This is Geoff’s story. A unique description of skydiving from someone without sight to distract the senses. Also check out the video that Dallas was able to film during the dive. The video link is at the end of Geoff’s story.
A SKYDIVE IN WOLLONGONG – by Geoff Stratton
Thursday 3 June 2021. A cool morning but the forecast rain hadn’t yet arrived. Xiumei and I drove to the Skydive Office at Stewart Park. This is where the journey begins. The paperwork completed and weighed (with all of my four jumpers and two track suit pants to protect me from the anticipated freeze), I weigh in at only 68kg. Then came the kitting-up with the all-encompassing harness that will strap you to the tandem captain (If that is the correct term), with Dallas the Charismatic assisting with black humour, such as, “Is this harness the one that was stopped being used?”, and the lady staff member replying “No! it probably will go one more time, if we are lucky”.
Once on the bus travelling to the airport at Albion Park Rail, it was more like a gentle drive through the park and conversation that belied what the future held.
Within minutes of arriving at the airport on the bus, it was up three steps, and getting the first surprise that the roof of the plane was lower than I expected. I trip but only fall to my knees – in prayer, which obviously was answered, as I am sitting here now in a state of continuing euphoria!
The seat was a raised long firm foam rubber one that you sit astride, where Dallas, my guardian angel sat behind me with the exit door only a metre away – saving me a long shuffle when the action was to start. Once the other brave or, perhaps, naive like me passengers were aboard, the plane was away down the Runway. I hardly was aware of lift off, most likely my flight and fight responses had already kicked in for a destiny unknown. Dallas continued progressively to tighten and secure the harness straps to make us one person instead of two, my words not that I know really, still the relaxed talk and reminders of the small part I had to play: “Hands up to shoulder level holding the loops to keep them close in”; the tight fitting goggles were put in place, not too uncomfortable once they were properly adjusted. Over Kanahooka Park, on to Stewart Park gradually climbing to fourteen thousand feet. The sliding door slipped backwards with a brisk not too uncomfortable breeze, probably due to the fact of me wearing all my wardrobe to prevent hypothermia. Dallas, instructed to straighten the knees and we shuffled forward off the low seat with the open door becoming ever more the point of no return: and then!
A ROLL TO THE RIGHT INTO SPACE! AND THE WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN! Seeming to spin around and around until we stabilised. A tap on the shoulder to tell me to place the arms stretched out, a little like swimming – and that is what it felt like as though the 200kph free-fall wasn’t through air, but similar to the pressure of water. The speed was fantastic with the roar of the rushing air making anything else impossible to hear. Strange as it may seem there was no fear of the rapidly approaching ground – just the movements from side to side and waiting for the next momentous stage.
Suddenly there was a slight sense of a bump as the parachute opened; once again my existence spun as we slowed and I assumed a more natural upright position – I am still wondering during the free-fall, whether I was diving down or in some other position. Once the vestibular system had adjusted to it’s changed angle we floated down with Dallas steering; sometimes turning to the right giving that feeling of riding a wave as we turned into the rise; slipping back to the trough and swinging into a left turn rising up and back down to neutral. This movement felt a little like that fairground ride called The Waltzers that swings you this way and that way causing that slight tension of apprehension. All the time the reassuring voice of Dallas made these sensations ok, allowing the drifting pleasure to supersede anything else. All too soon I was practicing the landing movements “Knees up, straighten the legs out in front” and shortly afterwards it was for real, sliding gently along the grass and back to terra firma.
Since the Skydive yesterday, there has been this strange euphoric state that I can only imagine must be something like people experience when tripping out on their favourite mood changer.
I am truly indebted to Skydive Australia, particularly the staff in Wollongong and most of all Dallas who gave me the experience of a lifetime that matches one of floating down a river in Sri Lanka by boat that took us through the rapids with the boatman merely holding onto my hand – with no fear – amazing since I am a poor swimmer.
…and here is the link to the video.