Adam and I never exchanged Christmas gifts other than homemade paintings/cards or e-books. As frugal minimalists, we just don’t want to accumulate things we don’t need for the sake of giving a gift.
But Adam gave me the best gift this year.
During the warm and sunny holiday season in Sydney, we were housesitting in a large suburban home. The family was kind enough to set up a humble Christmas tree for us. It was the first Christmas tree I had since I was probably 10 years old.
On Christmas Day, Adam gifted me a watercolor painted card with the word “Skydiving” scratched over the red/brown color collage (he’s colorblind, but that doesn’t stop him from painting). I was thrilled with the gift of experience!
So, we planned to jump out of a plane when we would leave Sydney.
Adrenalin Skydive in Goulburn, Australia
Upon researching companies in the area, I ultimately decided on Adrenalin Skydive in Goulburn because it was the be most convenient in our itinerary toward Melbourne. Plus, the price was too competitive: $185 AUD ($140 USD as of 03/2017) for a 15,000 skydive as opposed to $279 AUD in nearby Wollongong. Sure, the beach views might have been nicer, but I’ve seen my fair share of nice views; I just wanted to experience the sensation of falling from the sky.
Bookings are recommended, especially during busy season and weekends, but not essential. We decided not to book because weather is unpredictable and we didn’t want to deal with not being able to get a refund. If weather conditions are not safe for skydiving, then you must move your jump to another day and will not get money back. As a traveler, we do not have the flexibility to come back anytime.
Luckily, the morning gray skies we observed from our campsite cleared up by the time we rolled into Adrenalin Skydive’s parking lot. The friendly receptionist, Lyn, greeted us at the entrance and booked us in for 2:30.
To pass the time, we walked around in the nearby town of Goulburn, supposedly the oldest inland town of Australia. The streets and buildings seemed old timey, but there wasn’t anything particularly fascinating there. We fetched some cash from the ATM to avoid paying a 5% card surcharge.
We also got $5 off the video ($129) for “liking” their page on Facebook. I thought that was pricey for a short video, but Adam was adamant we get one. The video/photo package would’ve been $30 more, but we didn’t opt for that since you can take screenshots from the video. Another extra charge was the required $37 levy for the Australian Parachute Federation (APF).
At 2:30, we rolled back into the center to wait for our turn. Only a tiny airplane holding two jumpers at a time was running that Friday (a larger airplane runs on the weekend), so we watched four other couples nervously leave and come back an hour later with messy hair and bright smiles. Talking with the others and hearing about their incredible experience eased any doubts.
To be honest, though, I wasn’t nervous at all because I know how safe tandem skydiving is
One of the outgoing instructors, Kobi, gave us some straight-forward instructions. We barely have to do anything but enjoy the ride and smile! All of our trust goes into the tandem instructor.
My instructor, Kenton, is a sarcastic and cheerful lad from the capital of Australia, Canberra. Even though Canberra is a painfully boring city, Kenton is teeming with life and jokes. What else would you expect from someone who jumps out of planes eight times a day? He tried messing with me by commenting about broken straps on my harness, but “it’ll be alright”, and how my shoulder straps were really loose, but “it isn’t a big deal”. He made jokes about so many things that after a while, I wasn’t sure if he was joking or telling me some serious safety precautions.
It wasn’t until 6:00 pm that we were boarding the tiniest plane I ever did see. Kenton sat backward right next to the pilot and I sat on a makeshift seat, which was more like a box, without seatbelts. Adam and Kobi sat in front of me. The plane was too noisy to have a conversation, so I just enjoyed the view as the land looked further and further away. We flew through clouds and gazed at the entirety of Lake George.
Kenton showed me his watch, which read 4.0, and shouted “We’re at 4,000 feet. This is where the parachute will open. Everything above this is free fall!”
I was shocked. I thought we were about ready to jump, but we were less than a quarter of the way there!
The plane ride was quite peaceful, actually. I remained calm throughout the flight and just enjoyed the views. The reality that I was about to fall out didn’t hit me. I still am surprised with myself that I wasn’t nervous at all. I watched Kobi attach Adam to himself and tighten all of the ropes while Kenton did so with me. He put goggles over my head and they were too tight on my flat face — it ended up tugging at my eyes and I could barely see. Looking back at the video, it looked pretty funny.
“30 seconds!” shouted the pilot.
The weather turned quickly and clouds were rolling in speedily. We had to jump at 10,000 feet instead of 15,000 feet, which is a bummer. But safety first!
Before I knew it, the door flung open and the overwhelming wind gusted in. Adam and Kobi scooched across to the door and prepared to jump. Adam crossed his hands and gave me a smile. He shouted “I love you” to me, but I could only read his lips as the wind was too loud to hear. Then they were off! They tumbled away and he was out of sight in a split second. I felt a deep, but short, feeling of sadness because he was gone so quickly. But no time to feel sad; it was my turn to go!
Now everything after this is a blur. It all happened so quickly. I crossed my arms and tilted my head to the left as instructed. Kenton pulled my head back a bit more, as I saw in the video and it always makes me laugh. At this point, I don’t remember looking at the tiny Earth below us.
Suddenly, we weren’t on the plane anymore! The initial feeling is confusion. I saw the clear blue sky above me and then we tumbled down to face the ground where we remained. I could feel the intense speed for the first split second, but after that, I can’t describe the feeling. It wasn’t a sensation of falling. It was just a ton of wind and an intense feeling of freedom and presence. Oh, and my mouth never felt drier.
The freefall went by quickly, about 30 seconds. The parachute tugged us back and then we peacefully descended down to earth. Thankfully, Kenton took off the silly goggles that squished my face and obstructed my view.
We floated down for a few minutes while I caught my breath and enjoyed the views. It reminded of the time I went paragliding in Korea.
“Want to have fun?”
We spiraled around and watched the Earth twirl below us. Exhilarating!
When we landed, Adam came to greet me. So happy to see him and have had safe trips!
We were the last to jump that day, so everyone started packing up for the night. We waited around for the video to be edited. Kobi was nice enough to share some wine with us, so we enjoyed conversation. Not surprisingly, the skydiving community consists of easygoing and down-to-earth people — one reason that drew Kenton into the profession. What a job to skydive eight times a day!
They gave us a certificate with a student license. Easiest license I ever was granted!
Overall, my first skydiving experience was a positive one. We ended up waiting several hours to experience 30 seconds of freefall, but I’d say it was worth it. To be honest, I don’t find it the most thrilling or adrenaline-rushing experience in the world like one would expect, but I do recommend everyone try it at least once.
Want to fly with Adrenalin Skydive?
Address: Adrenalin Skydive, Goulburn Airport, 59 Airport Road, Brisbane Grove NSW 2580
Phone: (02) 9042 2000