Take the plunge

Take the plunge

skydiving

Take the plunge

Tension is slowly building up. Do I, don’t I? Well, the Hamletian dilemma is about skydiving. I am in New Zealand, considered the safest place for adventure sports, and I have successfully attempted skywalking and kayaking.

And enjoyed them. But, skydiving is different, right? It demands a streak of craziness to launch yourself off an aeroplane from a mindboggling altitude. A non-adventurous person like me, who’s always chosen safe options, cannot do it, I’m sure. So the decision is made. I am NOT going to attempt skydiving.

Nevertheless, I go to Skydive Abel Tasman near Nelson, New Zealand, as my fellow journalists are looking forward to skydive. The place has a surreal feel to it. It is one of New Zealand’s longest-running tandem and skydive training centres, operating since 1991. Owned and operated by Stuart Bean, one of New Zealand’s most experienced and award-wining skydivers, this centre has seen over 90,000 people skydive.

A dilemma solved

Situated at Motueka Airport, in the lap of pristine nature, amidst tall mountains, green trees, clean air and blue beaches, the place is teeming with adventure enthusiasts talking excitedly about their skydiving experience. The expression on their faces is saying it all — that it is the best day of their lives. I sit around, fidgeting. Now I’m not sure whether my decision to skip it is right. To add to my confusion, my teammates say, “If you don’t do it now, when else will you do it? Also, if not here, where else will you do it?” They have a point. I’m already in my mid-40s. I rush towards the counter to sign up for it. I blindly put my signature on all the papers given to me, signing away all liability to the company for injury. I’m a bundle of nerves. My only consolation is, I’m going tandem, which means I will be strapped to a professional.

Next, my weight is checked and I’m handed an appropriate jumpsuit to wear and a pair of goggles. The orange jumpsuit is no less than a space suit. I feel delirious. I’m then introduced to my tandem instructor, Evan. A friendly face with a warm smile. I feel reassured. I have opted for an individual photographer to capture my experience, and he ‘interviews’ me on how I’m feeling. He shows me the video and the still cameras on his helmet, operated by a bite switch, so that none of my ‘action’ can be missed. I’m like, “Yeah, if I’m still alive to see it after this.” Evan pats me on my shoulder saying, “We have not had a single accident in the 25 years of our existence.” I don’t know what to say.

I’m quickly led to a 10-seater plane, a Pilatus Porter PC-6 aircraft, where there are already 7 of them, including my photographer, seated. Evan and I sit on the floor of the aircraft, right next to the exit door. It means, I’ll be first one to jump out. I panic. He tries to calm my nerves by pointing at the scenic splendour unfolding below. I’m too tense to enjoy.

As the aircraft gains an altitude of 13,000 feet, Evan opens the door and cold wind gushes in. It is freezing cold, but I’m sweating profusely. The photographer steps out first, hanging outside of the plane to capture my exit. Reality hits me hard. I cannot backtrack now. I HAVE to do it. Before I know, both me and Evan are almost outside the plane. I try to grab on to anything that’ll stop me from jumping out. But, I’m strapped to Evan, and I’m sure he has handled chicken-hearted souls like me before. For, he gently pushes my legs out of the aircraft, and off I go with him, on a somersault, suspended in the air. The freefall, lasting 45 seconds, is absolute bliss.

Hurtling down at a speed of 200 km/h, I feel the force of wind against me. Words cannot do justice to the emotional high I’m experiencing. My senses go numb. My list of adjectives seems inadequate. My arms are spread out as the force of the wind is such. I feel elated. I gaze down at the landscape below, and it’s breathtakingly beautiful. Awesome adventure in a surreal setting. Once the parachute is released, my journey downwards is controlled. From up here, I have a bird’s eyeview of nature’s grand spectacle. I drink in the beauty of the picturesque landscape.

Tranquil descent

As I float gently down to land, I realise it’s the closest I will ever come to flying like a bird. I want the experience to go on. If only that is possible...

At the drop zone, I thank Evan profusely for making my skydive an awesome experience, and plonk myself down on a beanbag. I’m not able to wipe the smile off my face. I sit there, dumbfounded, reliving every moment of my exhilarating experience.

On my drive back to Nelson, I grab an ice cream in boysenberry flavour. Instant sugar rush is what I need at this point in time. Relishing every scoop of the cold treat I’m giving myself, I realise I have finally overcome my fears. The fear of adventure, the fear of heights. I have just launched myself off an airplane, at an altitude of 13,000 feet, turned somersault in the air, and experienced the thrill of soaring like an eagle in the sky. I cannot believe myself. Life is all about rediscovering oneself, ain’t it?

Fact File

Getting there: Skydive Abel Tasman is well-connected by road from Nelson, 47 km away.  There is also a free shuttle from Nelson.

 Age limit: Good health is the only criteria for those over 18. Parental consent is a must for minors, while children below 12 years of age would be evaluated on an individual basis.

Weight limit: 110 kg per tandem passenger.
Clothing: Comfortable clothes; shoes — preferably with laces.
Best time: Weather-permitting, any season of the year is good.
For more details: Email tandem@skydive.co.nz; or visit www.skydive.co.nz



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