Skydiving Melbourne St Kilda with a red balloon.

grey Skydiving Melbourne St Kilda with a red balloon.

Skydiving Melbourne St Kilda

So I am back in Melbourne a little earlier than planned. I have returned to scout for rental properties near St Kilda, and maybe squeeze in some paragliding, naturally. While trawling realestate.com the other day I remembered that I had an unused skydiving ticket  compliments of my mate Lauren who works for online experience retailers  red balloon. I thought what better way to kickstart my day than by plummeting from 14 000 feet over Melbourne?

Suddenly a Go-Pro is being waved at me by Kez while we walk towards a little white plane (a proper little plane, like Stuart Little’s yellow and red number). Kez is the man who will be strapped to my back as we plummet earthward at around 200km/hr. In just a few minutes this super-friendly Kiwi will literally have my life in his hands.

Before I climb in Kez shouts over the engines at me, “So how are you feeling Ben?”

I look at the plane, then him and reply with a grin, “A little nervous mate, I will tell you in a few minutes if this Lauren character is my friend or not!”

Note in the video below how I am striding as though I’m in a music video:

 

 

If you read my previous post on claustrophobia you will know that I am totally honest about my fears. Right now I don’t feel at all nervous. Buzzed with adrenaline, yes, excited about the jump, sure…but I am not fearing for my life in any biblical sense.

We clamber into the snug plane and I have to all but sit in Kez’s lap. Take off in this small buzzing plane is a convincing argument that man is just not meant to fly.

 

 

As we circle up I enjoy the view, make silly videos with Kez and look at the other victims. Donna sits beside me, a very cheery and fun-loving character she seems not at all nervous. Donna is loving the whole situation, laughing and joking with a wide grin she is here to support her good friend Vanessa. Vanessa sits in front of Donna wearing a much more serious expression. Vanessa’s husband bought this jump for her XXth birthday (I promised not to tell). He knew that she hates flying when he bought the voucher.

“He should have bought me that F#@king ring” she repeats nervously while looking around the tiny cabin with a haunted look. I am super impressed with how Vanessa’s guy talks to her the whole way through. He makes a big effort to explain everything that is going on and to reassure her that she will survive this ordeal.

 

 

The green “Over drop zone” light comes on and the door is slid open. Vanessa goes first. Vanessa and her instructor shuffle into position awkwardly in the tiny space. Her exit of the plane reminds me of the Bucket-list scene when Cole convinces Carter to skydive. With her legs hanging out of the door the instuctor yells, “Right to go?”

“Oh God” Is her fading reply as they snap out of sight.

Next Donna and her instructor shuffle into position and Donna exits with a hearty, “Here we go…Yeeee-harrr.”

 

 

My turn.

Kez and I shuffle into position. With my legs hanging over the void I am buzzing with adrenaline as the wind whips my hair. My legs are hanging over a 14 000 foot drop. I think to myself, “Shit just got real.”

Blowing my nerves out through pursed lips I imagine butterflies flying out of my mouth (don’t laugh it works for me). Before I finish Kez yells, “ONE, TWO, GO” and we push off.

My exhale turns into a wide grin as a mind numbing acceleration whisks the plane away. The first few moments is the best bit by far. I focus my eyes on camera lens as we steady out but then the view catches my attention. Sprawled out below we can see Melbourne in its entirety. There is not a falling sensation so much as a feeling that the earth is rushing up to meet us. My perception of sound changes. In the plane my senses had time to consider every input they were receiving but in the mad, beautiful, thrilling bubble of free fall the raucous of the plane is replaced with a steady whoosh that fades to silence in my adrenalised state. I grin so profusely that my mouth completely dries out and I can taste the beautiful metallic taste of adrenaline overload.

Note how I turn into Jack Nicholson throughout our fall.

 

 

The chute must have been packed to open slowly as there was no big ‘thwump’, just a startling deceleration. This is the bit where I get properly scared. I am used to being under a paraglider’s wing. The design of my preferred craft gives much more ‘across’ for every unit of ‘down’ you travel. It is really unnerving for me to be under a canopy that is going practically straight down. Parachutal stalls register as a ‘code-brown’ for paraglider pilots, as in brown underpants… A code brown is just below a ‘code-black’ which involves dragons, Greek Gods and stray scud missiles. I get used to the sinking feeling and fight my inner control freak we as line up to land.

 

 

Kez has another scare in store for me. For a parachute to flare properly, that is produce lift to soften the landing, you need to spiral dive and gain speed just before touchdown. Another code-brown in paragliding. I grit my teeth as we swoop in and flare to a soft touchdown.

 

 

Later Donna, Vanessa and I sit in a nearby cafe waiting for our videos to be edited. We are laughing, back slapping and enjoying a well deserved champagne. Well they have champagne, I have coffee as there are houses waiting for inspection. I imagine that my level of adrenaline combined with a champagne would result in my signing any lease contract…“The house is not that bad babe. Convenient if we ever need to exchange needles or dump an old car body…”

Grinning to both Vanessa and Donna I say, “I reckon you guys should try a paragliding tandem next.”

Vanessa laughs and says, “Well, it is my husband’s birthday soon and he is not too fond of heights…payback is a bitch.”

 

 

Disclaimer:

The fact that this was a freebie has in no way affected what I have written. If the experience was shit I would tell you so…but it simply wasn’t. I found the team of skydiving instructors to be very professional, caring and most importantly a hell of a lot of fun. Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane is not as scary as it sounds.

I would also like to thank Redballoon for sponsoring this adventure. If you are sick of buying trinkets for gifts they sell all sorts of cool experience vouchers like hot air ballooning, race car driving and even cooking classes or massage.

Check them out here.

 

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