Hinch Travel

A High-Flying Birthday

A smile at 14,000ft Photo Courtesy of: skydivethebeach

JUST TO SET the record straight. You don’t jump out of a plane. You are pushed. They’ll say ‘nudged’ or ‘coerced’ but, in reality, you are pushed.

And it is wonderful. Spectacular. Literally breathtaking. In the terra firma training before you go aloft, they warn you to scream and shout and do all sorts of lung-busting exercises to make sure you remember to breathe deeply, and often, as you plunge earthwards.

I know all of this because I was sitting in jail recently (there’s a cocktail-party conversation stopper) and my partner, Natasha Chadwick, livened up a Sunday  visit by describing her plans for my belated 70th birthday when I got out.

(I won’t bore you with prison trivia but I was serving 50 days in the slammer for refusing to pay a $100,000 fine for contempt of court over an editorial on this website).

Natasha said, nonchalantly: ‘How would you like to jump out of a plane?’

Maybe it was the result of being cooped up  for so long – including two weeks in solitary confinement, locked up for 23 hours a day – but I had no hesitation in saying: ‘Let’s do it’.

That is why, early one morning, clad in lots of webbing and buckles and walking like a saddle-sore cowboy, I was on a mini-bus to Moorabbin Airport from Skydive The Beach  at St. Kilda.

Their chief  diving instructor, a  very thorough but laconic Canadian named Cody Bekkerus, had already taken us through our paces  and I was so relaxed about it all that I  even managed a snooze on the  jolting ride through the morning peak hour traffic to  the airport.

the Jolly Green Giant
meets Indiana Jones. 

I snapped out of that reverie when I saw our plane. It was painted bright green  and seemed to be snarling in the morning light because it’s nose on both sides featured large teeth.

It looked like the Jolly Green Giant meets Indiana Jones.  At 4000 feet the tinny drone made conversation difficult.

I did manage to hear Natasha telling her instructor that we seemed to be far enough up already. He pointed out we still had 10,000 feet to climb before we reached the jump zone.

And what a jump zone.  It’s not called Skydive the Beach lightly. That’s what we did.

Our target was a small grassy patch on the edge of St. Kilda Beach – right next to my favourite Sunday lunch spot called Riva.

Never thought, when I’d say ‘let’s drop in to Riva’, that, one day, I would do just that.

Over the jump/drop zone, we straddled a long padded bench in the green machine’s belly. Cody was strapped tightly behind me as we inched towards the open door – locked tightly together, belly-to-back, like two copulating turtles.

Above the noise of the wind (scudding by I was told at 75 mph) I asked my co-jumper if many people changed their minds and decided to abort their jump at the last minute.

‘Not many at all,’ he shouted. ‘But then, at this stage and in this noise,“No, No, No” can sound very much like “Go, Go, Go” so we give them a little nudge’.

See, you don’t jump out of a plane, you are pushed, tossed or nudged. And then after you topple out the doorway you start to free fall at 200kph. For a long, long minute.

Natasha, jumping before me, did seem to drop like a stone and admitted she had trouble breathing.

My adrenalin was pumping and my lungs filling as I shouted something like  ‘Holy shiiiit!’ and the free fall  was on.

I was swimming
through space!

A solo jumper, with a GoPro camera strapped to his helmet, jumped with us to shoot the accompanying video and I must admit I had no sense of rapid descent.

To me, it was gravity-defying magic. I swam towards him to get some close-ups. I was swimming through space!

Then Cody popped the ‘chute. Instant tranquility. We were floating down in blissful, panoramic silence.

In the clear morning sun, the Melbourne skyline panned out ahead of us.  Below was Albert Park Lake and the Grand Prix track in miniature.

The journo in me kicked in and on tape I can be heard saying: ‘I feel like Sarah Palin.  I can see my place from here’.

I could see Natasha landing safely. Then, Cody let me take the parachute cords for a minute to steer us down.  You can feel that pulling power tug at your shoulders as you dip and weave.

The ground rushes up with speed as reality kicks in but you actually land surprisingly softly with your legs up and no expected bump of the rump.

The one word verdict:  Exhilarating. 

As you can see from the photo the daring duo came through unscathed.

It was a grand adventure. I’m itching to do it again.




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