Time to fly

Ok I’m back. This years been one of my best to date. Through a range of amazing experiences I’m back on board with this whole writing/uploading shenanigans. But where to start…

Most of you already know that I’ve been chasing the skydiving dream pretty hard out this year. I’ve been able to take the years of experience as a climbing dirtbag and apply that in my new skydiving dirtbag lifestyle.

After an epic year of climbing I was ready for a break. Time in the Grampians, a rock-searching trip to China and a three month trip to France and Spain had left me burnt out for climbing. Having been climbing for a decade I needed some time away. I had been convinced to do some skydiving in France last year, talk about an idea getting under my skin.

So right now im sitting in a café in the Blue Mountains. The last few days saw me getting super motivated listening to tall tales of adventures at the Australian Climbing Festival. I can honestly say I’m as keen for climbing as I’ve ever been and am currently planning some cool trips. Alongside that is my burning ambition for many things to be done in my new-found element of air. For now let me share with you an article that I wrote, published in Australian Skydive Magazine. It’s a summary of my experience this year doing a 3-month intensive skydiving course. I paid lot’s of money and learnt heaps about the sport through this Jumpstart Course.

JumpstArticle:

          2:38pm, 12th December 2013, High Rise Window Cleaning (16 Jumps)

The wind catches the water spilling off from the window, pushing it downwards in a mesmerizing dance towards the pavement 1 5 storeys below. I gaze across the newly cleaned window pane and focus in on the memories my friend, Morgen, is recounting. This guy had revved me up 3 months prior to do my first jump. With eighty jumps to his name I wanted all his crazy knowledge I could handle.

“Ahhh, So thats how you go forward and back, this way and that.” I thought to myself, having never even thought about flying relative to a mate.

We froth on about all things skydiving while we swing from side to side on our rope, cleaning seemingly endless amount of windows. Both planning how we’re gonna blow all this hard earned cash. If only I could work out a way to go hard with it, really commit and see where skydiving can take me.

Exiting the plane in my red student jumpsuit

Exiting the plane in my red student jumpsuit

         11:45am, 14th February 2014, First Day of School (16 Jumps)

I can’t believe I’m late on the very first day. Driving out past the endless gum’s and wrong turns I cheerfully watch the endless flocks of cockatoo’s and corella’s. It seems like only yesterday I had paid up big my deposit for this Jump Start course through Skydive Nagambie. To call it a spur of the moment decision would be unfair, but it was definitely not one I had to think too much about. Two hundred jumps in three months, earning D license, Star Crest, Camera Skills, Packer B and more, whats not to like. I met Smeds, the course director. Shortly after he started his very first briefing we knew that we were in good hands. Brent Woodmansee had also made the trek over from Hobart, though we didn’t know each other prior to the course. Previously a gymnastics coach we knew he’d take to the sky well. Grant Hansen had journeyed all the way from Canada, already bursting at the seams and eager to get up in the sky. The lovable Dan Douglass had also traveled far and wide, across the English Channel and beyond. The goofy, fun-loving nature of the young man from Brighton had him winning friends in moments.

JumpstArticle Stills 4

Sharing the beauty of the sky

         12:37pm, 28th February 2014, B-Rel Training (24 Jumps)

Man I hope I can pass this next B-Rel jump, Ryan makes leg turns sound so easy on the ground but why won’t it work? I still can’t relax enough to feel what my body really is doing I guess. My first B-Rel felt easy! Lucky I got the next little while to practice this stuff but geez, I don’t think i’ll ever be able to fly a slot in a 2-way let alone a big-way!

         9:47am, 19th March 2014, Grunter’s 100th Jump (72 Jumps)

We built a 7-way, holy shit! We had to try something cool for Grunter’s 100th jump so our first big-way was planned. Eight people plus camera, gonna be crazy out there. Really just hoped we could prove the doubters wrong and boy we showed them. Shame not everyone got in, but what an awesome way to celebrate our good mate’s 100th jump. That seems like so many!

Successfully building a fun formation on a sunset load

Successfully building a fun formation on a sunset load

1:46pm, 31st March, Canopy Course with Michael Vaughn (93 Jumps)

Never would have thought I’d enjoy the classroom so much, but boy Michael Vaughn shows how awesome all this canopy flying jibber jabber is! It’s great to learn how to fly well, no longer is it just a landing tool, it’s total freedom. Tomorrow’s my 100th jump, the big one. Im sure Michael will do something amazing with me. Maybe I will buy that rig off Smeds, I’m totally ready to downsize. I can’t believe how much we can learn about flying parachutes in a few days! Might even try my first landing off front-risers.

