A couple of years ago to mark my 30th Birthday I wanted to try something a little different.
Some friends challenged me to do a Tandem Skydive to mark the occasion, which in theory sounded right up my street. A little bit bonkers, fun and outside my comfort zone.
Lord knows I’ve tried crazier things in the two years since.
However, I am terrified of heights. Worse than that, when I’m at an altitude at, say 20 feet up and without a protective railing, I always feel the irrational urge to jump – whether it be a cliff edge, or top of a stairwell.
I researched online and found a couple of places that offer skydiving in Ireland. I opted for skydive.ie – the Parachute Club in Clonbullogue, Co.Offally, because of the strength of the testimonials and its proximity to Dublin.
I arrived at the skydiving centre at 8am that Saturday morning. I shouldn’t have been so keen. Although ‘first come, first served’ basis was in operation, the weather wasn’t ideal which pushed jump times out indefinitely. The wind had picked up but was forecast to calm down for the late morning.
The canteen facilities weren’t the best, but at least it offered a relatively warm place to stay indoors. With the site being surrounded by fields there were few distractions, making time drag, frazzling my nerve ends.
An expected 2 hour wait turned into 6 hours before my name was finally called to get strapped up for the Tandem dive. Suited and Booted, I met my instructor who was a big lad and carrying a bit of timber. Combined, our 400+ lbs would be dropping like a stone from 10,000 feet.
Around 2pm, when I received my final instructions Joe walked me around to the little tin can Cessna plane where four passengers and their instructors were already waiting for us. We climbed in through the only entrance and as the door closed on us, I realised that it would be last in – first out.
At this point, I began to shit myself. Big time.
To compound matters, I had eaten nothing the entire day and my blood sugar level had dropped what with the constant spikes in my adrenaline and lack of food.
By the time we were in the clouds, I had an amazing view as we were rocked around in the air. Every little tremor and vibration was felt as I hooked into my instructor’s lap behind me.
The noise was deafening in the plane and Joe was shouting instructions in my ear. I was so light headed that I just smiled and laughed, not straining to hear him.
Suddenly he opened the side door, and I was confronted with the sheer drop. It was surreal. It was like I was detached from my body and simply looking on in some zen state of calm. In that precise moment, as fatalistic as it sounds, I accepted that I was going to die.
We shimmied into position on the little platform, feet dangling over the edge before he gave the countdown.
“3. 2. 1..”
There was a distinct moment of clarity as we left the plane. People talk a lot about living in the moment. There is no greater example of this than hurtling toward the ground at 120 mph – you can’t help but be PRESENT!
That freefall seemed to last forever. In reality it lasted around 6 seconds, but it was a magical sense of freedom to be in flight – shooting through the clouds to be presented with a Google Earth birds eye view, which was spectacular.
The wind was buffeting me from below, rippling through my fatty face folds. It felt like a long time for the parachute to finally open. When it did I felt a huge wave of relief.
I’d like to say that our slow descent to terra firma was enjoyable, and that I had a chance to appreciate the beauty of the surrounding land. But I didn’t.
I was so exhausted and energy depleted that even when Joe passed me the controls to steer us home, I could barely muster the strength to raise my hands.
I felt sick. My face blanched white and because the instructor was video recording the descent, I was desperate not to chunder in front of the camera and over the ant people far below us. I was incredibly grateful to reach ground in one piece.
Had I properly hydrated and taken some food on board, I’m sure it would have been overall amazing – but, I just wanted to survive it and tick that one off the bucket list!