The Jump

Me, leaping to an uncertain conclusion.

Me, leaping to an uncertain conclusion.

The day started just like any other day. I woke up and as I made myself breakfast, my sister came in and asked me if I'd like to go skydiving. Before I'd thought about it too much, I responded with an immediate "Yeah. Sounds fun."

After I'd worked out what someone wears when they go skydiving, I packed a bag and we set off to the local air field.

It turns out that when you do a tandem jump, they usually pair you up with someone who is a similar size to you.

Now I've always thought that when I was born, my family took the wrong baby home from the hospital. While my Mum, Dad and sister are all smaller in stature, I'm like a hulk that was beamed down from a visiting alien spaceship. People always tell me how surprised they are when they see me in real life.

"You're a lot bigger than I thought."

So, while my sister was paired with a sparrow-sized gentleman who looked like the poster-child for a safe skydiving experience, I was paired up with a monster-sized guy who was nursing a hangover.

As I started taking in the sights and sounds of the skydiving airfield, the breeze brought snatches of conversation from my sister's instructor over to me. I turned to my instructor who was semi-slumped against a wall.

"Anything I should know mate?"

He mumbled, "Go listen to what that bloke is saying," and nodded towards my sister and her instructor.

I rushed over, just in time to hear "...and that's all there is to know having a safe skydive," from my sister's instructor as he then walked away to check on the parachutes.

My sister was beaming - ready with all the knowledge she needed to safely jump out of an airplane.

I looked back at my instructor who was all but collapsed against the side of the building.

We soon ended up all kitted out and sitting on the floor of a small plane with a big roller door on the side. We circled up and up and up - ever higher into the sky.

I kept looking from my sister and her beaming, confident face, and then over to my instructor who let out an occasional noxious belch.

Someone tapped me on the shoulder. It was the camera operator I'd hired to document my experience. He was also beaming and alive. I could see the endorphins in his twinkling eyes. I felt like a member of a cult. The cult of adrenalin. Did I want to drink the Kool-aid?

Soon enough, the door was opened and people lined up by the exit.

"Should I really be doing this?" I began to question myself. I felt myself being strapped and locked to my fellow man-mountain slash instructor slash hungover dude slash the guy who would either kill me or keep me alive.

We waddled awkwardly to the door, all arms and legs.

The camera operator had switched his helmet camera on and had swung effortlessly out through the door and was standing nonchalantly on one of the wheel struts of the airplane as though being 12,000 metres up in the air was just like standing on a lawn.

In the footage I later watched, you can see some weird four-armed, four-legged man with my face and someone else legs pause slightly at the door and then roll outwards.

My sister and her sparrow-sized instructor seemed to defy the laws of gravity as they gracefully took to the sky. A sugar-glider would have seemed like a Volvo estate wagon compared to their beautiful aerodynamics.

Myself and my similar sized instructor, both locked together with the cruelest straps and carabiners were anything but aerodynamic. We hurtled to earth like a meteor from a far flung galaxy that had finally expended all it's potential to then burn up in the atmosphere before leaving a huge crater for people to build lake cabins around on lifestyle television shows.

On the footage I later watched, we went from filling the camera by the doorway to the plane to then milliseconds later becoming a spec in the clouds. You could almost hear the camera operator suddenly realise that he'd somehow need to catch us if he wanted more than that one second of footage for his client.

On action movies, you'll often see the hero go into what I think is called a "Zenith Dive", where he or she will form a sleek aerodynamic shape with their body which then causes them to accelerate through the skies like an arrow. This is exactly what the camera operator did to try and recapture the spec in the distance that was me and my instructor plummeting from view.

Meanwhile, my sister and her diminutive instructor had decided to stay up as long as they liked. They were like an autumnal leaf.

My camera operator finally caught us, as on the footage we grew into cameras eye. It's at this stage that you can clearly see me opening out my arms like I'd seen my sister and her instructor do from across the airfield as he showed her some various moves they might attempt.

And so I spread out my arms like the eagle I'd imagined and in the footage you can see my once bleary-eyed instructor find a sudden hit of adrenalin and start frantically tapping me on my shoulders to pull my **** arms back in.

He'd had enough. He deployed the parachute.

Up until the parachute deployed, I must admit that I was having a great time. Adrenalin had kicked in and I was just loving it!

"Oh, to be able to do this forever!" I thought. "I'm flying! I'm flying!"

And then the parachute opened. PHHUMMPH! In a microsecond, we went from hurtling to earth to BANG! parachute open and an immediate stop.

"I think I've ruptured something! I think I've ruptured something!" my brain screamed.

It turns out that the parachute did such a great job of stopping us that it actually compressed my whole body. As we continued to float under the canopy of the parachute, I thought, "I think I'm going to black out."

The thrill of flying was now a distant half-forgotten memory. I felt like I was being sawn in half.

The adrenalin of the jump had certainly cleared my instructor's face and demeanour. He stiffened his feet and I kind of stood on his insteps to try and get some relief from my harness. While he laughed out loud, I outwardly groaned.

The ground started to look closer, and closer. And closer.

At the last minute, my instructor flared the parachute and we landed perfectly on our feet. He might have had to hold me upright, mind you.

Eventually, he unclipped me. I tore off my harness, which I'm sure had shrunk to half its original size. I cast a glance into the heavens and saw a far off dot in the sky that was my sister. She and her waif-like instructor hadn't decided to come down just yet. I caught a reflection off their toothy grins as they basked in the freedom of flight.

My instructor was a different man from who I'd met just an hour or two earlier. The hung-over nauseous wreck had become a laughing, healthy man, full of life and verve. As we waited for what seemed like an hour for my sister and her instructor to land, he heartily slapped me on the shoulder before grinning his way off to the parachute storage shed.

Eventually my sister came down to earth.

When I arrived home, I began changing out of my parachuting clothes and stood there amazed. My body was marked in a very odd way. Wherever the harness had been, broken blood vessels had formed, which made it look like the harness was still being worn (albeit in red welts). It took about a month for the blood vessels to clear themselves up and the welts to fade. (It made for some awkward beach visits). Where two of the harness buckles had been near the top of my legs were scars which I still can see all these years later.

I ask myself "Was it worth that few seconds of sheer adrenalin between the airplane door opening and the parachute slamming open?"

I'd always answer myself with a big, "YES!"

Have I been back for more skydiving jumps?...

David Willersdorf is a singer-songwriter, traveller and food and coffee enthusiast


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