Byron Bay 14,000 ft and 120 mph : Skydiving in Australia

  • Posted by Julian Bradder
  • August 3, 2011 6:40 PM AEST

Want to blow away the cobwebs? Reawaken the spirits? Set the heart racing, get the adrenaline pumping? Jumping out of a perfectly good aeroplane could be just the interlude you are looking for in your Australian adventure.

Skydive Australia offer 4 seriously good 'drop zones' for you to try in Queensland and New South Wales. We went to see Skydive Australia in Byron Bay.

With over 1,000,000 skydives and 500 years worth of combined experience under their belt, these guys know what they are doing. Even so it wasn't without a little trepidation and skipping of the heart that we arrived at Skydive Byron Bay that hot summer day.

If you don't have experience then the form is to jump tandem. And we met our tandem jump partners first of all. After coffee, the general form of the jump was explained to us. "Starting at 14,000 ft, you'll freefall for 60 seconds" says the instructor casually as I took a double gulp of my coffee.. "Then we'll be flying for 6 to 7 minutes"...

How can these guys be so relaxed in saying this? With the classic Aussie lilt they made it sound like catching a bus. I suppose to them, doing this every day it probably was. For me, this was something wholly different... Just how high is 14,000 ft anyway? Anyway, why am I not adopting the usual reasons for conducting such insane acts and raising a few bucks for charity?

After some landing (crashing?) practice, an overview of safety procedures and some further induction into the experience "Man, it is a rush", we stopped for a quick brunch, before dressing up and heading to the plane. I was really unsure now but feeling that I had got this far I might as well go through with it, I stepped aboard the plane. The senses heightened in the way that they do when the mind becomes one hundred percent focused on what lies ahead. I was nervous but my instructor did a great job of talking me through it. His air of relaxed confidence was assuring.

Six, Five, Four, Three, Two, One, Go!

All of a sudden I was flying. My stomach is with the moon, my eyes looking fourteen thousand feet below as we accelerated to a freefall speed of 120 mph. The first 30 represented an assault, as the body responded to a set of actions that simply defy what is natural to it. Why jump out of a perfectly good airplane? Falling at this speed and at this height simply isn't a natural experience. My mind instructs my body to prime all systems with a shot of adrenaline so intense, that fear turns into pleasure and thrill. 30 seconds into this freefall, I'm enjoying it. Really enjoying it. After around a minute, my instructor pulls the chute. The next 6 minutes are spent falling at a more gentle-albeit-rapid-enough pace. Now is the opportunity to take in this most unique view of some of Australia's most spectacular coastline.

Enjoying all this as I was, at some point, this all had to end and we are not getting off some kind of Disney ride here. My instructor started counting the time. I'll be honest, I remember little of it. We came to the ground not so much like a feather but nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be. After detaching the harnesses and chute, I found it difficult to stand. My legs were like jelly and my mind literally left me floating on a cloud.

Not for the feint hearted, this experience was the highlight of my Australia vacation. In fact it was one of the highlights of my life and is an experience that I have since repeated back here in slightly less glorious England.