05 Apr Falling Through Fear – Our Abel Tasman Skydive
‘Here we go’, says my Tandem skydiver, manoeuvring me towards the edge of bottomless blue. I feel the rush of air as the plane door opens; hear the thunder of the engine, the roar of the wind and somewhere in the distance a voice in my ear telling me to tilt my head back.
I don’t remember seeing anything in those last few seconds, but the photos show my eyes are wide open, staring at the bright ceiling above as if in silent prayer. My only memory of dangling 13,000 feet in the air is the electric terror, of feeling every fibre of my body scream in unison:
And then we fell.
Our Abel Tasman Skydive Experience
Throughout our first few weeks in New Zealand I carried a faint, nagging dread around with me. To start with I could easily shove the feeling away into the furthermost corner of my mind, but as the days wore on it refused to stay put and began building to a deafening crescendo until it finally arrived: the day I was due to jump out of a plane – the day of my skydive.
My palms began to prickle as we drove towards Motueka airport. The sun loomed high and round above us, suspended on a blue canvas decorated with occasional cotton-wool clouds – perfect conditions for skydiving. There was barely time to think as we got into our jumpsuits and harnesses and were given our safety instructions. Andrew was a ball of excitement next to me, pointing out the colourful dots descending through the sky above us as the first load of jumpers fell back to earth.
My fear expanded the further up we climbed in our tiny plane. My skydive partner helped to distract me by pointing out landmarks through the plane window; Abel Tasman National Park, Mount Taranaki and the Cook Straight. No one ever gave me the chance to back out, which I’m grateful for. Once the plane door opened everything moved so quickly; I was suspended over the edge for only a few terrifying seconds before we tipped into nothingness.
That was it – a rushing sensation, the air battering my face, pounding and stretching my cheeks; the never-ending panic of feeling nothing beneath me; my whimpers snatched away by the wind. For a few seconds I could only focus on the sensation of falling, then, as my eyes adjusted I saw the dizzying whirl of green and blue beneath me, the ground a mess of colour. The cameraman appeared in front of me, reaching out his hand. As if in slow motion I struggled to grab him, battling against the wind resistance as we sped downwards at 120 miles per hour for a full 45 seconds.
A sudden jolt and I was pulled upright into silence, I hadn’t realised how noisy the wind had been until the parachute opened. My ears popped from the pressure and I finally caught my breath, relief loosening my chest. This was my favourite part, floating high over the toy-town below, drifting down through cloud over the fields and mountains as calm settled over me – there aren’t any words to describe how incredible that was. To give you some idea of what the experience was like, here’s the video of my skydive; I think it’s amazing that my panic didn’t show through more in the footage – I’m so glad that I have this to remember my experience by:
Without a doubt skydiving was the most amazing thing I’ve done on our trip so far. There aren’t many ways you can experience that kind of immense fear but survive; and I was able to push through that fear. In the same way that the build up to this trip was scary and nerve-racking, so too was ascending in that plane, getting ready to jump. Those seconds of hanging over the precipice, followed by that wild, uncontrollable freefall – that’s what the first few weeks of this trip have been like for me. Now, finally, I feel my parachute has opened, the rushing has stopped, my heartbeat is settling and I’m beginning to really enjoy the journey.
Andrew’s Skydiving Experience
It’s amazing that although Andrew and I both skydived we had such completely different experiences. As you can see from his account Andrew took on the challenge with his signature nonchalance!
“Here we go Andrew; you’re about to take-off in a plane and not land in it!” Great, I though, I couldn’t wait, I just wanted to get up there and jump. The anticipation I felt was nothing like Amy’s; where she couldn’t wait because she wanted it over and done with, I couldn’t wait to get up there and savour the experience.
I think my video tells it well in that I have no message as this isn’t something I see as terrifying and need to give my ‘last words’. I was simply thinking about what it might feel like when I was flying through the air.
We were given instructions before we took-off, to ‘pull the banana’ (meaning to make a banana shape with your body; head and legs stretching backwards) but I wanted to see where I was going and so had to lean forward as we were on the edge. What a view!
When it was my turn, I had seen Amy and another jumper leave, and was itching to go, I was expecting to wait a bit longer but off we went, hurtling face-first towards earth at 200 kph. The camera-man came towards me and I couldn’t take the smile off my face, this was amazing, such a rush.
The only drawback was that it seemed to go too quickly, the freefall only lasted 45 seconds but seemed to be over much quicker. The slower part was also great to be able to take in the views of Abel Tasman, from what we’ve seen in New Zealand so far, I think this was the best place to have done a skydive, I couldn’t think of anywhere with a better view. I even saw my shadow in the clouds circled by a rainbow!
As we landed, I was asked how I felt, and all I could say was that I wanted to do this again; if money was no object I would start every day like this!
*Our Abel Tasman Skydive cost £150 per person for a 13,000 ft jump. The video and picture package cost an extra £100 per person; we received a 10% discount.