Life Stories: Getting High

ONCE again I can only sit here shaking my head at another unsuccessful attempt to get this blog back on track. After building up plenty of momentum with my contempt for society and public transport rants and averaging hundreds of hits a day I’m back to a trickle thanks to massive inactivity on my part. I blame the NRL season.

And getting high…


While in years gone by that would have probably meant consuming too much weed and sitting in my underwear while I play FIFA with a glazed-over look in my eye and a jar of nutella with a spoon in it at my side, times have changed. I’m a responsible adult now, and I have been for nearly 7 whole months!

Yes, the highs I’ve experienced recently are far more natural. No, I haven’t been shoving seaweed up my ass as part of the latest feel-good health craze, or being nice to people, I’m being far more literal.

While I have come to agree with the comment of a wise friend that the term ‘bucket list’ is too fatalistic, I recently took on a challenge I’ve always wanted to do, and went Skydiving.

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There was a large part of me that was obviously reluctant to do it, as I only booked the experience when I realised that the voucher I’d been given for my 30th birthday was about to expire – but giving my tandem diver an honest account of ‘why’ I’d booked myself in, he told me that nearly-expired vouchers account for a hefty portion of people who finally summon up the courage to go.

The worst part? The waiting. After getting to scenic Wollongong quite early and standing in line while people stood at the desk filling out forms they were SUPPOSED TO HAVE FILLED OUT BEFORE THEY GOT THERE (luckily my rage distracted me from my nerves for a while), my group was finally summoned to the waiting area. We were given the harness and pants that we were to change into, and surprisingly little instruction.

The lack of instruction wasn’t off-putting, but it was unexpected. Obviously that waiver I had signed without bothering to read said something along the lines of ‘whatever, dude’.

After meeting the friendly guy I’d be jumping with, Mick, there was more waiting for a bus that was running late, before it finally arrived and we were told to get on.

It sat there, for a good 20 minutes. I was pretty sure we should have departed by that point, and after a while one of the instructors came aboard and told us all to get off. The bus had broken down (a good sign). Then it was another 20 minutes to wait for another bus, and a drive through hefty traffic before we arrived at the airfield, well behind schedule.

The wait had been a somewhat frustrating inconvenience, but once you climb aboard, the engine of the plane starts and you see the ground beneath you start to get further away, it’s a strange feeling. Part of me was shitting myself, but another part of me had accepted that I was past the point of no return. I wasn’t going to be one of those people who came back down with the plane instead of screaming and strapped to another human being.

Sat straddled on a bench with a bunch of other people, Mick suddenly started tightening the straps (really tightening them), and it was time. Being at the back of the line there was uncertainty about whether or not we’d be doing one or two ‘passes’, and it was only seconds before we jumped that we realised it would be one. After a loud ‘GO GO GO’, we were on the precipice and then floating through the air in the blink of an eye.

Adding to the grandeur of it all was the layer of cloud that had spread itself thinly over the area. One minute we’re soaring through the sunlit, crystal clear sky, then lost in an enveloping layer of white, before bursting through and seeing the whole world spread out beneath you.

It’s an amazing experience, but it’s not until you see the ground that you have a point of reference to understand your rate of descent. Then the adrenaline ramps up and mixes with the peaceful serenity in the strangest of cocktails. It’s a weightless, euphoric feeling you can only embrace while giving your biggest ‘WOOOOO FUCK YEAH!’

Then the parachute deploys.

The whiplash isn’t anywhere near as bad as you would think, but given the slight bruising I had on my armpits and the chaffing on my thighs afterwards I might just have been too pumped up on adrenaline at the time to notice. The chute successfully deploying is a weird mix of emotions in its own right – you’re thankful that it has, as it means your odds of surviving are exponentially increased, but you’re also disappointed that the truly thrilling part is over so quickly.

For some reason you also seem to notice gravity a lot more – probably because you’re now resisting it a bit. Obviously if the harness wasn’t secure you would have kept plummeting to an unfortunate death when the parachute deployed, but there’s still a decent amount of adrenaline-fuelled anxiety.

Mick pointed out the sights of the ‘Gong, did some wild steering that made me clench my anus, and let me take the reins. The view of the coast was absolutely breathtaking and the breeze was wonderful, even if it carried the smell of the steelworks.

We practiced my landing pose a few times in the air, and by then the serenity had returned. Next thing I knew I was lifting my legs up and we were landing softly on the sands of Wollongong’s North Beach. It was a fitting end. I gave Mick a hug, thanked him multiple times, went and kissed my partner and my son and returned the equipment. From the moment the plane left the ground to the moment I landed on the beach would have been all of 20 minutes – about one quarter the length of the build-up. The fall itself, parachute included, would have taken all of about five minutes – but they were five minutes I’ll never forget.

If you’ve ever considered skydiving, I can definitely recommend it. It’s great for adrenaline, it makes you feel alive, and it gives your sphincter quite a workout. It’s win-win (win).


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