On Saturday, for my buck's celebration, Michael (my best man) arranged for my groomsmen and me (minus Mick, who's in Melbourne) to go skydiving. I think Michael was more nervous about doing it than I was initially. That was to change a bit later. :)
I awoke at 5:35 (yuck) to get to the skydiving office by 7. Jen helped me fill in the paperwork and was horrified by some of its content, including something along the lines of "accidents can and do happen". :) Meanwhile, Matt slept in and didn't make it to the office in time, but thankfully, an arrangement was made and he was able to join us. We met our jumpmasters and were shown how to move our bodies upon exiting the plane.
Soon enough, we were harnessed and taking off in the plane with our respective jumpmasters. Even being in the plane was a bit of an experience; I've never taken off in a small plane before. I was a little nervous by this stage, but it wasn't until maybe a minute or so before the jump that I truly began to get nervous. What the hell was I doing? I was told later that Michael's jumpmaster looked back at me at one point and noted in amusement to Michael that I was starting to look rather worried. :)
Time to jump. Michael went first and then it was my turn. The wind swirling around me, my jumpmaster (Steve) at my back, I had my feet out of the plane, I got my body into what I hoped was the right formation... and then we were falling, belly first, the wind rushing by me with awesome speed. For a few seconds, I had a bit of a freak out. Holy crap! I'm falling! Belly first! Is this okay? For some reason, I hadn't imagined we would fall belly first, as the formation is taught upright. It makes sense in hindsight, but it just hadn't clicked. My technician mentality set in. Was my body in the correct formation? Am I doing this right? Moving my body in that state was so... different. My control freak mentality couldn't do anything about this either. Steve corrected my arms a bit and then I relaxed slightly. Wow! Incredible! The wind rushed by; it was pretty much impossible to talk, though Steve managed it somehow. Unfortunately, my ears didn't like free-fall so much. Eventually, Steve deployed the parachute. We were jerked upright and then...
All was calm and still. My legs were dangling in mid air! Wow... again! But there were even bigger wows to come. After a bit of floating, Steve turned the parachute... and then we were soaring through the air. This was probably the most amazing, elating part for me, this feeling of literally flying as the wind rushed around me and then coming to a graceful stop. The fall was exhilarating, but this was incredible in a different way. Steve let me have a go at steering the parachute, which was pretty cool.
Too soon, it was time to land gently on the beach. Throughout the day, I kept wishing I could do it again. We spent most of the rest of the day (about 12 hours!) celebrating in more traditional ways. :)
The next day, Michael called to tell me of a headline in The day's Sydney Morning Herald: Skydiver dead after 13th jump. Nice. Later reflection led me to think about how it would have been if things hadn't gone so well, particularly thinking about that feeling of free-fall. <shudder> Jumping out of a plane really is pretty insane. Funny that I didn't think about that so much before. I've been thinking about the experience quite a lot in the past 24 hours, both in wonder and a bit of trepidation. I think I'd still probably do it again... probably... :)
It was certainly an extremely memorable experience and I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to do it. Thanks guys!