Skydiving has come a long way since the first recorded jump was made from a hot air balloon in 1797. Skydiving was developed as a military emergency escape procedure and did not really venture beyond these parameters until the early 1980s, when it developed as a sport in its own right.
New Zealand is a country famous for extreme activities and at its heart lays Taupo, the skydiving destination of choice for over 30,000 people per year. It was here I decided that I needed to find out what all the fuss was about.
After my hopes of a reprieve due to the wind were dashed, the Skydive Taupo limo came sauntering along the road and we were off! To say I was nervous would be somewhat of an understatement. While everyone else heading out to the drop zone had cultivated an air of unimpressed nonchalance, I was wound tighter than a coiled spring!
We arrived at the airport and were ushered in to view the orientation video and discuss the jumps we were about to make. Skydive Taupo offers tandem jumps from 12,000 or 15,000 ft and has packages including photographs, merchandise and a DVD of your jump. After deciding on the 15000ft combo package (in for a penny, in for a pound!) and signing the waiver form, the preparations for the jump began. I was virtually shaking at this point and have to give thanks to my instructor, Alex, and the rest of the fabulous team at Skydive Taupo, for their patience and skill in soothing my nerves.
After Alex had kitted me out with jumpsuit, harness and goggles, we discussed the procedures for exiting the plane and body positioning for the fall and landing. Basically, you maintain a ‘banana’ shape when exiting the plane, placing the centre of gravity at your midsection. Landing from a tandem dive, you just need to keep your legs up. With the formalities complete, it was my chance to ‘shine like a star’ for my video and photographs! I posed for the obligatory pictures with Alex and answered a few short questions for my DVD. My dreams of appearing cool, calm and sophisticated were somewhat distant and unfortunately, I came across like a ten year old with an attention deficit disorder!
Finally, time to get up there in the fabulously pink plane. Luckily, the human eye plays a fabulous trick at heights over 5000ft and gives no perception of height – apparently! It still looked like a long way down to me! As I watched the speed with which the first diver and instructor fell away from the plane, panic was close. Fortunately, there was no time to even consider forgoing the jump. We shuffled towards the door, my head tilted back in refusal to look down and we were off!
The only way to describe your first skydive is, ‘Awesome’. The freefall experience was definitely the biggest rush of my life so far. Every part of my body and mind fought against the epic fall from the sky, my senses were overloaded with adrenaline and amazement. Tiny wisps of white clouds passing were the only indication of the reckless speed at which we fell. The wind rushed into my face at 200kph and silenced my ecstatic screams as we plummeted from the sky. Suddenly the sixty seconds of freefall were done and the parachute canopy unfolded 5000ft above the ground. Lake Taupo looked icily magnificent as we cruised in circles taking in the panoramic view. I felt so alive and full of energy, liberated and free, all anxiety was gone. Stunning!
All too soon it was over and we approached the ground for a controlled and easy landing. After selecting the soundtrack for my DVD and experiencing a private view on the big screen, it was back in the limo to ride to the hostel and relive the experience over a well deserved beer (or ten!).
Only one question remained unanswered at this point, “When can I do it again?”
If you need accommodation in Taupo when you go to do your skydive try Taupo Urban Retreat.
About the Author: Jil left the UK in 2005 to travel Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand and never went home! She now lives in Auckland and works as a Client Services Manager for DiveCo Commercial Diving. Her greatest passions in life are diving, travelling and partying!