After an incredible eight weeks in San Diego, our Saltire internship experiences had sadly come to an end. Traditionally many Saltire Scholars use their opportunities away from home to give back and raise money for the cohort’s chosen charities and in addition to our fundraising bake sale Niall and I decided to do something a little more daring.
The idea of a skydive has always been something that has simultaneously fascinated and horrified me, but for some reason I could never quite seem to shake the idea from my mind.
At the beginning of our internships we all agreed to go skydiving together however as the weeks went on those plans never came to fruition. In my mind this wasn’t a big loss, especially as every time the word ‘skydive’ was mentioned I had little visions of myself free falling through the sky with no parachute. Niall on the other hand had no such feeling. Together with our colleague Pat, who had done well over 200 jumps himself, we eventually took the plunge (see what I did there?) and booked a skydive for the afternoon of our last working day in San Diego. As an added part of our fundraising effort (and so we we couldn’t back out) Niall and I decided to try and get sponsors for our jumps and to contribute that money to our charities – WildHearts and the Saltire Foundation.
The whole week leading up to the jump I had a serious case of the fear. Anything could go wrong. Something would go wrong.
And it did. The day itself, about an hour before we were due to jump I dropped my phone at the office completely killing the LCD and the absolute rage and sheer disappointment at what had just happened completely cancelled out all those feelings. Just like that I was no longer nervous, and breaking my phone that day was probably the best thing that could have happened.
Arriving at Skydive San Diego dropzone I was actually excited. This was literally the experience of a lifetime and I was getting to do it for only $248/£155, back home I would have easily had to pay double! I expected some sort of tutorial or health and safety session, but instead we were directed to forms requiring well over ten signatures with the jist being ‘your life is now in our hands and if anything goes wrong no one can sue us’. Very reassuring. After filling in the forms an experienced diver took Niall and I through how to jump, got us strapped into harnesses and told us the plane would be arriving soon – this whole process took about twenty minutes.
It was all happening so quickly.
I was introduced to my tandem instructor and the man I would be entrusting my life with, and honestly I can’t remember his name. We’d opted to get our jumps filmed so my instructor switched between words of advice and thrusting a GoPro in my face trying to get some sort of response, but honestly I had no idea how I was feeling.
As we walked to the plane I was definitely excited and as Niall, Pat and I piled on the nerves started to kick in again. The plane was tiny with about eight solo jumpers and then Niall, myself and our instructors. The plastic surrounding the plane windows showed visible signs of wear and the amount of duct tape holding pieces together was concerning to say the least. Suddenly we’d reached height, the door had opened and people were starting to leave the plane. This was one of the two most terrifying parts of the whole experience. Pat was one of the first to go and with a huge grin on his face he waved goodbye to Niall and I and disappeared from the edge of the plane off into the sky.
The second most terrifying part?
My instructor edged me closer and closer to the door and suddenly we were sitting at the edge of the plane. I was officially bricking it. And then that was it – we were falling. In that moment of rapidly hurtling towards the earth I forgot everything I was supposed to remember about correct jumping positions and started swearing profusely for about thirty seconds straight. Wind was rushing past my ears, my eyes couldn’t focus on anything, but after the initial shock and feelings of impending doom the adrenaline kicks in and it really is incredible. You lose all sense of time and as you float there you’re not nervous, or panicked there is just a peaceful calm. And then I began to understand why people did this for a living.
After taking off my goggles my instructor was in my face again with his trusty GoPro giving me a chance to thank everyone for sponsoring me mid-air, which was pretty cool. He then proceeded to point out different parts of San Diego and we could even see the Mexican border from the sky! We joked about not landing there without our passports as we’d have real difficulty getting back.
I’m not sure words really do it justice, but Skydiving was as I’ve always imagined – simultaneously terrifying and fascinating. It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done.
But you know what?
I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
What about you guys? Have you ever sky dived before? Would you like to? Let me know!