Last August for HA's birthday, I bought him a gift certificate from RedBalloons.com.au. Red Balloon allows people to purchase experiences rather than things. I bought him this gift certificate with the anticipation that he would use it to do the V8 Driving experience (similar to the Nascar driving experience). I knew it was something he wanted to do but would never buy for himself. Unfortunately, we were never able to coordinate a weekend in Sydney or Brisbane when they were having that particular experience.
So back in May, HA realized he needed to use these gift certificates before they expired (it's still legal for them to expire in Australia). So, he went through their website to figure out which experience he wanted to do. He settled on skydiving in Wollongong over the pacific and landing on the beach. This was something else he had always wanted to do so he was super excited about it. He asked me if I was interested and I said "Yeah sure, I'll call tomorrow to book in".
As work would distract me during the day and the office was closed after 5pm (as everything is in Australia), I never got around to booking in - not that I was too terribly upset about that. In the meantime, HA had talked our friend MayDay into joining him. So now, I was being badgered to book in on two fronts.
The weekend of the jump came and HA, MayDay, and some other friends all went to Sydney for the weekend (Wollongong is a short drive from Sydney). On Saturday morning, I made the mistake of saying "It's too bad I never was able to book in to join you" to which HA responds "well, give them a call and see if they still have space". Dang it - bad move on my part. So because I'm sitting right next to him, i have to call, and wouldn't you know it - they have an opening and I sign up.
The next day we wake up bright and early to drive out to Wollongong and we're hungover, of course. We get to the drop zone on the beach go in to let them know we're there. The first thing we do is weigh in. If you're more than 88 kg's, there's a surcharge and they have to match you with a person that can manage the weight. Then they take us out and have us put on parachute pants and a harness. They quickly give us a safety lesson which consists of: get on your knees, arms crossed, head back, and do everything your partner says! Ok, sounds easy enough. Then I meet my partner. She's about 5ft (if that) and about 90 lbs. Really, this woman is going to carry me and jump out of a plane with me?? I'm twice her size..maybe even three times her size. We will NEVER stop falling through the sky - I'm going to weigh us down! I take a deep breathe and remind myself that they do this for a living and know what they're doing.
They quickly bus us out to the air field and load us up into the plane. HA and I were able to be next to each other but MayDay was a few people in front of us. The plane takes off and we slowly circle up to our drop altitude. At five minutes before the drop, we all start harnessing to our partners and they roll open the door.
This is where things get interesting.
The guy closest to the door starts scooting over and then they are suddenly gone. It's as if they were sucked right out of the plane. It suddenly dawns on me that I'M JUMPING OUT OF A PLANE. I sub-consciously start to dig my feet in so we can't move. All of the people on the plane are one-by-one being sucked out and my stomach is doing flip flops. Next, I watch MayDay scoot up to the door. He's on his knees looking down and he looks absolutely terrified. I start screaming his name but he can't hear me and then he's gone.
My partner is slowly pushing me towards the door. She's half my size but she's able to maneuver me. I start screaming "Why are we doing this?? Do we really want to do this?? I don't think we should do this!" No one can hear me though. I look back at HA and he's smiling and laughing like we're at the carnival. I knew I was going to get no help from him.
The next thing I know, she's pushing my head back onto her shoulder and we are falling through the sky. After a few seconds, she screams at me that I can move my head and gives me a thumbs up sign. I know I need to signal to her that I haven't passed out so I give a thumbs up back. But I truly believe that i have stopped breathing. I don't know if i was saying it out loud or just thinking it in my head but I just kept saying "make it stop, I want this to stop, make it stop". In order to focus, I started taking deep breathes and trying to focus on one spot. I had stopped screaming, and I think breathing, but my partner kept tapping me on the shoulder and giving me an OK sign to make sure I was ok.
I'm beginning to think that I really am going to plummet to my death. I'm thinking my parents are going to kill me for not telling them that I did this. And who's going to call them? Does HA have my parents phone number? How will my body get back to the US or will they just bury me in Australia? Will there BE a body to bury?? And just when I've resigned myself, the chute is pulled and we start floating - literally floating.
Suddenly, this is ok. It's so peaceful and quiet. My partner takes off my goggles, that I now realize is wet on the inside - presumable from crying. If I was crying from fear or from the wind rushing onto my face, I'm not sure. But I'm suddenly having alot of fun. We do some spiraling with the chute and I get to see forever across the ocean. I realize THIS is why people skydive. Well maybe not - but this is why I skydived.
We slowly make our way to the drop zone. I can see that MayDay has already landed and is waiting for HA and I. I pull my legs up and land on my bum. As I'm sitting there getting disentangled from my partner, my body is fully shaking - my hands, my legs, my stomach. I'm afraid to stand up for fear that my legs will give out. MayDay joins me and he looks like I feel. We both agree that we don't ever want to do this again.
About this time HA comes bouncing up to us "Hey guys, wanna do it again?? Let's do it again!!" MayDay and I look at him like he's growing a second head and walk off. We capped off the day with a couple pitchers of beer and lunch on the water.
Skydiving was an experience that I'm glad I've done. I faced a fear and I made it through it. However, I don't think I'll ever do it again. I'm fairly certain I stopped breathing and my heart may have stopped beating at one point.
I didn't get any pictures done, which I now regret, but this may be what I looked like.