By Claire Martin
You’re up ten thousand feet in a plane that’s about the same size of a small car. You’re wearing a faded all in one suit, a rubber hat and goggles, and you’re strapped to somebody you met a couple of hours ago. You are both about to launch yourselves out of the plane and tumble down through the clouds into possible oblivion, with strong hopes of landing softly on the ground, somewhere near to where you took off.
This was how I anticipated skydiving to be in the weeks before. When I was asked if I wanted to take part in a charity jump, my impulsive inner self took over and responded ‘yes please!’ I dove for Jessie May, a fantastic charity that provides much needed care and support to terminally ill children and their families. I was delighted to have the opportunity to raise money for such a worthwhile cause, and it made me all the more determined to conquer my fears and jump.
The two months in between signing up and jumping gave my nerves plenty of time to settle in and make themselves at home. By the morning of the dive I sported a pale, shaking, might be sick any moment look; ‘how far actually is 10,000 feet?’ I wondered in the car, looking at the clouds above me.
These fears did not disappear but were certainly eased when we arrived at Redlands Airfield in Swindon. The professional staff guided us through everything we needed to know and assured us that all we needed to do was open our arms at one point and close them a bit later; our tandem jumper would take care of everything else.
The ascending plane ride was rather nauseating and made the jump out seem much more appealing; imagine the six of us cramped into a box sized space with the afternoon sun beaming straight down on us. When we reached maximum altitude, the door opened, revealing Wiltshire’s green meadows. The view was astounding; field after field of lush green grass, interspersed with clusters of miniscule buildings, which were in fact large towns. The instructor pushed us to the edge of the plane, told me to smile to the cameraman who was recording the jump – and we were off.
Gravity was pulling me towards the earth at 120 mph but I felt like I was levitating. I could see the ground getting bigger as we plummeted further but I wasn’t scared. The fall I’d been dreading for weeks wasn’t really a fall at all- I felt perfectly safe strapped to my instructor; how superman feels when he is off to save the world, I imagine. A grin spread across my face –weeks of fear and terror and this was it?
It was serenely noiseless at this altitude, and as I looked down onto the British countryside, I felt a sense of tranquillity wash over me. Thousands of people were beneath me, going about their daily business, and I was just an observer. It was astounding to look at the world from a different perspective. As I looked over to the Severn Bridge and almost down to Salisbury, I felt like I’d left all my anxieties up in the plane and was flying away from them. It was exhilarating.
With a jolt, the instructor pulled the parachute. I could still see for miles but became aware of the landing field; “told you I’d get you back to the right place!” the instructor joked. He let me hold the ropes so I could control the parachute above us, spinning it round in circles and moving it up and down. As we approached the ground, I lifted my knees as instructed and landed, smoothly. I had been convinced I would at least twist my ankle, but I was completely unscathed. Nothing could wipe the mile wide grin from my face! “I did it!” I exclaimed. Despite my feet being firmly planted on the floor, my head and heart were certainly still in the clouds. I couldn’t stop beaming for the next six hours and I felt completely invincible.
I really urge anybody considering skydiving to take the plunge (pardon the pun) and sign up to it. Following my impulse was certainly the right thing to do, and I raised £300 for Jessie May. The work they do is absolutely amazing and I was elated to have the opportunity to raise so much for them. The sensation is difficult to summarise in words, but it is like nothing you will ever experience again. When you skydive, you really are on top of the world, and even though you physically return to earth in about five minutes, the ecstatic mentality is impossible to shake off.