11:24am, 12th April, Display Jump training (124 Jumps)

Feeling the pressure I toss the drifter down towards the ground, holding the dancing pink and white in our gaze. I signal the pilot to keep banking, no point throwing it if i cant keep my eyes on it. Okay we’re on jump run now, this is it.

“5 right”, I shout to the pilot.

I have to battle to be heard over the wind howling in the door. A mile short we enter cloud, shit that’s uncool. I know we’re slightly offset on the intended run-in but it should work, if only i could see the ground. As I’m about to tell the pilot to do an orbit I catch glimpse of the ground below. Point 4 short, ok let’s go. I give the thumbs up and watch everyone leave with picture perfect presentation. Winking at Dan the pilot, I leap, into perfect conditions for a nice accurate landing.

10:37am, 24th April, 4-Way Training with Steph Vaughn (160 Jumps)

We’ve been working solidly on four ways for a week now. Lucky for us Don lent us some of his expertise, geez he knows his shit! That frustrating brain-lock period is behind us. That part of your flat flying career where u know what to do but it still isn’t click. Well we had a deafening click sound on that last jump with Steph, 16 points from full height! Smashing our first blocks I guess with a bunch of excellent coaching and a heap of creepering we can learn the joy of turning mean points with mates!

Our awesome 16-point skydive, thanks Steph!

Our awesome 16-point skydive, thanks Steph!

9:45am, 26th April, Star Crest 10-Ways (163 Jumps)

God help us all if i hear the words ‘stadium’ or ‘radial’ one more time. We smashed our Star Crest! I was last diver out on two loads, the best slot in the plane! Such a great thing to share, space in the sky with a big load of cool cats. A massive thanks to all that helped participate to make it possible. Cant wait to fly base for someone else to get theirs one day. Maybe it would be cool to build a proper big way sometime in the future, I’m sure we can hold our own now.

JumpstArticle Stills 8

Formation load time, two planes delivering all the fun

11:34pm, 30th May, First Wingsuit Jump (235 Jumps)

Im peaking. How long I have been waiting to have a play in a wingsuit, and now my time has finally arrived. Jai takes his time, briefing me on what to expect. Hammering home the drills to try and overcome my now instinctual reflexes that just wont work in a wingsuit. I’ve already started as the new packer, but the unpacked rigs can wait, this opportunity must be seized with both hands. The whole ride to height I’m rehearsing whats going to happen. Green flashes on and people start getting airborne. We make our way to the back of the plane and I take up position in the door. Check In, Eyes on the prize, Out, In and we’re away. I arch like a bastard before opening my wings as practiced. My mind fights to stay in control, what a different feeling this is. My practice pulls are shocking, where is that damn hacky. Im barely using my arms so I’m diving faster than I’d like. Another practice pull, only marginally better. Shit this is scary yet insanely cool all in the same instant. Time to deploy, I close up, throw then pray. Thank god I only spun myself 180 when closing. I’ve got a good canopy, I survived. Not at all displeased with my poor performance I cant wait to try it again. Knowing I’m no natural is not at all any kind of reason to not try! I ration that at least i can get a most improved trophy or something someday. At the very least my Mum will think I’m cool…

As an adult learner, coming from a climbing background I had high expectations of what I would learn on the Jump Start course. Having only had a taste of jumping in the way of completing my AFF, it was a big gamble. I was convinced that working in the skydiving industry would be a fantastic lifestyle choice. With the course now done and everyone having gone their separate ways i couldn’t be more content with what the last 15 weeks has offered. I have a job, can get by living on a dropzone jumping heaps, feel like i can fly my slot solidly and start to give back by helping the new guys. There’s a reason why we’re bombarded with so many corny, kitsch clichè’s about ‘living the dream’ or ‘doing what you love’. It’s because thats what we all want. It’s possible to do more about it than share a meme on Facebook, so what are we waiting for! Thanks again to all the staff at Skydive Nagambie that have helped us out along the way and made a better way of living possible for us all.

For the full edit of the experience, watch this:

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