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“What do you mean you don’t have any goggles?”
Until that point the butterflies were sleeping peacefully in my stomach and my heart was beating at a surprisingly blasé normal rate even though I was about to experience my first attempt at skydiving in Costa Brava.
“Err, I don’t have any goggles,” my mouth replied whilst my eyes were saying ‘that was your job’ to Joan, the guy who was supposed to be my safe and sound ticket to the green patch-worked Costa Brava ground 14000 feet below.
“Jumping without goggles?” A battle-hardened skydiver next to me turned, his face filled with concern. “That can be harsh.”
The ‘pros’ around me nodded sagely in agreement. It was my ticket to abort the jump and the emotion that little get out of jail free card aroused took me by complete surprise…it was one of gutted disappointment.
Skydiving Tips for First-Timers
There’s a couple of things here that I have to share with first-timers about skydiving before I continue. No-one told me that the skydiving harness makes you walk as though you’ve soiled yourself which, given the fact that you’re about to step out of a plane and fall to the earth like a stone on a suicide mission, is not beyond the realms of possibility. The second is, and this applies to men only, you have to be very careful about the positioning of the harness around the groin area. If certain…ahem…bits are not positioned well clear of the straps then when that chute opens and you’re snapped violently upwards, you’re going to be talking like the sopranos for quite some time afterwards and I’m not talking about those butch mafiosa TV guys either. (Thank you John O’Nolan for figuring that one out before we went sky high).
As my face fell, Joan revealed a spare set of goggles inside his helmet. They’d been messing with me (was that really supposed to make my first jump easier?) The Icarus gig was back on.
Rich Whitaker from Brilliant Tips told me that the waiting as the plane spiralled upwards was the worst part, but surprisingly I felt completely calm. This was possibly due to the fact that the pro-divers in the plane looked totally bored during the flight, a factor that instilled confidence. I was putting my life in the hands of a guy who was treating this like a visit to the local shop for a packet of cigarettes.
When the announcement was made that we’d reached the required altitude the mood in the plane changed and a buzz surged through the cramped interior. The door, which resembled a roll-top breadbin, was pulled back and, as an icy blast of air shot through the cabin, the solo skydivers high-fived each other and were gone before I could mumble “is this it?”
With hardly any time to gulp nervously I was manoeuvred so that my head was outside of the plane looking at a Googles map image of the ground and I was suspended in mid-air; held in place only by the harness that attached me to Joan.
“Head back, head back,” Joan shouted, distracting me from what could easily have been a moment of sheer panic. Before the numb-skulls in my brain had time to set off the klaxons we were out and screaming (surprisingly not literally) through the air as an unseen force tugged at my face exposing my cheekbones for the first time in years.
I’d been told that we’d be freefalling for nearly 60 seconds. A minute of holding your breath underwater can seem quite a long time; a minute of plummeting through the air passes much, much quicker. Joan tapped me on the shoulder; a signal to move my arms from across my chest into classic skydiving pose. Although falling from the sky was exhilarating it wasn’t actually as scary as I’d thought it would be. The sensation of plummeting to earth felt surreal if anything; as though I wasn’t actually there (probably because my soul was still trying to catch us up). Much quicker than I expected there was another tap and my arms went back across my chest as the chute opened and we seemed to shoot back upwards (just like it looks in the movies) with a force that made me extremely pleased I’d taken care to ‘position’ myself properly earlier.
From then onwards it was simply a case of floating gently back to the ground over the course of another four minutes. Joan tried to coax me into a bit of ‘spinning’ the chute, but after a couple of spins sent my head into seasickness mode I convinced him that I much preferred just to head earthwards in a more leisurely fashion. I spent the rest of the descent enjoying beautifully clear views of the coast around Empuriabrava, a lovely town with more canals than streets, whilst I said a little non-religious prayer of thanks to whichever benevolent force had decided that today was not my day to log off whilst skydiving in Costa Brava.
Buzz Trips Fact File: My skydiving in Costa Brava was as part of a blogtrip organised by the Costa Brava Tourist Board. The tandem jump was done with Skydive Empuriabrava and costs from €197.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to lots of other places. Follow Jack on Google+