Skydiving!

It. Was. Amazing. The best money I’ve spent in New Zealand.

John and I booked our skydive on Thursday morning for Thursday afternoon. This was a solid choice as it kept anxiety to a minnimum. We checked out of The Hilton and moved to Black Currant Backpackers. Once we checked in and got settled, the shuttle was there to take us to the airfield.

We used Skydive Taupo and they were fantastic. When we walked in they showed us a safety video then split us up into 2 flights based on jump height (you could jump from 12,000 ft or 15,000 ft, we chose 12,000 as it was $90 cheaper). Once the logistics were figured out, we got suited up. It included a blue jump suit, a lifejacket that was strapped around our waists, then a harness. The harness is similar to a rock climbing harness except that it has additional shoulder straps.

After taking a few photos we met our tandem master, meaning the person you’ll be strapped to when you jump out of the plane. My guy was named Ronnie, I think. It was hard to tell because he was a low talker and he had a German accent. Mostly I just smiled and nodded. He checked my harness and then proceeded to loosen every strap and redo it. Once my harness was good to go, we waited for the plane.

Surprisingly, I was not nervous at all, just incredibly excited. I had no butterflies, none of the “holy crap what am I doing?” feeling. I made sure to just keep smiling. It keeps you calmer and makes you feel happier.

Note- Seriously, I for sure experienced more butterflies when I told my manager I was quitting my job!

Eventually the plane pulled up and we were herded inside. The plane was a single prop and bright pink. We loaded in based on weight and if you were getting video with your jump (we elected not to as it was an extra $150). John and I would be number 3 and 4 to jump. There were 8 total jumpers, plus 8 tandem masters, plus 1 camera jumper, so 17 people plus the pilot in this plane. Basically, there were 2 benches running up and down the length of the place. We sat with one leg on each side of the bench, in front of our tandem master, facing the back of the plane.

Once we were all in, the plane took off. It took about 15-20 minutes to climb to 12,000 feet. The tandem masters kept us all relaxed, mainly by keeping up conversation. Doctors also use this technique when they want to keep you calm (they keep asking you questions so you can’t think about what going on outside or what’s happening to you, you’re focused on following the conversation). Anyway, John’s tandem master gave us mints and then joked that it was Viagra. I then told him that I worked for the company that made viagra and a lot of drug and sex talk ensued, which, not surprisingly, keeps people well distracted from the fact they they are going to jump out of a plane at 12,000 feet.

As we were gaining altitude, I still had a smile plastered on my face. I mainly zoned out and tried to enjoy the lovely view (while also engaging in conversation a bit). Taupo is beautiful and seeing it from the air was incredible. My tandem master kept asking me if I was okay (I think, I can’t be sure because again, low talker + accent = hard to understand. I gave a lot of thumbs up).

As we approached 12,000 feet our tandem master started strapping us to them. Basically, you sit on their lap and they connect the 4 connection points, 2 on the waist/ hip and 2 on the shoulders. Then they tighten the straps and tell you to put your goggle on.

(Aside 2- It’s a little strange actually, to be tightly connected like that to a virtual stranger, but that person is responsible for keeping you balanced, happy, safe and for pulling the chute. I didn’t consider the amount of trust I put into a stranger until after the jump. I barely knew this person and was totally cool with being strapped to them then literally putting my life in their hand when we jumped out of a plane. Perhaps that shows the amount of professionalism, calm and confidence that the entire company gives off. No idea. All I know is that I never felt nervous or anxious about trusting this other person)

About 30 seconds after we were all strapped to our respective tandem masters, they opened the door of the plane (which is much like a garage door on a warehouse). I was still totally fine at this point. In what felt like 15 seconds, the camera man stepped onto metal bar on the outside of the plane, then the first jump + tandem master sat on the edge. At the same time, the camera man plus the first jumper and her tandem master went out. Once they went, and I saw how fast they were falling, that’s when I started to be like Holy Shit, this is nuts. It wasn’t nerves though. It was more of the “What the shit am I doing? This is insane!” No butterflies, just excitement.

Then John went, and no one was in front of me any more. Again, it was seeing how fast they were falling once they were out that really got to me. Immediately after John was out, my tandem master started moving towards the door. Mind Blank. Zone out and smile. My tandem master told me about 85 times that all I had to do was relax, relax, relax and smile, smile, smile, he’ll do the rest. As we approached the door, I didn’t look down. Actually from the time that we started sliding forward on the bench until we were falling, I really don’t remember much. You sit on the edge of the plane, with you’re legs dangling out the side, as if you’re sitting on a bench. You grab your shoulder straps and put your head back right before you go. I’m pretty sure I had my head back, not looking down, not looking or thinking at all, for the entire 30 seconds before we went. I do remember my feet and hands being really cold.

Anyway, I feel the wind in my feet as we’re sitting on the side and then we go. I don’t know if my tandem master said anything to me before we went. We flipped over briefly, which was highly disorienting, and then we’re in free fall facing the ground. Besides being disoriented for 2-3 seconds, I wasn’t scared or nervous or anything. It was amazing. The view was incredible. I really can’t describe what free fall during a skydive is like. Like nothing else I’ve ever done, that’s for sure. It’s windy and cold but it’s incredible. Peaceful even. But such a rush as well.

Free fall lasts for about 45 seconds and during that time my tandem master would periodically check in via thumbs up to make sure I was okay. After too short a time, he did a quick 4-3-2-1 countdown on his fingers to signify he was pulling the chute.

They open the chute at 5000 ft and it’s another 4 minutes until you hit the ground. He loosened most of the straps which made it far more comfortable. Then he let me steer. There are hand hold on the chute, pull the right one and you go right. Pull the left one and you go left. We did some corkscrews and what not, but mainly I was trying to enjoy the incredible view (also I did the skydive barefoot. You could wear shoes but you all know how I feel about shoes). Floating down, I kept looking at my feet against the backdrop of the ground. It was strange but I couldn’t stop looking.

For landing, you pick your knees and feet up and land on your bum. From there the tandem master disconnects you and you’re free to stand up.

My legs felt a little wobbly when I stood up but besides that I was all smiles. Again, it was incredible. The best money I’ve spent in NZ. I’d for sure do it again.

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