Far North Adventures: Skydiving

by Melissa on March 22, 2012 · 7 comments

When I was young the biggest excitement for me was getting to go on an airplane and fly somewhere new.  The years passed by and family holidays were always a much-anticipated treat each year, the excitement of being on an airplane never wore off.  To this day I still love it.

So when exactly did the thrill of being on an airplane not seem enough & I felt the urge to jump out of one?

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I believe the first time I had the urge to hurl myself out of a plane at 12,000 ft was when I saw the Saved by the Bell: The College Years episode where the boys all go skydiving as a way to look death in the eye.  I was probably only about twelve years old at the time, but since then always knew in the back of my mind that I wanted to do it.

Fast-forward thirteen years.  Here I am in one of the world’s most famous adrenaline sport countries: New Zealand.  On my first visit to this amazing country I went bungee jumping in Queenstown, and my second visit saw me learning how to abseil and I tried my hand at caving at the Waitomo Caves, south of Auckland.  Third time’s the charm, though, and I knew I wasn’t going to leave this country without throwing myself out of an airplane with nothing more than a nylon sheet to slow me down.  So when I was entertaining my flatmate’s friend, Tiffany, who was visiting from Canada, while everyone else was at their day jobs, it was decided that we were going to go for it.

We had a few companies to choose from, up here in the Far North, but ultimately settled with Skydive Ballistic Blondes as they are New Zealand’s only skydiving company licensed to land on the beach.  Tiffany and I packed up the car and made the two-hour drive to Paihia in the beautiful Bay of Islands where I would be ticking off another item from my bucket list by noon time.

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We filled out our consent forms and literally signed away our lives, letting it be known that if we were to die, it wouldn’t be their fault.  Reassuring.  We met our tandem partners who we would be attached to, and who literally had our lives in their hands.  My partner was Rob Pine – who is somewhat of a legend in these parts and has over 16000 skydives logged and over 35 years of experience.  Rob is quite the character with long blonde hair and bare feet – a true hippie at heart – and you can tell he genuinely loves what he does and because of this, I was instantly reassured when I met him.  Tiffany, her tandem partner, Kelsey, Rob and myself hopped in the Ballistic Blondes van and before I knew it we were rolling down the highway headed for the airport singing along to Tom Petty’s Free Fallin’ which just so happened to come on radio.  How appropriate.

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Twenty minutes later, we arrived at the airport and started getting strapped into our harnesses.  Once we decided that Tiffany would be the first to jump, Rob took me over to the little Cessna aircraft and ran through the proper positions I had to be in as we were to exit the plane – something about left knee, right foot, and go – the nervous energy made it a little difficult for me to completely process everything.  Before long, we were sitting of the floor of the rickety little aircraft and making our way down the runway and up into the air.  The ascent to 12,000 ft felt as though it took ages although we were privy to some fantastic views of the Bay of Islands.  Once we reached our jumping altitude the pilot gave us the thumbs up.  Kelsey opened the door and I watched Tiffany scoot herself to the edge and the two of them fell forward.

Before I even had time to process what I had just seen, Rob, who was attached behind me was moving me forward repeating “left knee, right foot” as a reminder for me to be in the correct position as we left the aircraft.  I leaned forward and braced my right foot on a tiny metal platform.  I remember the sound of the wind combined with the engine of the plane being terrifyingly loud.  The wind was powerful and cold.  I held onto my harness, took a deep breath and felt Rob push us forward.

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Together we tumbled out of the plane.  I felt the wind rushing past my body as I plummeted towards the earth at 200km/h and for whatever reason all I could think of was how cold my poor bare feet were!

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Rob tapped my shoulder to indicate that I could assume to proper free fall position as well as make silly faces for the camera, which was attached to his wrist.  The free fall was the best feeling I have ever experienced – the ultimate adrenaline rush.  After about nearly a minute of free fall Rob pulled the chute.  I felt an immediate jerk upwards as the parachute deployed and instantaneously started slowing us down.  It was at this moment where all my worries about “what if it doesn’t open” and fears of “worst case scenarios” disappeared.  I started laughing.  Rob and I high fived and I just took in the glorious views of the Bay of Islands.

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Nearly two minutes later we were making our way onto the beach for a nice soft landing.  Unbeknownst to me, the staff makes bets on who can land closest to the target – a massive white flag lying on the beach.  Rob definitely won whatever bet was going on because we landed ON the flag.

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The experience of skydiving is the ultimate adrenaline rush.  Unlike many, I don’t have a fear of heights; the idea of jumping out of an airplane at 12,000 feet did not scare me.  The only doubt that ever entered my mind was the last split second where my brain realizes what my body is about to do and it sends out warning signals saying “NO NO! THIS ISN’T NATURAL! YOU AREN’T SUPPOSED TO DO THIS!”  But I did do it.  And it was probably one of the best experiences of my life.

So now that you’ve read this, do you think I am absolutely batshit crazy for doing it?  My family certainly thinks I am.  If you find yourself in New Zealand’s Far North and want to be batshit crazy like me, check out Skydive Ballistic Blondes.  They’ve got two locations.  One in Paihia, and one in Whangarei and they are the only skydiving operator in New Zealand who are licensed to land on the beach.  They were absolutely awesome.

Have you ever skydived?  Do you want to skydive?  Tell me about it in the comments below.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrew March 23, 2012 at 1:52 pm

I remember my jump, it was awesome. I even made my mom come with me! I was worried that I’d have a massive amount of adrenaline pumping post-jump, and figured I’d end up driving insanely fast without noticing. I too had “Free Fallin’” on my sky-diving playlist (along with “Jump! Jump!”, “Jump Around”, “Danger Zone”, “I Believe I Can Fly”, and many more!).

I’m glad your jump was a positive experience!

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Melissa March 24, 2012 at 11:01 pm

Thanks Andrew! That’s hilarious that you brought your mom along :P If my mom had known beforehand I’m sure she would have caught the next flight to New Zealand to try to stop me!

And Free Fallin is the go-to song for skydiving. Didn’t even think of the others, but great choices!

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Annie March 24, 2012 at 10:35 pm

This is definitely still something on my to-do list and I think the best place to do it is NZ. I’m just afraid that I’ll talk myself out of it, just like I tried to with my bungy jump.

Looks like you had a great time though! And I totally know what you mean about your body objecting to do something so unnatural… now you understand why abseiling didn’t sit well with me!

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Melissa March 24, 2012 at 11:04 pm

Awww, well a big motivating factor is that once you’re in the plane, you’ve already paid your $300+ (mine was closer to $400 cause I got the pics, video, tshirt and lunch voucher) and you don’t get a refund if you back out. Call me crazy for jumping out of a plane, yes… but I think I’d be even crazier if I didn’t go through with it and lost my money!

You’ve gotta try it though. It’s the ultimate thrill! :) I have faith in you! You can do it!

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Ian [EagerExistence] March 24, 2012 at 11:14 pm

They weren’t doing Skydives back when I was growing up in the BoI, I’m pretty sure. Anyway, some great photos, and good to see someone crossing off their bucket list ;)

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Melissa September 3, 2012 at 10:42 am

Thanks Ian! It was heaps of fun. Sad that there wasnt skydiving when you were growing up out here. :( Have you done it yet?

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