shuffles next to the door. The have there head up and they are gone… we are shuffling towards the door. Michelle goes. The plane is getting really empty. The guys in front of me move to the door. Greg says, we’re going straight after them. They then disappear from view. I shuffle to the door.

getting ready for the jump; less than five minutes to go.

getting ready for the jump; less than five minutes to go.

I look down. “Holy F&*k” goes through my head for the first time in this whole adventure. 14000 feet straight down, looks really high up. I mean much higher than it did when you look out the plan window. Staring at the ground from an open door is something else. That moment lasted a long time in my head. In reality it was a second or two. Head back says Greg…I did that. I was looking up, but I don’t remember what I saw. Maybe the sky, maybe the sun. I also don’t know what was said next. Adrenalin kicked in.

What I do remember is the fall.

Everything that I’d read about this is that you don’t get the stomach leaving your body sensation that you get on roller coaster ride. I did for the briefest of moments. I didn’t feel sick, but the adrenalin was flowing now. Yes at this moment I was scared; a lot scared. A I’m going to die moment goes off in my head. I’m out of control here and I have no idea how to control this. It was like taking a climbing fall but longer. I was waiting to feel the rope and harness bite, someone to catch me. Nothing. That’s was about 2 seconds of freefall.

The noise gets you next. It’s unbelievable just how noisy falling through air is. It’s also warm. Imagine 100 hair dryers hitting your body and you get the picture. I was only wearing a t-shirt, and It was nice and warm. Up to about 3 seconds now.

Then your mouth dries. The air is rushing in; you can’t really scream or cry out anymore. Maybe 5 secs now.

Then you remember to look. I can’t really remember what I saw at this time. It’s all a blur. If anything, it was sensory overload. Nothing I have ever done has been like this before; we’re only 10 seconds in.

the WHOOO HOOO moment during freefall

the WHOOO HOOO moment during freefall

Tap tap tap on my shoulder. I open my arms. I can now feel the force of wind against my hands. The feeling is awesome. It’s effort to push down now. Like pushing against a wall almost. It’s also getting noisier. Greg is panning the camera up and down. I’m screaming “WHOOOO HOOOO” at the camera. This part is cool and you’re still falling. You forget you are doing 125mph. You don’t know you are doing 125mph either. I can see the earth spinning below me. Of course, we are spinning in relation to it. I’m thinking how do I control the direction (all pointless I know, but hey).

flying

Floating after free fall

A cloud that was below me, now appears in front of me. The earth is still far away. Next it’s violent jolt and the chute opens. It really is quite loud and forceful. Slowing down from 125mph is something else again. I don’t know how long we fell for. Maybe 40 secs, maybe longer.

Now it’s quite, peaceful. I can feel my heart beating; it’s fast. I’ve hit terminal velocity and it was awesome. My senses are returning to me.
I can look around. The ground looks as far as it did when we were at 4500 feet in the plane; still a long way away. I can see others with their chutes open drifting around.

That’s the thing. You really don’t feel like you are falling at this point in time. It’s like you are just static floating in the air. You can see the coast and it looks amazing. The clouds are above you and to the side. Greg hands over the controls of for the chute. I’m now controlling the parachute. I’m told to pull on the right handle, and we turn sharply right.

In control of it all!

In control of it all!

There are a couple of times where Greg says look to the left (for the camera) and I look right…obviously, still in the rush. For couple of minutes we do this. Turning left and right. You can see the surfers in wash paddling out. Greg points out the oval and the lighthouse. Everything looks like a model. I can barely see my car.

Greg then takes back the controls. I double check that he has them before I let go. That’s the climber in me, I can hear myself saying have you got me, have you got me?

He says we are going to practice the landing. So that’s what we do. i pull up my legs. It’s harder now with someone strapped onto me. Greg also says that we will be coming in fast as there is little ground wind. The oval is a lot closer now. We do a sharp turn right and you can feel that we are loosing height at this point. “Legs Up”. Another sharp turn to the left and we are heading to the oval.

legs up

legs up

Dam we are coming in fast, like really fast. “Legs up higher”; I try but I can’t get them higher… I doesn’t really matter though. We skid on our butts and come to a halt. I’m back on terra firma and have survived the jump. I thank Greg for the jump and shake his hand. More camera stuff; asking how it was… it was AWESOME!

Greg also says that the more you do it, the longer freefall feels. The more you can take in. That’s something that I would like to see again.

I look around at the others who are landed or coming into land. Everyone made it; everyone has that same smile that I have on my face. We all talk about our jumps and how it felt. Everyone says similar things, laughing about the same stuff.

It’s been more that 24 hours since I landed. I’m still buzzing and shaking over this. My mouth goes dry when I think of the sight from 14000 feet to the ground; I want to remember those first 10 seconds more clearly. I want to do it again…I want that rush one more time.

Back on Terra Firma

Back on Terra Firma

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~ by monkeypushovertree on April 6, 2009.

4 Responses to “terminal:velocity”

  1. Congratulations! We’d love to use parts of your story as testimonials for our website – http://www.uspa.org/BecomeaSkydiver/YourFirstJump.aspx. E-mail me at lkjeldsen@uspa.org if you’re interested.

    Oh, and – keep jumping 😉 http://www.uspa.org/BecomeaSkydiver/KeepSkydiving.aspx – that’s more for jumping in the U.S. but the Australian Parachute Federation (APF, our Aussie counterpart) also has great info – http://www.apf.asn.au.

  2. hey tim! cool account/recount. awesome. i’m jealous. always wanted to do this. now perhaps the motivation is closer again. my sis jumped years back. and at the time, for her 1st jump, it was cool to jump alone, not tandem. she had to pull the chute herself. can you imagine? the sensory overload alone can make you paralysed to act out anything. man…thanks for the link back here to your blog…i’ll bookmark and stay in touch. hope all is well with you and miche. any news? ciao and take care.

  3. I really want to do the jump by myself now. I still think of the jump that I did now and then, more than I expected I would. It’s something that I didn’t think would effect me as much as It did. You should really try a jump; it’s unbelievable!

  4. When you mention the sound of the air during freefall and the sensory overload I was right there with you. Been two weeks since my tandem jump and I still have that feeling of I gotta do it again. And I will.

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