I went skydiving in Taupo, New Zealand, and it was my first parachute jump. Skydiving has never been an experience I was desperate to do, or had even given a passing thought to, but you know, as they say, when in New Zealand…
And so I found myself with a bunch of strangers about to jump 15,000ft into thin air above the stunning Lake Taupo, which from that distance looked like a mere pond on the horizon of tiny looking things.
Although, as we were told in our safety briefing with Skydive Taupo, the brain stops processing your distance at 2,000ft. Meaning that 15,000ft looks just the same, apparently. On the question of whether skydiving is safe, the instructors assured us we’d be fine. All I knew was that we were a long old way from the ground and there was apparently only one way down.
The skydive plane
It took 20 minutes to get up to 15,000ft, and in the end just a few minutes to fall and parachute to the ground. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Up in the plane I slid on back to sit on my jumper’s lap as instructed (oo err) and he strapped himself firmly to me. Back on the ground we’d already ran through the idea of sitting on the edge of the plane, tipping my head back and tucking my feet in as he jumped.
As soon as I realised everyone was jumping and my turn would be very soon, I had a little panic and just reminded myself: ‘Fear is temporary, achievement is permanent’, as is written all over the reception at Taupo Skydive.
I had every faith in my jumper. Skydive Taupo have a 100% safety record and told me there’d never been an accident, not even a broken toe, so I was going to be okay. The fact I was strapped to a guy with a big smile on his face and seemed to have no worries or reservations about leaping out a plane gave me the confidence to have my mind set on enjoying it, rather than fearing it.
I barely had time to finish the thought and he’d bumped me along the bench and we were peering out over the edge. I put my head back, tucked my feet under, and braced myself for my impending descent. I tried to process what he’d told me on the ground but self preservation had kicked in and all I could think about was putting my head on his shoulder.
Seriously, it was a whoosh and we were out. As soon as we sat on the edge we were sucked out. My legs were flailing about and I tried to control my limbs, and get myself in order.
What does it feel like to parachute from a plane?
It’s hard to describe the feeling of skydiving, the butterflies in my stomach, the freefall and the intense adrenaline. It is like flying. Once I’d got a handle on my breathing, I tried to look around and savour the moment. It was absolutely incredible. I was falling at a speed of up to 160mph, and I know now, it was at the faster end as I didn’t put my arms and hands out to give a bigger surface area to slow down. For some reason, as you can see from the video, I decided that I’d be safer holding on to the harness.
I usually hate the phrase ‘breathtaking’ but this skydive literally was, that’s how the jump felt like. As I fell I was pushed into the clouds and the cold air – my bare feet were freezing and I was having trouble getting enough air in my lungs to breathe.
Too soon he’d released the parachute, just as I was getting a feel for it, but also just as I was starting to worry it wouldn’t open. I’d done just over a minute of freefall, and it was one of the best yet most confusing feelings in the world.
As the parachute opened the experience suddenly became a lot calmer. It was my chance to look around and take in the scenery. You can see from the video I’m still totally winded, but as he swooped down and around, I got just that little bit emotional. The relief at having survived and the disbelief that I’d done it, added to the incredible view just got too much for me.
We cruised around for a few minutes before he came in to land. I just had to lift my legs up as high as possible and he took the impact of gliding across the floor. At first I was thankful to be back on the ground, then I was gutted it was all over.
I seriously cannot wait to go skydiving again.
If you’re in Taupo, New Zealand, any time soon I’d definitely recommend Skydive Taupo. The limo service picked us up from the hostel, all the staff were awesome, I felt safe and reassured, got a free tshirt for completing the dive and got to watch my film in their cinema room. Loved it!